Range Review: Nighthawk Custom Chairman 1911

posted on January 15, 2019

The first longslide 1911 competition pistol chambered in 9 mm I came across was one made by custom gunsmith Jim Hoag. A beautiful pistol, it was likely made by cutting and welding a couple of slides together, as back then I don’t think factory longslides were a thing. What’s a longslide? Well, the normal length of a full-size 1911 barrel is 5 inches so a long slide is one longer than that, most commonly found with a 6-inch barrel. What’s the advantage of a longslide pistol? In competition, the small amount of extra weight on the front of the gun, along with the longer sight radius is thought to provide a competitive advantage, and that’s what we have with the Nighthawk Custom Chairman I have at hand, a purpose-built, 9 mm competition pistol.

As you may know, Nighthawk Custom produces high-end 1911 pistols and the company pulled out all the stops in producing the Chairman. Hand built, one at a time by one gunsmith, this is a superbly fit and finished pistol. The slide glides to and fro with no wiggle or slop and feels like it’s on roller bearings. The trigger breaks cleanly at 3 pounds without takeup or over-travel. The ramped, 6-inch gold TiN-coated barrel has a deep target crown and is fitted perfectly to the frame and slide.

The pistol has been de-horned, in that all the controls and edges are blended so as to eliminate sharp edges that might cut or irritate the hand. The front strap is cut up high below the trigger guard to seat the gun low in the hand and the 25 line-per-inch checkering is grippy without being abrasive. The attractive yet functional G-10 stocks are custom made for Nighthawk by an outfit I’m unfamiliar with: RailScales.

The pistol is finished in a black-nitride/Melonite treatment that’s very evenly applied and quite attractive. The slide features front and rear cocking serrations and there are six angled ports on each side of the front of the slide, along with one atop the slide, that help lighten the slide to ensure function but also provide a view of the gold barrel. The top of the slide is grooved to help reduce glare and the front sight is a gold bead while the rear features a plain black blade, my favorite combination. The rear sight is the giveaway this is a purpose-built target pistol.

It’s an Aristocrat, like the one most competitors who shoot the PPC police competition series use. PPC is shot from 7 to 50 yards and most competitors like to use a neck hold on the silhouette target. The Aristocrat sight can be adjusted such that it can be quickly clicked for 7, 25 and 50 yard settings, all while allowing the shooter to use the same hold. Long dominated by revolvers, semi-automatic pistols are making serious inroads in PPC competition, and I would love to see what my old compadres on the championship Border Patrol teams could do with this Nighthawk Chairman.

As is the case with all the Nighthawk pistols I’ve examined, the Chairman comes in a zipper bag with the Nighthawk logo, along with two 10 round magazines, a test target, instruction manual, barrel bushing wrench and a bottle of Gibbs lubricant and cleaner. Having a barrel bushing, the Chairman field strips in the usual manner for a 1911 pistol. The barrel bushing is snugI needed the bushing wrenchbut takedown for cleaning is otherwise routine. 

At the range, the Chairman proved to be 100 percent reliable with a variety of ball and hollow-point ammunition, as I ran it through a variety of drills and exercises. The weather being cold and nasty and my eyes not being what they used to, I decided to forgo shooting the obligatory series of accuracy groups at 25 yards but did fire a few groups to see what I could do off sandbags. Shooting defensive ammunition, Hornady American Gunner and Remington Black Belt, I consistently fired three rounds into an inch with shots four and five opening the groups to around two inches. Trust me, it’s me, not the pistol throwing the fliers. This gun wants to shoot and I would be interested to see what it could do in the hands of a top competitor with 9 mm match-grade ammunition. By the way, the test target provided with the pistol shows what appears to be a one hole, three shot group fired at 15 yards.

My only complaint with the Nighthawk Chairman has to do with the 10-round magazines, a situation I’ve seen with any number of 9 mm 10-rounders. They are very difficult to get fully loaded then prove difficult or impossible to seat if the slide is forward. Often, the top round will pop out of the magazine and rattle about in the magazine well preventing the magazine from seating. It’s best, in my opinion, to load these magazines with 8 rounds, in which case they will function as you might expect.

If you’re under the impression I’m singing the praises of this pistol, you would be correct. It is a superb example of what can be achieved in terms of precision and accuracy in a 1911 pistol. The downside is the price, being $4,199. Some will say that’s too much while others will say it’s priced right for a pistol this good. I’ll leave that decision up to you, but if my eyes were younger and I was shooting PPC, I would buy this pistol without hesitation.



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