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Nighthawk Custom .22 Conversion

by Paul Scarlata   |  February 1st, 2012 6
Nighthawk Custom .22 Conversion

Nighthawk’s conversion unit installed easily on this Combat Commander, along with two other 1911s; all ran flawlessly except with a light Federal load.

Nighthawk Custom of Berryville, Arkansas, is well-known for its custom-built 1911 pistols, and it recently teamed up with Bob Marvel of Marvel Custom Guns to offer 1911 owners a unique .22 conversion unit.

Like other conversion units, the Nighthawk .22 conversion unit replaces the stock slide. But unlike some other conversions in which the entire slide reciprocates, Nighthawk’s unit is composed of two parts. The upper is made from forged steel and includes the barrel and a full-length rail with a serrated blade front sight and fully adjustable (and dehorned) Elliason rear sight. The upper is positioned securely in the frame by the slide-stop pin and does not move when the pistol is fired.

Nighthawk Custom .22 conversion unit

Nighthawk's unit is composed upper and lower assemblies. Only the lower reciprocates during firing.

This secure positioning of the barrel greatly enhances potential accuracy, and Nighthawk guarantees one-inch 10-shot groups at 50 yards with specified ammunition.

The unit’s lower part, or slide, is made from anodized aluminum alloy and contains the firing pin, extractor and a captive recoil spring on a full-length guide rod. It features sharp-edged dual grasping grooves that allow you to retract the slide with wet or oily hands or when wearing gloves. Also included are a slide-stop arm, slide-stop pin and one polymer magazine.

The unit will fit on either Government- or Commander-size frames of any centerfire caliber and any holster designed for a five-inch 1911. It should be noted that because of the use of non-standard ejectors, the Nighthawk unit might not work on some Springfield Armory 1911-A1 pistols.

To install, unload your 1911, remove the slide and barrel, and then slide the Nighthawk conversion unit onto the frame. Place slide-stop arm onto the frame and align with the pin hole in the frame and notch in the barrel lug. Insert slide-stop pin through the slide stop, frame and barrel lug. Ensure the slide-stop pin head is flush against the slide-stop arm.

Nighthawk .22 conversion sight

The upper full-length rail sports a fully adjustable and dehorned Elliason rear sight.

Retract the slide just enough to expose the hex end of the recoil spring guide rod. Do not lock slide back during installation. Using take-down tool (or 5/32 wrench), tighten the guide rod against the slide-stop pin. Do not over-tighten.

In order for the .22 conversion unit to run properly, the guide rod must remain tight. Nighthawk recommends applying a drop of blue Loctite on the recoil rod threads. Check that the slide moves easily and closes completely.

I was impressed with the unit’s materials, fit and finish. No shortcuts here. My Nighthawk 10-8 .45 caliber pistol served as the original test platform. Installation was quick and more or less fumble free.

My friend Butch Simpson and I headed to the range, where we tested the unit for accuracy from a rest at 25 yards with four different brands of ammo. When you consider that the largest of the 20 groups we fired measured only 1.25 inches in size, it was obvious that the manufacturer’s claims about accuracy were not just advertising hype.

Early in the accuracy testing the slide failed to go into battery a number of times, forcing us to push it forward with thumb power. A few drops of oil on the pistol’s rails solved the problem.

To see how the unit would function with other 1911s, we installed the Nighthawk conversion on Butch’s Combat Commander and on a borrowed 1950s-vintage 1911A1. Installation was quick, and both guns functioned flawlessly with ammo they liked. We realized that all three guns were having problems with just one load: Federal’s light 31-grain, which apparently doesn’t produce enough energy to work the blowback-operated unit reliably.

Once we figured that out, we spent the rest of the day plinking, running more than 500 rounds through all three guns without a single failure to feed, fire, extract or eject.

Magazines were easy to insert and fell free when the release was pressed—loaded or empty, slide forward or locked back. Some shooters might find the 10-round polymer magazine a bit difficult to load to capacity, so Nighthawk includes a simple tool that allow you to depress the magazine follower, greatly easing the process. One other note about the magazine: The slide should be locked back before inserting a loaded magazine into the pistol.

We both found Nighthawk’s .22 conversion kit a very practical and fun unit. It allows the 1911 owner to engage in extensive target practice without emptying his or her wallet. It would be perfect for training new or recoil-shy shooters and, last, turns a large-bore pistol into a practical handgun for small game.

Fast Specs

  • Type: blowback-operated 1911 conversion unit
  • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
  • Capacity: 10
  • Barrel: 5 in., 1:16 twist
  • Weight: 18 oz.
  • OAL/Height/Width: 7.38/1.06/1.44 in.
  • Construction: forged steel upper/barrel, anodized aluminum slide
  • Sights: Elliason fully adjustable rear, serrated blade front
  • Price: $450
  • Manufacturer: Nighthawk Custom

Accuracy Results

  • Smallest avg. group: 40 gr. Remington High Velocity—0.8 in.
  • Largest avg. group: 40 gr. Winchester Power Point—1.0 in.
  • Avg. of all ammo tested (4 types)—0.9 in.
  • Notes: Test pistol was a Nighthawk Custom 10-8. Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups fired from an MTM K-Zone rest at 25 yards.
  • Lopaka Kanaka

    The price for the conversion kit is a price of a Ruger MKIII and it is a whole gun and no removing and changing slides. That is why I have got one and two 1911 A-1 45acp to shoot at the range. My Springfield
    Long Slide at 45 feet is dead on in a 6 inch pie. Every Men to his choice the gun to shoot with to make him a much better combat ready to fire at. ALL NRA LIfe Members, Hunters, and Target buffs, keep doing what it takes to "Keep Our Rights To Bear Arms" We need a new Commander In Chief who stands back of our 2ND
    Ammendant Rights…

    • G.Gruda

      You've got that right.

  • Eddie Spaghetti

    I agree with the previous post by L.K.. In my opinion if you have to pay around $300.00 or even more for a conversion, you may as well just by another gun, even if it costs more. And what's this about needing a wrench and thread locker juice. I guess I'm just spoiled by the military in that you don't need tools to field strip your weapon. Something else, does the magazine activate the slide stop after the last round is fired and why do you have to keep the slide back to insert a loaded magazine?

  • Alan

    I understand the concept of .22 conversions , that they let you practice trigger control with your combat / carry pistol , BUT , I have to agree with L K and E S . Thats why I have a MK III , 22 / 45 with the 1911 rosewood grip panels , it feels almost exactly like my Springfield . I have fired conversions and they still don't feel like firing " the real thing ' . So if you have the money to spend or just want it , that's fine …. but don't let someone sell you on the idea that you " NEED " one because you don't .

  • Don

    I own a Ruger 22/45 and an Advantage Arms conversion kit that is essentially identical to this kit. There are benefits to each. I love the ruger and its great for general marksmanship training.

    However, I shoot my Les Baer competitively and find the conversion kit to be a great tool for that. With the AA kit I can practice holster draws, reloads (yes the AA slide locks back on empty and the mag drops free) and everything else except for recoil control for pennies on the dollar. Mine runs great on CCI Blazer which I've stocked up on when its on sale for $150 for 5000 rounds.

    With all that said, switching back and forth is tedious. I'm thinking of building a dedicated 1911 lower for this unit.

  • Ron Stevens

    Would be nice if this came in 22cal. mag.????

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