2023 Editor’s Choice Award – Nighthawk Custom BDS9

Nighthawk Custom BDS9 

Muscle meets speed and precision

Editor Ben Battles told me, “This pistol needs to shoot 1.50 inches or under at 25 yards for us to slap an Editors’ Choice Award on it (especially given its $6K sticker price), so I’d request that you bench-test it before you settle into writing.”

The Nighthawk Custom BDS9 seemed to reply, “Hold my beer and y’all watch this!” On my first morning with the test gun, it punched five Winchester 147 grain jacketed truncated cone 9mm bullets into 1.20” from a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench 25 yards away. The best three of those, a tight double and a third almost touching, went into just over 0.40” center to center. The article was underway.

Double-stack capacity is a cornerstone BDS9 feature, and the pistol ships with two reliable, easy-to-feed 17-round magazines; an enlarged mag well ensures said magazines find their home. Stippling is aggressive, and all controls are oversized for fumble-free manipulation.

Meet the BDS9

A symphony of steel and aluminum, the BDS9 was conceptualized as a best-of-breed show pony for Nighthawk Custom, whose motto is “one gun, one gunsmith.” According to the accompanying paperwork, Luke Pattison put this one together, and I can only say, “My compliments to the chef.” Ditto to Nighthawk’s Nick James, who did the bench rest testing at the factory from 12 yards and put every shot into a single tiny hole.

“BDS9” comes from the caliber, of course, 9mm Luger, but also from Nighthawk’s Boardroom series. It is aptly named because it bespeaks something top level that gets top dollar. If test sample serial number NDS 02 166 is any indication, the pistol lives up to its name.

BDS9 is designed for SOLID lockup. The monolithic front end shows an 11-degree crown that probably contributed to BDS9’s excellent accuracy. A full-length dust cover rail handles accessory needs.

The frame is monolithic, machined from a solid block of billet aluminum, and railed for a light. The grip is cut with the aggressive “stud” pattern pioneered decades ago by my late friend, the master gunsmith Jim Clark, Sr. Grip safety and single-side thumb safety are “just right” and superbly fitted. This gun comes with the currently popular flat trigger, and on my Lyman digital trigger pull gauge averaged 4.34 pounds. The pull was so clean and crisp that it felt lighter. On my calibrated scale, the pistol weighed 2 pounds, 10.45 ounces with the Trijicon RMR red dot sight and empty magazine.

The tri-cut slide angled slide features strategic lightning cuts, deep front and rear cocking serrations, and a serrated top strip to help cut sight-picture glare. The IOS optic plate system allows the shooter to switch between an optic and the included rear Heinie Ledge iron sight plate, which pairs with the bright-red fiber optic front sight.

Shooting the BDS9

If you have a Lamborghini, your friends will want to drive it; if you have a BDS9, your gunny friends will want to shoot it. One division champion liked everything about it but the stippling, which he thought was too aggressive. My wife, who has won High Female in matches in the humid Southlands in summer, loved it. “Feel” is a subjective thing. I liked the stippling on the BDS9 but might be a bit leery comfort-wise of shooting it in a 1,000-rounds-a-day pistol class.

Between the pistol’s overall weight, excellent trigger, and grip traction that simply doesn’t quit, sending all 17+1 rounds downrange in a rapid and precise manner is what the BDS9 is all about.

The test gun came with two 17-round magazines, which even my arthritic thumbs could easily fill all the way up without using a loading tool. The BDS9 is generically a “2011,” a 1911-pattern pistol with a “wide body” grip-frame for double stack “high capacity” magazines. Many of these are extended, and the long 2011 magazines generally don’t come with “stops” that prevent over-travel. On a slide-lock reload, over-travel can lock up the gun, and if the mag is slammed in hard enough, it can bend or even break the ejector. Accordingly, Nighthawk sends BDS9s out with an extra slide stop lever that won’t lock open on an empty magazine, preventing this problem. The BDS9 is a race gun built for competition, and Nighthawk has clearly identified its market.

Running this soft-kicking gun as fast as I could, the red dot of the Trijicon just quivered on the steel torso target with an auditory feedback of chingchingchingching as the bullets hit the steel. It sounded like a cash register ringing, which brings us to the next point. During the test, a friend called me and asked me what I was doing, and I answered, “Running a 6K.” He replied, “I thought you were a couch potato!” I answered, “I am. I’m shooting a $6K pistol.”

147 grain Winchester from BDS9 at 25 yards. Note the stacked “double” in the super-tight “best three” of the group. The Nighthawk lived up to this awesome test target that came with it. On Target’s test gun ran fine with all three bullet weights used in testing.

The price is the first thing that grabs you with this gun: $5,999 MSRP before you count the red dot sight or decide you need an ambi safety. “Pride of ownership” and “braggin’ rights” are absolutely a thing. But let me tell you this. My wife is a thoroughly modern self-styled “techno-chick” and a princess of polymer pistols who thinks 1911s belong in museums instead of holsters. Just before she shot the BSD9, she exclaimed, “You know I hate 1911s!” After running 17 rounds and absolutely strafing a dueling tree from 15 yards, she muttered, “But I could make an exception for this one.”

See the On Target Editors’ Choice Award-winning BDS9 at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Nighthawk Custom; Tel.: (870) 423-4867; E-mail: [email protected]; Web: www.nighthawkcustom.comMassad Ayoob


Action:                                   Single Action

Caliber                                   9mm

Barrel Length                         5 inches

Weight:                                  38.20 ounces

Capacity                                17 + 1 Rounds

MSRP                                    $5,999 (at time of print)