I really like single-action pistols, and one of my favorites has always been the Browning Hi Power in 9 mm. These days a person can read up on the history of this fine John Browning-designed gun in any number of places, so I won't bore you with all of that. I suspect that this model of pistol, in one of its many configurations, has been in more deadly encounters than any other fighting handgun. Having sung its praises, I have to say that there are several things that have always bothered me about this fine pistol. (images below courtesy nighthawkcustom.com)
Some time ago, Nighthawk Custom entered into an agreement with Browning to obtain Hi Power pistols and give them a custom makeover. The neat thing for the shooting customer is that he is getting a genuine Browning pistol as the base, not a questionable copy. And Nighthawk gunsmiths must have been reading my mind because they have successfully addressed exactly those issues with which I have had problems.
My biggest complaint has always been the trigger. On an issue gun the trigger has nearly always been very creepy and far too heavy for accurate shooting. Of all the things that go into a pistol to make it accurate, the trigger is the most important. It is just very difficult to do good work with a bad trigger. Nighthawk fits an improved sear lever and a custom trigger that breaks clean at 4 lbs. In doing so, it has also done away with the useless magazine safety which, when one follows basic gun safety rules, is just not necessary.
The second important improvement on the Nighthawk guns is the addition of an extended beavertail on the grip frame. Historically, the Hi Power has been famous for giving the shooter, especially those with beefy hands, a good case of hammer bite. It is hard to shoot a pistol that makes you bleed. The Nighthawk beavertail is not only attractive, but it gives the shooter plenty of protection and encourages him to use a high hold on the grip frame, which is beneficial for accurate shooting and recoil control.
Finally, the Hi Power has always been rigged out with European-type sights that really leave something to be desired. They are generally too small and the opening in the rear sight is too narrow. Nighthawk has solved this issue by fitting a very nice set of fixed sights designed by pistolsmith Richard Heinie. And they chose to put a 14K gold bead on the front post. I particularly like this because it draws the eye to the front sight—which is where it should be when you are shooting for real.
I don't care for the sharp checkering often found on pistols that have been customized for personal defense. I like a firm grip on a pistol and don't care to be trying to grip something that is biting me back. Instead of checkering, Nighthawk has roughed the surfaces of the grip frame, fore and aft, with a technique they call “hand textured.” It is just rough enough to facilitate a firm grip without biting. It is also attractive and has been added to the top of the pistol slide.
The Nighthawk/Browning Hi Power is finished out with an attractive and durable Cerakote finish. The stocks that I prefer are the Nighthawk cocobolo version, with mild checkering and the company's logo.
I've been shooting my Nighthawk/Browning Hi Power with a variety of loads from Black Hills, Federal and Winchester. So far, the gun seems to like the 124-gr. hollowpoint 9 mm ammunition the best, which suits me just fine. I'm getting some good groups, ranging from 1.5” to 2.5” with this defensive ammo. I suspect that these groups will be reduced slightly as the gun breaks in.
So my hat is off to the boys and girls at Nighthawk Custom. They have taken a fine Browning pistol and made it quite a bit finer.