Nighthawk Custom builds a wide selection of 1911 models. We sometimes forget NHC is a true custom shop. They can build to your specifications using their parts exclusively; or if you have a Colt, Kimber or Springfield Armory you’d like enhanced, NHC can do everything from a basic reliability tune-up to a full-house heirloom pistol.
Back in the July-August 2011 issue we had some “before” pictures of a 1911 in need of help. It was a mid-1970’s Colt Government Model frame with a recently made stainless steel Series 70 slide. Colt makes good parts using high grade steel, properly heat-treated, but these parts were made 30 years apart, likely using different machine tools.
The whole assembly seemed to have been thrown together from randomly gathered parts with no effort applied to proper fit. Both slide/frame and barrel fit were the worst I’ve encountered. Groups at 25 yards ran around 5″ at best. The trigger pull weighed over seven pounds, and the gun stovepiped about once per magazine.
Nighthawk agreed the pistol really needed a trigger job, a match barrel and better fitting. But what else? We asked American Handgunner readers to vote on a number of custom options.
This Government Model appears to have been assembled from assorted Colt parts, including
the frame made in the 1970’s and a recent production slide. Quality parts made of good
steel, properly heat-treated, but made decades apart.
“Before” photo shows poor slide/frame fit.
ejector aren’t flush with slide.
How You Voted
Options chosen by a decisive majority included:
• Beavertail grip safety; NHC part with .250 Radius and “speed bump”.
• Aftec Power extractor.
• Tactical magazine release button.
• Extended ejector.
• Serrating or checkering on rear of slide, with the majority choosing horizontal serrations.
• Trigger guard: A solid majority (54 percent) said to leave it as-is. A strong minority (38 percent) wanted the front of the trigger guard checkered, 9 percent asked for the bottom of the guard to be checkered.
• With some options there was no clear consensus because there were a number of choices. We 1911 fans are about evenly divided in our views on some features.
• Rear sight: Adjustable sights (NHC and Novak combined) were chosen by 51 percent. Fixed sights (Heinie, Novak, Heinie combined with fiber optic front sight) had a combined total of 49 percent.
The most popular individual sight choice was the NHC adjustable.
• With several items the vote was, for all practical purposes, 50-50: manual safety, ambidextrous versus left side only; mag chute, added chute versus beveled magazine well; mainspring housing, flat versus arched.
• Frontstrap checkering: A total of 55 percent voted for checkered frontstrap, with 30 LPI slightly favored over 25 LPI. About 19 percent liked a scalloped frontstrap, 14 percent stippled and 13 percent wanted it left smooth. However NHC felt on this particular frame the frontstrap was a bit thin for checkering, so the 13 percent prevailed.
• Mainspring housing checkering: 48 percent wanted it checkered, the remaining about evenly divided among stippling, scallops and serrations.
• Top of slide: a near-majority (46 percent) wanted the top of the slide left smooth, the balance of the votes divided between serrations or ball-radius cuts on top of slide.
• Finish: there were seven choices of finish offered, so no single one stood out. Black nitride was most popular at 22 percent, but it’s evident shooters have their own favorites when it comes to finish.
• Grips: Choices offered were wood G10, and micarta, with wood being most popular at 43 percent and G10 close behind at 35 percent. In a two-way race I suspect G10 would have been more popular than wood.
“After” shows fit after rails have been built up and re-machined. New ejector
and Aftec extractor fit flush with slide, rear of slide serrated. New beavertail
grip safety, manual safety, hammer, rear sight.
As rebuilt by Nighthawk Custom, the Colt Series 70 Government Model is
a superb pistol, accurate, reliable, durable, aesthetically pleasing.
Colt and Nighthawk — two great names and a great pistol.
A Lucky Winner!
The survey was so popular that it was kept open longer than originally intended. The work itself took time, but finally, after two years, the pistol came back. I noticed NHC added a couple features — tritium night sight inserts, and the NHC forged steel slide stop.
If I hadn’t kept a record of the serial number I wouldn’t have believed it was the same gun. Craig Gholson at NHC had mentioned the slide/frame fit was about the worst they’d seen, no doubt due to mismatched components. It appears as though they built up the rails with TIG welding, then re-machined them. At any rate, fit is now excellent.
The trigger broke cleanly at 33/4 pounds. Best groups (5 shots at 25 yards) were around 11/2″ while average groups were around 2″. I shot around 150 rounds of various factory loads with no malfunctions.
This is an amazing 1911. It went from an ill-fitting, mismatched handyman special to a pistol any 1911 fan would be proud to own. And in fact, one lucky Handgunner reader will own it. All who voted in the survey were eligible for a draw to win the Colt/Nighthawk custom. Congratulations to the lucky winner (not drawn at the time I wrote this) and a sincere thanks to the thousands of knowledgeable Handgunner readers who took the time to vote.
By Dave Anderson
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/nighthawk-custom