1911 master Bob Marvel lends his unique touch to a signature model .45.

Among the 1911 cognoscenti, Bob Marvel is a name to conjure with. Best known for the Marvel match-grade .22 conversion unit for this type of pistol, he has for some time been consulting for Nighthawk Custom, one of our most successful “boutique” manufacturers. Shawn Armstrong of Nighthawk gives Marvel a lot of credit for the subtle design improvements which made his employer’s guns stand out as the most reliable of a notoriously finicky breed, the full-size 1911 chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

Nighthawk-9

Features

Now, that company has brought out a Marvel-designed pistol. Nighthawk has announced proudly, “This model incorporates several features that are new to the 1911 market, one of which is the new Nighthawk/Marvel Everlast Recoil System. This new recoil system allows a shooter to go at least 10,000 rounds before a spring change is necessary. Felt recoil and muzzle flip are also dramatically reduced . . . the groups at 50 yards are beyond the capabilities of the average shooter.”

It’s a stainless Commander-size gun, with 4.25-inch barrel and a one-piece mainspring housing/beveled magazine well. Made only in .45 ACP at this time, it comes with an oversize thumb safety (right hand only), beavertail grip safety with “speed bump” and oversize slide stop lever . . . and adjustable night sights.

It is an article of faith for some pistoleros that a defensive handgun must have “rugged fixed sights.” That’s generally a fine idea, but the Marvel gun has rugged adjustable sights which are some of the best I’ve ever seen on an all-around .45. Construction is an homage to the sturdy yet precisely adjustable BoMar sights. They are “buried” deep in the slide for sweet esthetics and low profile. They are shaved off semi-triangular on the sides, rather like the superb Scott Warren sights, which prevents snag, reduces wear and tear on concealing clothing and seems to guide the eye to the center notch. They are shaped like the Heinie Ledge or the Hilton Yam 10-8 Performance sight to allow a wounded shooter to use the sight to rack the slide one-handed off the belt. Trijicon night sight modules, two back and one front, complete the unit. The best of all worlds. I love these sights.

Shooting the Marvel Signature Model

The test was a team effort. Steve Denney, ex-SWAT operator and police supervisor who retired at Captain rank and now manages the ProArms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Florida, weighed the trigger with his Lyman digital gauge. Pull weight averaged 4.3 pounds. The short, solid aluminum trigger rolled back smoothly with a clean break and no palpable backlash . . . a sweet and street-smart 1911 trigger.

State and Regional Champion, John Strayer, one of the International Defensive Pistol Association’s relatively few Five-Gun Masters, took this pistol with him to a demanding Mike Seeklander course hosted at the Gainesville (FL) Target Range. Reported John, “The Nighthawk Marvel gun is very controllable and very accurate. It has a great ‘street trigger.’ The mag chute is low-profile enough it doesn’t really interfere with concealment, but it’s as fast as the bigger ones on any of my competition guns.” His only complaints were that it shot a bit left “out of the box,” and the oversize slide lock lever required him to loosen his Blade-Tech holster.

All who shot it were pleased with the Marvel’s controllability and accuracy, with a trigger pull which still wouldn’t be conducive to a “hair trigger discharge.” Many of the testers used the currently popular straight-thumbs grip, which on some 1911s pulls the web of the hand away from the grip safety and prevents a shot from being fired. This never happened with the test gun. And, perhaps more importantly, with hundreds of rounds downrange from many hands—from burly SWAT cop to petite female—the Nighthawk Marvel never once malfunctioned.

Accuracy

I ran three different name-brand .45 ACP loads through the Marvel, from a Caldwell Matrix rest atop a concrete bench at a measured 25 yards. Each group was measured to the nearest 0.05”, once for all five shots and again for the best three. The 5-shot measurement gives a good idea of what an experienced shooter can expect from the most solid shooting position in a condition of calmness. The 3-shot group factors out enough human error to come very close to what the same gun and load can probably do from a machine rest.

Inexpensive Winchester “White Box” 230-gr. ball shot under 2 inches for all five shots, with the best 3 in 0.65”.
Inexpensive Winchester “White Box” 230-gr. ball shot under 2 inches for all five shots, with the best 3 in 0.65”.