The Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System Reviewed

Spend some time with a 1911 on the range with a mediocre trigger, and you’ll endure the experience. Swap over and send a few rounds down range with a customized 1911 with a “worked” trigger, and you’ll never go back. However, that typically takes an expensive custom trigger job from an armorer. This is where a drop-in trigger, like the DTS from Nighthawk Custom, makes life easier.

The Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System (DTS)

One of the challenges of getting a better trigger pull on a 1911 is getting an experienced gunsmith with enough time to turn the job around quickly. I’m a fan of DIY gunsmithing. However, some jobs, like stoning the sear surfaces on a 1911 trigger, beg for experienced hands.

That was the case until Nighthawk Custom introduced their “drop-in” DTS 1911 trigger group. When the Nighthawk trigger arrived, I took it to Rich Modzelewski, the owner and gunsmith at Echo 3 Armory.

Installing sear pin.

The former Marine spent his GI Bill at the Colorado School of Trades to earn his degree in gunsmithing several years ago. Since then, he has reworked hundreds of 1911 triggers.

After also handing Rich a Sig Sauer 1911, I asked him to install it and tell me what he thought.

“For a drop-in, I may be out of a job,” he said.

When looking for a 1911 trigger upgrade, shooters seek a trigger job with a crisp, clean break. Until now, a high-quality trigger job has never been in the realm of a “drop-in” upgrade. Nighthawk Custom has changed that with the introduction of their Drop-In Trigger System (DTS) for 1911 pistols.

An all-in-one unit, the DTS replaces your existing hammer, hammer strut, sear, disconnector, and sear spring. Your existing sear pin and hammer pin will be retained for use with the DTS, but no other parts are necessary for installation. With a steel housing securing the unit, the DTS features all fully machined internal components.

Installing trigger spring/grip safety spring.
Installing trigger spring/grip safety spring.

The traditional three-pronged sear spring is no longer necessary. This is because the springs for the disconnector and sear are built into the unit. A single-leg grip safety spring is included with the DTS to replace the existing sear spring.

First Of Its Kind

This is the first high-quality DIY-possible trigger job I’ve seen for a 1911. Never has a high-quality trigger job been this simple for 1911 shooters.

The Drop-In Trigger System is designed for use in most 1911 models. Likewise, installation is simple enough that minimal gunsmithing skills are necessary. With a proper safety check and minor gunsmithing skills, their Drop-In Trigger System can give your current 1911 a high-quality trigger job in the time it takes for a routine cleaning of your pistol.

Checking trigger, hammer release, reset and safety switch engagement after installing the Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System.
Checking trigger, hammer release, reset and safety switch engagement.

If you’ve been inside the workings of a Colt 1911 and a Sig Sauer 1911, you’ll find that parts are not interchangeable. The sear geometry on a Sig isn’t the same as a Colt’s. You can’t use the hammer from one and the trigger from the other. The Nighthawk DTS alleviates that problem for this Sig since it includes a hammer.

Proof In The Pudding

Prior to the DTS installation, the factory trigger broke at 5.9 pounds. After the Nighthawk unit was installed it dropped the trigger pull to 5.25 pounds. The take-up is 1.14 pounds, so the difference in the actual break weight is 4.11 pounds.

“We designed the Drop-In Trigger System to be approximately a 3.75- to 4-pound trigger pull in most applications after the proper break-in period,” Nighthawk’s Landon Stone said. “Trigger pull may vary slightly from pistol to pistol depending on a variety of factors. We recommend a 500-round break-in period for final results.”

Gunsmith Rich Modzelewski checks the trigger pull weight after installing the new Nighthawk CUstom drop-in 1911 trigger.

Available with a stainless or black nitride hammer, this unit sells for $299. According to Nighthawk, the average cost for a custom trigger job is $380 including shipping. The DTS unit is meant to be utilized as an upgrade to production 1911s.

Why choose the Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System over sending your pistol to a custom shop? Anyone can install the DTS. No serious gunsmithing is required. You get a clean and crisp, 3.75- to  4-pound trigger pull in a matter of minutes. Minimal tools are required to complete installation. The DTS is perfect for the home gun builder who can assemble and fit minor parts but isn’t quite comfortable stoning sear and hammer surfaces.

On the upside, there is no sending your pistol off to a custom shop and then waiting two to three months to get it back.

Editor’s Note

I recently received the Nighthawk Custom DTS for my Springfield Ronin 1911. Although I am not an armorer by any stretch of the imagination, I have done work on my own firearms. So, after watching the installation video from Nighthawk, I felt very comfortable doing this myself.

Preparing the Springfield Ronin for the Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System.

As it turns out, there are some extra alterations required when installing the DTS into the Springfield Ronin. My understanding is that these alterations are required for all Springfield 1911s but I don’t want to say this for sure. However, if you are installing this into a Springfield 1911, it is entirely possible you will run into these issues.

The first issue I ran into was the grip safety. On the Springfield Ronin there are little ribs inside the safety that are too narrow to fit the housing for the DTS. Fortunately, Nighthawk Custom has a video that explains how to remedy that. So, I took my Dremel and hollowed out the inside enough that it would clear the housing.

Next was the thumb safety. After installing the DTS, the thumb safety would not engage. Again, Nighthawk Custom has a video for that as well. So, I took a file and carefully removed a very small amount of steel from the engagement surface. As a result, the thumb safety now properly engages and passes the safety tests.

Springfield Ronin stripped and ready for the Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger System.

Once again, I am not an armorer but the videos really helped with the installation process. And, I now have a 1911 with the feel of a custom trigger job with an approximately 3.5-pound pull. This is in place of the previous approximate 4.5-pound pull of the factory trigger.

It is also worth noting that the Customer Support was very helpful in a pinch.

– Joshua Swanagon

For more information, visit NighthawkCustom.com.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Get your copy today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

Trigger pull is now approximately 3.5-pounds with the Nighthawk Custom Drop-In Trigger.

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