At customers’ request for a more controllable, scaled-down M1911 for use by women, shooters of smaller stature or the recoil shy, Nighthawk Custom, along with Richard Heinie of Heinie Specialty Products, created the Lady Hawk—a recoil-operated, semi-automatic, single-stack M1911 in 9 mm Luger. The Lady Hawk has the same length as the Commander with a height that falls between the full-size M1911 and the Officer’s model.
Opting for the 9 mm Luger not only reduces recoil and muzzle-flip, particularly in an all-steel M1911, the choice also allows for a thinner frame. Barring the thumb safety, which slightly increases overall width, the Lady Hawk measures a scant 1 1/16 inches wide. To further minimize grip size, the Lady Hawk’s front strap and mainspring housing are radiused, and the pistol wears Nighthawk Custom’s ultra-thin Alumagrips, which are made of hard-anodized aluminum and are checkered to enhance purchase and controllability.
The recesses aid grip without the abrasiveness of fine checkering. The 4140 carbon steel frame has kidney-shaped cuts for comfort and quick access to the trigger. Protecting the frame is a slick, yet attractive, titanium-blue finish.
The Lady Hawk’s controls are hard-chrome-plated, giving them a color nicely contrasting that of the frame. Neither the Heinie magazine release button or the thumb safety are ambidextrous. Both the trigger and the hammer are skeletonized, with the latter and sear made of tool steel. Vertical ribs were added to the trigger face to enhance purchase. The test model’s trigger broke cleanly at 3 3/4 pounds. The forged 4140 carbon steel slide features a set—one per side—of deeply cut, rearward-sweeping cocking serrations, and to the rear of them the Heinie Specialty Products logo is engraved. The slide is proprietary to a 9 mm Luger, as is the breech face. Adorning the backside of the slide are fine, horizontal serrations designed to reduce glare.
The 6 5/8-inch slide displays the same titanium-blue finish as does the frame, and further contributing to the pistol’s good looks are a series of ribs running along the top from the front sight to the rear. To enhance reliability, the ejection port has been lowered and flared. Internally, two machined recesses mate with the locking lugs on the barrel during lockup.
For the Lady Hawk, Nighthawk Custom opted for Heinie’s SlantPro Straight Eight sights. As the name suggests, the rear sight has a slanted profile that not only reduces glare, but also make it snag resistant. Further reducing glare are horizontal ribs. Both the front and rear sights have green Trijicon tritium inserts, and the correct sight picture creates a figure 8. Hence the second part of the sight’s name. The post front tritium insert is outlined in white for faster acquisition during daylight hours. Both sights are dovetailed into place, and are windage-adjustable.
The Lady Hawk has a 4 ¼-inch stainless steel, match-grade barrel that measures 0.582 inches in diameter and ends in a dished muzzle crown. To enhance durability, the 416 stainless steel is hardened to 42 HRC. It has 1:16-inch LH-twist rifling.
According to General Manager/Partner Craig Gholson, “We only use full gunsmith fit barrels. This type of barrel has oversized lugs that must be cut down using a file in order to fit in the recesses of the slide. The barrel throats are cut by hand and not pre-cut. We use oversize bushings, which require material removal in order to fit the barrel. We fit the bushing to the barrel securely for maximum accuracy, but loose enough to allow you to field strip the gun without the use of a tool.”
The Lady Hawk comes with two blued, nine-round carbon steel magazines from Mec-Gar. The magazines have witness holes to provide a visual reference as to the number of rounds remaining; however, they are not numbered.
For those familiar with M1911s, operation of the Lady Hawk will be nothing out of the ordinary. Racking the slide, and therefore chambering a round, puts the pistol in single-action mode. All subsequent shots will be single-action.
At the range, the Lady Hawk performed as a custom, $2,895 M1911 should. There were no failures of any type in the process of expending several hundred rounds, and accuracy was excellent. Of the loads, the standout—but not by much—was Winchester’s 147-gr. SXT, producing a five consecutive, five-shot-group average of 2.18 inches at 25 yards.
At times loading the Mec-Gar magazines proved difficult. The culprit: the follower would hang-up on the cutout on the left side of the magazine, preventing it from retreating and allowing the first cartridge to enter. There were no feeding issues with the magazines.
The Lady Hawk, like other Nighthawk Customs, represents the upper tier of the M1911 market, and carries a price tag commanding a premium. For the shooter with the means, and the willingness, to part with the money, he, or she, will not be disappointed.