Nighthawk GRP &
30 Super Carry

High Performance Match-Making!
9

Regardless if you’re carrying the Federal HST defensive rounds or burning
up boxes of Federal American Eagle practice ammo, the Nighthawk Custom GRP
offers the discerning shooter top-shelf peace of mind.

In this day of injection molded pistols and 3D printed gun parts, many forget there are still rarefied near-magicians here in the states who produce what I like to call “Bespoke” guns. In the spirit of the best British gunmakers and the iconic Rolls Royce automobile — from, say, the 1930s — this cadre of talented people create an exactness in design and engineering hard to find today.

Today’s mindset begs the question: Do you sell 10 “adequate” guns for $500 each — or one gun for $5,000? Do you satiate the simple need for a defensive handgun, or fire up dreams, rapid heartbeats and raised eyebrows? A hundred years ago someone had the right idea though.

“Strive for perfection in everything. Take the best that exists and make it better. If it doesn’t exist, create it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.” — Sir Henry Royce

At Nighthawk Custom, the decision on which side of the fence to be on is an easy one. The vote goes toward the thump of hearts brought on by eagerness. When the postcard arrives saying your gun is “almost” ready, the game is suddenly seriously afoot. I appreciate the fact if you’re new to guns, even picking up your “first-ever” gun can be an exciting moment. The hope and eagerness is real and few other items can generate anticipation to the degree some of us feel when it comes to our favorite pastime.

But after a while, our tastes may change. We become wiser, more discerning, we raise our expectations and reach a bit beyond just adequate. When terms like “billet steel,” “custom” gunsmithing, “hand-fitting” and accuracy measured in sub-1″ groups enter into your conversions, it’s time for that next step.

Nighthawk Gear List: Ammo: Federal 100-grain HST and Federal 100-grain
American Eagle Holster: Vintage Comp-Tac Light: Streamlight Macrostream USB
Knife: Spartan Harsey Folder

Nighthawk Custom

Formed almost 20 years ago by four people with a passion for quality and distinction, NHC has grown into a cadre of some 80-odd people dedicated to one thing — the creation of a gun as nearly perfect as we mere mortals can manage.

The Japanese have a phrase, Wabi-Sabi. It’s a concept they have where they find beauty in simple, impermanent, imperfect things. A tarnished silver bowl or a cobblestone path exhibits Wabi-Sabi. Yet, while there can be beauty in imperfection, there’s also beauty and function at the other extreme. At the other extreme — of perfection — is where Nighthawk Custom lives.

NHC touts “One gun, one gunsmith” and it means exactly that. From a “box of unfitted parts” to final test-firing, the end-result emerges from the hands of a single craftsman. His initials will be stamped under a grip panel, to remain there for decades — or centuries? — as testament to his commitment to that particular gun. Perhaps it’s your gun?

Six of their gunsmiths have been inducted into the American Pistolsmiths Guild, more than in any other company in the world. The Guild is a small handful of lifetime dedicated gunsmiths who are the benchmark of the trade. Nighthawk’s single-minded quest for consistent quality shows in who they attract to work at their benches.

A 1911 is made up of some 46 or so parts. In NHC’s case, the majority of those parts are over-sized, of machined billet steel — and particular combinations of them can come together in a gunsmith’s hands to create a singularly remarkable example of their art. Each gun adheres to a set of expectations for the particular model and each one is just as predictably reliable and trustworthy as the men who craft them.

A Collaboration

Recently, NHC joined forces with Vista Outdoors to introduce the innovative 30 Super Carry cartridge. Vista’s concept was a .30 caliber (0.311″) 100- to 115-grain bullet traveling between 1,100 and 1,250 fps. The reason is to fill the “void” resting between the pocket .380 and the 9mm. The 30 Super Carry offers essentially .32 H&R Magnum performance in a semi-auto. The compact nature of the case allows 12 rounds in a “9mm” magazine, translating to 13 in a fully-loaded full-sized 1911-style pistol. This is significant, as the 30 Super Carry can outperform even 9mm loads in some cases.

Vista, in the form of Federal, CCI, Speer and Remington ammunition lines, offer FMJ “practice” rounds and onto high performance bullets like the Federal HST and Speer Gold Dot. Testing in gel shows the Gold Dot and HST 30 Super Carry loads perform close to, or even exceed, comparable 9mm loads. Keep in mind you get the “extra” ammunition capacity in a 9mm “sized” semi-auto pistol when it’s chambered for the 30 Super Carry.

In my testing with the GRP, a full-sized 5″ 1911, the 30 Super Carry recoils about like a standard 9mm load. I found the slide runs fast and stays a bit flatter during recoil than a similar “hot” 9mm load. There is a different “feel” and it’s a pleasure to shoot.

And hot the 30 Super Carry is! Most premium defensive 9mm loads run at about 35,000 psi (plus or minus). The 30 Super Carry spikes the pressure needle at 50,000 psi, near the .308 rifle cartridge range, ladies and gentlemen. This combination of contemporary powder technology, high performance bullets and cutting-edge firearm design keeps all this safe and manageable though. Press the trigger, it goes bang and there are no surprises.

Mating the GRP with the new 30 Super Carry Cartridge gives a full-size
1911-style pistol with superb controllability but plenty of pep downrange.

G10 Gator Back grips with the Nighthawk Custom logo set off the black nitride
finish and 24 lpi checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing.

The GRP

While the GRP is considered Nighthawk’s “entry level” pistol, all the rules still apply and each one is built with the same precision as any other gun offered, including their “One gun, one gunsmith” idea. What you end up with is a reliable, beautifully-made Browning design well able to protect your family, be the focal point of a fun day at the range, help you win a weekend match or simply rest on your desk to admire.
If you’re familiar with a full-sized all-steel 5″ 1911 you’ve got a good start understanding what the GRP is. NHC had to carefully re-engineer some design elements to properly chamber and run the hot 30 Carry round but the result is a flat-shooting, fast firing, reliable handful sure to please.

The finish on our test gun is a black nitride covering the forged frame and slide. Critical parts are a match-grade barrel, Heinie Ledge Straight Eight Tritium night sights, G10 Gator grips, 25-line-per-inch checkered front strap and mainspring housing, and a lightweight NHC tri-cavity trigger. A checkered recoil spring plug, hi-cut front strap, hand-beveled edges and general de-horning add to the package.

Part of the special treatment each gunsmith commits to embraces things like a tuned and polished extractor, trigger set to 3.5–3.75 lbs., polished ramp, throated barrel, all ignition parts hard polished and fit, hand-fitting frame to slide, hand-fitting the barrel, blending the grip safety and hand-fitting the firing pin stop — a critical step often missed in many builds.

Keep in mind this is a true custom gun, so there are options like finishes, front strap and mainspring housing treatments, grips, etc. you can elect to change as your mood strikes. If this is the beginning of a dream gun for you, bring your dreams with you and let NHC work with you to make sure your gun is exactly right for you.

Shooting

I attended the introduction event at NHC in Berryville, AR where they and Vista showed the new cartridge and NHC guns. I was fortunate to shoot quite a bit there and I saw several thousand rounds put through a few early test guns. The simple straight-walled case design and NHC build quality meant we saw, literally, zero malfunctions all day.

Once I got our test gun at home, I tried limp-wristing, shooting upside down, weak-handed — essentially everything I could to get the gun to malfunction. No dice, it ran like gang-busters. Accuracy from a wrist-rest showed an “average” of 1.3″ at 25 yards! The unusual “flat” recoil impulse makes shooting easy and fun, contributing significantly to accurate shooting.

I put almost 400 rounds through this gun in my backyard and made a YouTube video (link below), eventually coming away impressed with gun and ammo. This latest experience with this company’s sterling products left me unsurprised. My expectations of a positive shooting experience were paid off handsomely. If you buy a Nighthawk Custom gun you will be guaranteed to be pleased — and that’s simply a fact.

The match-grade barrel is hand-fitted to the bushing while at the other end,
the hand-polished feed ramp assures positive loading. The slide and frame are
likewise. Actually, it’d be quicker to discuss what isn’t hand-fitted!

The Heinie Straight Eight Ledge rear sight rides high above the hammer and
ignition components, which are — you guessed it — hand-fitted and polished.

A Closing Thought

The GRP starts at about $3,499 but your results may vary based on any additional custom touches you desire. But even the “base” gun — if we dare call it that — will give you lifetimes of service and pleasure.

Another of my favorite quotes from Sir Henry Royce is: “The quality will remain when the price is forgotten.” Write that down. Let it sink in. Then pick up the phone.

NighthawkCustom.com
Vista-Outdoors.com

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