Running The Wolverine 5K: Pistol Selection

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For my introduction post on the TTAG Wolverine 5K series, click here. This will give you some backstory on what this event is about.

To sum up quickly, the W5K is one of the hardest single-day adventure races out there. Since my first post on it, I’ve been made aware of some super long trek races and such, but I think that, while very tough, the W5K is still within reason for people to participate given that it’s not a weeklong commitment and still falls in the category of a ‘fun event’, unlike some that I’ve been pointed to.

In this article we are going to be talking pistol selection, what I learned from last year and how that will change the choices I make for this year’s competition.

The main shooting portion of the event is a mix of precariousness and sweat with some shooting mixed in, but it is much more of an athletic competition than anything else. You will be tired, hot, and sometimes shaking with lactic acid buildup, and those are things to take into account when picking a pistol.

Flip the tire, fire a shot, reload, repeat.

Last year I carried a modified SIG Emperor Scorpion 1911 in .45 ACP. I believe I was probably the only competitor who had a 1911 and the only one shooting .45 ACP. I did pretty well and I wasn’t slacking at all with the Scorpion as my pistol.

The vast majority of people at the event carried 9mm pistols and of those, I saw mostly GLOCK brand GLOCKs or custom guns based on the GLOCK platform. I recollect at least one STI 2011 and a couple SIG P320 variants, but it was hard to throw a stone out there without hitting someone with one of Gaston’s guns.

My observations of the event and stages showed me that most people had a technical understanding of shooting, but not so much a dynamic one. Stages that required weak hand shots were difficult for everyone, even the most practiced and dedicated. Everything is harder when you’re hot, tired, and dirty.

Overall I would say that the marksmanship I saw with pistols divided unto practical style, like I shoot. and technical style where the sights are lined up every shot. I shoot my pistols in these stages only using the sights a little bit. Instead, I rely on the high round count experience and practice in point shooting.

It looks easy until you try it.

I think there was a definite, clear divide between many shooters on a raw skill level with handguns and, while I didn’t see any jams or malfs out there, I saw a fair number of the competitors show rudimentary skill in how they drew and shot. I also saw others with almost too much drilled-in repetition that had a hard time adapting to the demands of the course.

I think my pistol shooting at the 2020 W5K was probably my best performance and I cleaned up very nicely with my 1911, often to the surprise of the range officers who I impressed. My performance with a carbine and precision rifle was mediocre to dismal and that comes from a complete lack of practice in those areas. I’ll get to that when those articles come up.

Most competitors carried midsize nines.

This year I picked out several guns to try for the event. These are all semi-custom and I think I have learned enough from last time to make an educated choice this year. Because of how little I struggled with pistol last year, I decided to keep it simple and pick from one of three designs.

Choice #1: A 1911

I have two guns here that I’m thinking of using. One is my SIG 1911 from last year, but this time with an RMR slide. This slide is available only though Brownells and it does a fantastic job of accommodating an optic on the 1911. I really like this pistol and I put a lot of ammo through it annually. It’s probably the pistol I shoot best.

The other 1911 I shoot is a Colt M45A1. This pistol has been featured here in my high-round-count review. It’s an accurate pistol and I like plain irons for point shooting, though the RMR on my other gun doesn’t really complicate that.

A downside to the Colt is that it lacks checkering and texture and I’m not a shooter who wears gloves. I find that I fumble too much and my gloves just get sweaty and uncomfortable. While I love this pistol, it is is a second choice for a 1911 on the grounds of texture alone.

Choice #2: GLOCK 19 Gen 5

This GLOCK is one of my general use guns and is a reliable performer. It’s easy to shoot in my in point style. I ended up adding a Parker Mountain Machine brake and a Silencerco threaded barrel to it to maximize its performance in this role. The sights are from XS and are large and easy to pick up in any light.

This choice comes with a weight penalty. I’m not carrying this gun concealed, and it is very light. I don’t really like shooting light handguns all that much in competition as I find that I don’t really have a relationship with them on a muscle-memory basis like I do with something heavier like the 1911.

This isn’t a deal breaker, but I didn’t need the full capacity of a G19 mag in any of the stages last year. Most stages had a limited round count and I never really was slowed down by eight in the mag for the 1911.

Parker Mountain Machine Glock brake. It really works and keeps the gun flat shooting. Modified pistols are legal for the event.

Choice #3: SIG M17

This is another pistol I have put a tremendous number of rounds though. I modified this one with the heavy tungsten grip module and it now weighs more than a 1911. I like that it has excellent reliability and superb accuracy. It is very easy to bring up and shoot in this configuration and is quite easy and natural to point with.

The grip module is well textured and I think it’s a substantial upgrade compared to the stock M17 grip. The ergonomics here are awesome and because the W5K is fast and rough shooting, the instant hand placement is very desirable. You don’t have to climb up this grip at all.

WHY a Light?

I keep lights on my pistols for balance and added forward mass. All three of these pistols are light-bearing and I have holsters for each. This is intentional as I think it really helps my shooting by allowing my support hand to index low where I like it and to keep the muzzle down in rapid shooting.

This may seem like a dumb thing, but this isn’t warfare and I’m not trying to conceal these guns. I’m not looking for practicality for real-life, I’m trying to maximize a known edge I have in terms of handling and I’ve been successful with it in the past.


Let me know which pistol you think would be the best choice for the W5K. I’m open to hearing what your reasoning and will take it into consideration. My next post on the topic will be talking about carbines and just how badly I did with them last time, a topic I’m sure many of you will enjoy.

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  1. The 1911. You seem to have done well last year, why change it up? Focus more on the weaknesses that you have. Just my opinion.

  2. My choice would be the 1911, something about that platform that just comes together for me, yes its heavy. low round count, antiquated, but it’s a classic. Kinda like when a Ford outruns a Bugatti and you cant beat that.

  3. In re the Sig 1911:

    “It’s probably the pistol I shoot best.”

    “I never really was slowed down by eight in the mag for the 1911.”

    The RMR will only speed your target acquisition.

    It appears to me that you have already made your choice…just haven’t realized it yet.

    .45 ACP for the win!

    As Cruzo1981 said…work on your weaknesses. ie. the carbine and precision rifles.

  4. Would be interesting to see how many berettas were out there. Yes it’s a love hate but still a cult following and people can practice with it and shoot it well in these types of conditions so why not.

    So see any berettas? And what was the most obscure gun you saw running the comp? Anything crazy?

  5. For IDPA I shoot a Glock 19 in SSP. Perfect balance all around for competition and work gun. However out of the guns you laid out, I’d choose the 1911. Only because it’s the only gun with a RMR. Nothing is faster than a red dot for the pistol. Why my Glock 26 I EDC carries one.

  6. I don’t have the knowledge, experience, or skill set to offer a cogent opinion on your gun or gear selection. I do want to thank you for these articles. I have never been able to participate in competitive shooting sports due primarily to schedule and never in endurance sports due to schedule and being fat and asthmatic all of my life. Running and I were never a thing, which is a big part of what spurred my interest in weapons, starting with melee and martial arts weapons in my youth and then graduating to guns in my teens. Never the less I always wanted to and really enjoy reading about others participation in both competitive and endurance events. Do they allow go pros? I enjoy watching videos on competitive shooting and I think video of this would be awesome.

    • Yes, some video footage could be cool. Running ‘n me were never a thing, either… I’ve thought about trying shooting sports, but living in the middle of nowhere, the travel time & expense are prohibitive. It’s always interesting to see what people do with competitions like this.

  7. Josh wrote, “Choice #1: …SIG 1911 from last year, but this time with an RMR slide. I really like this pistol and I put a lot of ammo through it annually. It’s probably the pistol I shoot best.”

    You fumble the uncheckered Colt. The Glock is too light and you haven’t got muscle memory with it. You don’t have any negatives to say about the M17 but listing it last suggests subtle reluctance.

    Go with last year’s 1911. It seems you’re already leaning in that direction and are for some reason asking for somebody to say “No.” It won’t be me!

    Best of luck to you!

  8. I’m an “old” rifle shooter old writ large, National Match Course Competition. First with the Garand, later on with bolt action rifles, which shooting left handed used to garner some odd looks. My favorite was caliber 30-06, especially when it came to 1000 yards. 1000 yards with the .308 was akin to throwing rocks, at least for me.

    Eventually, got into IPSC competition, using the 1911 pistol in 45 ACP. Did reasonably well with that. Eventually took up the 9mm cartridge. First was a Browning High Power, a nice piece which eventually broke, likely a result of using hot Canadian Military Surplus Ammunition, that was just to much for the Browning’s slide. Eventually went to a CZ 75B, a very nice piece. In retrospect, I believe my favorite was the Star Model 30M, an all steel piece that outweighed the 1911 pistol. The Spaniards did make some good pistols.

    I’ve heard a number of people complain about the recoil of the 1911 pistol. Ditto for the Garand, which weighed 10#. Never did understand where al this recoil came from, and back then I weighed about 150#. Just one f those things I suppose, though some people might be overly sensitive to recoil, or stories thereabout.

    Were I to go back to IPSC competition, I would not feel particularly handicapped shooting the 1911 pistol, though courses of fire being what they are these days, at least according to what I’ve heard, the extra magazine capacity of 9MM pistols is handy. To old for all that running about though.


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