Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol
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By Ang Li:

I remember as a high school kid standing in front of the magazine stand and seeing a couple of firearm magazines on the shelf. Back then I had no interest in guns, so I didn’t flip through them. I didn’t know what a 1911 was and have never heard of the name GLOCK.

One particular magazine had a pistol on it, and I thought its grips with the starburst pattern was really unique looking, the only other thing I remember from that magazine cover were the words “Wilson Combat.” It wasn’t for another decade until I wanted to get into firearms, and I started off with the new age polymer wonder guns in 9mm just like pretty much everybody else.

When a buddy suggested I should get a 1911, my exact words were, “Nobody in their right mind would spend over a thousand dollars on a pistol.” Boy, how things has changed.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

The Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade in .45 ACP is the second Wilson I own, which retails for $5,045. People who aren’t short on money or patience can still pay even more and wait for months to get one exactly the way they want it. This model is available in .45 ACP, 9mm, .40S&W, 10mm, and .38 Super.

The standard offering has many practical features along with bulletproof parts throughout, which are machined from bar stock instead of casted metal. Some of the features include a flush-cut and reverse-crowned match grade barrel, 30 LPI top serrations, 30 LPI front strap checking, 40 LPI checking on the rear of the slide, tritium front sight with U-notch Battle sight on the rear, and 3.5lb to 4.5lb trigger pull from the factory.

The beavertail grip safety, ambi thumb safety, the one-piece mag well/mainspring housing, and mag release are all bulletproof parts. The gun comes with six 8-round magazines, 19 lb recoil spring installed, and a spare 12 lb recoil spring.

The Tactical Supergrade I’m reviewing is a base model with the only exception being it doesn’t have front cocking serrations. Instead, mine has carry cuts without the ball end mill cut, which is my favorite look on a 1911.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

In addition, this is not a T&E gun that I only got to put a couple hundred rounds through. It’s not a safe queen. It’s not part of a rotation that I take to the range from time to time, and it’s not my carry gun. This is a single-purpose gun that I use to compete in USPSA Single Stack, that I have put over 10,000 rounds through.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

By the look of the mag well, you can see that I have practiced with it once or twice. At the time of this writing, I have trained with this gun every day for the past 245 days; live fire, dry fire, and some days both.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

With it being a competition gun, I swapped out the night sight with a fiber optic front with 0.04″ rod, and also running a 15lb recoil spring with 18lb hammer spring, which lowered the smoothed out trigger pull weight down to around 2.75lb.

Speaking of which, everyone who has ever tried the trigger is amazed at how good a 1911 trigger can be, and raised their expectation of what a 1911 trigger should be. There is a “proper” amount of pre travel, then it’s stopped at a very noticeable wall. It breaks crisp and clean once you apply about 60% of the pressure you assumed it would take for the hammer to fall. Wide eyes and wider smile usually follows for anyone who pulled the trigger for the first time.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

The fit and craftsmanship is also equally impressive. The slide to frame fit is not loose, as nothing rattles if you shake the gun. It’s also not overly tight where you’d need considerable strength to rack the slide. The only way I can describe the slide to frame fit would be “precise,” where the rails are mated perfectly and glides back and forth on a complete straight path.

Running a finger on the back of the slide, you can see where the slide and frame meets, you just can’t feel it. It’s so perfectly blended to the point where two separate pieces of metal feels like one. The back of the extractor is blended the same way with the back of the slide, and so is the mag well with the frame of the gun. You can see the seam, but can’t feel the gap.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

When the grip safety is engaged, the part that meets the web of the hand is completely flush with the frame, it’s smooth with no gaps and no edges. The ambi safety clicks on and off with just the right amount of pressure, and it’s extremely positive with no play at all. The left one also has a notch on the inside by the frame, which makes taking the gun apart quicker.

Since most matches are outdoors, I do detailed cleaning every time it gets rained on. Ambi safeties tend to work themselves loose over time, and this one is no exception. But given how much I have trained with this gun, it was definitely expected. After drawing from a Kydex holster thousands of times, the Armor Tuff finish is wearing off on the contact points as well. But I wouldn’t have competed with this gun had I worried about damaging the finish.

The barrel lock up is rock-solid. There is absolutely zero movement when pushing down on the barrel. The barrel and bushing fit is done to the same level of precision as the slide and frame, not overly tight, but exactly how it should be.

Gun Review: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade .45 ACP Pistol

Therefore it’s no surprise how accurate this gun is, as demonstrated by the test target. I usually start my range session by putting up five half to 3/4″ diameter target pasters at 5 to 7 yards, and it’s a great feeling to see the pasters fly off with my first five shots.

In the sport of USPSA where you are wasting time with anything more than “acceptable” sight picture, the gun has proven to be very accurate. I’m still trying to get better at calling my shots, and whether it’s a hit or miss, the bullet always ends up exactly where the front sight was on the target right before lift off from the recoil. When I’m at a match, I always joke that I’m doing the best I can to not make the gun look bad.

Wilson Combat test fires their 1911s with various types of ammo before it leaves the shop. But even though the test target was shot with 200 grain lead semi wadcutters at 1.250″ overall length, I had trouble getting that to run reliably in this gun. For every eight-round mag, one or two rounds would fail to chamber.

I had tried loading it to 1.20″, 1.250″, and everything in between with no luck. Not all 200 grain LSWCs have the exact same shape, and I have yet to find the right length for it to feed reliably. The gun had zero issues with round nose bullets and hollow points.

My competition load is 230 grain coated round nose bullet going about 740 FPS, and it runs without any issue. Even though the SWCs make a more clean cut on paper targets, I still prefer the recoil of a heavier, slower bullet rather than the snappier feel of a lighter bullet at a higher speed.

While many guns at half this price are adequate for competition from the accuracy, fit, and reliability standpoint, I have just never seen anyone ask to handle someone’s Springfield. Thinking back to all those years ago when I knew nothing about guns, to now owning not one, but two Wilson Combat 1911s, my perspective has certainly changed. I have come to appreciate the people who don’t just assemble parts at a factory, but actually take the time and go the extra mile to build the best guns they can build.

I highly doubt that anyone would go out and buy a Supergrade after reading this review, and if people were to only put up a target and shoot for groups, un-timed at five yards, then of course any other gun is just as good. Someone once said 1911s are always a crapshoot, but if you hit the jackpot, the payout is priceless.

I have spent hours researching and reading the forums on whether the Supergrade really is better than Wilson’s standard models, and whether or not it’s worth the extra money. After handling both extensively, I can honestly say the Supergarde makes the standard model look like it’s nothing special. There’s no comparison. And as far as if it’s worth the extra money, when I first picked up this gun, I racked the slide once, and never looked back.

Specifications: Wilson Combat Tactical Supergrade

Caliber: .45acp
Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
Barrel Length: 5″ Match Grade
Overall Length: 8.7″
Sight Radius: 6.6″
Height: 5.6″
Width: 1.3″
Weight Empty: 36.6 oz.
Weight Loaded: 45 oz.
Grips: G10 Black starburst
Sights: Battlesight with tritium front
MSRP: $5,045

Ratings (out of five stars):

Appearance and Style * * * *
The standard offering is Armor Tuff black slide with gray frame, but other colors and finishes are also available, stainless, blued, and color case hardened.

Reliability * * * *
Runs great with just about everything except certain profile of SWCs.

Accuracy * * * * *
The test target shows a 5/8″ group at 15 yards. It’s one of the most accurate 1911s I own.

Overall * * * * *
A superbly fitted pistol where you can see and feel the quality and expertise of the gunsmiths who built it. There are not a lot of 1911s left that are worth getting once you own a Wilson Combat Supergrade.



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  1. lol. you should have bought a $1000 1911 and spent the rest on training. but you guys love to brag so whatever.

  2. you spend 5000 dollars on a 1911 pistol

    is it 5 times better than a $1000 1911

    prolly not

    its a pistol

    5000 for a rifle that shoots sub moa to 1000 yards…maybe…

    but not a pistol

    • Its more personal preference, will the crappy middle of the mall watch tell time just fine? Probably but I prefer the nicer watch that cost 5x-10x more. Same concept here, fit, finish, craftsmanship.

      • Thank,you…. personal preference… that’s it. If you want a$1000 1911 then you should have that if you want the Wilson Combat, then you should have that. One thing I’ve learned from the shooting/gun activity is PERSONAL PREFERENCES. It’s important.
        So, be happy not opinionated. I think the Wilsons, all of them, are beautiful firearms. Someday I will have one.

    • It’s not 5X better, it’s infinitely better.

      There is a solid cut-off for performance. You get to decide what that cut-off is. Below that cut-off, it’s worthless.

      If the $1,000 pistol won’t do what you need it to, no matter how much it costs, it is worthless to you. Want a gun that shoots less than 1″ groups at 25 yards? It doesn’t matter if it costs $250 and shoots 2″ groups. You need it to shoot 1″ groups. Need it to go 1,000 rounds without cleaning? Well that $1,000 pistol that will only go 800 rounds won’t do.

      Just the same, if it costs you $10,000 to get a pistol to do what you want it to do, and you’re willing to pay to get what you want, then that pistol is worth $10,000, and everything else is worth ZERO.

    • increased performance above the mean has ALWAYS come with cost increases on an exponential scale. amazes me how many folks dont realize that despite not being surprised a Ferrari costs 300K new, or a Rolex costs 5K. Does a Ferrari that costs 5 times a corvette go 5 times as fast? jesus people. The only reason I don’t have one of these is that I can’t justify the expense for me personally. Does not mean I would not buy one if I had the scratch….I love me some Rolex sea dweller watches. Does not tell time better than a 20 dollar mall stand digital, but it is something I would not be ashamed to hand down as a family heirloom. same thing here. At least buying this, in 30 yrs, you will have something that is not worth 100 dollars…unlike those 5 used 1911’s you seem to prefer.

  3. To the original author, Ang Li,

    My Wilson CQB in .45ACP has never had a problem with a 200gr SWC round, but my Colt Combat Elite has.

    The 200gr recipe that works well in both Government size guns, without stoppages under 500 rounds, is:
    Lyman cast bullet #452630
    1.235″ COAL
    Win LP Primer
    7gr Unique powder

    • Thank you for the recipe Jon, I only tried one type of SWCs so far and it was clearly the wrong type for this gun. What kind of velocity are you getting with that load?

        • Oh wow that’s actually perfect for meeting major power factor in USPSA, I’ll definitely have to try it out and see how it runs.

        • NP, hope it works out for you.

          If you can find the Lyman #2 alloy, that’s the ticket, unless you’re good with endless scrubbing of your barrel.

  4. Ok, I think we can all agree that $5,000 is a lot of money to spend on a pistol.

    Is it too much? For me, yes. Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough. I can buy five weapons that are Good Enough for the price of one of these Not Quite Perfect Pistols. Moreover, most of those less expensive alternative purchases will not be picky about ammo.

    Is it too much for everybody? No, if that’s how folks want to spend their money, and there’s still enough cash left over to buy shoes for the kids.

  5. I don’t understand the rating. You have 4 stars for appearance and style and for reliability yet a 5 star overall. Shouldn’t it be 5 stars all around?

    • Black over gray in Armor Tuff is cool but it’s no polished blue. Went 4 stars for reliability because it doesn’t feed well of a type of ammo I don’t shoot. But as a single purpose gun, it’s as good as it gets for my intended use.

      • Thanks. I just thought a 5 star rated pistol should have a few more 5 stars before giving it that high of a rating. I’m not a 1911 guy but that sure is a good looking pistol and if it does what you want it to do when you want to do it then more power to you.

        • TTAG used to have a standard note with reviews that said the overall rating isn’t an average of the other ratings. Makes sense, since the gun could be evaluated on any number of additional factors that aren’t given a star rating.

  6. Man. Someday I hope I can splurge on one of these. And use it. They seem worth it to me. It’s a tool made by a company that stands beside the tool, not matter what. Forever. That’s worth a lot in my book.

    For now I’m stuck barely scraping together the cash to gather the bits and bobs to build a rifle. Not that it isn’t a fun process.

  7. I’m surprised at the harsh comments.
    We should appreciate the fact a gun is made this well and exacting. It represents a lost art form and a pinnacle of the art.
    Without the best examples you’re left with mediocrity.

    • I agree…but the art form is certainly not lost. It’s alive and well at Wilson Combat, Ang indicates, and I understand other great custom shops are keeping and improving the art as well. Too rich for my blood with kiddos…but definitely beautiful. And not insane, people blow more getting a nicer model of the same care all the time. And this gets tons of use.

  8. Interesting write up….I like that even though it comes with “all the bells and whistles” the owner still ended up modifying it to suit their purposes.

  9. Good stuff Ang.
    And you’re right, a pistol that accurate and that reliable, is worth every penny.

  10. I’d argue that it’s safe to say that if you enjoy competition shooting, there’s a good chance you’re going through 5,000 rounds of ammunition per year in your primary competition pistol.
    Assuming a quality jacketed bullet (plated/cast lead can be cheaper) you’re looking at roughly $.20/round for 200gr JFP 45ACP ammo, not including brass costs, which assumes you pick up and reuse more brass than you lose, perhaps with friends/family donating brass to you.
    So that’s $1,000/year in ammo costs alone for an interested but not regional best shooter.

    So over 10 years, you’re looking at $10,000 in ammo, plus your pistol. Obviously if you’re buying commercial ammo, the justification for a premium pistol only becomes easier…

    The question becomes whether or not you’re willing to spend $1,100 annually over 10 years for your hobby to shoot a competent $1,000 mass-produced pistol, or $1,500 to shoot a hand fitted, reliable, accurized pistol with likely somewhat stronger parts that is more or less exactly what you want. And at $5,000 there are a number of routes you can go that will get you exactly what you want with the same level of build quality, but Wilson’s name is worth something to some people, so there’s that…

    Honestly, I’d say you’re foolish if you’re putting in that much time and effort into competing and don’t see the point in buying the best you can afford. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compete if you can’t afford any better than a $1,000 pistol, but calling it a waste of money seems short-sighted. I’d rather have 1 accurized reliable pistol that I can take pride in and put 5,000 rounds a year through without issue, than 5 pistols that I put 1,000 rounds through a year through and don’t develop the same level of muscle memory and familiarity.

    • My guess is you’ve had <$500 guns that did everything YOU needed them to do… as have we all.
      Ang's needs are slightly different: he is competing against other serious shooters for a prize.
      Consider this: a competitive shooter practices daily, dry and live fire. He carefully hand loads each round. He keeps his speed holster immaculate. He spends thousands of dollars on his gear – tens of thousands if we include all the accessories and ammunition. He spends hundreds or even thousands more to fly to the other side of the country to go toe-to-toe with the best shots around and upon arrival the airline tells him they misplaced his luggage.
      Do you really expect him to walk up to the firing line with a Smith&Wesson SD9ve and a couple of boxes of Winchester White Box and have a prayer of competing? Please…
      That gun up there isn't some barbecue gun for him to brag about to his pals, nor is it meant to bet his life on – it's meant to bet MONEY on.
      THAT is why it is worth thousands of dollars. Those of us who are not competitors naturally have a hard time understanding that.

      • A 5k gun rated 4 in reliability by the reviewer. I don’t need any specific examples, any service grade pistol will be more reliable and just as accurate.

        Certainly it’s my opinion, but for 99% of shooters “match” grade is pointless. A good shooter with a high point can outshoot a mediocre shooter armed with a 5k pistol.

        And to throw more fuel on the fire… 1911s are outdated and overrated. Flame suit on!

        • He’s not mediocre. He’s that 1% for whom this gun is not simply a nice safe queen, but a necessity to compete and (here’s hoping) win. And the 1911 is outdated…for some uses. The military switched for a reason, even if it was simply cost and cross compatibility, so sure. But it’s not for others, and it is still heavily used in competition, and the people using it know what they need. They’d switch if they saw an advantage, and then people would switch to the better platform. In lieu of that…leave the man alone. He shoots better than most of us can dream, and my wife would likely flay me alive if I spent that much on a gun. I simply appreciate hearing the thoughts from someone who needs the equipment and likes using it.

        • @Ingenero
          yep at this point in time my partner would as well. if i got higher up in the competition levels she would encourage me to though. ATM i am looking at a second hand one cos cant afford much else but i do want a 1911 for the type of shooting i do plus i have shot a few plastic fantastics and just not a fan. i like the feel of real steel in my hand be is pistol or revolver. have been mulling over the idea of getting a Coonan if i can find one second hand.

        • And to think I actually expected an intelligent response from David.. I should have known better, you let me down Dave… you let me down….

  11. I don’t understand the hate. Is a $5000 pistol really two and a half times as good as a $2000 pistol? Probably not, but it is better, and it may be worth it to you, while not being worth it to someone else. Everyone has different priorities and a different budget. For one person, even a Glock might be overpriced, and for another, this fancy 1911 might be worth every penny. I do think such a pistol deserves to be used, but OP seems to do that, so I see nothing objectionable. I’m happy for you.

      • You’d have 50, all ugly as sin and heavy as all get out, but I understand they work and last. YMMV. They are proud to arm blue collar types who can’t afford more, so more power to them. But why you’d get 50 of something whose main virtue is cheap is beyond me…unless you want to start a low end gun store.

  12. I never thought the price of a Wilson Combat 1911would be worth the price you had to pay to get one…..Until I shot one….Until I shot , practiced and competed with one…firing countless thousands of rounds down range of 200g 45acp hand loads….Did I have to save money , work harder at the shooting craft to justify(in my mind) to spend that kind of money on a dad gum 1911 45 acp out of the box boat anchor, that had help win TWO world wars….Sure I did…..And when I got one built to my specs….I soon realized , I didn’t just have a pistol/gun to shoot at the range….I had a super charged , fine tuned , hand crafted , work of art , that I as a human Being never had the physical skills or couldn’t personally improve myself enough , to ever shoot as good as this finely tuned weapon could perform. And so be it….Now at age 65 , the eyes ain’t what they used to be , the legs/arms, mental reactions are not as quick and crisp as they used to be either….But One thing is for sure , my old Colt 1911 boat anchor(as my friends used to say) that was transformed by Bill Wilson in the 1980’s to a accurate IPSC fire breathing Monster, can still shoot 1/2″ groups @10yds all day long….I say all that to say this…..Quality or , Better yet…The value of ANY Item is in the eyes of the beholder….Just like a Fine watch or High powered race care….
    It Depends on the person behind the eyes that are looking at something that can really appreciate an Exceptional Finished product of any type of item and has been fortunate enough to physically experience the potential performance results of the item in question or they can just scoff at the price tag , never actually realizing the experience/thrill of How Well this type of tool can perform!?….No Regrets

    • Very well said Sam. When you have one built exactly the way you want it, nothing else will ever be as good.

      • That’s exactly what everyone should take away from this! I got the point loud and clear, thanks for an excellent write up!

  13. Nice write up. This gun sounds perfect for you. Typically one gets what one pays for.

  14. Speaking from personal BE shooting experience:

    Built an ST Trojan 1911 9mm with some Dawson parts and KC Crawford Roll Trigger. It held 1.25″ at 25 yds with good ammo. Total coat: $1700

    Sold it and 3 G19s for a custom Accuracy X 45 ACP last year. Six months later, it arrived and holds 1.75″ at 50 yds with match ammo. Total cost: $3200

    US Army AMU can build a SA XD (M) 5.25 9mm to hold sub 2″ at 50 yds. Total cost: $900-1k

    Point is there’s no point, I’m working on sight alignment and trigger control because any of those builds will hold tighter than I currently can. Enjoy your time, the challenge keeps me investing in the game!!

  15. I think $2,000 custom from will more than match this $5,000 Wilson Combat.
    And yes, it will be match grade and custom fit. For $3,000 you can get it in 6″ or 7″ slide.

    All from bar steel as well, with premium hand select Cocobolo wood, SS slide and barrel. And quicker turn around time.

    All 1911 are picky with hollow points and so on. Has to do with various round lengths, mag feeders, feed lips, barrels, etc. It will always be a trial and error.

  16. I own 2 a CQB and a Protector. Bought them used and I run the shit out of them. They have never failed me and are worth every penny.
    They finance FYI.

  17. I can afford one, just like I can afford a new 911 or far more house than I have.

    But just like I can’t bring myself to buy a new 911 or an opulent house, I can’t bring myself to buy one of these.

  18. To Ang or any other Wilson Combat owners –

    I’ve read anecdotes elsewhere about Wilson’s finishes wearing off more easily than expected. The article mentions a lot of hard holster use so maybe this is inescapable, but I think a lot of people would rankle at the paint wearing off such an expensive toy.

    Given all that, were you satisfied with the finish durability?

  19. I started out shooting Bullseye competitions many years ago. I can appreciate the sweetness of holding and shooting a super grade handgun with exquisite accuracy. A gun that makes your smile from the first shot grow when you see the 10th shot finish a quarter sized group. Back when I was shooting a lot, Bullseye was the dominate game, the combat shooting games were just coming on at the time. My personal opinion of the combat shooting games is the pie plate sized “X” zones shot at on targets takes away from the accuracy possible with good handguns. Now I’m NOT saying one is better than another, because I have enjoyed shooting both, but many shooters today have never shot Bullseye to see what is required to be competitive in that discipline. I can’t justify the cost of a gun like this Wilson, but I wish I could. I could go on and on about comparing a Timex to a Rolex or a Ferrari to a Dodge, but there is a top and a bottom level to almost anything made in the world. And many of us are happy with ordinary everyday middle of the road stuff that does what we want it to do, but it is nice to have at least one thing in your life that is exceptional, something special, a thing that is a reward for the effort a person puts into living.

  20. A well made pistol costs money. I remember buying a Clark 45 ACP for bullseye competition in 1963 for $250.00 and felt I was spending a fortune. I’ve shot lots of competition over the years, both rifle and pistol with a fair amount of success and competed in pistol until I was in my mid 60’s. Generally, if you want to compete you need to buy the best you can afford. You will never be sorry.

    I’ve never understood people who rant against high dollar competition pistols when they have never shot one and don’t know how to shoot one well.

    I’m selling my collection of guns now and my wife is using the money to fix up the house. I wish you all well.

  21. In the world of music competition, top talent often is backed by foundations that lend them priceless Stradivari or Guarnieri violins with valuation in the millions of dollars and violin bows that are equally priceless in order to give the competitor every possible advantage in the brutal world of international competition. Even in auditions for top symphony orchestras, competitors will often borrow valuable instruments they themselves could never afford in order to project the best possible sound. I’ve been through both wringers and can assure you that there’s a world of difference between even very fine instruments and the work of the masters, a virtually unbridgeable gulf.
    I’m very happy (and LE-qualification accurate) with my sub-$1000 handguns (think TP9SF Elite, Sig 1911), but were the funds available, I’d spring for a Wilson Supergrade in a heartbeat!

  22. Its nice to see somebody buy a hella expensive gun and still get their money’s worth out of it

    Sweet shooter

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