Gun Review: Nighthawk Custom 1911 Dominator

Typically, I like shooting almost anything that goes boom. I have opportunities to shoot many types and styles of firearms, but when a 1911 comes along, it finds a soft spot in my heart.

The Nighthawk Custom 1911 Dominator is a great example of such guns.

Loaded with Features
When I removed the 1911 Dominator from its case, I was immediately struck by the laser-engraved cocobolo grips. They are beautifully done. Matched with a Black Perma-Coat slide on a hard-chromed frame, they give the pistol a great look and tough finish that will resist the normal wear of a carry gun.

The gun also has Nighthawk Custom fully adjustable sights that fit a Bo-Mar dovetail, with yellow tritium inserts in the rear and green in front. All the inserts have white rings for daytime gunfights. The 5-inch match-grade barrel is crowned and beveled flush with the bushing.

There are 25-lines-per-inch serrations on the slide-stop, rear of the slide and checkered on the front and backstrap. They give the pistol a firm, comfortable grip. The serrations on the slide keep glare from being a problem in critical sighting situations. The checkering grabs your hand, but the pistol does not grab your clothing because it’s dehorned for concealed carry.

When I get smooth frames in my shop, I always recommend checkering, and most folks love the difference in feel. When buying a custom gun, I look for this feature because it’s so important for a good grip. This is especially true in damp conditions or quick-presentation drills. During the stress of a defensive situation, the feel of checkering adds confidence you need to survive.

The front-sight blade is pyramid-shaped so it doesn’t grab on the way out of a concealed holster. The slidehas front and rear cocking serrations. I don’t know why everybody doesn’t put front cocking serrations on 1911s. I do a press check every time the pistol goes in my holster for sentry duty, and although that can be done without front serrations, they make it much easier. (A press check involves inspecting the chamber for a live round by pushing the slide back a bit to get a visual on the round and then letting it close.)

On older Colts that didn’t have front serrations, the thumb or edge of your second finger pushed back below the barrel on the guide rod. Those guns didn’t have a full-length guide rod — as most do now — and putting the thumb or any body part in front of the muzzle isn’t safe. The serrations let you grip the frame from underneath and pull the slide back. The Dominator I shot did not have one-piece guide rod, so it could be done either way. However, I prefer to grab the slide from behind the muzzle.

The magazine well on the 1911 Dominator is deep and extended. It’s easily hit with a fresh magazine when recharging the gun in quick-load fashion. The gun comes with quality eight-round magazines. Some folks think the extended magazine well is too large for concealed carry. I don’t have much of a problem with that, as a full-sized 1911 is easily concealed under a vest or coat in the strong-side position, and the half-inch of the magazine well that sticks out doesn’t present a problem. I would rather have the right tool for the job when I need it, even if it violates fashion rules.

Like all 1911s, my Dominator feels great in the hand, and its lines and slimness look great. My pistol had a strong-side thumb safety that was slightly extended but rounded off at the corners to make it snag-free. It’s extended enough so my thumb easily engages it.

NightHawk Custom offers an optional ambidextrous safety. Some folks differ about these, but I prefer them on a carry gun. I often shoot weak-handed. The safety doesn’t weigh much, and I like having it there.

At the Range
As always, I did some dry-fire drills before hitting the range, and I was pleased with the way the gun felt in my hand. There’s no substitute for a custom feel. I replaced my normal carry gun with the Dominator and went to work.

The sights lined up and were easy to see, even with my blurry close-range vision. The magazines fed easily and dropped out like they knew where they were going. The magazine release has serrations for positive thumb contact. The slide frame fit was excellent. The trigger was everything I would expect in a custom gun: crisp, clean and no creep. The trigger pull was slightly more than 3 pounds, and it fires right after a brief takeup. The grip safety has a well-defined beavertail and disengages nicely when gripped properly.

The gun fired flawlessly with ball and hollow-point bullets. It was a pleasure to shoot a group right at the point of aim out of the box. The gun comes in .45 Auto, which fits the criteria of a defensive pistol. (That is, the caliber starts with four and ends with five.) I shot MagTech ball ammo and Speer Gold Dot carry stuff, each in 230-grain weights. They shot accurately and reliably. Drawing and firing the gun felt familiar, but the checkered front strap and mainspring housing gave it a positive feel at the range.

My wife, Lu, took a break from picture-taking to give the Dominator a lash. She isn’t a 1911 fan — yet — but she really liked the feel of the pistol and kept a group together on the target. She always has been a good pistol shot, but she told me the Dominator is easy to shoot.

Conclusion
The Nighthawk Custom comes in a convenient soft case that holds the included spare magazine and many more. It has room for other possibles you might need, such as the Wilson Combat Versa-Tool or other maintenance stuff. The case is adequately padded to protect the pistol’s exquisite finish.

The Dominator is a professionally made custom pistol that would satisfy professionals or serious shooters. It’s definitely a beauty-and-the-beast thing: very pretty, but when the beast comes out, it’s a rhino.

If you’re seeking a custom 1911, I’d recommend a visit to www.nighthawkcustom.com.

Dave Morelli is an all-around gun nut from Idaho.

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