High end luxury cars are still cars. They get you from point A to point B. Unless they don’t. Rolls Royce used to call the problem “failure to proceed.” Never mind. Their owners don’t. They accept a certain level of mechanical “quirkiness” in exchange for beauty and bragging rights. Top end firearms makers don’t have that luxury. They can’t put rarity or comfort ahead of reliability. While you and I might consider a Smith & Wesson 500 a novelty, plenty of owners use—and yes depend on—the weapon. Wilson Combat “gets it.” The legendary gunmaker makes its living by combining battlefield-strength reliability with high end luxury. Call it functional luxury. Or X-TAC.
The X-TAC has a multiple personality disorder—and I mean that in a good way. On one hand, it’s a work of art. The 1911-style pistol’s silky smooth Mil-spec Parkerized finish and uniquely patterned frontstrap and slide treatment are way too sexy for its shirt. The weapon’s classic proportions are exactly as God and John Browning (same thing?) intended. You don’t have to obsess about the X-TAC almost microscopic attention to detail to see that the gun is a thing of beauty. But you can if you want to.
On the other hand, the handgun is more than slightly “intimidating.” And again, I mean that in a good way. The Wilson’s big bad beavertail, X-marks-the-spot graphic (on the side of the barrel) and exclusive black-on-black, rope-like G-10 Starburst grip panels create an overall air of malevolence. This doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it: if you were looking at this X-TAC from the muzzle-side, that vast, gaping hole in front would make you think twice about doing something aggressive.
Love at First Sight?
The first thing you notice when shooting the X-TAC: the sights. More specifically, the rear sight. Imagine a square crossed with a trapezoid with six-sides. An asymmetrical hexagon if you will. The .145” wide U-Notch is designed for “optimum sighting in low-light, dynamic range conditions.” Most sights—combat or target style—are square shaped with sharp edges, and have an equally square sight notch. Wilson says this new “Battlesight” (combined with their fiber optic front sight) provides a “crisp, protected sight picture.”
Eventually. Initially, the sights don’t naturally “fall” into place like other sets. For proper alignment, you have to align the top of the front sight with the top of the rear sight. Sound simple enough right? Like others fortunate enough to get some hands-on experience the X-TAC, I found myself aligning the fiber-optic tube with the bottom of the rear sights “U”, causing most shots to go low. Of the six people who shot the pistol, five of them grouped low. Only one person naturally found the correct sight picture.
Even after putting 1000 rounds of ammo through the Wilson X-TAC, I still had to pause and think about the sight picture each and every time. Perhaps with another 3000 rounds, aligning the sights will become instinctual. I’d prefer Wilson’s standard sight set or a set of their optional tritium sights. At the bare minimum, a set of fiber-optic fibers in the rear sight would help get the front sight naturally aligned with the rear.
Aside from the difficult-to-align sights, in fact even WITH the difficult to align sights, the X-TAC is to shooting what a Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe is the Cote D’Azur: class, style and elegance. The Wilson holds well, points well, shoots well and does everything it is supposed to do with subconscious (for the shooter) ease.
Truth to tell, I never wanted to stop shooting the X-TAC. On my first trip to the range, I blew through a full 250 round bulk-box of 230-gr FMJ ammo, and two boxes of Winchester PDX-1 Personal Protection Ammo. To extend my range session, I went back into my range bag and pulled out a 100-round pack of Winchester WWB 230-gr FMJ ammo.
Compared to an all-stainless steel 1911, the all carbon steel X-TAC’s recoil feels more like an explosion than a kick; like tying a firecracker to the end of a stick and lighting the fuse. To help tame the effect, the X-TAC’s G10 Starburst grips are designed to “lock” into your hands under recoil. The X-TAC never seemed to “settle in” under recoil; I found myself re-gripping the pistol half-way through a string. To be fair, other shooters had no such issues.
Unlike the bullets coming out of the business end of the X-TAC, the gun’s Starburst grips are strictly hit or miss. While I was comfortable with the front and back strap checkering, the side panels never gave me the secure purchase I enjoy with a more traditional setup. RF suggested shooting the X-TAC with gloves to see if the design helps in cold conditions. The results were inconclusive. But my hand thanked me.
No question about the trigger though. The X-TAC’s crisp 3-1/2 lbs. pull is the only thing [barely] stopping you from sending a mess of lead down range. The trigger’s sharp and clean and breaks like uncooked spaghetti. It’s also as light as helium balloon in a space station. Three of our guest shooters had accidental “double shots.” On no account should a new-to-1911s owner holster the X-TAC for self-defense without some serious trigger time.
As the only 1911 shooter in my group of testers, I thought I’d be the only one to notice that the X-TAC’s safety locked into place with extra-firm precision. My guest shooters mentioned it unbidden, as did many of the poor unfortunate souls who handled the X-TAC without shooting it.
I didn’t bother to do an accuracy test on the X-TAC. No need. Wilson guarantee’s 1” accuracy at 25-yards. Plain and simple, this gun is guaranteed to outshoot anyone pulling the trigger. While many of us grouped low on average, the groups were tight and consistent at anything remotely resembling combat range. No “wild fliers.” None. The X-TAC is what 1911 accuracy is all about. No wonder RF qualified for his RI concealed carry permit with this pistol.
Wilson Combat makes some of the world’s finest weapons. Their guns have a well-earned, well-deserved reputation for working all the time, every time. After field stripping the X-TAC a dozen times, I can attest to the excellence of the pistol’s parts and assembly. A properly maintained X-TAC will become a cherished family heirloom, protecting generations to come.
In the field, where it counts, I never experienced a single FTF (Failure to Feed) or FTE (Failure to Eject) with any type of ammunition. More importantly for a single-stack 1911, I never had a single FTL (Failure to Load).
For 1911’s, this can be a difficult task. The “controlled feed” method of cartridge delivery is extremely effective with ball-ammo. But JHP rounds can give these Browning-designed firearms trouble. The open and sometimes very angular nature of JHP bullets can jam into the feed-ramp, essentially locking up the firearm.
This can be especially troubling if the extractor doesn’t gain enough speed to snap onto the rim of the cartridge. The standard tap-rack-bang approach to clearing a jam won’t work. You have to rack the slide, tip the pistol to the side (to clear the mis-loaded cartridge) and release the slide – if you’re lucky. Often, the hollow-point jams into the feed point so much that you’ll need to lock the slide back, eject the magazine, use your finger to remove the offending cartridge and proceed to reload the pistol.
I mention all this because Wilson pistols’ tight-fitting clearances worry some people. While I certainly agree that too-tight clearances can lead to problems in extremely dusty environments, the X-TAC’s supposed delicacy is a complete non-issue. Most of the people purchasing an X-TAC will carry this pistol right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. No 15-story dust storms with sub-micron silica particles will challenge your Wilson’s reliability.
Carry On My Wayward Wilson
Thanks to their narrow grips, 1911′s make for excellent concealed carry weapons. The XTAC is no exception. In fact, it’s exceptional. The X-TAC’s sleek, single-stack frame hardly ever prints, even with a tucked-in shirt. Although the X-TAC’s not a “lightweight” pistol in any sense of the word, you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Nestled into a CrossBreed SuperTuck holster, the 46 oz. fully-loaded Wilson just seemed to disappear.
The X-TAC’s Battlesight certainly helps make it easy to carry. Unlike some square-bladed sights, Wilson’s rear sight’s distinctive shape doesn’t dig into you when carrying, nor does it catch clothing upon holstering or drawing. Wilson also de-horns the gun, just for fun.
Although the grip panels are a bit brash for my tastes, the Wilson Combat X-TAC is a deeply sexy 1911. I’m not a big fan of Wilson’s new Battlesights; but that’s a personal opinion that could change over time. Buyers at this level can afford to give them a go, and then swap them out if they experience similar results. This is highly recommended if you plan on switching between carry guns with more traditional sights.
If you get the feeling that I’m making excuses for the X-TAC’s shortcomings, you’re right. The X-TAC’s X-factor makes caviling seem churlish. In other words, the X-TAC has that special something you get from a beautifully made high end gun. A feeling of solidity and strength that gives owners confidence in their ability to hit what they’re aiming at when it counts. The WIlson Combat X-TAC is a work of art that works.
Caliber: .45 ACP
Magazine Capacity: 8 Round
Barrel Length: 5″
Overall Length: 8.7″
Sight Radius: 6.6″
Weight Empty: 38.1 oz.
Weight Loaded: 46.2 oz.
Accuracy Guarantee: 1″ At 25 yds.
Base Model: Starting at $2,395.00
RATINGS (Out of Five):
Style * * * *
Very “Special Ops” and modern looking for a gun almost 100 years old. Starburst panels don’t do it for me, but they might for you.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * *
Lighter than a stainless steel version, but still no lightweight. No sharp edges and a nicely sized and shaped safety.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
Extremely crisp trigger. Rated at 3-1/2#s but more like 2-1/2#. Recoil is similar to other 1911 pistols of the same size and weight.
Reliability * * * * *
This is where Wilson Combat shines. No failures noted.
Overall Rating * * * * *
Functional luxury at its finest.