January 13, 2020
While looks matter, they remain a secondary consideration to performance. A gun isn’t worth much if it isn’t reliable and accurate. The time I’ve spent with this Agent 2 has taught me that this pistol performs as well as it looks.
The 1911 has been around for over 100 years, so it’s not hard to tell if one has been put together correctly. As much as you read and hear about frame-to-slide fit, that has very little to do with how a 1911 actually performs.
Barrel-to-slide and bushing fit, on the other hand, has a lot to do with how well a 1911 shoots. This Agent 2 is chambered in 9mm and has perfect fitting everywhere the barrel and slide connect. The lugs cut into the top of the barrel just forward of the barrel’s hood have even contact across both lug abutments cut into the slide. This matters because if there’s only contact on one lug, that lug will experience accelerated wear over time and accuracy will suffer.
The bushing fit around the barrel’s muzzle is tight, but not too tight. There is no way to induce movement of the muzzle when the slide is forward, but it also doesn’t take much effort to remove the barrel bushing. Nighthawk includes a special bushing wrench that matches up with the flats cut into the bushing’s exterior, but a quick twist of the wrench is all that’s necessary to remove the bushing.
I also checked for vertical movement of the barrel hood with the slide forward. Pushing down with your thumb through the ejection port is a great way to check the fit at the barrel link. Any movement means accuracy will suffer, and I could detect no movement no matter how hard I pushed.
One thing I noticed about this Agent 2 is the barrel-slide fit is tight, but not as tight as you can find with one chambered in .45 ACP. The reason for that is a 9mm can’t unlock a really tight fit and still cycle reliably. Critics of the 9mm will likely try to use that to belittle the cartridge, but it’s the same reason why the 9mm doesn’t recoil as much.
After putting a few hundred rounds through the pistol, I took it apart to assess the fitment between the barrel and the slide stop. When a 1911 fires, the barrel unlocks from the slide and drops down to smack the slide-stop pin. That pin is what arrests the barrel movement, so it gets a pretty good whack every time the pistol fires.
Every 1911 barrel has a couple of lugs that sit on either side of the barrel link. The purpose of those lugs is to contact the slide-stop pin and stop the barrel’s motion. It is vitally important those two lugs contact the slide-stop pin evenly. If only one contacts the pin or the contact on both is uneven, a small portion of the lug has to handle all that impact. Poor fit of the lugs is what causes them to break, and this is often the first thing to break (after the extractor).
As much as 1911 lovers say it’s a travesty to have one in anything other than .45 ACP, I prefer them in 9mm. One of the reasons I prefer 9mm is because the 9mm comes with an integrally ramped barrel. That integral ramp functions as the lugs on either side of the barrel link, and they are massive when compared to the lugs found on a .45 ACP barrel.
This Agent 2 had smooth and even fit of the lugs to the slide-stop pin. That fit, when combined with the massive lugs from the integrally ramped barrel, can almost guarantee this pistol is capable of shooting tens of thousands of rounds without breaking a sweat.
The Outside Looks as Good as the Inside
When I first saw the Agent 2, I didn’t wonder about how well it was put together, all I could think about was how it looked. The Agent 2 has a lot of unique machine work that gives it a look all its own. However, much like the pistol’s internals, a lot of that machine work is as functional as it is beautiful.
The Agent 2 has a forged steel frame and a steel slide. The frame has a section of Picatinny rail on the dust cover that allows for mounting a light.
The steel slide features a lot of design work done by Agency Arms, most notably the front and rear cocking serrations. The slide’s top has five flats instead of one continuous curve. There are also a couple of windows cut into the sides of the slide.
Aside from the function provided by front and rear serrations, the slide work is decorative. Some folks will inevitably be turned off by the look, but I think it’s amazing.
The machine work on the frame shares the same aesthetic as the slide, but it is also highly functional. There are 14 deep horizontal grooves machined into the frontstrap and 14 of those same grooves cut into the mainspring housing and bottom of the beavertail grip safety.
Those grooves provide excellent purchase for the firing hand without being too aggressive. They are large and work just as well on bare skin as they do on a gloved hand. Also, no amount of sweat or dirt is going to make them slippery. Finally, there is precisely zero chance of ever flattening one without hitting it with a hammer.
One of my favorite frame features is the undercut triggerguard. It is a deep undercut that is contoured so that there will be no blister on the firing hand’s middle finger, even after several hundred rounds at the range.
The flats found on the top of the slide are also under the triggerguard. That allowed me to stuff my support hand under there nice and tight without having the edge of the triggerguard put grooves on my support hand index finger.
The list of useful features found on the Agent 2 goes on and on. The extended slide and magazine releases are extended just enough without being too big that they get activated inadvertently. The beavertail grip safety is buttery smooth and doesn’t abuse the web of the firing hand.
Shooting a full-size, all-steel 1911 chambered in 9mm is the most enjoyable handgun shooting experience available. There is little recoil, the ergonomics are fantastic, and the 1911’s trigger still reigns supreme. Should you ever tire of tactical Tupperware and want to wrap your hand around 100+ years of American steel and tradition, Nighthawk’s Agent 2 is one of the most stylish and functional ways to do it.
Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 Specs
- Type: hammer-fired, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm (tested)
- Capacity: 10 rds. (9mm)
- Barrel: 5 in.
- Overall Length: 8.59 in.
- Weight: 2.5 lbs.
- Grips: Railscales G10
- Sights: fiber optic (front), Heine Ledge fixed (rear)
- Trigger: 3.6 lbs.
- Finish: smoke cerakote
- MSRP: $4,499
- Manufacturer: Nighthawk Custom, nighthawkcustom.com
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