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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Magazine Capacity: 8 rounds
Barrel Length: 5″ Match Grade
Overall Length: 8.7″
Sight Radius: 6.6″
Weight Empty: 36.6 oz.
Weight Loaded: 45 oz.
Grips: G10 Black starburst
Sights: Battlesight with tritium front
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.