Review: Nighthawk Custom Enforcer

This is a discussion on Review: Nighthawk Custom Enforcer within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; 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 ...

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Thread: Review: Nighthawk Custom Enforcer

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    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. 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.

    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    VIP Member Array Euclidean's Avatar
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    Cool!

    You're a crazy man Bumper. There's no way I'd CCW an $1800 pistol especially if it was that schweet. I'd be scared to death of putting a scratch on it.

    What's neat about a gun like this isn't just all the bells and whistles, it's that I could be standing in the lane right next to you and not recognize it for what it was. I keep looking for the 1911 with the gold trim, welded on extended magwell, and fully serrated slide with every other surface checkered to show up some day. It will probably also have a Pepto Bismol pink bead blasted finish and custom lime green grips featuring the Outkast logo.

    That thing with one of the magazines not working... personally I'd take a black or silver Sharpie and write "Range" on it on both sides. I couldn't trust that magazine after seeing that if it was me.

    I remember growing up everyone spoke in hushed whispers of Wilson Combat Handguns. Supposedly if you had one you became endowed with Alvin York-esque superpowers. For a long time I always thought that's pretty much the best pistol there was on the planet. I've since learned that's not the case necessarily.

    I've sometimes lamented that when you start talking about what's probably the best pistol in the world, it's probably a custom 1911 of some ilk. Sure you can hunt down a rare pinned and recessed specimen of a wheelgun and refinish it, tweak the trigger, chamfer the charge holes, polish and detail the lockwork, adjust the timing so it's perfect, play with the mainspring, replace the sights, replace the grips, and maybe have the barrel machined, maybe get the hammer how you want it, but that's about it. Every change you can make is a variation on one of these. It only works one way and all you can do is optimize a pre existing set of parts. You still get a heck of a gun, don't get me wrong, it just seems the 1911 platform lends itself to more adjustments than modern service pistols or revolvers.

    I wonder how Nighthawk compares to the wonders from the Springfield Armory Custom Shop or the S&W Performance Center. I've always wondered if a mass produced gun that's been tweaked in house can really compare to something like this.

    I too am surprised anyone could say they liked aluminum grips. Rain gutters on a gun, who thought I'd live to see the day?

    BTW you might want to consider having it refinished once a year because all the drool that will collect on that gun is going to discolor it something awful.

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    Nice going Bumper, great gun and I know what your talking about when you say feel of the gun or how it handles. About Wilson's magazines, I have a bunch and found the plastic follower may become chipped toward the front edge and promets problems. I went through mine and identified the one or two who were the problem child and replaced the followers. I want one of those. I have a Wilson Combat .45($2800) and it also shoots great. I believe yours to be as well as if not a better shooter than mine!!!!
    As you slide down the banister of life,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Euclidean
    You're a crazy man Bumper. There's no way I'd CCW an $1800 pistol especially if it was that schweet. I'd be scared to death of putting a scratch on it.
    Well, I may be nuts for spending that much on a gun, the jury is still out on that one, but carrying it? No. I don't buy guns to keep in the safe and Oooo and Ahhh over. If it gets scratched (and it will) life will go on. It's more likely that I will wear all of the finish off. But when it looks untolerably ugly I still have a good gun. And the finish can be made new again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Euclidean
    That thing with one of the magazines not working... personally I'd take a black or silver Sharpie and write "Range" on it on both sides. I couldn't trust that magazine after seeing that if it was me.
    I will probably just throw the mag in my "gun junk" box with all of my old holsters and such and use it for parts at some point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Euclidean
    I wonder how Nighthawk compares to the wonders from the Springfield Armory Custom Shop or the S&W Performance Center. I've always wondered if a mass produced gun that's been tweaked in house can really compare to something like this.
    I sorta feel like it's the work that matters not who does it, as long as it is done correctly. I don't think a Nighthawk is THE best gun on the planet, it's just one of the better guns. There are tons of gunsmiths out there that are capable of doing the work but you have to pick one at some point. I have confidence in this gun so it is worth every penny I paid for it (to me).

    Quote Originally Posted by Euclidean
    I too am surprised anyone could say they liked aluminum grips. Rain gutters on a gun, who thought I'd live to see the day?
    I thought so too but they are nice. I like wood grips but don't have one gun that has wood grips. That was a day I didn't think I would see....
    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FortyFive
    About Wilson's magazines, I have a bunch and found the plastic follower may become chipped toward the front edge and promets problems. I went through mine and identified the one or two who were the problem child and replaced the followers. I want one of those. I have a Wilson Combat .45($2800) and it also shoots great. I believe yours to be as well as if not a better shooter than mine!!!!
    The magazine in question is a pretty new magazine and I don't think it would be a problem in another gun. I will try it in the Kimber soon and see if it does okay.

    I really think of the Nighthawk as a Wilson Combat, quite honestly. The guy that made your Wilson may be the same guy that made my Nighthawk.
    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bumper
    Well, I may be nuts for spending that much on a gun, the jury is still out on that one, but carrying it? No. I don't buy guns to keep in the safe and Oooo and Ahhh over. If it gets scratched (and it will) life will go on. It's more likely that I will wear all of the finish off. But when it looks untolerably ugly I still have a good gun. And the finish can be made new again.
    I'm with you, Bumper. If I had a Boxster, I would drive it, not keep it in the garage under a dust cover and only bring it out on Dr. Porsche's birthday.

    My one "nice" 1911 has Alumagrips, too. I admit I had second thoughts, but I wanted black (for a stainless pistol), and the choices for my particular model were limited. The Alumagrips are fine, and don't feel like you would expect aluminum grips to feel.

    Congrats on the new member of the family! Enjoy!

    SSKC

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    Thumbs up Bumper

    Firstly......
    My Hearty Congratulations!
    Second...I'm Drooling!
    Third......
    Very Nice Review of that Super Fine Pistol!
    Liberty Over Tyranny Μολὼν λαβέ

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    Nice write up Bumper. Renee is absolutely head over heels for the Nighthawk Talon IV I got her for her B-day. My Talon I should be here pretty soon. We are also going to use the Nighthawk Custom's as our primary carry pistols.
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    I perused your pictures and I have to say I LOVE the design of that bull barrel. It is mesmerizing to look into the end of it since it makes it look much bigger than another .45. I am going to be real interested in hearing how your Talon shoots. I have always been drawn to, but avoided, the short 1911s because of all of the stories. I am betting yours will shoot flawlessly and recoil will be less than a short Kimber (or other gun). Is yours the same as your wife's or did you get a different Talon?
    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    The two of them make a sweet looking pair!

    Kimber Ultra CDP Elite STS II

    A gun is a tool...the real weapon is between your ears!

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    Yeah, they do! I still like my Kimber TLE II but doubt it will see much use other than from my son when we go to the range together.
    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    Bump'r I got the Talon I which is the full size Gov't model with a few added touches. I am going to be ordering a Talon II and III in a few weeks after I get my truck lifted with new rubber and rims and a few go fast mods. My dilemma is I love what Nighthawk does with the magwells yet I have been strangely drawn to a bobtail as of recently so I am torn. The wife is anxiously awaiting a trip to the desert to do some combat shooting with her new Talon IV. She is a lil anxious to see what the recoil will be like. I too am curious. I have a target pic that she shot with her Gov't Para SSP. She shot a happy face into it @ 7 yds. She shocked the range folk to no end.

    pic of Talon I


    Talon II w/bobtail feature


    ~A

    Quote Originally Posted by Bumper
    I perused your pictures and I have to say I LOVE the design of that bull barrel. It is mesmerizing to look into the end of it since it makes it look much bigger than another .45. I am going to be real interested in hearing how your Talon shoots. I have always been drawn to, but avoided, the short 1911s because of all of the stories. I am betting yours will shoot flawlessly and recoil will be less than a short Kimber (or other gun). Is yours the same as your wife's or did you get a different Talon?
    Fave Quotes

    The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live!!!

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    Henry Ward Beecher

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    Okay, here's a few pictures. There's more in Bumper's Gallery if you want to see some more detail. And before anyone says, "Hey, you need to scrub that barrel some more", I just gave it a quick wipedown for pictures before the sun went down too much to get them. I have been procrastinating today.







    Bumper
    Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.

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    I got Renee the same STI style trigger on her Talon IV. I like it more than I like the look of the Videcki style trigger.

    ~A
    Fave Quotes

    The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live!!!

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
    Edmund Burke

    The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government.
    Henry Ward Beecher

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    Bumper have you ever tried out Davidson grips???
    Fave Quotes

    The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live!!!

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
    Edmund Burke

    The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government.
    Henry Ward Beecher

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