There is just something about holding a well-built, custom-grade 1911 pistol. Sharp edges removed, parts blended together, smooth lines and attention to detail—they melt into your hands. It’s more than just quality, reliability or custom features. It is a connection between shooter and pistol. This remains one of the strongest draws for these pistols and their time-proven designs. If this custom work is done properly, the pistol will give you the same kind of confidence and comfort at the range. In a world full of polymer-framed pistols assembled from drop-in parts, it’s easy to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making a high-end 1911. I recently got my hands on the Talon II Bobtail 1911 from Nighthawk Custom, and the level of craftsmanship that went into making this pistol was immediately evident.
Nighthawk’s Talon pistols are some of the company’s most popular models. They are combat-ready, custom-grade 1911 pistols with all the features you need, and you can always customize your order to get whatever other features you might want. Nighthawk Custom allows you to make changes as needed. The Talon is built on a full-sized frame, and the Talon II is built on a Commander-style frame. As its name implies, my test gun features a bobtail-style grip for enhanced concealed-carry capabilities.
“At the range, I shot the pistol off-hand at 15 yards, and its accuracy was stellar, cutting one ever-larger hole no matter what ammunition I used.”
Starting with solid forgings, the slide and frame are cut in the company’s Berryville, Arkansas, facility, and my test model featured a hard chrome finish on both. The standard Talon II is fitted with a 4.25-inch, stainless steel barrel. My test pistol came with Nighthawk Custom’s National Match Carbon barrel expertly fitted to a stainless steel bushing. The pistol utilizes a standard Commander-sized guide rod and plunger, so the Talon II is easy to dissemble in the field—no tools are needed.
The top of the slide is serrated to prevent glare. The rear of the slide is also serrated, matching the back of the Heinie Ledge Straight Eight tritium rear sight. This sight has a wider notch with a single tritium insert centered just below it. Paired with the tritium front sight, target acquisitions are fast in any lighting condition.
Since the pistol is designed for concealed carry, any sharp edges that could snag on clothing during the draw or print through clothing have been removed from the slide and frame. The high-cut grip frame features checkering to lock the Talon II nicely in your hands. The extended grip safety is also blended nicely into the frame. The top of the Ed Brown Bobtail mainspring housing/magazine well is checkered to ensure a solid grip, while it’s smooth at the bottom to prevent snagging on clothing. The magazine well is also beveled for faster reloads. Black Micarta grips with the Nighthawk Custom logo are mated perfectly to the frame.
The pistol’s smaller parts are fully machined from solid billet. This includes the grip safety, the thumb safety, the magazine release and the slide stop. The wider, single-sided thumb safety is easy to operate; it’s positive, crisp and well fitted. The slide stop is slightly extended, which allows for easy access without increasing the chances of an accidental activation. The Talon II Bobtail also has a tool-steel hammer, strut and sear, providing a lifetime of use. The lightweight, match-grade trigger breaks cleanly with just the right amount of take-up and no overtravel.
The Talon II Bobtail was right at home nestled in my Milt Sparks Nexus holster. Once a critic of bobtail frames, I now prefer them for concealed carry, especially using an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster. The Nexus holds the pistol tight to your body and low to the belt line, making the bobtail frame a pleasant addition. Clothing won’t snag on the corner of the grip, nor will it dig into your body. The grip’s checkering provides a solid grip, yet it did not snag on either a large T-shirt or a button-down when I carried the pistol concealed. The pistol was also comfortable to carry while seated in my car—it didn’t dig into me at all. Milt Sparks’ neodymium magnetic loop fasteners make the Nexus incredibly easy to take on and off—there’s no fishing for the snaps or figuring out what direction they snap. They just slide in place.
This pistol came with a test target showing essentially a single-hole group at 15 yards. At the range, I shot the pistol off-hand at 15 yards, and its accuracy was stellar, cutting one ever-larger hole no matter what ammunition I used. Using 230-grain FMJs from Federal, it was downright pleasant to shoot. Even the higher-velocity rounds I used from CorBon and DoubleTap were not unpleasant to shoot and remained very accurate. Moving back to 25 yards and shooting from a benchrest, the best group came from Winchester’s 230-grain T-Series load, which measured 1.5 inches. Every (Please turn to page )
group was around 2 inches at this range, but the weather was anything but cooperative for group shooting. An unseasonably wet summer made concentrating over the course of the day problematic, but the Talon II Bobtail produced the accuracy you would expect from a custom-grade 1911 pistol. Moving off the bench and firing off-hand at 25 yards, it was possible to get consistent hits on a 6-inch steel target. Short of a bullseye pistol, you just don’t get much more accurate.
The Talon II Bobtail was also 100 percent reliable with all of the ammunition used, both practice and self-defense rounds. It really liked the Hornady 220-grain Critical Duty ammunition. Although rated as a +P round, it does not shoot like one. The pistol was fast, accurate and extremely reliable, even during rapid fire. I ran the pistol with several magazines, including those from ACT-MAG, Wilson Combat and Chip McCormick. They all ran flawlessly and dropped free easily when I hit the magazine release.
Because of its concealed-carry mission, I spent lots of time drawing the pistol from the holster and shooting on the move. The Talon II presents well, especially from the Milt Sparks Nexus. The pistol’s high-cut grip frame is perfect for my large hands. Checkering is a must for me, and the 30-lpi checkering on the Talon II is the most popular. Coupled with the checkered mainspring housing and grips, the pistol locked solidly into my hand.
The Heinie sights were easy to find, even while moving. All of my carry pistols have night sights. Although controversial to some, they are a must for me. Having carried a pistol on/off duty and for concealed carry for three decades now, they have come in handy on several occasions. Heinie’s Ledge Straight Eight night sights are among my favorites.
The high-quality beveling on the magazine well facilitated fast reloads. The magazines rocked into place and inserted easily. With practice, my old form returned, and I could reload the single-stack pistol very quickly.
Built For Carry
This pistol is built for concealed carry, and it does the job well. The only thing I might add would be an ambidextrous thumb safety, but that is a personal preference. It is just about perfect for a concealed-carry 1911 pistol.
Hard chrome is one of the nicest ways to protect your custom pistol. Rugged yet smooth, the finish holds up incredibly well. My first custom 1911 pistol used this coating, and it held up well for years of very hard use. Carrying a pistol every day is hard on the finish; even the high-tech coatings of the day are not immune. Hard chroming like this can provide a lifetime of protection for a carry pistol.
Custom 1911 pistols remain incredibly popular. Custom builders are backed up for years in some cases. If you are looking for a custom build with greater availability, the Nighthawk Talon II Bobtail is an excellent choice, and by comparison, it’s reasonably priced. The Talon remains one of the company’s most popular pistols, and after testing the Talon II, I can see why. If you are in the market for a custom 1911 with everything you need in a carry pistol, give the Nighthawk Talon II Bobtail a close look.
For more information, visit nighthawkcustom.com or call 877-268-4867.
This story was featured in the 2015 HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE. To subscribe to the HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE, please visit PersonalDefenseWorld.com/subscribe.
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