I know what’s coming. Folks are going to see a review of a $4,500 gun and bemoan why we can’t take a look at more affordable options. I understand that, I really do; most people don’t have nearly $5K to drop on a single firearm purchase. But, some do. Whether you recently got a promotion at work and are looking to celebrate, or you hit a scratch ticket at the local convenience store or maybe you just put a few dollars aside every week to buy something really nice—this might be the thing.
During the recent pandemic and attendant lockdowns, one of my escapes has been watching old episodes of the British “Top Gear” car show. On it, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May review a variety of European cars—but center mostly on exotics like Bentleys, Ferraris and such. They, too, receive viewer complaints about more affordable automobiles not being reviewed (and, if you’re familiar with the show, Clarkson typically responds in his inimitable, boorish way).
Well, there’s a common vein here. Car magazines and TV shows don’t focus heavily on the Honda Civics and Toyota Camrys because they’re common as dirt. If you personally don’t own one, you probably know someone who does. You likely see a dozen or more just on your commute to work. You don’t need to hear all that much about them, because you’re familiar with them. In the firearm world, substitute a Glock G19 or a SIG Sauer P365 for a Civic/Camry and I think you get an idea where I’m going with this.
If you’re a firearm enthusiast, you probably own a Glock or a SIG, or at least know someone who does. You can most likely find a range where you can rent one. And, we’ve featured them many times in the pages of the magazine and on our website. But, what if you are looking for that next-level firearm like the Nighthawk Custom Agent 2? It’s unlikely to be sitting in the rental counter at your local range, much like you can’t go to Hertz and rent a Bentley Azure for the weekend.
There is, however, a fundamental difference between high-end automobiles and high-end firearms. With the exception of certain boutique guns (the meteorite 1911 and bespoke shotguns come to mind), the vast majority are affordable, to a point. Even crazy-expensive guns like the Barrett 107A .50 BMG rifle are less money than a used car or new motorcycle, so these firearms are within the reach of most (at least theoretically, I don’t recommend trying to buy one without consulting your loved ones first…).
As I mentioned, for the Nighthawk Custom here, if you were to skip going out to dinner once a month, you could save up for the Agent 2 in a few years. That’s not a terrific sacrifice.
There’s another fundamental difference between guns and cars: durability. If I were to cash in my 401K and buy a Corvette (or, given the state of the market currently, a used Kia), in 10 years I’d have a used vehicle worth a fraction what I paid for it. If I used it regularly, the value would plummet further and expenses would pile up.
Not true for a high-end pistol—you could take the Agent 2 out every week, put 100 rounds through it, and it might require new springs once a year. And, you could do this until your grandchildren retired; most likely, longer. I have a 1911 in my collection from 1917. My grandfather acquired it sometime in the middle part of the 20th century and shot two barrels out of it in the time he owned it. It’s still running like a top.
Anyways, enough on the price. We’ll just leave it that there’s a reason we review high-end pistols and rifles along with more affordable variants, and even if you don’t ever plan on buying a functional work of art like the Nighthawk Custom Agent 2, you can appreciate it for the marvel of engineering it is.
And, it really is. The singular thing that grabbed my attention when I took the Agent 2 out of the Nighthawk Custom pouch was the incredibly smooth operation of the slide. Running the slide rearward, it feels and sounds like nothing else—calling it buttery smooth doesn’t even do it justice. If “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” the Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 made an excellent first impression indeed. While it is a trite cliché to say “you get what you pay for,” there’s a kernel of truth at the bottom, and the Agent 2 is proof positive.
Visually, what is most striking is the collaboration with Agency Arms, which produced the slide and worked with Nighthawk on the trigger. The Agent 2 is a “worlds colliding” type of pistol—there’s Nighthawk’s old-school, one-gun-one-gunsmith philosophy combined with Agency’s state-of -the-art slide work. The model we received had Nighthawk Custom’s proprietary rear-sight cut for a plate for a Trijicon RMR red-dot sight, further adding both utility and modern convenience.
But, the Agent 2 isn’t just a pretty face. Every facet of this pistol is tuned to make it work exceptionally well, facilitating fast, accurate shots that can only be blamed on the operator for anything outside of the 10-ring. Starting with the Railscales G10 stocks and matching texture on the front and backstraps, the Agent 2 feels simply glued to the hand. The flat-face trigger is, as mentioned, a collaboration between Nighthawk and Agency, and has a smooth, crisp feel that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. It is just that good.
Up top, the Agency slide has some aesthetic enhancements, of course; this is a pistol designed to shoot well and look good doing it. Sights, should you opt for irons over a red-dot, are a Heinie ledge rear sight with a fiber-optic pipe up front. Nighthawk offers what it calls the Interchangeable Optic System, where the rear of the slide is milled for a specific optic mount (currently RMR, RMSc and Viper).
This allows the shooter to quickly and efficiently change between red-dot and iron sights with no loss of zero, per Nighthawk. The company places a backup rear sight in front of the optic for redundancy’s sake.
Shooting the Agent 2 is simply the best way to fully appreciate this firearm. The weight, while on the heavy side for a single-stack 9 mm, brings the recoil down to that of maybe a .22 Mag. It’s seriously easy to shoot well, and shoot fast. While under current ammunition-shortage circumstances we weren’t able to run quite as many rounds as we would have liked (with the Agent 2, the correct answer is “All of it. Every last round.” It’s just that good of an experience), there were no failures experienced in our time. Jacketed hollowpoints, heavy subsonic loads, super-light-ultra-fast projectiles; it all fed, fired and ejected cleanly, just like you’d expect.
Since it’s a Commander, it’s well-suited for concealed carry. We paired the Agent 2 with a gorgeous Milt Sparks Axiom holster for an upscale episode of our “I Carry” video series, and with a light cover garment and solid gun belt this is a rig you could easily carry all day, every day. Carrying a $5K pistol is an individual choice, obviously; however, from a reliability and accuracy standpoint it’s hard to argue with the Agent 2. It’s going to work when you need it, and you’re going to be able to make solid hits with it. It’s definitely built tough enough to withstand long training classes, too.
Quite simply, the only downside we experienced when reviewing the Agent 2 Commander was having to send it back.
In the end, opting for the Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 Commander is a personal choice. The shooter choosing this handgun isn’t looking for their first 1911, and most likely not even their second or third. This is a “grail gun,” a reward, a brass ring to be grasped. And, here’s where the high-end handgun really shines. At $4,500 to start, the Agent 2 is definitely one of the pricier pistols out there, but it’s more within the grasp of shooters than, say, a Lamborghini Huracán is within the grasp of most drivers.
“Is it worth it?” That’s the question my friends ask me the most whenever a super-high-end gun comes out. It’s a question that’s both simple and yet incredibly complex to answer. Is the Agent 2 “worth it”? Are you asking “Is the price commensurate with the level of craftsmanship, engineering, testing and reliability?” Because, then, the answer is certainly “yes.” The time, talent and experience that goes into a pistol like the Agent 2 is extensive and evident. Fit and finish are precisely what should be expected in a firearm at this level.
Are you asking “should I raid my kid’s college fund for one?” Well, that’s a harder one to answer—and one only you can decide for yourself.