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We investigate the performance of superconducting nanowire photon detectors fabricated from ultra-thin Nb. A direct comparison is made between these detectors and similar nanowire detectors fabricated from NbN. We find that Nb detectors are significantly more susceptible than NbN to thermal instability (latching) at high bias. We show that the devices can be stabilized by reducing the input resistance of the readout. Nb detectors optimized in this way are shown to have approximately 2/3 the reset time of similar large-active-area NbN detectors of the same geometry, with approximately 6% detection efficiency for single photons at 470 nm.