Two highly respected gun-makers on each side of the Atlantic, Korth and Nighthawk Custom, have joined forces to offer the U.S. market something a little different in the form of the Sky Hawk 9mm revolver. And you might be thinking, “What more can be written about a revolver?” But I ask for a chance to explain.
It’s only fitting that one of the elite 1911 custom shops has now turned its attention to the “other” type of handgun—the classic revolver. I had always given the revolver its due as a masterpiece of 19th century firearms design. But I treated it as more of an anachronism in the 21st century than something that could compete, let alone attract attention. But there was something different about the Sky Hawk that immediately drew my interest. Maybe age is making me nostalgic.
My first indication that something special was going on here came when I realized that the Sky Hawk could chamber 9mm rounds without requiring moon clips. Korth utilizes a proprietary cylinder ejection design to make this possible. But this is just the beginning.
A Closer Look
With the Sky Hawk, a billet steel barrel (finished here in the U.S. by Nighthawk) is paired with an aluminum frame. And the cliché of German engineering precision is typified by the Sky Hawk’s fit and finish. Even the Korth speedloader that arrived with the Sky Hawk is a high-quality piece of manufacturing.
A subtle nuance with the Nighthawk Sky Hawk is how it has been “melted” via contouring and tapering around the barrel, triggerguard and front circumference of the cylinder. This allows for better handling and for easier extraction and reinsertion into a holster. The Sky Hawk’s frame is hardcoat anodized black. The cylinder has a matte black diamond-like carbon (DLC) finish. This is both aesthetically pleasing and extremely durable. This is an important consideration for a concealed-carry weapon that will be carried against your body for extended periods of time. Along those same lines, the Sky Hawk’s 19.68-ounce unloaded weight balances portability with recoil management.
The Sky Hawk’s trigger is a work of art, especially in double-action (DA) mode. Another enhancement is the gold bead front sight, which draws your eye down the 2-inch barrel. The topstrap is also serrated to reduce glare. The sight picture is so good that it feels more akin to that of a longer-barreled revolver. Finally, a Hogue rubber grip completes the Sky Hawk’s setup as a serious personal-defense weapon.
Comparing the Sky Hawk to other snub-nose revolvers is inevitable, but it’s misplaced in my opinion. “Snubbie” terminology does not do the Sky Hawk justice. The Sky Hawk is certainly not meant to be carried in your front pants pocket. A better analogy would be to think of the gun as a snubbie on steroids. It’s a primary concealed-carry handgun, not a backup weapon.
Short-barreled revolvers are certainly holding their own in the self-defense realm, no matter what preconceived notions you might have of them being antiquated in our current world of high-capacity, polymer-framed semi-autos. To prove this point, I carried the Sky Hawk for several weeks to understand what it offers. I should have learned by now that any weapon design that has been around as long as the compact revolver has certain attributes irreplaceable by other, more modern models.
To that end, I’d say that the Sky Hawk may very well represent the final refinement of the classic snub-nose revolver. The Sky Hawk’s weight—or lack thereof—simplicity and reliable firepower impressed me. Its trigger is unlike any other DA trigger I’ve tested in terms of pull length and weight. In fact, though I’m risking excommunication by saying this, the Sky Hawk’s trigger seemed even better than that on my father’s Colt Python. This was a real benefit when rounds were fired in a rapid fashion at close range; it’ll likely be used when called upon in a close-range defensive encounter.
What about firepower? Years ago, I had the opportunity to read Ed Lovette’s classic “The Snubby Revolver.” It puts to rest the notion that the snub-nose revolver’s major drawback is the limited number of rounds carried. Lovette’s research minimizes the reload’s importance during personal-defense incidents. In the engagements he studied over the years, he realized that reloads were needed less than 10 percent of the time. Also, it’s likely that a concealed weapon will have to be produced after the aggressor has launched an attack.
So the weapon needs to be ultra-reliable no matter if it’s fired upside down, pressed against someone or used with the weak-hand. It also needs to fire rounds that will have an effect sooner rather than later. This description fits the 9mm Sky Hawk. No, I’m not going to turn in my Glocks or 1911s, but the Sky Hawk demands a closer look based on a refined appreciation of what works for personal defense.
Also, some may find that working a semi-auto’s slide is too difficult due to an injury or a lack of strength. My frequent range visits with the Sky Hawk reminded me of my own previous shoulder/arm injury. This made it much harder to load, reload and clear malfunctions with a semi-auto. While all of these things are doable one-handed, a revolver solves the problem pretty easily.
Some individuals are also just more comfortable carrying a revolver. This can be based on several threads of reasoning ranging from prior training and familiarity with revolvers, the inherent reliability of revolvers compared to semi-automatics (a debatable point in my opinion), the lack of external controls necessary to get a revolver into action and the ability to better manage the trigger on a DA revolver. Individuals concerned about their personal defense must consider size, weight, capacity and stopping power in choosing a carry handgun. The one trait that can not be compromised is reliability. To this end, the Sky Hawk magnifies all of the revolver’s positive traits.
How It Shoots
The Sky Hawk is a tough, reliable revolver that balances well and is sized to perform as a duty gun and for concealed carry when properly holstered. I found the gun easy enough to handle at the range. This despite reading articles describing recoil in revolvers weighing less than 20 ounces as being uncomfortable. The Sky Hawk did not twist in my hand or raise up uncontrollably, negating the possibility of an aimed second or third shot. My rapid fire was controllable, keeping all six rounds centered in the target’s upper torso. This is a compliment to the Hogue grip and the overall design of the Sky Hawk.
In single-action (SA) mode, the trigger was crisp and weighed 3.5 pounds with no creep, and the silky-smooth DA pull weighed 8 pounds. This is ideal for CQB encounters.
At the range, I used ammo from Black Hills; Hornady; Sig Sauer; and Federal to engage multiple steel and paper targets; firing while moving; reloading from cover and shooting from behind barricades. The Korth speedloader definitely provided an advantage when it came to reloading during these scenarios. On the other hand, the cylinder ejector rod had to be struck solidly with my palm to get the empty casings clear of the cylinder, but this is common with short-barreled revolvers.
With its gold bead front sight and adjustable rear sight, the Sky Hawk proved more than capable against steel plate racks 25 yards away. This is more that enough accuracy for a personal-defense handgun. In fact, when I spent time to deliberately aim and fire, steel targets over 100 yards away weren’t safe. The rear sight notch allows for a bit of daylight on either side of the front sight. The gold bead provides for accurate shooting while maintaining quick and easy target acquisitions at close distances. Anecdotally, clay pigeons were routinely shattered at 15 yards firing off-hand.
The Right Choice
As with most things related to firearms, handgun selection is a personal decision often based more on intuition than fact-based reasoning. Most shooters won’t abandon their classic 1911s, and others won’t forego their high-capacity, polymer-framed pistols. But the Sky Hawk, with its reliability and six rounds of 9mm ammo on tap, will likely bring some handgunners back to the revolver fold. I have no doubt that anyone choosing the Sky Hawk will be well equipped to handle a personal-defense situation requiring a firearm.
Nighthawk-Korth Sky Hawk Specs
|Barrel: 2 inches|
|OA Length: 6.3 inches|
|Weight: 19.68 ounces (empty)|
|Grip: Hogue rubber|
|Sights: Gold beat front, adjustable rear|
|Finish: Matte black|
Nighthawk-Korth Sky Hawk Performance
|Black Hills 115 JHP||1,075||3.20|
|Federal American Eagle 124 FMJ||1,035||3.33|
|Hornady 147 XTP||932||3.00|
|Sig Sauer 115 V-Crown JHP||1,085||2.33|
*Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity measured in fps by chronograph and accuracy measured in inches for best five-shot groups at 25 yards.