Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 3 (Summer '08) - Pistol Review: Nighthawk Custom Lady Hawk

Nighthawk Custom Lady Hawk 9mm

A Gun Test by Steve Shields (Wichaka, )

Nighthawk Custom made a splash into the semi-custom market not that long ago, but from the noise they've been making in Berryville, one would think they've been at for many years. But then the people who are running the company and building the pistols, have been in the firearms industry for many years. Well, leave it to the boys in Berryville to come up with yet another twist on an old favorite. The Commander style 1911 has long been the favorite size for many of us on the shooting end of things. That size seems to handle a bit better, and looks more proportionate.

Now comes the Lady Hawk, which was introduced on the requests for something with a thin a grip as possible. This model is easier to grip for better control, smaller hands, or something for the ladies to use, as the available 9mm caliber helps with the problem with recoil sensitive shooters.

The left side of the pistol is completely plain and unadorned, except for the discrete Heinie logo on the rear of the slide and the Nighthawk logo in the Alumagrips stocks..

The right side is equally plain. This pistol was not set up for ambidextrous use. Typical Lady Hawk pistols include a "Lady Hawk" rollmark but, like this test example, it is available without the rollmark for the males who like the pistol but don't choose to have their "manliness" called into question for carrying a "girlie" pistol.

The features of the Lady Hawk as stated on the web site are as follows;

  • Caliber: 9mm / Match Grade Crowned and Recessed Barrel
  • Heinie Signature Scalloped front strap and Mainspring Housing (Front Strap and Mainspring Housing radiused to reduce grip size)
  • Nighthawk Custom Ultra-Thin Alumagrips
  • Forged Carbon Steel Frame and 4.25" Slide
  • Heinie Magazine Release, Tool Steel Hammer, and Sear
  • Finish: Titanium Blue with Hard Chromed Controls
  • Heinie Slant-Pro Straight Eight Night Sights
  • Magazine well contoured for carry
  • Tactical Magazine Release
  • Hand Serrated Rear of Slide

The gun as delivered to me came with two Mec-Gar, 9mm, normal-sized magazines, that being of a full-size 1911 in 9mm. The pistol weighs in at 2.25 lbs (1.02 kg), with an overall length of 7-13/16" (198.4 mm) which includes the grip safety tang, and a height of 5 5/16" (134.9 mm) including the sights. The slide is a true 4-1/4" (107.9 mm) Commander style length, with standard diameter barrel that is ramped and supported, along with the standard set up style barrel bushing. Also take down (field stripping) is of the standard procedure, as there's no full-length guide rod to hinder the process. The trigger pulled cleanly at just under 4 lbs (1.82 kg), with no felt creep.

As you can see from the following photos, they have done their job again. From the excellent fitted grip safety, finely serrated slide top and rear, fitted bushing and barrel recess, slightly extended magazine release, scalloped front strap and mainspring housing, funneled magazine well, to the carry bevel edges, nothing was overlooked with this model.

The Heinie Trijicon rear sight is nicely contoured to flow out of the slide at the forward end, and aligns perfectly with the rear of the slide. The hammer is skeletonized to reduce weight and improve lock time.

The beavertail grip safety, like the other fire controls, is stainless steel in contrast with the finish on the slide and receiver. The grip safety is well-fitted to the receiver, and the "speed bump" palm swell is smoothly contoured to reduce irritation while enhancing the positive release of the safety.

The top of the slide is flattened and ribbed to reduce glare. The front sight is dovetailed.

The rear face of the rear sight is serrated to reduce glare. In what has become virtually a Nighthawk Custom signature treatment, the entire aft end of the slide, including the extractor, is also serrated to match the sight.

The barrel bushing, like the fire controls, is stainless steel to contrast with the finish of the slide. The stainless steel barrel is cut to end perfectly flush with the face of the bushing, with the crown forming a recess behind that plane. The recoil spring plug is a conventional profile, but engraved with the Heinie logo on the face.

The checkering on the Alumagrips stock panels employs truncated diamonds to ensure a solid grip while reducing abrasion of the hands. The magazine catch/release is serrated and slightly extended for more positive magazine changes under pressure.

The front strap is textured in a unique pattern intended to enhance grip without being overly aggressive.

Another view of the front strap treatment.

This pistol does not utilize an add-on magazine chute, but the mouth of the standard magazine well is neatly beveled to facilitate insertion of the single stack magazines.

Another custom touch is that the end of the slide stop pin is recessed into the receiver. Although one of our test cadre questioned the need for this feature, some shooters tend to hold their trigger finger on the frame at this location when the finger is not on the trigger, and the recessed pin helps ensure that the slide stop is not inadvertently displaced.

The slide stop is contoured in a serrated shelf profile, which seems to be a popular departure from the traditional M1911/M1911A1 style or the elongated type.

The relief cut on the slide aligns perfectly with the end of the receiver. The barrel bushing is formed with a deep flange and fits perfectly flush with the end of the barrel.

The front sight is mounted in a dovetail, and the sides of the sight base are contoured to the shape of the front of the slide.

Behind the front sight, the top of the slide is cut flat and serrated.

Overall, the right side of the pistol evinces meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to function.

As usual, the gun comes in a nice single carry pouch with the embroidered Nighthawk logo. It's filled with information about the use and care of the gun, as well as safety information pamphlets, and the familiar test target with the names of who put the gun together.

The embroidered Nighthawk logo on the outside of the pistol case clearly identifies the maker.

The inside of the case is nicely padded, and divided into a number of useful compartments for literature, tools, magazines and accessories.

The printed material that comes with the Lady Hawk

The test target, identifying the pistolsmiths who assembled the gun and the person who fired the test target.

For this article I decided to do something a bit different. Since this gun is touted as one for small hands, and a 'Lady's gun', I decided to round up some women shooters and get their opinion about this model. Me having the paws of a large bear, my hands wrapped around this gun a few times before coming to rest, which tells me they have really done their job in thinning down the grip of this model.

I found three women shooters who have varying experience with firearms. One has not shot much, but isn't timid around guns. One has some background, and has shot a fair amount. The third consistently shoots quite a bit. Two of the three agreed to have their photo taken for the article, while the other wanted to remain more anonymous.

So without further ado ... ladies take it away ...

Pictured here are Angela and Jennifer, two of the three that agreed to give their input to this article.

Angela does her thing with the Lady Hawk ...

... and Jennifer does her thing.

Looking at the gun overall, neither of the women liked the color scheme. The overall color was fine, but they didn't like the two-tone treatment. They thought leaving the gun a single color would appeal to them more. They liked the overall looks, but they thought some of the features were not needed. And when they heard that the gun would retail for just under $2,900, they knew they wouldn't be looking at a gun like this. If they could have some of the features, and get the price down to around $2,000, all three said they would be very interested in this gun.

So we went over the features of the gun, and they pretty much re-designed the pistol. All said, they would leave off the rear and top slide serrations, as they were hard to keep clean. As Angela said "They do add a touch of class to a finely made pistol, but add nothing to the function or reliability." They said the same thing about the recessed slide stop pin. Nice touch, but not needed. All thought the scallops on the grips were useless, as the gun recoils in the direction the scallops run. They all said if the scallops ran cross ways, there was checkering or stippling, it would definitely help with overall controllability of the gun during rapid fire much better. They also pointed out the gaudiness of the Nighthawk logo on the grip panel. They said they had to look at it for a bit to tell what it was, and would be the first thing to go. They liked the barrel crown treatment, but all felt it wasn't necessary to the function and accuracy of the gun. And asked if the price would come down if that was dropped.

It appears I found some very practical women for testing?

The overall fit of the grip was very well done. They liked the grip safety and how it was precisely fit, and how well it fit each of their hands. They also liked way the thumb safety clicked on and off with just the right amount of pressure, the design of the trigger, magazine well that was funneled, the extended magazine release, and the overall feel due to the gun having a carry bevel to all the edges. The best things they loved about the Lady Hawk were the trigger pull and the sights. None had ever fired a gun with a trigger that was so crisp and clean, and all said the sights were very easy to pick up for combat shooting. One of the three asked if there was an option to have the same rear sight, but no dots. The third member of our ad hoc test cadre preferred the 3-dot set up.

How it shoots

All three women loved how it shot. When asked about the recoil and controllability, all remarked "What recoil?" They have all shot 9mm pistols before, but haven't shot a pistol that recoiled so lightly. As for controllability, they said the grip panels and scallops were good to go until your hands got a bit sweaty, then neither were any good. The grip panels, which have a recessed checkering-like surface, didn't have nearly the grip the ladies were looking for. And the scallops on the front and rear panels of the frame were useless with a bit of sweat on the hand. The women couldn't say enough good things about the Heinie sights. "Wow" Spectacular" and an occasional "OMG" was heard when shooting the gun. Between the sights, the trigger pull, the way the gun fit their hand, I had a hard time getting them to finish the testing time. Needless to say, they burned up a ton of ammo.

They did experience 2 malfunctions when using Speer FMJ ammo and the supplied Mec-Gar magazines. But a slight rap on the back of the slide got things going again.

All three ladies averaged 3+" at 15 yards, and opened up to 6+" groups back at the 25 yard line, shooting free hand. All commented how the combination of the sights, trigger pull, and hand fit allowed them to shoot the gun so well. When immediately putting a Glock or Sig 9mm in their hands, their groups opened up considerably at those same yardages.

Final Thoughts

Other than the two feeding malfunctions, the gun performed flawlessly in every way. Thanks to the thin grip, fine trigger, and great combat sights, it made better shooters out of all three of the women, and gave #3 some nice split times because of the crisp trigger pull.

Final word from the women was, and Nighthawk take note, "If Nighthawk could make a more stripped down version, without all the bells and whistles that have nothing to with the function or reliability of the gun, they would have a winner, and we think more people would be interested in it." They also thought a .45 cal version would go over well, as long as it kept the thin grip style. My thoughts are a bit different, as I look over more of the work put into the making of the Lady Hawk model. It's another example of a finely made pistol put out by Nighthawk. All the details are there that have made the Nighthawk name a respected semi-custom gun maker in the industry. If you're looking for a 9mm 1911 style pistol that will fit everyone hands, and shoot like a dream ... look no further, you won't be disappointed.

Chronograph Results


I would to thank the folks at Nighthawk for allowing me extra time with this pistol. I came up with the idea of allowing some women to pretty much do the review, but couldn't do it with the time line allowed, and they graciously gave us extra time with the pistol to do this review. This is the second pistol from Nighthawk that I've had the pleasure of reviewing, Craig and all the gang at Nighthawk have been very good to deal with.

You may discuss about this pistol, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=53578


Caliber - 9mm
Barrel length - 4.25"
Overall length - 7 13/16"
Overall height - 5 5/16"
Weight - 2.25lbs
Finish - Titanium Blue with Hard Chromed Controls
Stocks - Thin Alumagrips
Magazines - 2 supplied 9 round Mec-gar
Sights - Fixed Heinie Slany Pro Straight Eight Combat Night Sights
Suggested retail - 2,895.00



Nighthawk Custom
1306 W. Trimble
Berryville, Arkansas 72616

Phone: (Toll Free) 877.268.4867

E-Mail: info@nighthawkcustom.com
Web site: http://www.nighthawkcustom.com


Competitive Edge Dynamics USA
P.O. Box 486,
Orefield, PA 18069-0486

Orders: (1) 888-628-3233
Phone: (1) 610-366-9752
Fax: (1) 610-366-9680

Email: info@CEDhk.com
Web site: http://www.CEDhk.com

Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 3 (Summer '08) - Pistol Review: Nighthawk Custom Lady Hawk