Review: Nighthawk Chairman 9mm
January 31, 2019
Wives like them, at least mine does. It all started when a Scottish friend was forced to sell off his guns due to the draconian laws passed in the UK. Among them was a long slide 1911 in 9mm from a famous gunsmith. My wife loved shooting it and fell in love with the perfect 1911 trigger. As she said, “It only takes once.” Alas, it was not to be hers, as the pistol was very expensive and I was poor, broke and underpaid at the time, a condition that exists even to this day.
To make amends, I later built up a Springfield Armory full size 1911 in 9mm and the Spouse In Command likes it very much. She has graciously loaned it to friends and students, all who comment on its great trigger. It only takes once.
When I brought home the subject of this article and handed it to Mrs. Head she fell in love once more. After trying the trigger and purring appreciatively she looked at me and said, “How much, can we keep it?” You can imagine her disappointment when I told her the price and you can imagine how it made me feel to admit we couldn’t afford it.
High-end Nighthawk Custom pistols are a joy. They are hand built, one at a time by one gunsmith. The slide on my test pistol has no wiggle or play and slides smoothly to and fro as though on roller bearings. In a world where 1911s have the best triggers the one on this pistol is exceptional, snapping crisply at 3 pounds with no creep or over-travel. It’s perfect. The thumb safeties are located port and starboard and are blended and de-horned. Shooting with the thumb atop the safety where it belongs is comfortable and I shed no blood from sharp corners while shooting. The slide stop is rounded and has no sharp edges and the perfectly executed 25 line per inch checkering, while offering a “grippy” surface is not abrasive. I wish more manufacturers would figure this out and stop offering pistols with sharp checkering that shreds my tender hands. At the bottom of the grip frame there is a very nicely fitted magazine funnel with a rounded butt.
This is a target pistol, designed, I think, as a PPC gun. What’s PPC? It’s the Practical Police Course, a competition shot back to 50 yards requiring exceptional talent and exceptionally accurate pistols. Fired for many years with target sighted, heavy-barreled versions of police revolvers it’s not uncommon these days to see shooters running the PPC with semi-automatic pistols. While the 9mm round offers little recoil the 6 inch barrel and long slide on the Chairman put more weight out front to help keep the sights on target during rapid fire strings. The National Match stamped, ramped barrel is TiN coated in gold and the slide features lightening cuts to reduce slide mass and show off the barrel through the ports. If you like to do chamber checks with front cocking serrations the ports serve that purpose as well. The barrel also features a deep target crown that increases accuracy while protecting the rifling and it’s fitted to the slide with a conventional barrel bushing.
The biggest clue to the target purpose of this pistol is the Aristocrat rear sight. Featuring a wide, flat, black rear blade the sight can be quickly adjusted to allow the same hold on the target at 7, 25 and 50 yards. The front sight features a gold bead and this is my favorite sight combination; a gold bead front and plain black rear. Another target feature is the flat-topped serrated slide designed to reduce glare. The pistol ships in a very nice carrying bag containing the pistol, two magazines, a bottle of Gibbs gun oil, an instruction manual and a test target.
I hauled the pistol off to Simply Rugged Holsters and owner Rob Leahy just happened to have a beautiful holster for a 6 inch 1911 finished in alligator. Rob does really nice work and now offers holsters in a number of exotic hides ranging from rattlesnake to Cape buffalo and many others, as well as stamped and carved holsters. Can you imagine showing up for a pistol match with this pistol in an alligator holster? That would certainly draw some attention!
The test target shipped with the pistol shows it shooting a one-hole group fired off a benchrest at 15 yards so I’m going to take Nighthawk’s word for it the pistol is match accurate. Instead of shooting groups I ran the pistol through a number of drills and exercises using a variety of 9mm range and defensive ammunition. Needless to say, the pistol functioned perfectly with all of it and was very mild shooting due to its size and all-up weight of around 48.5 ounces.
While the magazines shipped with the pistol are advertised as 10 round, and I have a couple of McCormick 10 round 9mm magazines, I’ve found getting 10 rounds jammed into them is all but impossible. Even with 9 rounds it’s difficult to seat the magazine if the slide is forward and frequently the top round in the magazine will pop out and rattle around. This is something I’ve observed with many of the 9 and 10 round 9mm magazines so it’s not particular to Nighthawk or a fault with this pistol. If you experience these issues the cure is to download the magazine by one round.
This pistol is pricey – it retails for $4195 and for that price you get a hand built, perfectly fitted, supremely accurate pistol. I’d love to see some of these pistols in the hands of my compadres on the championship Border Patrol pistol team to see what they could do with them. As for me, as much as I lust over this pistol, I’m afraid I can’t keep it and Mrs. Head won’t get her dream gun.
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