Review: Nighthawk Custom Enforcer
I've been partial to the 1911 .45acp ever since I bought my first one over 30 years ago, a Colt Lightweight Commander. Since then I have owned a Springfield Armory and two different Kimbers. When I bought my first full size Kimber Custom TLE II I thought I had found THE gun that would capture my attention for the rest of my life. Right out of the box it was good looking, accurate and just a hell of a good feeling gun. I felt that way right up to the day I had the opportunity to buy my Nighthawk Custom Enforcer. Although side by side and a few feet back, the Enforcer could be mistaken for a second TLE II, as you look at them casually the differences become apparant. Although the Kimber has a nice finish on it, the Nighthawk "Perma-Kote" finish is a flawless, eggshell jet black. The Kimber, by contrast looks almost dark gray and chalky, when compared.
Upon closer examination you find many more cosmetic differences. The triggers are both adjustable aluminum, the TLE a 3 hole pattern and the Enforcer a more stylish pattern. Front and rear serrations are finer on the the Enforcer and have obviously felt the file of the master gunsmith that built it. They are smooth when you run your fingers across them as opposed to the sharpness of the ridges on the TLE. The hammer is black on the Enforcer, the TLE is fitted with a stainless one. More visible is the differnce of the look of all the TLE small parts than the rest of the finish. They are shiney. The gun is not. The small parts on the Enforcer are uniform with the rest of the gun's finish, including the pins. Careful attention has been taken to insure that all small parts are fitted perfectly. The thumb safety has a larger surface area, a smoother serration (also touched by the file) and a more distinctive click than the TLE. The Enforcer's grip safety has a different design and a much smoother action and much more comfortable checkering on both the front and backstrap and the magazine release button. The Enforcer release button is a hair higher and smoother, as well.
The cut on the front of the TLE magazine well is so sharp it can, if you aren't careful, cut you. The Enforcer has been round and smoothed and has no corners that will snag you or your clothes. Nighthawk Custom logo Alumagrips with blackened screws were a surprise to me, to tell you the truth. I had plans to replace them with rubber before I knew better. I thought the aluminum would be cold, sharp and uncomfortable when compared to the Kimber factory rubber grips on the TLE. Not even considering that the AlumaGrips are much better looking grips, they feel a lot better to your hand. The checkering on them are smooth but "grippy" feeling and the Nighthawk logo is, well, quite frankly badass looking without being flashy or "in your face". Overall, the Nighthawk Enforcer in all black (except for the trigger, the barrel and the barrel bushing) makes it look understated. With an internal extractor and no firing pin safety, the design is as I believe a 1911 should be. The TLE has the dreaded external safety, although this particular gun has given me no trouble and a firing pin safety which makes it a nightmare to disassemble and clean the way I like to.
The sights on the two guns are almost identical in profile but the Enforcer is a bit lower and has a blank rear sight with a tritium front sight. While I like only the front sight being marked, I would like the size of the front dot to be bigger. The vial (and the surrounding white) is much smaller than the front sight of the TLE and is somewhat difficult to pickup quickly, at least with my eyes. I will probably change the front sight out to a "big dot" tritium someday soon.
Both guns are all steel and weigh about the same, but the Enforcer feels much different in your hand. It feels alot like a Wilson Combat, which is alot like a pair of bluejeans when you get them "broke in". It's smoother and more comfortable in your hand. Surfaces commonly left sharp on other guns at the bottom of the slide, around the ejection port, all straight edges on the frame and slide have been rounded very subtly.
While I have used the TLE as a comparison of up to this point, I will leave that behind now. The TLE does not compare very well to the Nighthawk once the action is worked. The differences are very noticeable and I don't want it to appear that I am "knocking" the Kimber; I'm not. It is a very good stock gun. The Enforcer's action is butter smooth. Despite the hand worked close tolerances of the slide/frame fit, you feel no rough spots. It locks up tight with no play or loose fit between slide and frame. When you inspect the slide/frame join at the back of the slide the closeness is unbelieveable. Kimber, known for it's close tolerances, looks like the steel has been cut with a chain saw compared to the Nighthawk. The match trigger is crisp and set at 3-1/2 pounds.
Upon disassembly and inspection, all internal fit and finish is impeccable. Since it is fitted with a match barrel and bushing, it disassembles easily without any required tools. It is fitted with a short guide rod which has been beveled by the gunsmith on one side and is the only "rough" surface I found in this particular gun. I'm not sure what the purpose of the slight bevel is, but the rod/spring is not quirky on re-assembly like some of the 1911s I have seen/owned. It goes back together as easily as it was taken down. It has an 18# recoil spring which I found to be matched correctly after my first range trip.
Gordon at Big Bore gave me something to look for after a gun has been shot a few times to tell how good the barrel fit is. Lock the slide back and look at the end of the barrel about a half inch back from the end. The metal will be scrubbed a bit from locking up. It's perfectly normal, of course, but the thing to look for is a uniformity of the scrubbed area. A well fit barrel that locks up correctly will have a very subtle and uniform (all the way around) scrubbed area. This indicates that the friction in that area is uniform and and not contacting the bushing unevenly. My TLE is not bad, but has more scrubbing on the right side of the barrel than it does on the top, bottom or left side.
At the range, I found the gun to be consistantly accurate, with softer recoil than the TLE. For quick double taps the timing of this gun is quicker than the Kimber, although the small front sight mentioned earlier takes a bit longer to acquire than the larger front sight on the TLE. By changing out the front sight it should be significantly faster getting off subsequent shots. I shot both FMJ and HP ammunition through it with no problems. One interesting problem I had, which I have heard of before is that one Wilson Combat 47D magazine (out of the six I own) would not lock the slide back on the last shot. I have inspected all of them and can find no visible differences between them. In all, I have shot just over 500 rounds through the gun with no malfunctions. In fairness to the TLE, I have never had a malfunction in it either, although my Kimber Eclipse did have quite a few caused by the external extractor. My confidence in this gun is very high. My vision doesn't allow me to realize the accuracy I would like to see but groups are tighter with this gun. Someone that has good vision would realize much better accuracy than I can but at least I don't have an accuracy problem with the gun compound my ability to shoot accurately. My groups were generally a little larger than the palm of my hand at 15 yards and about palm sized at 7 yards, the occasional brain fart shot notwithstanding. :wink: Those were at least on the target, one would have clipped the carotid artery and the other broke a collar bone.
The Enforcer came in a soft pistol case with the Nighthawk logo embroidered on the outside pocket and two Novak/Nighthawk magazines (blued, made in Italy). While I originally thought they would go in a junk drawer with the Kimber magazines that came with my TLE, the Novak magazines worked great with no malfunctions. The follower looks just like the Wilson follower except it is metal.
In summary, I have to tell you I love this gun and it has, after a couple of trips to the range, become my primary carry gun. I'm keeping the Kimber for those times when the Enforcer is not available, although I'm not sure when that would be, maybe when I have it in to have the front sight replaced. A Nighthawk Enforcer will set you back $1849.00. It's worth money, IMHO.
I will take some new pictures and post them tomorrow instead of re-posting the ones I posted in an earlier thread.