2019 Editor’s Choice Award – Nighthawk Custom Firehawk .45 ACP

The crème de la crème of compensated 1911’s

Permanently attached to the pistol’s 3.90-inch bull barrel—and machined to appear as a continuous, one-piece government-length slide when in battery—is the Firehawk-specific, single-port, 1.10-inch-long compensator to which the pistol was tuned to flat and reliable with, no matter what ammunition is used. Slide-to-frame fit is ball-bearing smooth and the Firehawk is available in either 9mm or 45ACP.

Until recently, compensated pistols remained mostly competition devices, but changes in machining and design have brought them back to the carry pistol, adding another option for taming recoil and muzzle rise, matching the improvements in current ammunition. The new Nighthawk Firehawk 1911 is a prime example of a modern-day comped pistol done right.

Nighthawk Firehawk .45 ACP

A serrated, single-sided thumb safety, smooth slide-stop and checkered magazine release round out the extended controls. Serrations on the rear of the Heinie Ledge rear sight continue down the back of the slide to completely kill glare. The entire pistol has been de-horned for carry and wide and deep-cut rear cocking serrations provide plenty of traction for racking the slide.

Unlike add-ons versions, good brakes are designed from the ground up, are permanently attached and seamlessly contoured to match the rest of the pistol. Available in 9mm and .45 ACP, Nighthawk Custom’s Firehawk is a perfect example. Nighthawk’s Firehawk uses a proprietary compensator designed specifically for this pistol. Using a government frame, it is expertly checkered at 25 LPI on the mainspring housing and front strap. Its single-piece magwell is blended to the frame with a slight taper at the rear for concealed carry. The trigger is curved and solid measuring a crisp 3.7 pounds. Available in black or stainless steel, my test pistol is black using grips developed by Railscails for the Nighthawk Agent 1 1911. Machined from premium G10, they use the honeycomb pattern found on Railscails handguard panels for the AR. The slide stop is beveled and recessed for a clean look. The safety is single sided but can be ordered in an ambidextrous model. The magazine release is slightly extended and serrated. The front strap uses an ultra-high-cut grip safety with the typical bump at the bottom.

The black version (also available in stainless steel) is fitted the same G10 grip panels as the company’s Agent 1 pistol, and between the grips and expertly-cut 25 L.P.I. checkering on the front and rear strap, traction is never at a deficit. The one-piece mainspring housing extends down to form a generously-flared magwell.

The slide includes a French border, a very nice touch that lines up nicely with the compensator. The rear of the slide is serrated, with a smooth top and includes a Heine ledge rear sight with no dots or inserts. Rear cocking serrations are wide and easy to access. Its 3.9-inch bull barrel is threaded specifically for the 1.1-inch long compensator to facilitate final alignment. Once assembled it is permanent. A single port has been shaped to insure proper compensation without disturbing the shooter. The front sight—an 18k gold bead—sits in a dovetail on the compensator. The guide rod is solid, with a return spring custom designed to use a reverse plug. Lots of moving parts here, including the effect of the port. Slide timing is everything when it comes to reliability, so it was all designed specifically for this pistol.

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