Nighthawk Custom 1911: Global Response Pistol II



Don't let anyone tell you a compact 1911 won't compare to a full-sized government model. This gun review of the Nighthawk Global Response Pistol II proves as much.

The full-sized Government Model 1911 pistol is a fine service handgun.

The only problem is it has a little too much length. The longer sight radius is handy when trying to drill the “X” ring in a hotly contested bull’s-eye match. The longer barrel also gives the relatively low pressure .45 ACP just a little more velocity — but not much. The full-size slide and barrel weight, slight though it is over a shorter gun — say 3/4 of an inch shorter — is thought by some to curb recoil or muzzle flip. I’d debate that.

So, what’s the advantage of a shortened slide and barrel than the Government size?

I’ve investigated that question since the late 1970s. I’d been convinced by my betters that the steel-framed, compact service pistol – marked “Combat Commander” — was simply no damn good. It weighed about as much as “a real .45” and it wasn’t as accurate. It kicked harder and hit softer. What good was it?

But after reading an article by Massad Ayoob on the subject, I found a used Combat Commander and it was tricked up a little by the grand gunsmith of Tacoma Washington, John Lawson (The Sight Shop, 253-474-5465

I tried the gun and found that it was slightly quicker to present than the slightly longer gun. Muzzle velocity was cut by very little. The gun just felt “right.” It was so much better balanced than my beloved 1911. Finally, the time between accurate shots was reduced due to the lessened slide mass.

Nighthawk Custom
Nighthawk Custom provides the custom 1911 in a variety of formats. When I found that their Global Response Pistol line included a shorter top unit along with a full-size frame, the GRP II, I had to take a closer look.

Like GRP, the GRP II features Novak Extreme Duty Adjustable Night Sights, a forged slide stop with a barrel link post that is cut flush with the slide, a stainless steel match-grade barrel, and a tough Perma Kote ceramic finish. Plus, the Nighthawk offers a lightweight match trigger fitted to give a 3.5- to 3.75-pound trigger pull, and hex head stock screws.

The GRP II has a 4 1/4-inch “Commander”-length barrel and a standard guide rod and plug. A mainspring housing with integral lanyard loop is standard and the gun is available with Crimson Trace LaserGrips.

The sample GRP II came with the standard gray Gator Back stocks, made of linen micarta by VZ Grips. A pair of eight-round magazines is provided along with an Allen wrench to tighten stock screws. The eight-round magazines are made by ACT-Mag, an Italian concern who provides OEM magazines for many pistol makers.

The magazines have the same length overall as a conventional seven-round magazine with a bumper pad. The floorplate on the ACT/Nighthawk magazine is hollow and the magazine tube is actually longer, allowing enough room for an extra round of .45 ACP.

The Nighthawk slide stop is machined from forged steel. The slide stop stud (axle) is trimmed on the right side. This is to prevent the shooter from pressing in on the slide stop stud while the index finger is (properly) up on the frame and away from the trigger during a stressful event. The slide stop hole on the right side of the frame is chamfered to make it easier to field strip the piece.

The Nighthawk Custom GRP II embodies high quality. Little things are taken care of. The right stock panel is cut for an ambi-safety, for example. The front edge of the trigger is rounded, not sharp and squared.

The slide is tightly fitted to the frame, too. The barrel bushing is closely fitted to barrel and slide, but I turned it without a wrench. This gun is properly put together.

Top Flight Shooter

I used the Bulman Gunleather Quick Forward Drop Scabbard holster in the test. It pulled the guns’ butt in close to my side, while keeping it accessible for a quick draw. The “skin guard” — a high arch of leather on the back of the pouch to keep the gun away from the shooter’s body — worked fine in spite of the thick paddle of the thumb safety. The muzzle is raked to the rear and the mouth band is reinforced, making the re-holstering process easy.

The rear stabilizing belt loop snaps onto the belt some distance back from the holster pouch. This is what pulls the gun in tight. It also helps when putting the holster on.

There is a stitched-in front sight channel too. The sharp front sight never picked up leather shavings to spoil the view after a draw.

This holster is one of my favorite designs from a terrific manufacturer. (Contact Josh at Bulman Gunleather, P.O. Box 361, Newry PA  16665; 814-696-8615 or

I’d fired a number of loads for accuracy with some surprises. I found that this particular sample liked the lighter slugs — Cor-Bon 185-grain DPX and Remington 185-grain JHP, for instance. Hornady TAP-For Personal Defense 230 grain XTP +P and Federal Classic HiShok also shot well.

I was shooting the sample for this article within a week of the passing of the father of the Modern Technique of the Pistol, John Dean (Jeff) Cooper. A number of members of an email list — alums of Gunsite and Jeff Cooper — decided to each fire a tribute to Jeff on a particular day

I took the Nighthawk GRP II and the Bulman holster to the club and set out an IDPA target. From seven yards, I shot seven failure drills — two center and one into the cranial-ocular cavity — for a total of the required 21 rounds of ammo. After a moment of silence, I continued

I did a 50-round workout of “school drills” — singles, pairs, reload drills, distance shooting — from 5 to 25 yards. I was happy to see that all the required head shots were in the right place and that the center shots were all in the “0” zone.

While this gun was in my custody, it was at the range in hot, humid conditions. It came out of a chilled, air-conditioned vehicle and into the wet heat and back into the cool car.

The GRP II went through dozens of presentations from the Bulman holster and others. The finish was unworn as the gun was packed and returned to the manufacturer.

It’d been fired quite a bit. While it’s a high end custom, it’s tough and took a beating — with style. Is it too expensive to be your service handgun?

I don’t know. What’s your life worth?

Contact Nighthawk Custom at 877-268-4867 or online at


Next Step: Get your FREE Printable Target Pack

Enhance your shooting precision with our 62 MOA Targets, perfect for rifles and handguns. Crafted in collaboration with Storm Tactical for accuracy and versatility.

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and get your downloadable target pack sent straight to your inbox. Stay updated with the latest firearms info in the industry.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.