As beautiful as it is functional and accurate, the Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide model is one of the smoothest pistols the author has ever had the pleasure to shoot.
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The 10mm Auto cartridge comes with an interesting history. Most people are aware of this round today, but there was a time when it was almost extinct. Developed in 1983, the goal for the 10mm cartridge was to dominate as the premier choice for combat handguns. The cartridge offered a larger caliber bullet than the 9mm and a higher velocity than the .45 ACP. The early 10mm shot a 200-grain projectile at 1,200 feet per second for 640 foot-pounds of muzzle energy (fpe). It’s nice when a 1911, like the Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide, takes advantage of it.

The 10mm and Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide

The brain power behind this cartridge came from the late Lieutenant Colonel John Dean “Jeff” Cooper. Cooper was a leading pioneer in self-defense pistol techniques. His highly regarded teachings are used as a foundation for most of what we learn in handgun training.

With the help of John Adams, Whit Collins and Irving Stone, the creation of the 10mm cartridge came to fruition. They just needed a pistol to send it. A manufacturer by the name of Dornaus & Dixon stepped up and specifically designed a pistol to shoot this cartridge and named it the Bren Ten.

Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) made the Bren Ten famous in the hit ’80s television show Miami Vice. In the mid 1980s the Bren Ten was in high demand. To meet demand, the gun was rushed into production, which created reliability issues and a shortage of magazines. Sadly, this became an issue that the Bren Ten could not recover from, and Dornaus & Dixon declared bankruptcy in 1986. Had it not been for Colt, the 10mm cartridge would more than likely be left in the shadows of history. Colt took interest and created a modified 1911 pistol to handle the round and named it the Delta Elite.

Unanticipated Popularity

Over the years the 10mm automatic cartridge has been gaining in popularity. But not with the original intended audience of federal officers and LEO’s. Today it is the most sought-after choice in the United States for handgun hunting and self-defense while hiking, camping or any situation where larger animals are a threat.

The power of this round brings with it an assurance of safety with well-trained shooters. The one issue people face when utilizing the 10mm round is the harsh recoil. This is a very powerful round, so recoil is a definite factor. However, with the right gun and proper handgun shooting skills, this can be mitigated. Nighthawk recognized this issue and addressed it.

The 6-inch slide configuration significantly manages recoil while also making the Shadow Hawk an extremely accurate 1911 pistol.
The 6-inch slide configuration significantly manages recoil while also making the Shadow Hawk an extremely accurate 1911 pistol.

The Nighthawk Way

In addition to offering quality craftsmanship, Nighthawk has taken the time to understand their customer’s desires and needs, consistently bringing forth new products and innovative features. A great example is the new Shadow Hawk Long Slide chambered standard in 10mm, but also available in .45 ACP. The Shadow Hawk Long Slide features the same attributes as the original Shadow Hawk but now with a 6-inch slide configuration.

Understanding the wants and needs of their loyal customers, Nighthawk knew that the 6-inch Shadow Hawk Long Slide would be well received.

The Shadow Hawk Long Slide offers a one-piece magazine well/mainspring housing that allows for faster, more accurate reloading and has a magazine capacity of nine rounds. Aggressive cocking serrations on the front and rear of the slide enable a better purchase and make racking the slide almost effortless. Sight acquisition and alignment are fast and accurate with the Nighthawk Custom fully adjustable rear sight with dual tritium lamps and a tritium front sight. As always with Nighthawk pistols, the lightweight, aluminum flat-faced trigger with a serrated face offers a smooth pull with a short, crisp reset.

Other features include a black Nitride finish, forged government-sized frame, match-grade 10mm barrel, ball radius cut on the slide, G10 black and gray spiral cut grips with Nighthawk logo, 25 lines per inch checkered front strap and mainspring housing, 40 lines per inch serrated rear of slide to match rear sight, shortened slide stop and beveled frame, crowned barrel flush with bushing, thick barrel bushing and an ultra hi-cut front strap.

Shooting Impressions

The combined benefits of a longer slide are reducing recoil, longer sight radius and higher velocity with heavier weighted bullets. As a result, the shooter experiences better accuracy.

The ability for higher velocity with heavier bullets plays right into the Shadow Hawk Long Slide being chambered for more powerful calibers. Shooting such calibers can take a toll on hands and wrists, especially with longer periods of live-fire training. I was personally able to spend some time running various drills with the gun I received, in 10mm.

The Author takes the Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide for a ride.
The Author takes the Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide for a ride.

My first impression was genuine amazement as this was one of the smoothest shooting guns I have ever fired. The 10mm platform is not new to me, and I have more than enough experience with this caliber to be able to differentiate between a firearm that shoots it well versus one that is more difficult to control.

It was no surprise that this gun had zero issues handling the more powerful ammunition. Recoil was so minimal it literally did not feel like 10mm ammunition at all. Accuracy while using a Trijicon RMR was phenomenal round after round, and follow-up shots stayed on target. I was able to consistently shoot 1-to 1.5-inch groups while using Hornady’s 10mm Auto 155-grain HP XTP (Extreme Terminal Performance). This ammunition offers what Hornady states as “maximum knockdown power,” and to that I would agree.

The 10mm round is nothing to scoff at. However running it through the Shadow Hawk Long Slide made it feel more like a 9mm round. Needless to say, my range experience was exceptional and left me adding this gun to my own personal wish list.

Quality Throughout

Aesthetically the Shadow Hawk Long Slide is a sleek, sexy gun with a commanding presence. Even before you handle this gun, you can sense how powerful it is. Obviously, given its size, this is not a pistol I could personally carry concealed. However, this is a wonderful and trustworthy option to holster and keep with you for protection while braving the elements or to hunt with.

To be able to run a gun of this caliber with such ease and comfort is truly an amazing experience. This is not an exaggeration: Nighthawk Custom engineered an exceptional gun with the Shadow Hawk Long Slide.

G10 spiral-cut grips boast the Nighthawk logo while offering a comfortable grip while shooting.
G10 spiral-cut grips boast the Nighthawk logo while offering a comfortable grip while shooting.

This does not come as a surprise, as Nighthawk Custom stands as one of the most respected companies in the gun industry today. They have mastered the combination of traditional values in craftsmanship with the ability to meet consumer demands in a more than reasonable timeframe.

Nighthawk Custom holds to their philosophy of, “One Gun, One Gunsmith.” Each Nighthawk Custom gun is hand crafted from start to finish by one gunsmith. Through innovative thinking, Nighthawk Custom is able to maintain their philosophy while also understanding their customer’s needs and demands. They have successfully established procedures that enable them to offer competitive, reasonable timeframes for finished firearms.

Living Up to the Name

In the end, the Shadow Hawk Long Slide lives up to the Nighthawk Custom name, bringing you quality craftsmanship and the ability to run like a tack driver, no matter what your needs might be. Some may cringe at the $4,199 MSRP, but as the adage states, “You get what you pay for.”

Nighthawk Custom guns are dependable and held to a higher standard than most. In my humble opinion, I believe there are many things we spend mindless amounts of money on without even batting an eye. A handgun being utilized for protection or hunting purposes is definitely worth the investment. If you are looking for a powerful pistol that you can trust, the Nighthawk Shadow Hawk 10mm Long Slide deserves your full attention.

For more information, visit NighthawkCustom.com.

Nighthawk Shadow Hawk Long Slide

Caliber: 10mm
Barrel: 6 inches
OA Length: 9.65 inches
Weight: 42 ounces (empty)
Grips: G10
Sights: Tritium
Action: Single-action
Finish: Black nitride
Capacity: 9+1
MSRP: $4,199

This article was originally published in the Combat Handguns Sept/Oct 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email [email protected]

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