Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to spend the first week of October in Idaho at numerous firearm-industry editorial rendezvous. More than a dozen gun writers gathered to see what the gun, optics and ammo companies had to offer for the coming year.

On the range and later back at the ranch I chatted with Nighthawk Custom owner Mark Stone to learn about his business. Long-time publishing colleague Nino Bosaz joined Mark and I, and as typical, an editorial brainstorming session began. By the time our ice cubes started their swirling rattle around the bottom of empty glasses, a plan was hatched for an article.

We landed on the idea of taking a Colt 1911 Series 70 and having Nighthawk do their magic. I was the fortunate writer to put the reworked pistol through its paces afterward. When Colt’s Director of Marketing, Sara Simonow, agreed to donate a Series 70 1911 to the project, a course was set.

Ten months later a tricked-out pistol arrived at my local gun shop, Echo 3 Armory, and I went straight to my home range for a much anticipated “meet and greet.” Before sharing the results of my range sessions with this “Nighthawked” Series 70, it bares disclosing some background about the company.

Beginnings

Nighthawk Custom was formed in 2004 by a group of four talented individuals who had a true passion for the 1911 platform. Nighthawk Custom is an American firearm company based in Berryville, Arkansas, that manufactures custom M1911 pistols, rifles, revolvers, shotguns and tactical knives for competition shooters, military, law enforcement and self-defense.

Why A Series 70?

The Colt 1911 stands as an enduring symbol of firearm design excellence, revered for its historic significance and enduring popularity. Over its long history, the Model 1911 has undergone various iterations, including the Series 70 and Series 80. These two variants, while sharing a common lineage, introduce significant differences that have sparked discussions among firearm enthusiasts. In this article, we explore the nuances that distinguish the Colt 1911 Series 70 from the Series 80, shedding light on their respective features, design philosophies and impacts on the shooting experience.

Colt 1911 Reborn

Once the pistol was completely disassembled, the slide was machined for Novak front and rear sights. Next, the ejection port was lowered and flared to improve cycling. A Nighthawk beveled tactical bushing and plug got thrown into the mix. The pistol underwent Nighthawk’s Complete Reliability Package, which enhances and trues the slide and frame. A match-grade trigger job with all new fully machined ignition components settled the final trigger pull at a crisp 3.5 pounds.

Another nice touch was the round hole Commander hammer, and a beavertail grip safety fit and tuned to perfection. A single side tactical thumb safety was fit and tuned to the frame, too. To enhance accuracy, the barrel got a new reverse crown.

This 1911 is set up for everyday carry, so the frame was “dehorned” by beveling all sharp edges on the slide and frame. Smaller parts got the dehorning treatment, too, and the rear of the slide and frame was blended as well as the grip safety blended to the frame. The mag well was contoured for carry, too.

To give this pistol a distinct, understated look it got a full black Nitride finish. The last steps were to install a Nighthawk tritium front sight and a Heinie plain black rear sight.

Range Time

This Nighthawked 1911 was fed a broad diet of factory and handloads to find what it liked best. Four factory loads and a couple of handloads comprised the accuracy testing. Five-shot groups fired at 12 and 25 yards from a bench provided the results. Multiple groups were fired with each load, but only the smallest group was recorded. Check out Performance Details for more detailed accuracy stats.

The first groups fired were with Black Hills’ 230-grain JHP, and it produced groups that impacted about 5 inches below the point of aim. When I switched to Hornady Critical Duty 220-grain +P it brought grouping up to the point of aim with a 6 o’clock hold. This hot load also provided the tightest groups overall. Hornady’s 185-grain Z-Max load also printed below point of aim, as well as Federal’s American Eagle 230-grain Syntech. That leads me to believe that hotter, faster loads in this pistol will work best for my point-of-impact, point-of-aim.

Switching over to handloads, the first was a 185-grain Hornady HAP over 5.0 grains of Tightgroup. It produced ho-hum results, as did a 200-grain cast semi-wadcutter I’ve been loading as bulk range fodder for many years. Both of these loads are relatively slow in comparison to what could be obtained from heftier powder charges, and their point of impact about 5 inches below point of aim reinforces what I found with a few of the factory loads.

Conclusions

Whether it’s a new production 1911 from Colt, Springfield Armory, Kimber or grandpa’s old Colt, Nighthawk can breathe new life into these handguns and make them true heirloom-quality pistols made to shoot and enjoy for a lifetime and beyond. If you’re looking for a classic, customized 1911, a Nighthawk-worked pistol is hard to beat. Their work is worth every penny, which is reaffirmed by what 1911s just similar to this one sell for both new and used. It’s pretty simple math: Take a $900 gun, pay Nighthawk $2,800 for “the works” and come home with a $3,700 masterpiece.

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Colt’s

Model: Series 70 1911

Customized: Nighthawk Customs

Caliber: .45 ACP

Action: Single-action semi-auto

Weight: 39.5 ounces (empty)

Capacity: 7+1, Govt. magazine

Cost: Colt’s Series 70 — $899 MSRP

Customization Cost: — $2,780

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