Recently I had the chance to review the Nighthawk Custom T3 Ultimate Carry, and it was a remarkable little gun, a cross between the Officers and Commander 1911. Made of all steel, with no MIM parts and with G10 grips that little gun was black all over, including the aluminum trigger, but excluding the barrel and bushing.
I found that its shorter frame felt distinctly different from the 1911 with the conventional frame, though there is only 0.13 of an inch difference in height, and that I had to acclimate myself to the pistol. That doesn’t happen with traditional Government- and Commander-sized guns.
Why two different formats in the same gun? The burgeoning concealed carry market is why. What is the hardest part of a 1911 to conceal? The butt. That’s what pokes through the material of your cover garment, it “prints” and gives you away. Shorting the 1911 magazine capacity by one, it flies in the face of the recent move to have lots of ammo. Of course, the smaller gun is the one you’re most likely to have when you need it.
What the compact-size 1911s are not known for is across-the-board reliability and ease of maintenance. Most of them use full-length guide rods and bushingless bull barrels. They are harder to keep running.
The shortest reliable length for the 1911 format is the Commander length. Down from the standard 5-inch barrel and appropriately sized slide, it’s cut back only by 0.75 of an inch. Amazingly, that size runs pretty well. You have to keep after the recoil spring but it’s smart money to do that with any autopistol.
This size slide on the 1911 allows a maker to go with a conventional barrel/barrel bushing/recoil spring and guide/spring plug arrangement. The longish barrel and slide don’t look so out of place on the small frame, not like a full-length barrel and slide would.
As discussed in regards to the T3 before, the “best” concealed carry pistol has to be one that can be (a) easily concealed, (b) be ergonomically sound, (c) and be shooter-friendly. By shooter-friendly, we mean that not only can it be carried at all times, but that it can shoot all the time as well.
Nighthawk Custom started with the compact 1911 frame, rendered in steel, stainless steel in the T3 Stainless being tested. The frame is shorter than standard 1911 in the Officers-sized format. Shorter than the 1911 in Government and Commander sizes, the Officers featured a 6-shot magazine.