September 24, 2010
By Doug Larson
By Doug Larson
Hard chrome--an industrial-strength, long-lasting finish with a natural lubricity--makes a superb firearm finish, which is why Nighthawk Custom chose it for the frame of its new Dominator, a full-size 1911 in .45ACP that is topped off with a black Perma Kote-finished slide and accented with laser-engraved cocobolo grips.
It faithfully follows John Browning's original 1911 design, with the now familiar improvements including a skeletonized hammer, extended magazine release, serrated and oversized slide catch, extended thumb safety, beveled and blended magazine well, match grade barrel, match-grade trigger, beavertail grip safety and the removal of sharp edges.
Nighthawk Custom has been around only a few years but has some old hands with a lot of experience making 1911s, and their craftsmanship is obvious in the Dominator. Started in 2003, the four-year-old company has grown by offering a line of fine 1911s that can be customized to order.
The front sight blade contains a green tritium dot and the rear square notch has two yellow tritium dots, making the sights easy to acquire not only in daylight but also in low light. The rear sight is also fully adjustable.
|Manufacturer ||Nighthawk Custom, www.NightHawkCustom.com, 877-268-4867 |
|Type ||1911 semiauto |
|Caliber ||.45 ACP |
|Capacity ||8+1 |
|Barrel Length ||5-in. match grade |
|Overall Length ||8 5/8 in. |
|Weight ||40 1/2 oz |
|Sights ||tritium three-dot adjustable |
|Trigger ||single action |
|Grips ||cocobolo laser engraved |
|Frame ||dehorned, front and rear cocking serrations, 25 lpi checkered front strap and mainspring housing, extended beavertail safety. Hard chrome slide optional. |
|Finish ||hard chrome frame, black Perma-Kote slide |
|Price ||$2,775 |
Those custom alterations can be as simple as substituting a blued finish for the standard Perma-Kote to specifying another manufacturer's hammer or trigger. While Nighthawk Custom uses excellent parts, the staff appreciates that some shooters just like other maker's parts better so will substitute them if specified.
Nighthawk will also chamber your 1911 in 9mm Luger, 9x23mm or .40 S&W instead of .45 ACP if that is what you want. All you have to do is ask. With 20 gunsmiths on staff, some with well over 20 years experience and Master Gunsmith ratings, this company can handle about any 1911-related request.Nighthawk also has some 'smiths that can wield hand tools pretty well, so if you want real hand checkering, French borders, serrations or a special part fitted you can get it at Nighthawk. All this expertise along with attention to detail and closely monitored tolerance standards results in accuracy that runs on the average of one-inch groups at 25 yards. Of course, that assumes the shooter is up to the task or a mechanical rest is used.
Returning to the gun itself, the front and back straps are skillfully checkered at 25 lines per inch and there are no rough edges on the gun to abrade clothing or skin. The barrel and slide are carefully hand fitted so there is little play, and the barrel crown is chamfered at a straight angle so that the end of the barrel is absolutely flush with the barrel bushing.
The Dominator has a beveled and
blended magazine well that aids in quick insertion of magazines when under stress.
Note the cocobolo grips and the fine checkering on the front strap.
The slide has cocking serrations cut at the front and rear and the top of the slide has straight grooves extending its length to reduce glare. The magazine well, besides being beveled and blended, is extended for fast reloads.
The dovetailed front sight blade has a green tritium dot while the dovetailed rear is a fully adjustable square notch with two yellow tritium dots making for quick sight acquisition in dim light. This brings me to my only criticism. Since the rest of the gun is finely beveled, I would like to see the rear sight beveled so those sharp edges won't cut when racking the slide.
Nighthawk using quality steel components--no metal injection molded parts. The Dominator weighs 40 ounces, is 8.75 inches long, 5.5 inches in height, 1.8 inches wide and the barrel is five inches long. The trigger on the sample broke cleanly at 3.9 ounces with no takeup or overtravel.
The barrel crown has a straight-bevel that ends flush with the hard chromed barrel bushing and gives the business end of the gun an interesting look that contrasts with the black slide and recoil spring plug.
Like the other Nighthawk Custom 1911s, it comes in a green nylon carrying case with a gold embroidered Nighthawk Custom logo, two eight-round stainless steel magazines and an instruction manual.
Nighthawk Custom Dominator
|.45 ACP Ammo Type ||Bullet Weight (gr.) ||Avg. Velocity (fps) ||Avg. Group (in.) |
|Hornady TAP/FPD +P ||230 ||915 ||2.02 |
|Federal HST +P JHP ||230 ||962 ||2.20 |
|Hornady TAP/FPD +P ||200 ||1,023 ||2.35 |
|Black Hills grain JHP ||230 ||889 ||2.47 |
|Notes: Velocity recorded 10 feet from the muzzle with Oehler 35P chronograph. Accuracy tested off a sandbag rest; results are the average of three five-shot groups at 25 yards. |
The sample gun came with cocobolo grips that really enhanced the gun's appearance, but don't be fooled. This gun isn't just another pretty gun-rack queen; it really delivers in the accuracy and reliability department.
At 25 yards off the bench and using Crimson Trace Laser Grips to compensate for aging eyesight, all ammunition turned in accuracy figures much better than needed for self-defense applications with the best average of three five-shot groups being 2.02 inches with the Hornady TAP FPD +P 230-grain load. Switching to the iron sights for some fun at varying distances with offhand drills both one- and two-handed in controlled and rapid fire, the gun handled well. Recovery from recoil was rapid and the gun pointed naturally.
No matter what ammo was used or whether the gun was well lubricated or run practically dry, it functioned perfectly throughout the test. Besides being naturally slick, the hard chrome made cleaning the frame easy. I just wiped it down with a cloth.
An option is to order the gun with a hard chromed slide, which I think is an excellent idea not only for looks and durability but also for ease of cleaning.
Shooting facilities provided by Scottsdale Gun Club, www.scottsdalegunclub.com