Review: Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander

The quintessential compact 1911 just got a bump in capacity, along with other practical refinements.

posted on January 9, 2024
Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander

Shooters love having their cake and eating it too, which is why double-stack 1911 pistols (colloquially known as 2011s) are so loved. These guns are so beloved because they preserve the 1911’s pointability, shootability and legendary trigger, while also addressing one of the 1911’s biggest perceived shortcomings: magazine capacity. Nighthawk Custom is not new to the double-stack 1911 game, but its TRS Commander is the firm’s first-ever mid-size, double-stack 1911 pistol. The TRS Commander is built around a 4.25-inch, 9 mm bull barrel, conceptually borrowing from the original single-stack Colt Commander pistol.

Nighthawk Custom occupies increasing real estate in the exclusive neighborhood of super-premium firearms. It imports both Korth revolvers and Cosmi shotguns, but its name was made with its own superlative, American-made 1911s. The company prides itself that one gunsmith builds an entire gun from start to finish. Every part in the TRS Commander including the slide and frame is part of Nighthawk’s fully machined line of components. Each part is manufactured from bar stock or billet to oversize dimensions so that a gunsmith can fit and file everything precisely to the gun they are building. The TRS Commander’s build quality is readily apparent, and not just in how the slide and frame fit, but also the smoothness of the match-grade bull barrel and the way it locks up. The same goes for the safeties and magazine release.

These hand-crafted pistols possess grip modules made from aluminum with the choice of either uniform dimples or the more classic-style slide serrations. The extra heft of the aluminum grip helps with recoil absorption. The TRS Commander’s mag well is large enough to be useful for aiding reloads, without being too big for a carry gun.

Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander features
While the TRS Commander is available with an optional optic-compatible slide, it can also be outfitted with conventional night sights • Use of a skeletonized hammer contributes to a crisp trigger pull, while practical features such as a beavertail grip safety and an ambidextrous thumb safety make it an ideal carry companion • A generous muzzle crown safeguards the barrel from incidental damage • The absence of a barrel bushing aids in the accuracy department, and a bull-contour barrel aids in recoil mitigation • The pistol boasts a newly popular flat-faced trigger • Grip-module dimples provide ample purchase without being overly aggressive on the hands.

Nighthawk Custom intelligently configures the TRS Commander with both performance attributes and “street” features. This pistol has a bushingless, match-grade 9 mm bull barrel and a muzzle that sits flush with the slide and the full-length dustcover. This is probably my favorite thing about the pistol, and something that Nighthawk refers to as a monolithic slide. The extra weight around the muzzle toward the front of the gun helps keep recoil extremely flat. With a secure grip, I was able to shoot the easiest controlled pairs of my life. Because the gun is built around carry, the trigger-pull weights for this model lie between 3.5 and 3.75 pounds (Nighthawk’s gunsmiths can also modify it to your preferences). It breaks crisply like the proverbial glass rod. Both the trigger bow and shoe have no sloppiness or wiggle to them.

Nighthawk 1911 pistols can be outfitted with the IOS system—Nighthawk’s optics-mounting system. Instead of screws fastening plates to the slide, the IOS uses a setscrew and a retaining pin. Fully machined plates from billet steel are designed to conform to the most popular optic footprints today. All IOS plates have a backup rear sight that is directly machined forward of where the optic attaches. Shooters can still use iron sights with an IOS-equipped gun, as the firm also offers added variety in the form of a rear plate with a Novak-style dovetail.

My test gun was built during September of 2022 and is owned by a private individual; the round count and extent of use prior to testing was unknown. I started with a clean and well-oiled gun and shot five different types of 9 mm factory ammunition. These included Federal’s 150-grain Syntech and 135-grain Hydra-Shok, American Eagle 115-grain FMJ, CCI Blazer Aluminum 115-grain FMJ and Belom 124-grain FMJ. Unfortunately, this pistol had intermittent extraction issues. At the time of this writing, the gun had already been sent to Nighthawk to be inspected, repaired, fitted and tuned with new parts. Suffice it to say that after coming back from Arkansas, the pistol ceased having any function-related problems. Nighthawk has been extremely responsive in making things right, and we could not have been more pleased with the way the company handled these concerns.

Stoppages aside, I was still able to get a very good feel for how this pistol handled during shooting. The full-length dustcover and monolithic slide work with the shooter and not against him—which made shooting controlled pairs and Bill Drills feel like cheating. Between the overall weight of the pistol, the trigger and the way it’s tuned for a Commander profile, this gun is an extremely fine shooter. Rapid shots are easily controlled, and the accuracy is very high, even with general-purpose factory-loaded range ammo.

Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander shooting results

Besides cost, the thicker grip may be a downside for some shooters, especially those with smaller hands. While this is true of all double-stack 1911s and not just the TRS Commander, the good news is that shooters with larger hands can take full advantage of the TRS grip as it provides ample space for both hands to lock in an extremely stable grip.

The TRS Commander is an exquisite option amongst top-of-the-line carry pistols. Even with its shorter slide and barrel, it handles like a full-size gun and puts 9 mm bullets exactly where you want them. Two downsides of carrying the TRS Commander are going to be the wider grip and the heavier weight compared to “normal” carry guns. Both increased width and heavier weight not only make carrying and concealing the pistol a bit more of a chore, but they also might discourage someone used to carrying a micro-9 mm from carrying the TRS Commander at all, which is, of course, not idea. But the truth is, this pistol is far from difficult to conceal and shoots so well that you’d be foolish to not want to carry it daily. Arguably, the biggest downside for many shooters is, of course, the cost: prices start around $4,400. Of course, that comes with the territory of hand-fitted, double-stack 1911 pistols, though. In addition, the upkeep of a 2011/1911 system requires more hands-on involvement from owners compared to other semi-auto designs. The trade-off is an extremely high level of accuracy and shootability. If you have the time, money and inclination to look at some superlative shooting pistols, this particular handgun merits your attention.

Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander

Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander specs


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