By Dave Anderson
Nighthawk Custom is, oddly enough, a true custom shop. If you wish, they will build a 1911 to your exact specifications. They’ll even build it on a 1911-style pistol you already own provided it’s a Colt, Kimber or Springfield Armory, or on their own frame/slide. Nighthawk has a wide array of very well-designed 1911 packages, including some designed by such legendary pistolsmiths as Richard Heinie and Bob Marvel. If I counted correctly, at present there are 27 Nighthawk Custom models available.
The Falcon model was announced at the 2011 SHOT Show. It was an instant hit, one of the most popular models they’ve ever made. Why do so many handgunners like it? Well, I can only speak for myself. It has all the features I want — in a strikingly handsome package. Beauty and brawn, elegance and utility.
From my perspective only one improvement was possible — offer it in a Commander-length version. “Commander” is the name first used by Colt long ago, and is often used to describe a 1911 with 4¼” barrel and corresponding slide.
This is just a matter of personal preference. I like the balance and feel of a steel-framed, Commander-length 1911, and aesthetically I think it just looks right. Can’t decide between standard and Commander length? For competition I want the extra sight radius and muzzle weight of a 5″ gun. I think the 5″ barrel provides a worthwhile velocity increase with high-pressure cartridges such as .38 Super and 10mm. But for all-around use — concealed carry, informal competition, home-defense — I like the Commander.
One of Dave’s favorite features is the 1-piece mainspring
housing/magazine loading chute, sculpted from a single
block of steel.
The Falcon Commander is just about perfect to me. It balances and handles beautifully, it’s accurate, utterly reliable, a joy to shoot and aesthetically pleasing. It comes only in .45 ACP, which gives up very little velocity with 3/4″ less barrel than the full-size gun.
Among its features are the basics we expect on a modern 1911; beavertail grip safety with speed bump, burr-style hammer with lightening slot and a long trigger. Other features include the Heinie “Ledge” rear sight, with a vertical front surface. The idea is, if it’s necessary to rack the slide with one hand, the ledge can be hooked on a solid surface while the frame is pushed forward.
The front sight is a slightly ramped post. Both front and rear sights have a Trijicon tritium insert. The manual safety is moderately extended, easily accessible and compact enough for concealed carry. An ambi-safety is standard, with a left-side-only option.
A feature I really like is the beautifully-made, 1-piece mainspring housing and magazine chute, sculpted from a single block of steel. The rear of the chute is smoothly rounded making for a comfortable hold, not to mention less wear and tear on clothes when carrying concealed. The tool steel slide stop is recessed on the right side to prevent it being accidentally depressed. The mag release button is slightly extended and checkered.
All sharp edges, such as the bottom of the slide and those
on the slide stop, have been neatly relieved. Note complete
absence of tool marks even in areas such as scallops
at back of triggerguard, and at front of triggerguard.
The Falcon Commander is a superb melding of functional utility and aesthetic
appeal. Elegant, tasteful, beautifully made to the highest standards of
craftsmanship, yet tough and reliable. An excellent defensive pistol.
There’s no full-length recoil spring guide rod. I have 1911’s with and without guide rods and can’t say I get excited about it either way. I will say, no guide rod makes for easier disassembly/reassembly. The barrel is Nighthawk’s stainless-steel match barrel with a recessed crown, using a standard bushing. The frontstrap is beautifully checkered at 30 LPI, the mainspring housing is 25 LPI and the rear of the slide and the Heinie sight are serrated at a matching 40 LPI. Checkering has practical utility in improving grip and reducing reflections. It’s also visually pleasing and gets us into the area of esthetics.
The top of the slide has three ball-radius cuts, matching the eight cocking serrations on the rear of the slide. The other distinctive feature is the narrowed front of the slide. None of the features, practical or esthetic, would matter a darn if the workmanship or quality of materials was lacking. Have no fear. Nighthawk forges and machines most of its own parts, and the workmanship is just superb.
Parts fit is impeccable. The trigger breaks at a crisp 3¼ pounds. Five-shot, 25-yard groups from a rest were all 2″ or less, often under 1″. The pistol has fired well over 1,000 rounds now, both factory and reloads, and has never malfunctioned. There isn’t a tool mark or machining flaw to be seen, and the tough black nitride finish is smooth and even. It’s one of the finest custom 1911’s I’ve ever fired, and I’ve fired a few.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index, Ph: (877) 268-4867