Wilson Combat: Built to Order

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Nothing shoots like a 1911. The crisp single-action trigger pull and comfortable grip angle has been pleasing shooters for over 100 years now, and the market for the 1911 pattern pistol shows no signs of waning anytime soon. There are and have been so many manufacturers of 1911 semi-automatic pistols out there that to list them all would be time consuming and a history lesson in it of itself (who knew that a sewing machine company could tool up and make them?). Regardless, the 1911 is immensely popular and its single stack magazine and availability in a variety of calibers contribute to it being so popular in US States and Countries abroad where caliber and capacity restrictions are in place. The fact of the matter is that if you live in a place where pistols are legal to own, you can walk into a gun shop and see a display case full of 1911 pistols from a smattering of makers like Colt, Springfield, Sig, Kimber, Rock Island, Remington, and many more. You may also see a small section with a few guns from high end makers. These include STI, Les Baer, Ed Brown, and of course Wilson Combat.

I told myself during my days at university that if I ever bought another 1911 (I had saved money to buy my first Colt series 80 during my junior year) that it would be a custom and high end gun that I would be able to pass down to my children and remain an heirloom for generations to come. So sure enough, after graduation and working for a while I decided it was time for me to take the plunge. My favorite gun shop, Jackson Armory happens to be the largest stocking dealer for Wilson Combat 1911s in the world. One day on my lunch break I wandered in to have a look at their display case reserved almost exclusively for Wilson products. They all looked so damn beautiful to me, but I had a picture in my head of the gun I wanted and they simply didn’t have it. I told the staff what I was looking for, and they let me know that if they didn’t have it then I could sit down and place an order. It was a lot like buying a car; I sat down with a member of the staff and he had a large three ring binder filled with pages of option after option. Some of the most menial details had more options than I ever thought possible, but in the end I selected a full size Tactical Supergrade which I was told was built by Wilson’s senior most gunsmiths. Some options I specified were:

  •  A 3.25 pound trigger pull
  • Fiber optic green battlesights
  • Round butt
  • Fluted bull barrel
  • Bushing-less recoil spring
  • Rosewood grips with sterling silver grip inlays
  • Serrated rear of slide
  • Fluted chamber
  • Front grip stipling
  • Stainless frame, colored slide
  • A few more I cannot recall

After this process, I put down a small $500 deposit (small because they told me that if I welched on picking the gun up, they could easily sell it to someone else while happily keeping my money), and started to play the waiting game. They told me it would be 12 to 18 months before it was ready, but I was fine with that because life is too short to own guns that are almost what you want. This all occurred in January of 2012.

I will never forget the day that I got a call from an unknown number while I was sitting at my desk at work. A voice asked if I was available, and they then told me that my pistol was available for pickup. This was on September 14th, 2012 so I was shocked that it was ready so early. I hopped in my car and went to the bank to grab the necessary funds and then anxiously headed to the gun shop. As I arrived the gun that I had pictured in my head was there, right in front of me exactly as I had imagined it. It came with all sorts of Wilson swag, stickers, a build sheet, testing sheet, bag, silicon cloths, and seven magazines.

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After drooling on my new pistol and filling out the necessary paperwork it was time to pay the piper and have the living daylights beat out of my wallet. All in all, this custom piece set me back $5,487.00 but it is most definitely the last 1911 pistol I will ever need or buy. I took the gun back to my office where my coworkers, the majority of them huge gun guys (God bless Texas!) gathered around and watched as I pulled the pistol out of its bag and unwrapped the silicon coated cloth to reveal its gorgeous bi-tone finish. As a quick comparison one of the guys pulled out his carry gun, a Colt, and we set them side by side. Let me tell you what, the work that goes into custom fitting a 1911 is evident when you compare it to a production gun. I remember picking up both guns and shaking them too. The Colt made the famous 1911 rattle, while the Wilson made no noise to speak of.

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The guys at the office were impressed to say the least, but upon revealing what I had to pay their eyes widened to resemble a pair of fried eggs. About half of the office agreed when I explained that it was a custom built gun that was exactly what I wanted, while the other half understandably could not wrap their head around paying that much for a pistol.

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Regardless, I am proud of this gun and it has been a range queen its whole life (and will continue to be as long as I am in possession of it). The gun is a smooth shooter, but the trigger is so crisp that everyone who shoots it usually gets a surprise the first time they pull it; It just breaks so magnificently that new shooters generally apply too much pressure. The gun has also been spectacularly reliable. Tight fitting 1911s are known for having some issues, but Wilson has solved this and will not let a gun leave the factory if it has so much as one hiccup. Here is the testing sheet included with the pistol:

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Different gun makers test their firearms differently, but Wilson takes it to the next level. Maybe this is what has earned Bill Wilson a coveted position in the American Pistolsmiths Guild. The accuracy is not too shabby either, and each pistol is tested at 45 feet:

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There are plenty of qualified gunsmiths out there who can build you a custom 1911, but in my experience Wilson Combat did right by me and I would recommend their products to anyone. Keep in mind that you do not have to spend as much as I did for one of their pistols either, as $3,000 is a good benchmark price for an entry level Wilson. The question stands though, is this pistol $4,000 better than a comparable Colt or Springfield? Well I guess I will have to find out. This writeup more than anything serves as a precursor to a test I have been wanting to perform for a while where I will put this fine custom 1911 up against a smorgasbord of other 1911s including a modern Colt, a WWII era Remington Rand, a Kimber, and a few entry level guns such as an Armscor and a Rock Island. I plan to run a set amount of ammunition through each gun (when .45acp gets back on the shelves) and test for accuracy using a pistol vise. My hypothesis is that we won’t see a word of difference, but lord knows that my hypotheses pertaining to firearms have been proven wrong time and time again. Regardless, stay tuned for the 1911 challenge!




Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog who was born and raised in Texas with years of experience in hunting, shooting competitions, and general collecting. A degree in History from Baylor University has contributed to his love of both early and modern firearms technology, but Alex is most fond of machine guns and other NFA toys. Alex also owns a firearm manufacturing business licensed to produce title I and II weapons.
You can reach Alex at [email protected].


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  • Esh325

    What a waste of 5k.

    • justanothergunrunner

      If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all. It’s a nice gun that will definitely be passed down as an heirloom. The cost of it is small compared to the memories and heritage it will have 50 years from now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/txdadoo Christopher Barnett

        Seconded. I may carry a Glock, but I have no illusions about the fact that it is a shooting appliance. WC anything is functional art, and I like me some art. As should we all.

        • John184

          I agree. Both have their place. If I need a gun of self defense, I know my Glock is always there and will work. But goddamn, nothing looks and shoots like a good 1911.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            Agreed guys. I have one now that will be passed along to my son. This is truly a work of art worth every penny. I used to live about a mile from them and having seen some being made–well you have to see the care that goes into each one.

      • Some Selfish Jerjk

        The pistol is pretty, but justifying the expense by saying it’s “for the children” is pretty pathetic. The kids would have been better served by investing $5K in their college savings account to help the next generation get a leg up. Instead, this guy blew his family’s money on a shiny new toy for himself to play with. For his sake, I would hope he matures and begins treating his family like more of a priority.

        • Cynic

          I know this is an old post but i felt i had to comment. You are the reason so many women I know bitch when their partner buys things for themselves on the grounds that the money should have been saved or used for xyz. Just because I am part of a partnership kids or not it does not mean I have to spend the rest of my life living on the bare minimum because every penny I have is automatically ‘family money’.

          If my share of the bills (notice that I am not paying all of the bills just because of my gender) my agreed contributions to the joint emergency account and if agreed any joint purchase funds are paid into and my personal bills are paid. The rest of my money is their to do with as I wish. Contribute to personal savings for a rainy day, personal development training, buying a dvd, more money into my pension, even gasp buying myself a very nice firearm. It’s my dammed money and I will NEVER let someone tell me that I have to give up everything I have because ‘that could go into family savings’ or ‘that’s a months grocery money you just spent on a plastic model’

          That attitude is why friends of mine who pay ALL the household bills bar groceries because of the wage disparity between them and their partner is frightened to let his partner see he has bought something for his bike because of the bitching that will follow. Why my other friend feels he has to sneak things into the house because his partner takes dam photos of his model collection to track how much he has!

          Stuff that shit I have no objection to providing for my family no objection to saving for the future but I will not allow myself to be told I must give up what little is spare after bills and the tax extorters take their pound off flesh.

    • gunslinger

      i actually agree with esh. i think it’s a waste of 5k. i could buy a 1911, and a supply of ammo, and then still have cash left over. personally i wouldn’t buy this gun.

      but there is a difference between saying something is a waste, and saying something is crap. this gun is not crap. it is a work of art.

      look at cars. i can spend 15K on a kia, or over 600k on a mclearen both will get me to work (20 miles). it’s just that i could better spend the 600k elsewhere. but don’t get me wrong. the mclearen craftmanship is way above that of a kia. but if all i need is a means to travel 20 miles up the road, the “benifits” aren’t worth the extra cost of having the mclearen.

    • the_duck

      If you add up all the things I bought through the years that I thought I needed or splurged on which ended up only being forgotten in a short time, I’m sure that total would be far in excess of $5k. Heck, just add up all the electronics that are now obsolete and that’ll get you there.

      I do love the idea of having a piece of art like this whose original design has stood the test of time to pass onto my children and would love to have a timeless piece like this in my collection.

      I live in CA with my first child on the way (a boy too) and with our state most likely banning all future sales of rifles that accept detachable magazines (even 22s) so I found myself buying a 10/22 last week so I can teach my son on it on day when he’s ready.

      I do also consider every single firearm I own as a family heirloom, even though they aren’t as a beautiful of a piece as your Wilson, but they will hold just as much sentential value to my children when they recall the times their Dad tool them out to shoot with them on it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/txdadoo Christopher Barnett

    That is most drool-worthy. Nicely done! Jackson Armory is a great store. I live north of Dallas closer to McKinney, and it’s almost like going to an amusement park whenever I get a chance to drive down and visit the place. If you work close enough to stop in on your lunch break, I probably need to start hating you now.

  • Frosty_The_White_Man

    Beautiful. It’s heartening to see fine master-works in the polymer age.

  • Dave

    Beautiful way to support our economy. Well done sir.

  • Garrett

    I am highly interested in the testing. I know the old adage “You get what you pay for,” but at some point there has to be a limit or ‘diminishing returns’. I guess I am not one to talk though for spending $1,500 on a replica AR.

    • Cynic

      Iirc can’t you pay wilson to ensure that the gun will shoot a specific grouping at 50 yards

  • RickH

    Have you disassembled the pistol yet? Just curious if Wilson still removes the outer 2/3’s of the half cock notch. I had his “basic combat” service done to my Colt Gov’t model back in late 1980. I never knew that this was part of the package until I stripped it after I got it back.

    • Ian

      They do. It’s to prevent damage to the sear and help maintain a smoother trigger pull.

      • RickH

        I know that’s the theory, but (at the time when I had mine done)quite a few ‘smiths didn’t believe in doing it from a safety standpoint, and also the smoother trigger pull can be a bit subjective. My brother had a Colt worked on by Bud Price (1980 or ’81) and he didn’t modify the notch, and he and I honestly cannot feel any difference. Haven’t had a problem in all these years. Just wondering.

  • Zane

    Noob question- does that gun have two safeties (thumb and behind trigger) and if so why? I personally think the gun would be more attractive without the letters on the side of the slide, especially considering that it says “tactical” which the gun is not.

    • floppyscience

      The lever closest to the trigger is the slide lock. The lever behind it is the safety.

      “…especially considering that it says “tactical” which the gun is not.”

      “Tactical” doesn’t mean anything nowadays. What would make this pistol tactical, in your mind? A rail and all-black finish?

      • Zane

        In my mind, more rounds in the mag would make it more tactical/practical. I didn’t realize that the button behind the trigger is the mag ejection- my mistake. It still does have two safeties though (the thumb and the grip) but I understand that is a tradition/style. I just consider “tactical” to be overused (as I think you do) by gun people and the word “super” to be overused by teenage girls. I think it would be more tasteful if it had custom lettering on the side instead of saying “tactical supergrade.” Thanks for the answer.

    • Mystick

      I think you may be referring to the “grip safety”, which is located on the rear of the grip under the hammer and handguard. That’s been incorporated in 1911’s since some of the first models. It’s more of a sear interlock than a true toggleable safety. A trigger pull does nothing unless it’s depressed, which happens when the grip is “gripped” by a hand.

      Above that, usually on the left side, is the lever for the actual safety toggle, which, when up, engages the safety and also locks the slide. On most models it can only be engaged in the cocked to half-cocked hammer position. In this respect, the gun was designed to carried safely “in battery”, ready to go. However, modern safety protocols largely discourages this.

      Another less-known safety feature of the 1911 is the slide position. The slide is designed in such a way that if the gun were to be pressed against a target(such as a skull), if will not fire. This prevents a solid seal at the end of the barrel, which if present when fired, could create abnormally high chamber pressures and lead to a catastrophic malfunction.

      • noob

        fun factoid (can someone confirm if this is true?) I heard was that the original HS2000 Hrvatski Samokres patent that was imported as the Springfield XD generation 1 featured an extended guide rod so you can safely fire the weapon without the barrel plugging up on the skin on some poor guy’s back.

        A weapon born from war indeed.

  • PCP

    It would be interesting to see that much talent dedication, experience and money dropped into a modern design like a P226, CZ-75 or XMD (it would be interesting to see the application of traditional or forged carbon fiber and other high performance composites) and see what happens. I frankly doubt that the high end 1911 would have much more than the myth and its heritage to brag, not a bad thing mind you.

    • Cynic

      There are a few companies doing that kind of thing with high end 1 911 and producing some gorgeous work

  • strongarm

    John M.Browning was a great innovator in his time and it is wondered if he would
    confirm today’s tendency for pistol development as solely stretching of his one hundred
    years of concepts.

  • dunsho

    5k gun and all you have is 4 pictures??

    • noob

      they were expensive pictures

  • Alex C.

    Thank you all for commenting! Yes, this was surely an expensive piece and I am very proud of it. It is something you can hold in your hands that embodies the ideals of American innovation, craftsmanship, beauty, and precision. There aren’t many things that can do that. Some may see this as a frivolous waste of money, and if I were not so deeply involved in this hobby I would probably agree. Like one poster mentioned, some folks may go and buy an absurdly expensive sports car where there are many more affordable alternatives. Sure, he could have, but maybe that man grew up watching his father tinker with an old flathead, got a little hot rod of his own, and then finally made the decision to fulfill one of his lifelong goals of buying that brand new Corvette ZR1. I will cherish this firearm for the rest of my days, and I hope my heirs appreciate that as well (just as I am sure the heirs of the aforementioned fictitious man would appreciate driving his ZR1, haha).

  • Shane

    Very nice looking piece. What I found interesting is, here in SoCal, if I pulled a handgun out at work, I’d be jump, beaten, arrested, beaten some more, and get smashed by the law. Also, don’t take this the wrong way, but where’s the rail? Sounds like you need to make another bank run. But hey you should have 2 1911s anyway. Bruce Willis did. And you do want to be the last man standing right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.s.holland.12 Matthew S. Holland

    Pcp, check out the Sig X5-X6 series for a 226 done ridiculously well.