By: Greg Chabot
Photos by: Sasha Steadman
I have been a dedicated 1911 shooter most of my adult life.
A Colt Combat Elite purchased while living in Guam was my first and only handgun for many years. As I moved on in life and started to collect handguns, I learned about Wilson Combat 1911s. I would come into my local shop that stocked Wilson products and admire the overall quality and craftsmanship that went into one. The price tag even in those days was steep, and that was the one factor keeping me from acquiring one.
In 2005, after returning from a tour in Iraq, I stopped by the shop to say hi. In the display case was a used Wilson CQB priced at a then-reasonable $1,500. Mechanically, it was sound with some slight holster wear and a light reassembly mark carried more than shot. I knew I had to have it. Joe, the owner, told me the bad news; it was promised to another customer. Being a good friend, he made a phone call on my behalf, and within the hour, I was the proud owner of a 2001 Wilson CQB, my “I survived Iraq” gift to myself.
For 16 years, this weapon has been my go-to handgun. Sure, I have other handguns I shoot regularly, but I always find myself taking out the CQB.
What makes a Wilson 1911 special compared to production 1911s made by other companies?
It is in the details. The CQB is a semi-custom gun assembled by skilled pistol smiths with many parts being hand-fitted under strict QC practices. There are no sharp edges, all checkering lines are even, polishing is top-notch. To really see the difference, I recommend you do a side-by-side comparison with a production 1911.
My CQB came with a list of who assembled it and a test target with a 1” group fired from 25 yards. The month and year of manufacture is also provided. All Wilson 1911s are tested and guaranteed to shoot 1” at 25 yards. Mechanically out of the box they are more accurate than most end users, including myself.
The slide to frame fit is still tight 20 years after it was built. After 25k rounds, the lock up and barrel to bushing fit is just as tight as the day I bought it. The trigger breaks just shy of 4lbs and is the smoothest trigger of any 1911 in my collection. The only modification I have done was to replace the extended slide stop the previous owner added. I also changed the grips with more aggressive G10 grips to increase control. A few years back, I added the flat-wire recoil spring kit from Wilson combat that I use on all my 1911s. The arched mainspring housing allows me to get a firm grip. The Speedchute magwell makes for fast reloads under stress.
I treat a weapon as a tool and buy them to use, not look at. I run them hard to see what they are capable of and push them and myself to the max. Throughout the years, I have run just about everything under the sun through this weapon. The Wilson sights are easy for my eyes to pick up. Where the front sight goes, so does the bullet. The trigger has only gotten better with use.
As I have said before, the best trigger job is a case of ammo. When I use this weapon to shoot drills, it really is cheating if I do my part. The aggressive front and rear checkering combined with the VZ grips keeps the CQB firmly in my hand, providing complete control during rapid fire. The all-steel construction keeps the muzzle down for fast follow-up shots. Even with my hands soaked in mineral oil to simulate blood, the CQB does not move unless I want it to. I have noticed no changes in accuracy while using this weapon. It still shoots consistent groups at combat ranges and beyond. Out of curiosity, I would like to do an accuracy test with a Ransom rest and compare it to the test target someday.
The 1911, to some, is considered a harsh mistress when it comes to reliability. Not so with the CQB. I have only one malfunction to report, which was not the weapon’s fault. While shooting, I had a magazine with worn feed lips that let the round push against the slide stop, locking up the weapon. I managed to replicate this in two other 1911s. I promptly trashed the worn magazine, as I consider them a disposable item. That was on me, as I knew that magazine was at the end of its service life.
I have fired 700-plus rounds in one session, getting the CQB hot enough to burn myself, and not once did it quit on me. Dropping it in sand, water, or snow has never slowed it down. It still has the original extractor and ejector and makes a nice-neat pile of brass. The only items I have replaced are the springs at regular intervals. I find a quality 1911 with basic maintenance performed by end users to be just as reliable as any polymer bullet hose made today. If you take care of your weapon, it will take care of you: 25k rounds fired with no major parts breakage is a testament to how well built this weapon is. I look forward to putting another 25k through this workhorse regardless of ammo prices.
Based on my own experience, I have no regrets purchasing this fine weapon. Cosmetically, it shows its age; mechanically, it runs better than some newer production guns I have tested.
Would I recommend a Wilson Combat 1911? Absolutely! The quality and reliability justify the price, new or used, in my opinion. These pistols are made to run hard. I completely trust my life to my Wilson CQB. It is my EDC in the cooler months. I have zero intentions of ever parting with it, and it will be by my side the day I go to Valhalla.
Big thanks to Joe at the Gun Closet, forever grateful you made that phone call.
Readers, please support a gun rights group of your choice. Our constitutional rights are under continuous attack by the puppets in DC who have proven thy are unfit to lead our Republic.
Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.