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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!