By Brett Klein
Ever since John Moses Browning graced us with the 1911 pistol design over a century ago, countless manufacturers have been smitten, trying their darndest to perfect a design that is much like the Queen of England was – it just won’t change. Now, cue the entrance of Nighthawk Custom. They’ve made a name for themselves with an almost stubborn commitment to their “One Gun, One Gunsmith” philosophy. This approach ensures that each firearm they produce is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece — every meticulous stroke and adjustment crafted by a single maestro from start to finish.
Say hello to the President, a big cheese in Nighthawk’s “Boardroom Series.” rubbing shoulders with other top brass like the Chairman, Vice President, Treasurer and BDS9. So, without further ado, let’s get our hands dirty and dissect this beast.
Features and Design
The Nighthawk President features a forged government size frame, paired with a 5” match grade barrel. Chambered in either .45 ACP or 9mm and coming in around 38.2 ounces on the scales, the President is 5.75” in height and 1.25” in width. The 9mm variant comes with a 10-round capacity and the .45 ACP packs 8 rounds.
The President touts custom Nighthawk sights including a fully adjustable solid black rear sight with a Heinie ledge and a 14k solid gold front bead. The pistol has an optional IOS (Interchangeable Optic System) standard which allows you to add a RMR red dot sight if you choose.
Visually, the President is like the George Clooney of pistols; stylish, solid, and undeniably captivating. At first glance, your eyes are drawn to the unique Railscale G10 grips, and then to the gold titanium nitrided barrel that peeks through the ejection port and heavy angle lightening cuts on the slide. This is a piece that doesn’t scream quality, it serenades you with it.
The black DLC finish gives the pistol a sleek, professional look, exuding a sense of power and purpose. The construction of the frame and slide is solid, with a quality feel that’s immediately noticeable when you handle the pistol. The 25 lines-per-inch checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing ensures a firm grip, even in wet conditions, and adds to the overall allure of an already alluring firearm.
Other notable features include hand beveled edges, a tuned and polished extractor, a one-piece mainspring housing/magwell, and an ultra hi-cut front strap.
The pistol is also completely dehorned for comfortable carry and a very smooth draw.
Let’s be clear, the President isn’t just a pretty face. Its performance is every bit as exceptional as its looks. This handgun is a dream to shoot. Imagine a professional salsa dancer who can also solve quantum physics problems – equally impressive in both form and function.
The solid stainless-steel construction lends the gun a very reassuring heft (38.2 oz.), and makes the recoil is abnormally manageable, especially when shooting 9mm as tested here. There’s very little muzzle rise. The materials and fitting are designed to ensure the President’s dependability, demonstrating an action that’s both taut and fluid. It cycled flawlessly right out of the box.
After cruising through my first magazine, I found myself grinning wider than a kid on Christmas. Nighthawk’s custom tri-cavity trigger, set to around 3.5 pounds, delivers a smooth, crisp pull and ultra-clean break, turning every shot into a gratifying experience.
I expected the pistol to be precise. You don’t invest this much in a handgun otherwise. But once again was floored by the performance and the groups I achieved at the 15-yard range. My average five-shot groups consistently printed 1” or less with factory (non-match 115 GR-FMJ) ammunition using only iron sights.
Nighthawk guarantees one-inch groups at 25 yards for every pistol they make. That’s not just a promise, it’s a guarantee. My President lived up that right out of the box.
Yes, the President’s point will cause your wallet break out in cold sweat. Even for someone shopping for a custom grade 1911, the President’s base price of $4,599 is an eye-popper compared to other flagship models offered by prestigious brands such as Wilson Combat, Dan Wesson, Les Baer, and Staccato. Add a couple of custom options and you can easily jump into the mid $5,000 range.
But that said, you won’t regret the expenditure. It’s important to remember, with Nighthawk Custom, you’re not just getting a firearm, you’re investing in an heirloom. A piece of ballistic art. These handguns are more than just tools. They’re treasure chests of fine craftsmanship that will be handed down to future generations.
So when it comes to the Nighthawk President, the decision isn’t so much whether to invest, but rather, whether you’re willing to endure the regret of passing on the chance to own one of these exquisitely crafted beauties.
Specifications: Nighthawk Custom President 9mm Pistol
Caliber: 9mm or 45 ACP (9mm Tested)
Action: Single Action Only (SAO)
Capacity: 9mm: 10-Rounds / 45 ACP: 8-Rounds
Barrel: 5” Match Grade (Crowned Flush with Bushing)
Sights: Rear: Heinie Black Ledge / Front: Gold Bead / IOS Optional
Pistol Width: 1.25”
Overall Length: 8.58”
Weight (Empty): 38.2 OZ
MSRP: $4,599 (tested Price: $5099)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Aesthetics * * * * *
The pistol is a beautiful piece of art and in my opinion one of the best-looking pistols on the market. The railscale grips combined with the gold titanium barrel and slide cuts bring a classy sophistication with a tactical flare.
Accuracy * * * * *
As expected, the accuracy of the President is exceptional. I consider myself a better than average shooter, yet feel that I’m incapable of truly pushing the complete capabilities of the pistol. Nighthawk guarantees 1” groups at 25 yards for every pistol they produce. Many manufactures make claims, but not guarantees. That demonstrates the confidence Nighthawk has with every pistol they make. Each pistol that leaves the factory is supplied with the original test target showing achieved accuracy groups.
Reliability * * * * *
I fired over 500 rounds in my test without a single stoppage. We have no long-term data to contribute but one can assume this pistol will run flawlessly based on our initial impressions.
Ergonomics * * * * *
The 1911 platform is well known for its ergonomic design. Browning’s original design was superior from the start. The Nighthawk President has a hefty, solid feel, but the frame is well balanced and the G10 grips feel as good as they look. That combines to make recoil a breeze to handle. It’s like shaking hands with an old friend.
Price: * * * *
Now here’s where we hit a speed bump. The price tag on the President is not for the faint-hearted. At this price range, many 1911 aficionados will find this beauty out of reach. However, compared to other high-end models like the Wilson Combat Supergrade, which has a base price that looks more like a phone number ($5,799.00) to some, the President’s price tag seems a tad more reasonable. But remember, you’re not just buying a pistol, you’re investing in a piece of craftsmanship, a legacy that will stand the test of time.
Availability: * * *
Here’s a slightly bitter pill to swallow. If you’re familiar with the Nighthawk Custom universe, you’re probably acquainted with their infamous limited availability (with all models). Often, the wait times for these beauties can turn into a two-year cliffhanger, longer than most reality TV show seasons and certainly longer than other comparable firearm manufacturers. If you’re looking to buy one off-the-shelf, you might occasionally strike gold. But if you’ll be custom ordering one, tailored to your specific needs you might have to tap into your Zen reserves, because you’re in for a long haul with lead times often exceeding two years. Part of the reason for the lengthy wait times is that “One Gun, One Gunsmith” ethos, which ensures that each gunsmith pours their heart, soul, and skill into every piece they work on. Many direct dealers will also allow you to get an order going and pay for it over time so the price stings a little less. Yes, you’ll have to wait, but at the end of the day, you’ll own a Nighthawk Custom.
Overall: * * * * *
The Nighthawk President is an extraordinary pistol that pushes the boundaries of craftsmanship and aesthetics. One can only really complain about the price tag or the limited availability. But these beautiful works of art are truly a joy to shoot. After all, good things, they say, come to those who wait… and those who are willing to loosen their purse strings.
Brett Klein is president of Hinterland Outfitters in Houston, Texas.