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Nighthawk Custom .30 Super Carry GRP 1911: Full Review

The Nighthawk Custom GRP 1911 in .30 Super Carry has a 12+1 round capacity and incredible accuracy with 9mm ballistics.

Nighthawk Custom .30 Super Carry GRP 1911: Full Review

Nighthawk Custom .30 Super Carry GRP 1911: Full Review (Handguns photo) 

Federal recently announced the release of its new .30 Super Carry, which offers 9mm ballistics from a cartridge that uses a 0.312-inch bullet. To demonstrate the full accuracy and performance potential of the new cartridge, Federal needed to chamber it in a handgun that would function reliably and wring out its full accuracy potential. Not surprisingly, one of the companies Federal chose to partner with on this project was Nighthawk Custom out of Berryville, Arkansas.

Currently, Nighthawk is offering both its President and GRP 1911 pistols chambered in the new .30 Super Carry. The GRP (Global Response Pistol) is Nighthawk’s all-black entry-level 1911, although that brief description hardly does this gun justice. For starters, while this pistol may bear a monochromatic color scheme, it is anything but plain. Also, even an “entry-level” Nighthawk is more than most 1911s could ever hope to be.

The test gun came with a hand-fitted, five-inch, match-grade Nighthawk 416 stainless steel barrel and stainless bushing. The machined slide offers front and rear slide serrations and comes standard with Heinie Straight Eight Ledge night sights. In the case of the test gun, it also sported Nighthawk’s Interchangeable Optics System with a Trijicon RMR red dot and Trijicon tritium front night sight. The slide is hand-fitted to the forged frame, and the frame features Nighthawk’s Ultra Hi-Cut frontstrap that provides maximize comfort and control while shooting. The pistol is also hand-beveled and dehorned for comfortable carry. A black nitride surface treatment protects the pistol from wear, and all the surfaces are polished to a smooth, high-quality finish.

The GRP was designed with military operators in mind, and as such, the gun comes with a lanyard loop cut discreetly into the bottom of the grip. Other premium features include 25 lines-per-inch checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing, a shortened slide stop, a turned and polished extractor, and a checkered recoil spring. The G10 Gator Back grips feature Nighthawk’s logo and offer ample texturing without being overly aggressive; they perfectly fit the gun’s understated premium personality.

Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry Safety
The lengthened thumb safety, grip safety, slide stop and mag release button are all constructed from premium machined parts and are expertly fitted. (Handguns photo)

The ejection port is lowered and flared. And Nighthawk’s lightweight aluminum Tri-Cavity trigger is set between 3.5 and 3.7 pounds. Put that all together and you have a recipe for an incredible 1911 pistol. However, what’s equally impressive about the GRP—and Nighthawk’s other pistols—is the attention paid to minor parts and extra details that may not be immediately noticed.

Attention To Detail

The components on the GRP are oversized and fully machined, and there isn’t a single pin or screw in the pistol that hasn’t been fine-tuned by one of Nighthawk’s master pistol gunsmiths—following the firm’s “One Gun, One Gunsmith” motto. Barrel fit and slide-to-frame fit are done by hand, and so are the blended grip safety and the firing pin stop. Inside each owner’s manual (which is thorough and well written, I might add) you’ll find a gunsmithing checklist with 38 production/evaluation steps, including properly adjusting the trigger setscrew, slide-to-frame fit and feel, and much more.

Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry Barrel
Each GRP pistol comes with a stainless match-grade barrel and stainless bushing. Options include barrel crowns and threaded barrels. (Handguns photo)

The GRP is more expensive than myriad other 1911 pistols floating around gunshops across the country, but good luck finding another “entry-level” 1911 where a gunsmith has signed off that the extractor hook is shaped correctly or that the hammer hooks are properly polished. Nighthawk also provides these pistols with high-quality, American-made magazines that hold 12 rounds of .30 Super Carry ammunition. That’s two more rounds than you’ll get from the 1911 9mm pistol, and those rounds sit neatly in the magazine and load without too much effort or excessive slop. The magazines also come with an extended base plate so you can strip the mag manually if it’s fussy.

With its five-inch barrel, the GRP’s overall length is 8.65 inches, and the sight radius is 6.51 inches. Weight is 41.3 ounces, which is a bit more than the same gun chambered in .38 Super or .45 ACP. Overall height is 5.4 inches from the base of the magazine to the top of the slide and about an inch more than that with the Trijicon RMR in place. Like other 1911 pistols, the Nighthawk has a trim slide at 0.92 inch wide and a substantial grip at 1.4 inches wide. The pistol’s $3,499 price tag reflects the premium quality and extreme attention to detail you’ll find in every Nighthawk pistol. Of course, Nighthawk is a custom builder, and this allows customers to add on a number of extra features as desired, like a threaded ($200) or crowned ($50) barrel or the IOS optics system ($350).

Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry red dot ready
Nighthawk's IOS system features an optics plate that secures into a dovetail cut on the slide for consistent return to zero, and you can replace it with a cover that incorporates an open rear night sight. (Handguns photo)

I’m a big fan of Nighthawk’s IOS system and specifically asked Nighthawk director of marketing Landon Stone to send a .30 Super Carry pistol with this feature. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the IOS setup features two plates. One is a fully machined optics plate that incorporates a Trijicon RMR that slides into place on a dovetail cut into the top of the slide. Forward of the red dot is a Novak-style rear sight that’s tall enough to co-witness with the RMR. The other plate has only a rear sight—in this case a Heinie Straight Eight Ledge, one to which tritium has been added to create a night sight.

The beauty of the system is the irons-only plate matches so seamlessly with the slide you’d have to inspect it closely to notice it’s been cut for optics. And if you switch back and forth between irons and red dot, the latter plate’s dovetail locks into the same position every time, which means your RMR will always return to zero. I headed to the range with the Nighthawk pistol, four boxes of early production .30 Super Carry ammunition and a bag in which to hide the evidence of the cartridge’s existence. (I couldn’t risk a brass hawk stumbling upon an empty .30 Super Carry case and letting the cat out of the bag.) When the .30 Super Carry was announced, I wondered whether the cartridge would work in full-size 1911 pistols. I’m happy to announce that it does so beautifully. There was not a single hang-up, not one malfunction, no failures to return to battery.

Incredible Accuracy

Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry Grip
Nighthawk utilizes G10 Gator Back grips on its GRP Pistols. The surface texturing looks good and locks the gun in the hand. (Handguns photo)

And, boy, is this gun/cartridge combination accurate. The test target included with the gun showed two bullets that were almost in the same hole at a range of 12 yards, and when I tested the pistol from 25 yards off bags, I found that it was capable of grouping five shots within an inch.

What’s more, the recoil was so minimal that this pistol, with its 3.6-pound match trigger, feels more like shooting a precision rifle off the bags than a handgun. I don’t know that there’s a huge market for $4,000 small game hunting handguns, but the Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry is sufficiently accurate for making head shots on squirrels at 25 yards.


This gun is great fun off the bench. From 15 yards I was running draw-and-shoot drills and hitting the center of a torso target, all without recoil fatigue. Federal says the .30 Super Carry’s recoil is similar to a 9mm, but I found it to be less. Velocities are higher with the .30 Super Carry, but muzzle rise and felt recoil also seem to be less than with the 9mm. To verify this, I carried a 9mm 1911 to the range and shot it alongside the GRP. The weight of both guns was within a few ounces, but the 9mm produced noticeably more recoil. That makes the Nighthawk .30 Super Carry GRP a superb gun that’s fun to shoot and deadly accurate.

.30 Super Carry

Federal indicates the price of .30 Super Carry ammunition will be within a buck or two of the price of its 9mm and .380 ACP ammo. That’s good because the Nighthawk is a gun you’ll want to shoot a lot. Also fortunate, Federal is joined by ammo makers Speer and Remington in producing the .30 Super Carry, so in time there should be plenty of ammo to choose from.

New cartridges can be made or destroyed by the quality of the pistol in which they’re first chambered. If you don’t believe me, ask the designers of the 10mm Auto who had to endure the Bren Ten debacle, which essentially made it difficult for anyone to lay hands on a functioning pistol chambered for their infant cartridge. Federal has nothing to worry about in that regard. Smith & Wesson is building the first polymer pistols chambered for the .30 Super Carry, and Nighthawk has laid claim to the first 1911.

Nighthawk GRP .30 Super Carry Accuracy Data

Will the .30 Super Carry succeed? Too soon to tell, but I can assure you that a Nighthawk GRP pistol in .30 Super Carry is about as much fun you can possibly have with a 1911 in your hand. The accurate, understated and refined GRP is a gun worthy of its price tag, a pistol that generations of your family members will enjoy regardless of chambering.

Nighthawk Custom GRP Government .30 Super Carry 1911 Specs

  • Type: 1911
  • Caliber: .30 Super Carry (tested), 9mm, .38 Super, .45 ACP
  • Capacity: 12 rds.
  • Barrel: 5 in. 
  • OAL/Height/Width: 8.7/5.4/0.9 in. w/o optic
  • Grips: G10 Gator Back Black w/ Nighthawk logo
  • Finish: Black nitride
  • Trigger: 3.7 lbs. (tested)
  • Sights: Heinie Straight Eight night sights; IOS w/Trijicon RMR and Trijicon front sight (tested)
  • MSRP: $3,499 (tested)
  • Manufacturer: Nighthawk Custom

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