Nighthawk Counselor first outing

Discussion in 'Range Reports & Reviews' started by rblondon, Jan 22, 2020.

  1. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    So I took receipt of, and shot, the most expensive handgun I have ever purchased today - a Nighthawk Custom Counselor 9mm 1911. The gun had been previously sold, then traded back unfired to the selling dealer. Call it NIB for all practical purposes. It was also my first long-distance purchase and involved shipping a trade then counting the hours till the Nighthawk’s arrival.

    It’s not my first Nighthawk, in fact a Nighthawk was the sacrificed trading stock. It’s not my first relatively high-dollar 1911. It nestles beside a two Wilsons and a Les Baer in the safe. What follows is the reason you clicked on this thread - but this paragraph might add some validity or value to the remainder of this post.

    The gun was unblemished for practical purposes upon arrival. There’s one tiny safe mark on the outside edge of the rear Henie sight. The Straight Eight sights were secure in their dovetails and bear 2019 birthdates as expected with a brand new product line like the Counselor.

    Disassembly did reveal relatively dry internal rails, locking lugs and muzzle. That was remedied with some healthy squirts of the accompanying bottle of Gibbs cleaner/lubricant. The gun was reassembled, wiped down externally and shoved in a range bag for a ten minute drive.

    The shooting experience was boring. No bobbles, no failures to feed, extract or fire. The only criticism is a magazine release that needs smoothing. It’s tight, it’s possibly devoid of lube as I didn’t look at it specifically. That’s the only complaint and it’s minor, fixable - let’s move on.

    The gun shipped with two Nighthawk magazines, some of you readers may recognize the “MM” marking on the base plate - I won’t speculate. I also ran it with a third magazine, an STI compact provided for a cost by the selling vendor (more on that later). All three magazines were flawless in function. Even deliberately loaded with mismatched ammunition there were no issues.

    The gun and the three magazines chugged through 200 rounds of Blazer Brass 124 grain 9mm; another 50 rounds of Winchester’s 124 grain offering; 40 rounds of Federal HST 124 grain; and a quick bore swabbing before 32 rounds of 124 RNL with nominal OAL of 1.115. The last pleased me as it’s my own generic house load for mixed range brass and runs in every 9mm in the house.

    Ejection was about 3-4 feet to the right and very slightly in a rearward pattern. Cases were in good cosmetic condition with no bent/crushed lips or unusual extractor markings upon examination of a goodly sample while policing up brass.

    The Counselor isn’t a heavy gun, but I would say the ball ammunition recoiled slightly less than a Glock 26, which I happened to grab and pack along as a known control piece. The two guns weigh very close to the same empty - the Counselor goes 25.6 ounces on my scale with the Glock at 20.2 empty. That’s the closest thing I had weight-wise to do a quick comparison. The Counselor goes 31.3 ounces with a magazine and nine rounds of 124 grain ammo onboard.

    I found the Nighthawk to be very quick on followup shots without a lot of sight movement - it’s a 9mm after-all. A timer will reveal how quick, but double taps were staying within a couple of inches of one another. The Counselor’s front strap serrations are not aggressive, but efficient. Were it a .45 ACP, the striations would be insufficient - they are perfect for a 9mm. Not as aggressive as checkering, but not as expensive, either. There’s enough texture on the MSH to feel it in the heel of your hand and to keep the gun from moving in recoil.

    Accuracy was fine at 15 long steps, call it 12-13 yards. Today was a trial run and all ammunition stayed in the center of an eight-inch steel plate with Spartan style head shots made with ease at that range.

    The gun ran regardless of shooting style: one hand, two hand, held thumbs high or thumbs tight to the frame. Most shots were fired with the strong hand (right) thumb resting on the depressed safety - which clicked on/off audibly yet required some pressure to life into ‘safe’ position. This should work well in holsters not providing a thumb safety cut to help prevent swipe offs. That doesn’t happen often to me in single safety 1911s, but it has happened.

    Upon examination, I’m going to let the Nighthawk’s 3.5 inch barrel work in a holster cut for a 3-inch. A Mitch Rosen Uncle Sal’s Decision provides adequate trigger coverage, another fraction and it would be fully covered. Now if there’s an Addict out there willing to make a holster swap, or sell of one of the same, speak up. The gun fits fine in a Spark’s Criterion cut for a 4 inch and rides equally well in a Garret Silent Thunder. I’ll consider the holster issue in hand until I stumble upon something.

    I am not a fan of Henie Straight Eight sights on shorter barrel guns. I’m 62-years-old with a dominant eye cataract. I’ like something brighter on the front; the rear I can take or leave. Brass or gold beads or the blaze orange/yellow fronts with tritium have become my favorites of late.

    Ten pulls on the trigger being careful to hit the same spot with a Lyman digital gauge gave an average of 3.8 pounds. The lowest was 3.5 while the highest was 3.9 pounds. The gauge is sensitive to position on the trigger itself, the gun was simply supported in my off-hand. Perhaps not scientific, but it is what it is.

    I plan on trying the Gibbs solution for a while, I have bought enough Nighthawks as to have three bottles of their complimentary size on-hand. That should allow a good evaluation. Everything else in the house gets Wilson Ultima Lube and whatever flavor of light oil I happen to keep handy on various areas, The Gibbs would be a nice, one something for everywhere. Remind me and I will report back on that relationship.

    The Nighthawk magazines fit just flush with the mini-magwell - the concept of which I love. I’m tired of buying short guns, then making them longer with the most commonly added piece of kit - a mag well. The STI magazine extended just under 1/8th of an inch past the mag well’s lips. I hope to borrow a couple of other brands and length mags to settle on one or the other. The gun came with Nighthawk’s coupon for five magazines for slightly over $100. Cheap enough, why not? Any arguments pro or con?

    And finally, a word to the selling vendor: The Wichita Gun Club. I worked with Jess over a ten day period before saying yes. He offered a fair trade for my gun: a Nighthawk Browning Hi-Power. I agonized, believe me - agonized. I’ll never own another Hi-Power of that quality. But it was the best way for me to get to the agreed value of the Nighthawk Counselor which I got for well under full MSRP - that price point would have been a no-go. Jess’ communications were crystal clear, he spelled out the deal, the money involved, what I needed to do and what he would do. Believe me, i was nervous sending off a high-dollar piece of trading stock and buying sight unseen (other than photos) and unheld. Jess even orchestrated an extra photo showing me how the STI magazine fit. That was his only stocked compact mag and i wanted to start with three. If you are on the fence about buying on the forum: don’t be. There are many good sellers who will hold your hand and I’m happy to have found one with something I was willing to part with almost anything to obtain.

    About the photos - the group on steel was shot two-handed, Federal HST; the photo with the measuring tape illustrates how the STI base pad drops below the magwell. You can compare it to the photo with a plain, flat base Nighthawk-supplied magazine sitting right at the bottom of the mag well.The two toned holster is the Mitch Rosen Uncle Sal's Decision, technically a three-inch configuration. This gives you an idea how close the Nighthawk comes to "fitting" with a completely covered trigger. The holster with two belt points is the Spark's Criterion which is my favorite for long days.

    Hope you’ve enjoyed the review. Questions, thoughts? If there's something I can flesh out for you, let me know.

    Thanks / Brent

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
    jaypopsti, gps man, DRD and 24 others like this.
  2. IndyExit

    IndyExit Well-Known Member

    Apr 30, 2018
    Nice review!
    jakebrake likes this.

  3. SLAM37

    SLAM37 Well-Known Member

    Apr 17, 2016
    Fantastic write-up Brent. I am happy everything worked out so well. It must have been painful to give up the Hi-Power so it is great news you love your new pistol. Now you need to get one more for backup!

    ETA ... Jess is good people indeed.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  4. Genes 1911

    Genes 1911 Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2019
    .... I'm about 550 rnds deep into mine.All mixed gr./ with 14 magazines.... 1 magazine issue.I will shoot another 450,detail clean,spring swap and call it amazing!Super fast shooting,reset...argh! Perfection. I'll shoot the piss out of it!
  5. Fred_G

    Fred_G Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2015
    Nighthawk makes some sweet guns, congrats on your gun. And great write up!
  6. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    The Counselor (by Nighthawk Custom) passed through 500 rounds today with another 200 round outing. A single magazine issue was experienced using two magazines that had been tuned to run in another Addict's compact framed 9mm 1911. Shot to empty, both 8-round mags failed to lock back on empty and neither would drop free with a single push of the mag release. They offered slight resistance when being extracted by hand with the mag release depressed. The owner and I had talked about this very possibility when I collected his loaners yesterday. Both did lock back when the slide was slowly cycled over an empty magazine.

    As this was not unexpected, actually anticipated, it's no knock against the Nighthawk. The purpose of today's range trip was to test

    -2 Tripp mags
    -2 Wilson Combat 8 rounders
    -2 tuned Metalform 8 rounders
    -1 Wilson 10 rounder
    -1 Wilson 8 rounder

    With the exception of the tuned Metalform mags, everything ran without issue, and both of those loaded, fed and performed properly except for failure to lock the slide back on empty. Rather than attempt to diagnose the issue - which could likely be solved - I will simply move on towards selecting what I want to run from the sample crop.

    I am leaning to buying 2-3 Wilson 8 rounders. Obtainable, priced as others in this catefory and normally can be found in-stock for resupply if necessary.

    I am going to take advantage of the Nighthawk coupon and order six of their mags for I think $100 plus a dab. Also, I printed the great Ed Brown mag exchange coupon and have earmarked four mags kinown for problems to send in with the $10 each for a new Ed Brown mag - Metalform??

    The Nighthawk mags furnished have run fine; as has a sole STI 8 rounder.

    Basically The Counselor doesn't seem to be overly mag picky, but rather it's a user issue to find the proper capacity juggled against the right base pad to keep overall grip length to a minimum. Flat or non-padded mags can be readily seated without issue. The mag well allows them to be pushed home with the heel of the hand without any special manipulation or care - which is fantastic from my viewpoint.

    The gun was broken down and cleaned with the accompanying Gibbs solution today. Kind of nice to have one product for all the parts - but we might all differ in choices in that area. And I'm not sure i'll stick with it in the long run. But, so far, it cleans up nicely and the Gibbs product seems to keep a good layer on all moving parts even after use.

    Today's ammo was 100 rounds of PMC 124 grain ball; 50 of Winchester's equivalent product before a bore snake and then 50 rounds of my own pet 124 grain RNL reloads over Titegroup.

    Mechanically, the slide release remains stiff. A couple more range trips and, if that continues, I'll ask a local smith to solve the problem rather than go the return to manufacturer route.

    If you have any specific questions, they are welcome.
    retrieverman, simonp and duketbrd88 like this.
  7. azpoolguy

    azpoolguy Well-Known Member

    Jul 4, 2013
    Awesome review and thanks for taking the time to write in length.
    simonp likes this.
  8. Genes 1911

    Genes 1911 Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2019
    Great review.I was told this week the Everlast Recoil spring is a stock feature on the gun. A very nice add on.
  9. PI Lawyer

    PI Lawyer Active Member

    Feb 19, 2020
    Great little shooters. I have two of them. The first one had a few problems, so I had to send it back for some smithing, but the second one with the battle-worn finish has been trouble-free from Day 1. IMG_3430.jpg
  10. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    Nice finish, mine will get there. Trust me, though unfortunate way to view a finish on a costly gun! To me, the finish is just a cosmetic issue - it spent a chunk of yesterday chained beneath a car seat on a campus. I know longer work, no ID to cover it, so chained it is whenever I'm around schools. But I've been pleased so far. Shoots good, carries well, plenty of accuracy and good dependability. Tough to beat in a 31 ounce/loaded package.
    simonp and retrieverman like this.
  11. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    Purchase four Ed Brown 8 round magazines - mine are the stainless. Arrived today, used their trade in program 1:1 +$10. Will report on how they run by the end of the week.
    Came with two basepads each, will have dimensions later. But they allow for a flat, stainless bottom - my preference when possible.
    retrieverman likes this.
  12. azguy1911

    azguy1911 I'm done buying guns, I'm just a bystander now

    Oct 22, 2015
    I like Ed Brown mags, I bet your NH will too
  13. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    Hit the 800 round mark over the weekend. A brief update, with a couple of photos. The gun continues to run fine - no issues regarding magazines or ammunition. I have managed to ding the left top corner of the rear sight on something - who knows what as it's been carried continiously for nearly 30 days now. The outside corner is a bit more understandable, the inside corner? I'm clueless, honestly.

    The Gibbs lube is OK. When sprayed on and wiped off sparingly, it seems to leave a bit more runoff than I'm accustomed to. But it also seems to adhere well, even vertical holster carry leaves lube on the rails and muzzle touch points.

    Mixed ammo to this point, have yet to find a problem round. The weekend's outing was 300 rounds of RNL reloads over titegroup running Winchester primers without problem. Accuracy could be a bit better, but that's the ammo as it's a house load which I run through every 9mm I own - including Glocks with barrels changed from OEM to aftermarket. The load runs just at 1,000 fps. Some guns shoot it better than others, it was designed around a Nighthawk modified Hi-Power.

    The Counselor is carrying well, mostly in Garrett Industries Silent Thunder IWB. The finish is holding up well through what has to be several presentations - though remember, the Silent Thunder is leather lined, the reason I've obtained two of them. The IWB I like; the OWB doesn't fit me so well.

    I have not noticed any wear/bright spots on the trigger or hammer to date despite the shooting and dry fire snap count. The grips are growing on me - a bit aggressive and I wonder how they will be during KY summer months - against bare skin. I suspect Cherokee Hills will get an order for a pair of wood grips - nothing fancy, just a good using grip for summer carry. The checkering is holding fine, no wear spots, though still sharp enough to collect dirt and grit as the pictures show. The front strap is perfect for a 9mm; I don't think it would offer my 62-year-old hands enough purchase on a 45 acp. Back strap is great and feels like it has bite when shooting in gloves.

    The Heinie Straight Eights have never been a huge favorite, but they allow excellent accuracy. I would like to try a high viz front sight - cataracts make the white paint on the existing front sight seem a bit small. There has been no need to drift the rear sight, it's perfect from the factory. I might opt for a slightly taller front to just nudge the point of impact a tad. The factory front is .160; distance between the sighting surfaces is slightly over 5 inches.

    The Garrett holster is holding up well, the IWB has seen 80 percent of the use. The top right rear corner of the leather lining has folded slightly (photo), though it's folding on the inside edge, not separating from the kydex backing. The OWB Garrett users strong kydex below loops extended from the holster body. The angle/bend of the front strap catches me either right on, or digs into the rear of my hip. I'm playing with holster position - that's my only complaint with the OWB model.

    Four new Ed Brown magazines have performed fine. The photos show the difference in the mags. The lone STI is on the bottom or right in all photos; the OEM Nighthawk in the middle and the Ed Brown on top or to the left (it's loaded with the Hornady bullett).

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 24, 2020
  14. Genes 1911

    Genes 1911 Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2019
    After 800 rounds and carry in a tt iwb/owb I have a similar experience.Lots of fun wacking plates.The Counselor is a favorite.I think mine may go back to the shop for an IOS cut this summer.
    I was told by Nighthawk the Counselor comes with the Everlast Recoil Spring for those interested.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2020
  15. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    Two holster photos showing the single rub spot on the Garrett Industries IWB Silent Thunder
    be interesting to know what they charge for the cut, and how they position the rear sight - in front or behind the optic?

    Attached Files:

    usmc_k9_vet and hpguru like this.
  16. Genes 1911

    Genes 1911 Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2019
    The trijacon plate is to the front of the dot on my Fire Hawk.Seems counter intuitive, but it's new to me.
  17. Dwe

    Dwe I'm a terminal 1911 Addict!

    Sep 4, 2011
    Nice Heater!
    Glad you're happy with it.
  18. jcc7x7

    jcc7x7 Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2019
    Nice review, looks like a great carry pistol..
  19. rblondon

    rblondon Well-Known Member

    Jul 11, 2018
    Crossed 1,000 rounds today with 200 ball from PMC; a random partial box of my own Titegroup reload. The Ed Brown mags are running as well as the Nighthawk OEM and the loan STI in the rotation. Speed reloads on the Counselor do require at least a minimal mag bumper pad - without it, you're going to pinch some palm skin sooner or later. Hasn't happened yet, it's been close at speed. I've settled on a plain bottom mag for the loadout, a bumpered mag or two in reserve.

    The Titegroup reloads are running the 124 grain RNL bullet at 937 averaged over ten rounds at 10 feet on a Competition Electronics chrono acquired just for this work. The chrono has been compared to the published 1070 fps and 1260 fps of two different 22 LR loads - I got 1057 and 1254 fps for ten rounds of each compaarison ammo. I can live with that as close enough. I have no better way to test the chrono itself. The NH is allowing me to set out to 1.115 without issue - the generous chamber is appreciated as a reloader. The barrel cleans easily with a few passes of a stainless brush and the provided Gibbs lubricant. The jury remains out on the Gibbs itself. I've yet to fall in love with it. But then I'm old.

    The only complaint I'm going to address is the Straight Eight sights. Sorry designers - they don't work for me. I'm going to be in the market for a Novak cut high viz front - orange I think, perhaps a 10-8 U notch rear, or a Wilson Combat and be done with that.

    I had a gunsmith take a corner off the top of the trigger - I know, my finger shouldn't be up there, it hit that spot and it was sharp enough to use as a cheese grater. Not any longer after a brushing with emmory paper. I didn't want to do the break down and reassembly - he's a pro and leaves no not so sometimes.

    With 1,000 + a fat handful down the tube: zero extraction, ejection issues. One feeding problem with a magazine tuned for another pistol. It's fed an assortment of HP, ball, truncated and RNL ammo.

    Questions or comments?

    I have found that the positive relief front cocking serrations are easy to grab and hang onto. They also seem to bite into leather holsters just a tab. I'm feeling a little extra resistance on presentations from leather. I don't own a kydex to use for a second opinion. The leather gear shows little cosmetic damage, but I can feel it in a tighter Criterion and in a Summer Special.

    The trigger has settled down to 3 pounds, 8 ounces reliably on a digital scale. I might get it pushed up to the four pound mark, then again, maybe not.

    The Counselor is getting 80 % of the 1911 carry time; balance to a trusted Kobra Carry LW. They are sharing the same holsters. The 3.5 inch barrel of the Counselor really calls for specific holsters to that length, at least a 4 inch would be better. Anybody with a Tucker HF 1 or 2 wanting to part ways, let me know. I'd also take recommendations on a kydex rig to try. For the purists, it's just a weapon with a decent finish, it's not going to be babied all its life. Kydex thoughts, folks?

    So far,
  20. Genes 1911

    Genes 1911 Well-Known Member

    Nov 10, 2019
    I have been using a TT iwb/owb I like.My Counselor thinks it's a race gun on steel and a bullseye gun on paper.Mine is an edc tool as well.

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