October 12, 2022
By Keith Wood
Over the past 20 years, Nighthawk Custom and its handguns have built a reputation for excellence. The company’s wide variety of carefully crafted models span the traditional to the ultra-modern. Its creations range from competition-focused, race-ready designs to guns built for daily carry.
And while Nighthawk Custom’s catalog certainly has specific models from which to choose, the customer isn’t constrained by them. A true custom handgun manufacturer, Nighthawk Custom will build just about anything the customer desires. Using one of the standard models as a jumping-off point, features can be mixed and matched, creating unique and highly practical handguns for the end-user. The Tactical Ready Series (TRS) Comp I recently tested is just such a handgun.
The TRS Comp was the first Nighthawk Custom handgun specifically designed around the 2011-style double-stack frame, which is an optional upgrade on most of the firm’s models. This system combines a fully machined steel frame with a solid billet aluminum grip to create a high-capacity handgun that gracefully complements the lines of the traditional 1911 slide. With the double-stack option, a 9mm has a 17+1 round capacity. There are no grip panels, per se. The machined aluminum grip is a single monolithic component. The grip and mainspring housing are machined with small circular dimple cuts that provide a non-slip surface without being abrasive.
The frame is cut high behind the trigger guard, placing the axis of the bore as low in the hand as possible. The trigger guard is squared for both aesthetic and functional reasons. It looks good and provides additional surface so the support hand can fully interface with the frame under the guard. The dust cover maintains a full profile throughout its length, matching the contour of the slide and adding weight up front where it can help tame muzzle rise. An integral Recon Rail allows for simple, secure mounting of a light or laser. Despite being a double stack, the grip circumference is pretty standard. My hands are medium to large, and I had no trouble getting a full and comfortable grip on the TRS Comp.
The bottom of the frame has an optional Dawson ICE extended magazine well, which provides a giant funnel to facilitate lightning-fast reloads. These removable wells are CNC machined from aluminum and are incredibly popular in competition circles. On my sample, Nighthawk Customs’ gunsmith ensured that everything blended seamlessly where this accessory meets the frame. The TRS Comp is compatible with magazines designed for the STI/Staccato 2011 handguns. These steel-bodied magazines taper from dual to single column, making them reliable and simple to insert under stress. Two of these magazines are included with the TRS Comp, both with extended polymer base pads. Extended magazines, available on the aftermarket, can hold up to 26 rounds.
The TRS Comp is a full-size handgun with a 6.1-inch sight radius, but the slide is Commander length. This shortened slide and ramped, fully supported 4.1-inch barrel allow room for the single-port compensator, hence the “Comp” in TRS Comp. This compensator does a great job of taming muzzle rise. The barrel tapers outward toward the muzzle, securely and precisely locking into the slide when in battery. There is no need for a bushing. When the slide moves to the rear, the compensator tracks with it just far enough to allow the barrel to unlock, roughly a quarter-inch. Because the compensator moves so little as the gun is cycled, the front sight is easy to track during recoil. There are no saddle or end mill cuts on the forward end of the slide, which adds more weight where it matters most. A full-length guide rod is used on the recoil spring assembly.
While some might consider a compensator something from the competitive rather than the tactical world, the fact is they are becoming increasingly common across the board. A good friend and shooting buddy who spent more than a decade as a member of the Army’s elite Delta Force used a compensated 1911 as his duty sidearm way back in the 1990s. The comp adds some noise and muzzle blast, but if you are a special operator or SWAT team member wearing ear protection, this is a non-issue. The standard model comes with circular slide cuts in place of traditional cocking serrations, matching the textured dimples on the frame. My test gun had the optional wide Shadow Hawk serrations at the front and rear of the slide, which provided plenty of purchase when cycling the slide manually. I prefer this look.
The standard front sight on the TRS Comp is a 14k-gold bead combined with a Heinie Ledge rear that is adjustable for windage. This particular gun had tritium front and rear sights, with an additional twist. The slide was equipped with Nighthawk Customs’ Interchangeable Optic System (IOS). This system involves milling the top rear section of the slide to interface with an interchangeable series of sight options.
For example, the TRS Comp I tested was equipped with iron sights, including a Heinie rear sight. By removing a steel pin and sliding the IOS plate off the longitudinal dovetail on the slide, I was able to install a Trijicon RMR II in less than a minute. The IOS is dovetailed, pinned laterally and secured by a vertical screw, so there is no risk of it coming loose. I found that due to the precision fit between the parts there was no need to re-zero the sights after reinstallation.
The controls on this handgun will be familiar to any 1911 user. The TRS Comp is equipped with a flat-faced and serrated aluminum trigger. The trigger pull on this example was exceptionally crisp, breaking right at 3.5 pounds. The reset was short, with not even the slightest hint of creep anywhere along its travel. Frankly, it’s a trigger pull that no machine-built handgun can match.
The slightly extended slide stop is in its traditional location on the left side of the frame, sitting inside a machined pocket. An extended manual safety is standard, although ambidextrous options are available. A modern upswept beavertail grip safety is tastefully blended to fit the frame and features a raised pad that ensures positive disengagement. The magazine release button is smooth, which matches the gun’s clean lines well. A skeletonized delta-style hammer rounds things out.
At The Range
Shooting this handgun was a treat. The TRS Comp ran like a sewing machine. Reliability was flawless, regardless of the ammunition used. The combination of the compensator and the gun’s overall size and mass made recoil almost nonexistent in the 9mm chambering. With a reasonably firm grip on the pistol, the front sight barely moved during rapid fire. With excellent sights—both iron and electronic—and an outstanding trigger, the TRS made it difficult for me to miss. I would have loved the opportunity to run this handgun through a practical pistol match, but time constraints didn’t allow it.
Accuracy was impressive. Federal’s American Eagle 147-grain full metal jacket produced the tightest groups and the lowest standard deviation of velocity. When I did my part, this was a half-inch load at 25 yards from the TRS Comp. The gun didn’t seem picky in terms of bullet weight: 115-, 124- and 147-grain projectiles all produced excellent accuracy. As good as my results were, the test target produced by Nighthawk Custom indicated that the gun’s true accuracy potential was even better. For grins, I shot several rounds offhand at a 10-inch steel target at my 100-yard berm. Once I figured out the hold, hits became easy. An accurate handgun with a great trigger and sights will do that for you.
The sum of the results was an overall impressive handgun. One of the things that sets Nighthawk Custom apart from other makers is its emphasis on the small details, specifically fit and finish. Each part is machined from solid billet. There are no forged, cast or injection-molded parts on this handgun, and everything is fit by hand. Each of the sharp edges on the TRS Comp was tastefully dehorned. The flats were polished smooth, and the rounded elements are perfectly contoured. The fit between the parts was exceptional. The TRS Comp’s slide moved on the frame like it is sliding on ice. The standard gun is finished in black nitride, but my test gun wore an optional satin black DLC finish.
Nighthawk Custom has become well known for its “one gun, one gunsmith” business model. Each handgun is built by a single highly skilled individual, who is identified on the test target. This TRS Comp was crafted by Joey Lehr, one of roughly 30 full-time gunsmiths on staff. Aside from his duties at the bench, Lehr serves as the production team leader who trains and supervises the other gunsmiths on the Nighthawk Custom team.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have tested several handguns from Nighthawk Custom in recent years, and each time I am blown away by the quality construction and attention to detail. These guns are incredibly well built and skillfully assembled from high-quality materials. Like every gun I’ve used from this company, the TRP Comp’s function was as flawless as its appearance. No, they’re not cheap, but the price is reflective of the extensive skilled labor time and high-quality materials involved in building each of their creations.
The TRP Comp is arguably Nighthawk Custom’s most tactically oriented handgun. Although it would thrive in competition, it is designed for life-and-death situations. Its reliability, solid construction and ability to put rounds rapidly on target with minimal effects of recoil make it ideal for that role. Nighthawk Custom’s trademark styling and attention to aesthetic and functional details are icing on the cake.
Nighthawk Custom TRS Comp 1911 Specs
- Type: Hammer-fired, 1911
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 17+1 rds.
- Barrel: 5 in. (4.1 in. w/o compensator
- Weight: 2 lbs., 9.6 oz.
- Construction: steel slide; steel/alumi- num frame
- Grips: Textured Aluminum
- Sights: Heinie/Trijicon night sights, IOS system
- Safeties: Manual thumb, grip
- Trigger: 3.5 lbs. (tested)
- MSRP: $5,529 (tested); $4,595
- Manufacturer: Nighthawk Custom