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Personal Defense 1911s Handguns

Nighthawk T4 Review

by Tom Marshall   |  October 2nd, 2013 3

What defines a premium 1911? For some, it’s masterful engraving and 24-karat accents. Functional shooters may measure it in group size and mean rounds between failures. But 1911 aficionados seem to have one thing in common: We know excellence when we see it. And I saw it when I peeled back the zipper on Nighthawk Custom T4’s green-padded case.

It would be tempting to describe the pistol in relation to the features it shares with previous Nighthawk models. But the T4 is a unique entity. Based on the Officer-size frame, it doesn’t quite match original Officer specs. Barrel length is 3.8 inches, and the frame has been thinned out. The latter feature allows more grip purchase for smaller hands and a flatter presentation against the body for concealed carry. I don’t have big hands, and I find the thin frame noticeably more comfortable. The T4 comes standard with VZ Alien grips made of G10 canvas Micarta. The ramped National Match barrel is flush-cut to the frame and nicely crowned. There’s a small window cut at the chamber end to serve as a loaded-chamber indicator.

I should mention now that the T4 is a 9mm. Before you cry blasphemy over a 1911 being so chambered, consider that the 9mm chambering gives you an extra round in the mag, significantly more manageable recoil out of a short barrel than a .45 ACP and a few less ounces hanging on your hip. Shot-to-shot recovery was faster than any compact .45 I’ve ever laid hands on. And because modern duty ammunition has significantly tightened the gap between calibers as far as stopping power goes, I won’t get involved in the caliber wars here.

The rear cocking serrations are a little wider than original spec and allow a quick, positive grip without grating your fingers. There are no front cocking serrations, just a pair of simple, yet elegant recess cuts that are reminiscent of the Browning Hi Power. The other thing I appreciate is that the slide flats don’t pull double duty as billboards. The Nighthawk brand on the T4 is quietly positioned on each rear corner, and “T4” is discreetly marked on the right front corner.

Sights are Heinie Straight-Eight tritium. The frame on my sample was steel, though aluminum is available as an option. Where aluminum saves weight, steel keeps the center of gravity down and, relatively speaking, offers a longer service life. The frontstrap is checkered and the mainspring housing horizontally serrated. The memory-bump safety has three vertical, shallow accent cuts. The slide-stop lever is flush with the frame, which is gently recessed around it. One small detail I found myself coming back to is that, instead of the standard kidney cuts behind the trigger, the frame is gradually blended so it slopes gently from just forward of the grip panel all the way to the trigger. While purely cosmetic, it was flawlessly executed. A stock 1911 can be an artist’s canvas. Nighthawk uses it to express not just their technical skill but also a sense of subtle grace that radiates off this pistol end-to-end. The thumb safety is of extended, single-side variety. It, along with all the other small parts, is fully CNC machined from solid bar stock.

The T4 is also equipped with what Nighthawk calls the “Everlast Recoil System,” a collaborative effort with gunsmith Bob Marvel. This system had to be modified to fit in the T4’s smaller frame, but the result is a full-length guide rod with a flat wire recoil spring. The Everlast is rated for a minimum of 15,000 rounds. Nighthawk also claims that this system results in more manageable recoil, but between the Everlast, the steel frame and the 9mm chambering, it’s hard to give one component all the credit for this gun’s short, smooth slide stroke. The entire pistol, save the barrel and trigger, is coated in black PermaKote, which leaves the surface silky to the touch and shows no wear from repeated holsterings.

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