Review: Nighthawk TRS Commander

posted on February 11, 2021
burgreen-nighthawktrscommander1.jpg

Nighthawk Custom is a well-known entity in the 1911 world, having produced truly exquisite 1911s. The company’s TRS (Tactical Ready Series) Commander will raise some eyebrows, since it combines a 2011 frame with a 9 mm chambering. The 2011 frame design arrived in 1994 via STI (now called Staccato). The 2011 offers a unique two-piece design consisting of a 4140-steel frame, typically paired with a polymer grip.

The steel frame contains the rails that the slide runs on, the fire control group, thumb and grip safety and slide stop, as well as a dust cover with a Picatinny rail. The 2011 grip is contoured to maintain 1911 characteristics while accommodating double-stack magazines. The TRS exudes a “steely” 1911 feel, thanks to its grip being created from metal versus polymer. This will warm the hearts of many who do not care for the polymer revolution. 

Nighthawk TRS Commander working around barriers in the hands of Defender Tactical owner David Altenburg.
Nighthawk TRS Commander working around barriers in the hands of Defender Tactical owner David Altenburg.


Though obviously different than a single-stack 1911, there is only 0.25” difference in circumference, along with minor increases in width and length. The TRS is Nighthawk’s first Commander-size 1911 built on the 2011 double-stack frame. The TRS Commander’s 17-round capacity in 9 mm is a potent loadout.  There are also 20- and 26-round magazines available. A match-grade 4.25” stainless bull barrel is hand-fitted inside a monolithic slide-and-frame arrangement.

The frame’s dust cover matches the length of the slide. All of this serves to reduce muzzle flip, especially when sending multiple rounds downrange quickly. This pistol features a full-length guide rod and the Everlast Flat Wire Recoil System. The Everlast assembly dampens recoil and more importantly muzzle flip, allowing the shooter to reacquire the front sight faster when firing multiple-shot strings. 

The Nighthawk TRS Commander uses a bushing-less design with the barrel fitted to slide to provide tight slide lockup.
The Nighthawk TRS Commander uses a bushing-less design with the barrel fitted to slide to provide tight slide lockup.


The flat-wire system is designed to last 10 times longer than a typical 1911 single recoil spring. This design allows the bulk of the kinetic energy to be expended when loading a new round from the magazine, with the slide coming forward with a fraction of the force typical of a standard 12- to 18-lb. single spring. This reduces the impact of the slide slamming forward, which normally creates muzzle dip. 

Unique dimpling on front and back sides of the slide match the same pattern found on the aluminum grip panels. These dimples provide a good surface for grasping the slide during racking. They are not abrasive, so they will not cause clothing to fray, but they are aggressive enough to provide a slip-resistant surface. A Tritium front sight allows the user to quickly acquire the target when nestled inside the Heinie Ledge Black rear sight.

Once one gets past preconceived prejudices of what a 1911 should be, it is easy to accept the advantages offered by the Nighthawk TRS Commander.
Once one gets past preconceived prejudices of what a 1911 should be, it is easy to accept the advantages offered by the Nighthawk TRS Commander.


Nighthawk’s black-nitride finish is nicely done. A straight, solid-aluminum trigger offers a great pad for your trigger finger. Initial range time with the TRS Commander consisted of verifying sight zero and then dumping several magazines rapidly at various steel targets placed within Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC) 360 Range. The TRS Commander’s slide felt like it reciprocated on ball bearings, and the front sight remained on target.

The benefits of the TRS Commander’s tuned single-action trigger proved evident during range evaluation. Groups fired from standing or kneeling positions were impressive, with bullets unerringly hitting their mark. Rapid-fire magazine dumps still found rounds clustered in the “A” zone of an IPSC target. Many of the groups were within 2” at 25 yds. Another advantage of the TRS Commander is evident when reloading. The tapered double-column magazine is easily fit into the magazine well.

The Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander features solid-straight aluminum trigger.  Pull weight was measured at just over 3 lbs. with Lyman digital gauge.
The Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander features solid-straight aluminum trigger. Pull weight was measured at just over 3 lbs. with Lyman digital gauge.


Nighthawk made it easier to reload quickly by adding additional flaring to the magazine well. The TRS Commander’s safety was positive and easy to manipulate. Further drills included working around vehicles and CQB scenarios. The TRS Commander’s beavertail frame settles the weapon naturally into your hand and provides a point-of-reference when drawing the pistol from a holster. The Nighthawk TRS Commander proved capable of firing multiple shot strings with the utmost accuracy. 

The double-column grip tapering up to the 1911-width slide fits the TRS Commander in your hand in such a way that settles the extended beavertail in a consistent point during every draw. The Nighthawk TRS Commander represents portability, capacity, reliability and lethality. These are poster-child traits for a personal-defense handgun. The Commander-length slide provides the optimum mix of sight radius, concealment, weapon balance and reliability. 

Unique dimpling patterns on the slide match the same pattern found on the aluminum grip panels.  These dimples provide a good surface for grasping the slide. The dimples are not abrasive, but they are aggressive enough to provide a slip-resistant surface.
Unique dimpling patterns on the slide match the same pattern found on the aluminum grip panels. These dimples provide a good surface for grasping the slide. The dimples are not abrasive, but they are aggressive enough to provide a slip-resistant surface.


All of the 2011 capability and enhancements present in the Nighthawk TRS Commander mean little if it feels like an unwieldy paperweight. An immediate concern any time you’re using a double-stack magazine is understanding how it affects grip and trigger manipulation. The 2011 frame does not sacrifice this in its quest for capacity. My hands are an average size, yet there were no issues manipulating the trigger or other controls on the Nighthawk TRS. 

As alluded to above, the TRS Commander does not have a barrel bushing. Rather, its 4.25” bull barrel is hand-fitted inside the slide. Combining this with the Recoil Master recoil springs makes disassembly for cleaning different than a typical 1911. The slide must be locked to the rear and then a bent paper clip or a special tool supplied by Nighthawk Custom is inserted into a small hole in the rod. The slide is then eased forward.

Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander handiwork at the range.
Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander handiwork at the range.


With spring tension removed from the slide, the slide catch can be removed, and the slide eases off the front of the frame. The guide-rod assembly with the spring and plug are then separated from the slide, which allows the barrel to be removed. The Nighthawk TRS Commander is definitely a high-end offering, with an MSRP of $3,999. There is no denying the TRS Commander’s lustrous finish, refined trigger and silky-smooth slide travel. Nighthawk’s “One Gun, One Gunsmith” motto is evident.

Tolerances are tight. The TRS Commander’s use of aluminum grip panels will appeal to many who crave the feel of metal versus polymer in their hand. The straight trigger is another unique touch that will appeal to many handgun enthusiasts, while other will prefer something different. It’s all about personal preference.The Nighthawk TRS Commander handled and performed flawlessly during multiple range visits. Accuracy was commensurate Nighthawk’s reputation for quality. 

Nighthawk Custom’s innovative IOS (Interchangeable Optic System) for those who desire optic compatible handguns.  The IOS allows for a low profile RMR mount with the versatility to switch to rear sight in a matter of seconds.
Nighthawk Custom’s innovative IOS (Interchangeable Optic System) for those who desire optic compatible handguns. The IOS allows for a low profile RMR mount with the versatility to switch to rear sight in a matter of seconds.


While the TRS Commander shot for this review did not feature a red-dot optic, Nighthawk does offers its innovative IOS (Interchangeable Optic System) for those who desire to mount a small optic on a compatible handgun. The IOS provides a low-profile RMR mount with the versatility to switch back to a rear sight in a matter of seconds. With the dovetail cut in the slide, each plate can be removed and still return to zero, allowing for quick and easy switching of rear sight without sacrificing aesthetic or function. 

Although the 1911 has been superseded as a standard duty pistol in our military and police ranks, some elite units and many armed citizens continue to make effective use of 1911-style guns. The use of the 2011 frame offering an increase in capacity over the original 1911 design makes this decision-making process even easier for those who prefer the controls and ergonomics of John Browning’s famous design. With the Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander, you feel as if you have reached the pinnacle of craftsmanship, design, reliability and efficiency while still retaining the essence and character of the 1911.

Specifications: Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander

Caliber: 9 mm
Barrel: 4.25”
OA Length: 7.76”
Weight: 36.7 ozs. (empty)
Grips: Aluminum
Sights: Heinie Straight Eight Legdge rear with Tritium front sight.
Action: Single Action
Finish: Black Nitride
Capacity:17+1 (Two magazines arrive with TRS Commander)
MSRP: $3,999

Latest

Eaa Corp Mc312 Goose Shotgun 12 Gauge F
Eaa Corp Mc312 Goose Shotgun 12 Gauge F

New for 2021: EAA MC312 Goose Gun

European American Armory Corp. introduced a model of its MC312 semi-automatic shotgun designed specifically for goose hunting.

The Armed Citizen® June 21, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

NRA 150th: Marksmanship Training Saving Lives in Vietnam

What does a 50-foot NRA range for .22 rifles in Oklahoma have to do with the combat effectiveness and survival of a Marine in Vietnam? In the young life of R.S. Hildreth, almost everything.

New For 2021: M&P Spec Series Kit

Smith & Wesson is set to offer brand loyalists with a limited edition kit that includes its well-regarded M&P9 M2.0 Optic-Ready pistol.

Preview: Cold Steel Crawford 1 Flipper

In collaboration with custom knife maker Wes Crawford, Cold Steel announced the launch of its Crawford 1 Flipper pocketknife, a blade designed to do it all.

Rifleman Q&A: Number Of Turns To Focus A Scope?

From the archives of American Rifleman, read about ocular-ring adjustments on riflescopes from the July 2004 magazine.

Interests



Subscribe to the NRA American Rifleman newsletter