Nighthawk Custom is known for quality. Unlike some other custom shops, where one person fits the slide, frame and barrel, and someone else does the trigger, and another does the checkering, at Nighthawk one person does it all. And, since many of the parts are made in-house by Nighthawk, if a pistolsmith finds that, say, a slide isn’t to specifications, he or she can walk over to the CNC operator making them and have a word about it. Every Nighthawk pistol is also test-fired before it leaves the shop and comes with an accuracy test-fire target.
Nighthawk had a popular pistol in its T3, but some customers wanted more. Actually, in a sense, they wanted less. They wanted something a little thinner, a little shorter and a bit lighter. Nighthawk’s designers got to work. They took various features from other models and combined them into a premium, compact, concealed-carry 1911.
The designers shortened the Commander-length barrel and slide from the T3 and then gave the muzzle end of the new T4 slide a shaving. This takes weight off and makes it easier to re-holster, as the slimmer muzzle more readily finds the holster opening. The shortened slide and barrel for the T4 meant that a Commander-length recoil system would not fit, so Nighthawk modified its Everlast Recoil System (ERS). The ERS reduces felt recoil and muzzle rise and shortens “splits” (the time between shots). To provide as much space as possible for the recoil system, Nighthawk eliminated the barrel bushing on the T4 and used a cone-shaped barrel to lock directly to the slide’s internal diameter. The recoil spring retainer is a “reverse” design; it’s installed from the chamber end of the slide when the T4 is assembled.
As expected from Nighthawk, the match barrel is precisely fitted to the slide, and the slide to the frame. The edges of the slide have been de-horned, so there aren’t any sharp points to nick your hands or abrade your clothing. The ejection port is lowered and flared, and the cocking serrations at the rear are aggressive enough to serve their purpose, but not so large or edgy that they risk more abrasion. The slide-stop lever’s pin head has been flattened to be flush with the right side of the frame, and the lever is large enough on the left side to be easy to use, but not so large that it risks inadvertent activation.
The T4 is a compact-carry pistol meant to be as unobtrusive as possible. It does not come with an accessory rail, nor is one an option. Nighthawk slimmed down the T4’s frame, making an easier grip for those with average or smaller hands. The frame length is the size known as the “Officer Model,” so the grip length is shorter than that of the Government and Commander frames. The thinned G10 grips are black and machined (G10 is that hard) with a wavy, aggressive, ridged pattern that provides a non-slip surface. Below the grips, the magazine well has been gently beveled to make it easier for a smooth and fast reload, without adding bulk.
The T4’s grip safety is blended to the frame, with a smooth contour and a “speed bump” on the bottom end of it, to ensure your hand properly engages it on the draw. This is paired with a flat mainspring housing that’s matched to the frontstrap with checkering. The top end of the frontstrap is “lifted”—that is, the radius of the blending curve between the frontstrap and the bottom of the trigger guard has been made smaller—allowing your hand to rise higher on the frame.
The thumb safety on the T4 comes standard as a single-side safety. You can opt for an ambidextrous safety, but that will incur an upcharge; in fact, you can do a lot of things to change your T4, for a price. This particular T4 has two of the options: The frame is made of aluminum instead of steel, shaving five ounces from the weight, and the finish is a black Cerakote, which isn’t on the options list anymore. You can choose burnt bronze, OD green, FDE gray, tactical gray or satin as your standard finish today. You can also opt for camo patterns or stainless steel.
Inside the trigger guard sits one of Nighthawk’s lightweight aluminum triggers, with three holes through it to save weight—it’s a joy. It moves smoothly in the frame, with no grit, a short take-up and a let-off that is consistently clean and crisp. The reset is noticeable if you want to feel for it, but unobtrusive if not.
As a 1911, the T4 feeds from single-stack magazines, and the standard pair that comes with the T4 each hold seven rounds. The T4 will also work with magazines meant for a 10-round Government-sized frame. The ERS is capable of handling 9 mm +P ammunition, although out of its 3.8-inch barrel, you’d likely get more muzzle blast than the marginal velocity boost is worth.
Accuracy was as expected; it was more a matter of the skill and consistency of the shooter than the capability of the T4. The Officer’s-length barrel did exact a small cost in velocity from the loads tested, but ammunition makers have become adept at tuning powders to pistols with shorter-than-before barrels.
Does the world need a pistol with a price tag of $3,600? One might ask if the world needs vehicles with price tags near $100,000. Obviously it does, since such vehicles are selling. What you will get with your T4 (or any Nighthawk), beyond pure enjoyment, is a lifetime of reliable performance. Even those who diligently practice enough to put 100,000 rounds through their pistol will find their Nighthawk up to the task.
This appeared in the February 2022 issue of America's 1st Freedom.