Nighthawk Custom Talon 9mm

w/FLX Upgrade

High Capacity Magic from Nighthawk

A gun report by Steve Clark (Rio Vista Slim)

Nighthawk Custom has entered the field of double-stack capacity with their recently introduced "FLX" upgrade. With this upgrade, Nighthawk offers their customers the option of increasing the magazine capacity of the Talon, Dominator, GRP, or Predator pistols. The Talon, Dominator, and GRP upgrades are offered in either .45 ACP or 9mm. The Predator is offered for only the 9mm chambering. The prospective customer merely orders his weapon with whatever features he wants for his gun, and for a $350 additional charge, the "FLX" upgrade is performed on his/her pistol.

This increases the magazine capacity to 12 rounds for .45 (with an optional 14 round magazine available upon request), or 17 rounds of 9mm (with 20 or 26 round magazines available upon request). A phone call to Larry Lyles at Nighthawk Custom confirmed that STI high capacity magazines will operate reliably with any of the FLX upgraded pistols. While two magazines were supplied with the test pistol, I'm sure that potential customers could request additional mags at the time of their order.

This upgrade is, to me, unique, in that the frame is a steel component, with only the grip area made from a polymer material. With this arrangement, Nighthawk Custom is able to reduce the weight of the gun and compensate for the weight of the additional rounds in the magazines.

Craig Gholson of Nighthawk Custom was so enthusiastic about this new offering from the Tactical division of his company, that he sent out his own personal pistol to be tested by the M1911 Pistols Organization E-zine.

The Pistol

The literature which accompanied the weapon describes it as a "Talon, full size 5" government model with ambidextrous safety", with the "FLX 9mm" option.

As these two photographs aptly show, the pistol is MUCH more than described in that brief statement. The most notable thing for me was the frame's full length dust cover, extending to the muzzle end of the slide. This was my first exposure to a pistol constructed in this way, and the results (posted later in the "Firing Line") were impressive. The gun's rather massive appearance, due to the aforementioned dust cover, as well as the larger grip area, initially had me wondering how the weapon would feel in my admittedly small hands. I needn't have worried, as the gun settled in my grip nicely, with no perception of being over-sized.

The custom features on this Talon speak volumns about the quality and workmanship which have moved Nighthawk Custom into a position of respect among custom handgun manufacturers.

Beginning with the slide area of the pistol, the Heine straight-eight sights (with Tritium inserts) were regulated perfectly for the test loads used in the accuracy portion of the evaluation. Different bullet weights accounted for some vertical variations, but this was easily dealt with.

Nighthawk's excellent pistolsmiths have executed the horizontal lines at the rear of the slide so that the extractor is barely visible. I noted this precision work on my previous reviews of Nighthawk pistols.

The front sight (as illustrated by the photo) is perfectly blended with the contour of the slide.

The "business" end of the muzzle also shows the attention to detail given each pistol which leaves the Nighthawk Custom facility. The full length dust cover is visible on each side of the front of the slide, but blends in perfectly with the spring tunnel.

This photograph shows the full length dust cover from a different perspective.

The extended left hand slide/thumb safety, slide stop, hammer, and upswept beavertail grip safety are shown in this photograph. One can also gain some perspective on the over-size magazine release in this photo.

The right side of the pistol sports the right hand ambidextrous safety, while highlighting some of the features found in the previous photographs.

The trigger face is serrated horizontally, and comes equipped with an over-travel screw. Repeated pulls utilizing a Lyman Electronic Trigger Gauge, as well as an RCBS spring gauge, yielded a sear release that averaged 4.5 pounds. However, there is no creep, the trigger breaks cleanly, and while test firing the weapon, the trigger pull felt much lighter. Also of some note in the preceding photograph is the shortened slide stop pin, with the corresponding beveled pin hole. This made disassembly quite easy.

Visible on the front of the trigger guard is a hex-head screw, which is part of the system used to attach the polymer grip area to the steel frame.

(I must ask for your kind indulgence for the inferior quality of the three preceding photographs. An eletrical problem with my lighting forced me to align the pistol at those odd angles, in order to achieve the desired detail)

The three preceding photographs show the checkered mainspring housing, the checkered front strap, and the cavernous magazine well on the FLX Talon.


Luckily for me, the Nighthawk Custom Tactical FLX Talon is equipped with a standard barrel bushing and guide rod. Thus, the gun is field stripped in the time-honored fashion of most government model pistols. The barrel bushing could be turned by hand, and the remaining procedures angwere done with ease. Of course, re-assembly is in reverse order.

The Nighthawk Custom Tactical FLX Talon field stripped.

Do you see any tool marks? Neither did I! Overall, an exceptionally well made pistol. But the real test of any gun is "how does it shoot?"

The Firing Line

As with any test pistol, my initial firing is done rather randomly. Normally I'll set up a silhouette target, a few empty aluminum cans, and proceed to fire as many rounds as it takes for me to get the feel of the gun. In this case, the Nighthawk FLX Talon only needed 50 rounds of Remington 147 gr. metal cased cartridges to let me know the pistol was reliable. When firing at the FBI B-27 silhouette target, these heavier loads printed a little low, at first. After adjusting my point-of-aim, slightly, the empty pop cans never had a chance.

My next round of testing involved Remington 115 gr. full metal jacketed cartridges, some similar Magtech 115 gr. FMJ, and a few Winchester 115 gr. White Box FMJ. All these loads went directly to point-of-aim, firing from 10 to 15 yards. A quick wipe-down of the pistol, including the fully ramped barrel, and I was ready for the accuracy portion of the evaluation.

All accuracy testing was done at a distance of 25 yards, outdoors, with the average temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The staff of the M1911.ORG E-zine recently decided to discontinue the chronograph readings for each load tested. While I still have my chronograph, and use it on occasion, I am thankful for the removal of this odorous task. All of the five-shot groups were fired utilizing a two-handed, sand bagged rest from a stationary wooden table.

AmmoGroup inchesGroup mm
Winchester White Box 115 gr. FMJ
Remington 115 gr. FMJ
Remington 147 gr. Metal Case
Magtech 115 gr. FMJ
Federal Hydra-Shok 124 gr. JHP
Remington 115 gr. JHP

While I doubt this pistol's primary role is self-defense, it would be obvious that it might be used for that purpose. Hence, my testing of several jacketed hollow point cartridges during the evaluation. The pistol performed flawlessly, regardless of the rounds used. I am not a marksman! Much time went into these results, with the lion's share of credit going to the intrinsic accuracy of this weapon.

Anytime I receive a test pistol equipped with tritium sights, I do some low-light shooting in order to evaluate their usefulness and accuracy. This was not my first exposure to Heine Straight-Eight sights, and the performance of these, on this pistol, was excellent.

The checkering on the mainspring housing, as well as the front strap, enabled me to solidly hold the pistol throughout my shooting tests. The larger grip area contributed as well. In my initial rapid fire sessions, the pistol never moved in my hand, and the semi-aggresive checkering and fine stocks allowed quick and accurate follow-up shots. Finally, the full length dust cover did not make the pistol feel muzzle-heavy. Quite the contrary. I found the additional weight up front to be an advantage when rapid-firing the gun.

A total of 480 rounds were fired through the NHC Talon FLX without a single malfunction. I loaded the two supplied 17 round magazines enough times to insure the reliability of these most necessary parts, but performed the remainder of the shooting tests with partially loaded mags. My excuse for this is simply that my old thumbs got sore.


The Nighthawk Custom Tactical Talon FLX fills a niche in the Arkansas gun maker's catalog which has been requested for some time. Regular customers had repeatedly asked the folks at Nighthawk to come up with a high-capacity 1911-type pistol. The FLX upgrade is the answer, and it can be applied to several of the company's guns. One needs only to decide how he/she wants their Talon, Dominator, GRP, or Predator built, then add the FLX feature to obtain a high capacity firearm. Being a true custom operation, Nighthawk allows their customers to outfit their personal weapons in a wide variety of configurations.

Larry Lyles made it quite clear to me that Nighthawk does not keep secrets from their customers. They disclose the identity of suppliers for various parts of their pistols, and during custom builds, will obtain parts from Brownells, or use parts supplied by the customer. They will also be up-front in telling a customer if he has sent them an inferior part, and what the better alternatives are. In this age of "top secret" archives in many of the custom 1911 companys, this is quite refreshing.

Please remember, this is Craig Gholson's personal handgun. It was built for him (perhaps even by him), to his own particular specifications. Because of this fact, I could find no holsters in the Nighthawk web site made specifically for this gun. However, the full length dust cover could be taken into consideration by any number of custom leather holster makers, perhaps even those employed by Nighthawk Custom. Since I'm unfamiliar with the various competition holsters made for Hi-Cap pistols, I'm unable to comment on those.

While on the subject of the full length dust cover, Larry Lyles confirmed that the option is offered as a custom addition to several of Nighthawk's pistols. I wanted this clarification because I had not noticed this fact on Nighthawk's web site.

Several discussions about the weight of the firearm have cropped up on the M1911.ORG Forum. I am not in possession of anything as accurate as a digital postal scale (for obvious reasons), but I was able to get "ballpark" figures, which might be informative. Please keep in mind that the NHC FLX Talon has a full length dust cover! The empty weight of the gun came in at about 44 ounces. Loaded with seventeen 115 gr. JHP cartridges, six more ounces were added to the overall weight. While this total weight supported my theory that the pistol would be less than ideal for carry, this weapon would be an ideal home defense or competition pistol.

As with every Nighthawk pistol I've evaluated, the Talon FLX met the quality standards I've come to expect. Add to that the excellent customer service which has become a Nighthawk tradition, and you can't go wrong.

In the interest of complete honesty, I have never been a fan of high capacity 1911s. I am also not a fan of the 9mm cartridge. In the past, I was enamored with the idea of night sights, and altered one of my pistols for these, while insisting that another purchase had them as standard equipment. I later realized that I wasn't using them for an obvious reason (Basic Gun Rule #4), so my love affair with night sights ended. Night sights do have a purpose, though, and for those who like them, the Heine Straight-Eight sights on this pistol are excellent.

The preceding paragraph was written to express my personal views. There are many people who want and need a 1911-style weapon with high capacity features. I can heartily recommend the Nighthawk Custom Tactical Talon with the FLX upgrade for anyone in the market for such a pistol. Don't forget that three other models in the Nighthawk line of guns can be similarly upgraded.


Talon 5" Government Model
Stainless Steel Match 9mm Barrel (Ramped)
Steel Frame with Polymer Grip area
Full Length Dust Cover on Frame
Steel Slide
Heine Straight Eight Trijicon Combat Sights
Ambidextrous Thumb Safety
Black Perma-Kote Finish
FLX Upgrade
Two 17 round stainless steel magazines with bumper pads
Price, as tested $2,940.00 U.S. Dollars

You may discuss this review in the M1911.ORG Forum


I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Craig Gholson at Nighthawk Custom and Tactical Firearms. Craig entrusted me with his personal handgun, which is something I don't take lightly. In addition, Nighthawk's Larry Lyles was most helpful in answering several technical questions I had about the pistol. Courteous attitudes and superb customer service are the norm at Nighthawk Custom, and I have never experienced anything but cheerful people whenever I've called. This stellar level of concern for the customer is one of the things which sets Nighthawk Custom apart from the rest.

Todd Downing (of Downing's Guns in Cleburne, TX) has put up with more of my shenanigans than any person has a right to. The Downings are all enlightened gun owners, who go out of their way to satisfy the many folks who shop in their store. Without the "Mom and Pop" gunstores, many of my generation would have gotten out of the business of shooting years ago. I am grateful for your help, guidance, and encouragement. Thank you, Downings.


Nighthawk Custom

1306 W. Trimble
Berryville, Arkansas USA 72616

Telephone 1-877-268-4867
Web Site

Ammunition, Targets, Shipping, & Technical Advice

Downing's Guns and Family Treasures
516 N. Main Street
Cleburne, TX. U.S.A. 76031
Phone 817-641-9999