Nighthawk Custom "Bob Marvel" 45 ACP 1911 Pistol

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

March 27th, 2021

Full30 Video Link

lick pictures for a larger version.







Nighthawk Custom Tritium night sights.



Checkered front strap (top), checkered one-piece mainspring housing / magazine well (center & bottom).











Contoured slide release.



Extended & checkered magazine release.







Lehigh Defense 170-Grain Controlled Fracturing +P (top), Federal 230-Grain Hi-Shok JHP (center), Double Tap 230-Grain FMJ-FP (bottom).





Nighthawk Custom, located in Berryville, AR, makes some of the finest 1911 pistols available available today. We have been familiar with Nighthawk Custom for years, and have previously reviewed their excellent Falcon and Thunder Ranch Combat Special pistols. Their craftsmanship is superb, and they are a fine bunch of folks.

Nighthawk Custom is a full-line custom shop; their slogan, "One Gun - One Gunsmith" is at the core of their operation. They have many Master gunsmiths in-house, with each pistol being the creation of a single Master gunsmith, who fits every part by hand. This results in very consistent quality, as each gunsmith invests his name and personal pride into each pistol, rather than merely doing piece work as part of an assembly operation.

Bob Marvel is a name that will be familiar to aficionados of the 1911 pistol, by reputation as a pistolsmith. Bob Marvel is a man who knows his 1911s, and who knows what it takes to create the ultimate 1911 carry/competition pistol. In conjunction with Bob Marvel, Nighthawk Custom offers their "Bob Marvel" 1911 pistol, a Commander-size, custom-crafted pistol with a long list of features to enhance reliability, accuracy, and practical beauty.

The Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel 1911 pistol is available in 45 ACP (as tested, and as God and John Browning intended) or 9mm (nothing wrong with that either, but a 45 is, you know, a 45). The Bob Marvel is also available, as a $100 option, chambered for the wonderful 10mm Auto cartridge. Any of these calibers would be a fine choice in a 1911 pistol, depending on your needs and preferences.

Beginning with the pistol's frame, the Bob Marvel 1911 is machined from forged steel and finished in Black Nitride. As the Bob Marvel is a fully custom pistol, hand-crafted by one Master gunsmith one at a time, many options are available; we opted for an all-stainless pistol at a $200 upcharge, for its weather-resistant qualities. The grip's front strap and mainspring housing are checkered at 20 lines per inch (LPI), making for a very firm and positive grip that will not squirm in the shooter's hand under recoil, and the mainspring housing also incorporates a generous mag well as one piece.

The slide is a Commander-length Bullnose unit, also forged from stainless steel. The slide is hand-stippled along its entire top and back surfaces to reduce glare and yield a unique beauty; also as a beauty enhancement, the stippling along the top edge is set-off by a French border. Slide serrations fore and aft are angled, and configured in a distinctive "double-line" pattern. The ejection port is lowered and flared, and the entire slide is fully dehorned, making racking the slide and handling the pistol much more comfortable. The Nighthawk Custom logo is tastefully engraved into the port side of the slide, and at a modest cost, we had GUNBLAST.COM engraved into the starboard side; this touch of personalization was very neatly executed, with the lettering size and font nicely complementing the style of the pistol.

The barrel is a Commander-length (4.25 inches) Match-Grade two-piece bull barrel. The barrel design allows for tighter fit to the slide and frame without compromising reliability, and requires no bushing to tightly fit the barrel to the slide. 

The recoil spring assembly is Nighthawk Custom / Bob Marvel's "Everlast" Recoil System, which uses a captured flat wire recoil spring, along with a specially designed full-length guide rod and plug contoured to the slide's bullnose. The Everlast system creates a constant-force recoil resistance, as opposed to the classic 1911 recoil system, which increases spring pressure as the slide compresses under recoil. Nighthawk claims that this constant-force resistance of the Everlast system reduces muzzle flip, making follow-up shots quicker and easier, and my own shooting bears this out. The Bob Marvel 1911 was noticeably quicker to get back on-target, and muzzle flip did seem decreased from what I am accustomed to on a Commander-length pistol. Nighthawk also claims a 15,000-round life for the Everlast Recoil System; I cannot vouch for the validity of this claim, but as I have found their other claims for the Everlast system to be as-advertised, I would not dispute it.

One note about the Everlast Recoil System, as it relates to field-stripping the pistol: READ & FOLLOW the pistol's Instruction Manual before attempting to strip the weapon. Since I have been shooting 1911 pistols for over 40 years, I did not bother to read the manual first, and ran into some difficulty in this regard, as the Everlast system strips differently. The Bob Marvel uses no barrel bushing, as is often seen on 1911 pistols with bull barrels and full-length guide rods. My preferred method of stripping a 1911 eschews removing the bushing first anyway, by removing the slide with the recoil spring & plug still in the slide (when doing this, be careful to hold your thumb against the recoil spring as you remove the slide, or you may never find the recoil spring!), so that part was no mystery. The Everlast system has a pin hole in the guide rod, into which an included pin (a paper clip will do) must be inserted to retain spring tension so that the Everlast unit and barrel can be removed from the slide once the slide is free. This is a simple and easy task, but if you fail to do this, the Everlast unit and barrel cannot be removed from the slide. Once I consulted the manual, disassembly and reassembly of the Bob Marvel presented no problem whatsoever. It is always a good idea to read the manual before using any firearm, but all too often this is ignored, and I am as guilty of that as anyone.

The hammer is a stainless skeletonized part, which perfectly nestles into the upswept beavertail grip safety, and I experienced no hammer bite on my large hands. The grip safety also features a well-engineered "memory bump", which works better than most I have used to aid in properly depressing the grip safety, especially when the shooter's thumb "rides" the thumb safety. The thumb safety is serrated, is just the right shape and width, and comes standard on the Bob Marvel as right-hand only; an ambidextrous safety, as on our review pistol, is available as a $120 option. The slide release is scooped-out on top and easy to operate, and the magazine release is extended and finely checkered.

The trigger is a solid (non-skeletonized) aluminum Nighthawk Custom unit, vertically serrated on the face, with an overtravel adjustment screw. There is no slop in the trigger's fit, either vertically or horizontally, and the pull is crisp and clean, free of creep or overtravel, releasing at an average of 2 pounds, 6.8 ounces as measured by my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge.

Standard grips on the Bob Marvel pistol are G10 Black/Gray spiral-cut grip panels with Nighthawk Custom logo; as a $50 option, the Railscale / Carbon Fiber grip upgrade offers a very positive feel and unique appearance. Crimson Trace Laser Grips are also available, and highly recommended for low-light shooting.

While on the subject of low-light shooting, the sights provided on the Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel are excellent. The rear sight is a Nighthawk-branded, low-mount, dovetailed, fully adjustable unit with two dots consisting of Tritium vials with a white surround. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide, with a similar Tritium / white dot. The sights are very quick and easy to pick up in either high or low lighting conditions, yielding a classic "three-dot" sight picture.

Specifications - Nighthawk Custom "Bob Marvel" 45 ACP 1911 Pistol

Caliber 45 ACP, 9mm, 10mm ($100.00 Upcharge)
Frame Commander Size, Forged, Checkered Front Strap
Mainspring Housing Checkered, One-Piece Mainspring Housing & Mag Well
Finish Black Nitride (Many Options Available)
Slide Bull Nose, Hand-Stippled Top & Rear, French Border, Completely Dehorned for Comfort, Everlast Recoil System
Barrel 4.25 Inches, Match Grade 2-Piece Bull Barrel
Sights Fully Adjustable Nighthawk 2-Dot Tritium Recessed Rear, Tritium Front
Sight Radius 5.76 Inches
Trigger Solid Aluminum Nighthawk Custom Trigger
Trigger Pull 2 Pounds, 6.8 Ounces (Average)
Overall Length 7.9 Inches
Overall Height 5.62 Inches
Slide Width 0.92 Inch
Overall Width 1.41 Inches
Grips G10 Black/Gray Spiral Cut with Nighthawk Logo (Options Available)
Grip Thickness Regular (1.2875 Inches)
Weight, Empty 37.6 Ounces
Thumb Safety Single, Right-Hand Only (Ambidextrous Available)
Light Rail NO
Magazine Capacity 8 Rounds
Magazines Supplied 2
Base Price (not inclusing options shown) as of March 2021 $4,499.00 US

Shooting the Nighthawk Bob Marvel 1911 was a joy. The pistol proved to be 100% reliable with all ammunition types tried, with zero malfunctions of any kind, as is vitally important on a pistol intended for Social Work. Accuracy was superb, with initial and follow-up hits on target being as automatic as any device affectable by Human Error can be.

Although the Nighthawk Bob Marvel is as accurate as any target 1911, its primary purpose is as a defensive tool. As such, it will usually be carried concealed on one's person for protection against Things That Go Bump In the Night, so proper gun leather is in order. There are many options available for various 1911 carry modes, but because I wear overalls most all the time and thus seldom wear a belt, my preferred carry method is a shoulder holster. My favorite concealment shoulder rig for many years has been Galco's "Miami Classic" Shoulder System. Based on Galco's original "Jackass" rig, the Miami Classic II carries the pistol horizontally; it is lightweight, perfectly balanced, and comfortable enough to wear all day without fatigue. The Miami Classic II system retails for $259.00, is fully modular and available to fit a wide range of handguns, and has many off-side ammo carry options available.

The Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel 1911's inherent accuracy, excellent sights, balance, and handling qualities combine to make this pistol one of the easiest 1911s to shoot well that I have ever encountered. These are by no means "cheap", but the Best never is; there are no compromises in the design and craftsmanship of this pistol. For defensive shooters or 1911 aficionados who are willing and able to invest in the Best, the Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel 1911 would be hard to beat.

Nighthawk Custom - Berryville, AR:

Marvel's Custom Products:

Buy Ammo Online at Lucky Gunner:

Double Tap Ammo:

Lehigh Defense Ammo:

Federal Premium Ammo:

Galco Gun Leather:

Lyman Products:

Boge Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.





Nighthawk Custom Bob Marvel 1911 comes with two 8-round magazines.



Dehorned, lowered and flared ejection port.





Field stripping with the Nighthawk Custom / Bob Marvel Everlast Recoil System.





Railscale / Carbon Fiber grips.



Galco "Miami Classic" shoulder holster system.