Pistol Review: Nighthawk Custom Trooper 1911 – More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
In a sleepy little town in Arkansas sits one of the premier gun manufacturers in the country. With a population just over 5,000, Berryville would not appear to be the hub of premier 1911s yet that is exactly what it is. Since 2004 Nighthawk Custom has been building the gold standard of 1911s without fail. From no-nonsense work guns to sexy custom collaborations, they are simply one of the best shops in the country. So, with a pedigree as storied as theirs, it is a head-turning moment when word comes down that they have a new gun in the works. I got the notice and in short order, my UPS driver showed up with a box from Nighthawk. Inside was the newest release from Nighthawk Custom – the Trooper.
Since 2004 Nighthawk Custom has been building the gold standard of 1911s without fail.
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After tearing the box open like it was Christmas morning, I got my first look at a very nice 1911. Nighthawk says, “This new offering was conceived with the no-frills, straightforward gun owner in mind. The Trooper represents the core of what Nighthawk is all about: American made, finely-tuned, hand-built craftsmanship.” I halfway chuckled when I saw they described the gun as “no frills.” It’s a bit like saying a Bentley is an around town grocery getter. However, in comparison to a model like their President, it does have a more traditional feel. It is a five-inch full size machined government slide and frame. It felt very good in my hands and struck a good balance with the 25 lines per inch checkering on the front strap as well as the mainspring housing. The slide has wide rear cocking serrations that allowed a good purchase on the slide during manipulations. The choice of sights fit the gun well with Heinie Ledge rear sights and an easy to acquire fiber optic front sight. The trigger was pure Nighthawk as it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The solid curved trigger broke cleanly at a breath over 3.5 pounds and had a very short reset. The gun enjoys a hearty thick barrel bushing and recoil spring plug as well as a stainless crowned barrel. The entire thing is wrapped up with a black nitride finish.
I halfway chuckled when I saw they described the gun as “no frills.” It’s a bit like saying a Bentley is an around town grocery getter.
As expected, the fit and finish on the gun was exceptional. What some people may not know is each gun that comes out of Nighthawk has been built by one gunsmith. Their slogan and philosophy is, “one gun, one gunsmith.” Each pistol is built from start to finish by a single gunsmith who eventually test fires the pistol to ensure it exceeds both the Nighthawk standard and his own. They then use a metal stamp to mark their initials under the left grip panel. While this is obviously not the fastest, most efficient, or most cost-effective way to build a firearm, this shows the highest level of ownership, and it signifies the pride and commitment their gunsmiths take in the work they do.
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Performance wise it was solid as well. Most noteworthy was the Trooper’s ability to eat just about any ammunition I threw at it. This is an important point for me personally because I know that many high-end precision-built handguns are very particular about what ammo they will cycle. Their tight tolerances can at times frustrate the shooter, as they get as finicky about ammo as a 5-year-old does about vegetables. Now understand I did not run any steel case ammo through the gun because that would anger the gun gods. Why not? Well, if you are going to drop almost $4,000 on a handgun, you shouldn’t run bargain ammo through it. There is something just patently wrong with that. Ok, off my soapbox and back to the gun. The 25 LPI checkering provided solid purchase on the gun and I found it easy to run. The hi-vis fiber optic front sight made acquiring the front sight an easy task for my not 25-year-old eyes. Impact-wise, the gun shot a ragged hole with every type of ammo I ran. While I ran some lighter loads, I am a fan of running 230-grain ball for training. The Trooper was unfazed by the smorgasbord of rounds I shoved into the magazines. The trigger did indeed break cleanly and demonstrated no wiggle or play. This comes down to it being properly fitted by the gunsmith. All in all, the gun lived up to every expectation I had of Nighthawk Custom.
Each pistol is built from start to finish by a single gunsmith who eventually test fires the pistol to ensure that it exceeds both the Nighthawk standard and his own.
To some, the bling and flash of slide cuts and gold barrels are a bit much for their personality. While I can appreciate the craftsmanship of those designs, I find myself drawn to the likes of the Trooper 1911. Its understated good looks are only outdone by its performance. Nighthawk may say it is a no-frills pistol, but to the trained eye, the gun is absolutely more than the sum of its parts.
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- FRAME SIZE: GOVERNMENT
- CALIBER: 45 ACP
- SAFETY: SINGLE SIDE
- HEIGHT: 5.4″
- LENGTH: 8.65″
- WIDTH: 1.40″
- SLIDE WIDTH: 0.92″
- GRIP THICKNESS: REGULAR 38
- EMPTY: 38.8 oz.
- SIGHT RADIUS: 6.51″
- BARREL LENGTH: 5″
- MAG CAPACITY: 7+1
- REAR SIGHT: BLACK HEINIE LEDGE
- FRONT SIGHT: FIBER OPTIC
- FINISH: BLACK NITRIDE
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