Nighthawk Custom DTS (Drop- in Trigger System)

Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Christian Sandklev

Earlier this year, John Caradimas asked if I was interested in doing a review of the new DTS (Drop in Trigger System) offered by Nighthawk Custom. Intrigued by the idea and concept, I agreed. Within a few weeks, Nelson Davis of Nighthawk reached out to me and arrangements were made to send me a sample to try out. Having past contact with the good folks at NHC, my information was already on file and the product was on its way the next day.


Established in 2004, Nighthawk Custom in Berryville, Arkansas is a firearm manufacturer offering some of the industry’s finest 1911 pistols. Today, 65 dedicated employees offer over 40 combinations of the revered 1911 pistol as well as Korth custom revolvers, tactical shotguns, a custom shop, and a host of high quality parts and accessories for the 1911 platform.
New for 2020 is the Drop in Trigger System for the 1911 pistol.

Credit and accolades must be given to the creator of this novel idea. The DTS is a creation of a gentleman named Mark Dye. Mark is the director of Gunsmithing Programs at Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina.

c/o Montgomery Community College

As Mark explained to me, the idea came to him back in 2007. While looking at a drop in trigger for a bolt action rifle, he wondered why nobody has ever done it for a 1911 pistol. As a 1911 gunsmith, Mark went to work on his vision and had a working proof of concept prototype in about a year. A provisional patent was applied for in 2008. Mark continued, “I knew that I didn’t have the capital or experience to market the parts on my own. I started talking to a few companies that I could get meetings with about a licensing agreement.” Initially encouraged, Mark couldn’t close the deal with the companies he spoke to. A lot of the companies suggested he make the parts and sell to them. Mark added, “I tried to source the parts from a number of machine shops over the next couple of years but couldn’t find the right fit. I think it was largely due to my inexperience”

Mark continued to improve upon the design over this time period, fielding several prototypes. Shooting USPSA and steel challenge competitions all over the country, Mark estimates about 80,000 rounds shot with his prototypes.

In 2011 Mark was awarded the full patent on his creation. That same year he took a position at Montgomery Community College teaching gunsmithing and his project was put on hold for the next several years. In 2016 he showed it to Virgil Tripp of STI and was encouraged to give it another try. Again seeking license agreements or selling the patent outright, Mark thought he had a deal with a few well known companies but, alas, it did not happen. Finally, in 2018, he showed it to Mark Stone of Nighthawk Custom. Stone became excited and saw potential. Within a month, an agreement was made. Nighthawk went to work and over the next year and a half fielded a high quality and cost effective example of what we have today.

What it is and what you get

The DTS is a modular, drop in cassette that takes the place of the traditional hammer, sear and disconnector on a 1911 pistol. It’s a steel housing that contains the hammer, sear, disconnector and hammer strut. The parts are made of fully machined 416 stainless steel bar stock.

The product arrived in a nicely made box that is reminisce of jewelry

A dedicated sear spring is used in place of the standard 3- leaf design found on the platform. The center and left leaves are not needed, as the unit is self contained with a spring to load the sear against the hammer hooks.

Each assembly carries a serial number with patent information

Anyone who has been “under the hood” of a 1911, be it building from the ground up or doing a trigger job, can attest to the hours spent on the interface of the sear and hammer hooks, along with the sear spring adjustments. Each small adjustment or refinement requires reassembly of the pistol where trigger pull weight, take-up and let-off are determined. I have spent up to three hours on this process on a few of my builds. The DTS is designed to eliminate this task.


The process of replacing the stock fire control group of a 1911 is very easy and straightforward. The pin that holds the mainspring housing into the frame is removed to drop the mainspring housing out of the grip frame. The sear spring is set aside, not to be reused. The hammer is placed in the cocked position to allow removal of the thumb safety, taking care not to launch the detent and spring from the plunger tube. The grip safety is set aside for reinstallation.

The hammer and sear pins are removed and set aside for reuse. The sear, hammer and disconnect are removed and set aside and put away for safe keeping.

The cassette is placed into the frame while guiding the integral disconnector through the frame disconnector hole. Align the assembly the same as the original fire control components.

The hammer and sear pins are now installed in their respective holes, locking the cassette in its proper orientation. The proprietary sear spring is placed into the cut in the frame with the leaf to the right to allow proper loading of the grip safety. Orient the hammer strut as done normally and slide the mainspring housing into the frame part of the way to hold the sear spring in place and keep it from dropping out. Reinstall the grip safety and insert the thumb safety part of the way into its hole in the frame. Place the hammer in the full cocked position, depress the thumb safety plunger into the plunger tube and press the thumb safety into position.

Note: The sear/hammerhook relation and subsequent thumb safety fitting varies from pistol to pistol, especially when different vendor parts are used. The thumb safety may not pass into the window on the left side of the cassette without modification to the blocking lug on the thumb safety. I initially tried to install the DTS in another one of my pistols and the thumb safety lug would not pass into the window and install, as I found out with my .45 Commander.

Let the hammer fall to rest by squeezing the trigger, reinstall the mainspring housing, and secure with the pin. The DTS can now be function/ safety checked.


The DTS functioned as advertised. The reset was consistent when cycling the slide or cocking the hammer by thumb. The take-up and break were more than acceptable with typical dry fire practice. I wanted to measure the trigger pull weight, so I grabbed my trusted RCBS scale and gave it a shot. The pull weight of my 9mm Commander build was precisely 3 ¾ pounds, as advertised by Nighthawk. I must confess that my pull weight increased from its original 3 ¼ pounds with my fire control components.

Range test

After weeks and weeks of dry fire fun due to the COVID lockdown, I finally took the new configuration for a test drive. My usual shooting buddies, Dennis Premo and Ricky Williams, accompanied me to the range on a late May morning. We ran the usual plethora of 9mm fodder through the pistol just as we would any other given day.




The boys and I ran 200 rounds through my 9mm Commander. The function of the pistol was 100% over the course of three hours. The DTS worked as advertised.


Nighthawk’s DTS is an innovative product that can consistently improve your 1911 trigger. The unit works on Series 70, Series 80 and Swartz style design fire control systems. The 1911 pattern pistol is made in several countries around the world. Some triggers are decent, others are horrible but still functional. If you have the inclination of doing a trigger job on your 1911/2011 pistol, you should give this product a serious look. The time saved and negligible (in my opinion) cost difference from the standard hammer, sear and disconnect are well worth it.

Those of us who may shoot in competition can swap this component into a back-up pistol within minutes should a failure occur.

The only criticism I can offer is, “can we call it a true drop-in component”? The answer is yes and no…maybe not 100% “Drop-In” if the thumb safety may need modification. Those of us who mess with these pistols will find that task a very very minor one to overcome. An important note: if the thumb safety blocking lug is modified to work with the DTS, chances are that it will no longer work with the original hammer and sear. In my opinion, it is still well worth the effort to pursue this innovative design.

Kudos to Mark Dye, who dreamt up this concept. He had a vision and kept improving it over the years.

Accolades to Nighthawk Custom for recognizing and perfecting this concept. At the risk of sounding under appreciative, those of us that know NHC come to expect great things from them.
1911 Drop in trigger system

Material 416 Bar stock stainless steel
Pull weight 3.5# - 3.75# depending on mainspring
MSRP $299.99

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Find us on :

Nelson Davis
Nighthawk Custom
1306 W. Trimble Ave
Berryville, Arkansas 72616
(877) 268-4867

Mark Dye
Montgomery Community College
1011 Page St.
Troy, N.C. 27371
(910) 898-9600

B & T Grocery LLC
5730 US Highway 17S
New Bern, N.C. 28562

Dennis Premo
Ricky Williams