[ED: In response to reader requests, this if the first in a series of posts by TTAG writers revealing their choice of carry guns.]
I used to be anti-1911. It had nothing to do with the gun’s tainted reliability rep or its limited capacity. I was wary of the 1911’s single action trigger and the gun’s external safety. The first demands the highest level of trigger discipline; otherwise you run the very real risk of shooting someone when you don’t mean to. The latter requires a lot of training; otherwise you run the risk of failing to disengage the safety when you really need to. I would never have made the move from a polymer striker-fired carry gun to a Wilson Combat X-TAC if . . .
I hadn’t moved to Texas. Up in Rhode Island, I could carry my beloved Massachusetts-legal .45 caliber GLOCK 30SF in an outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster covered by a sweater or jacket – for most of the year. In hot weather I’d either open carry (yes, in RI) or switch to a pocketed Smith & Wesson 642 Airweight snubby.
In case you don’t know, Texas varies from hotter than hell to wonderfully warm to I-can’t-believe-I’m-saying-I’m-cold-when-it’s-50-degrees-outside. My standard dress: jeans/Phantom Ops Vertex pants/shorts and a polo shirt. Carrying a compact or full-sized striker-fired polymer pistol – even in a custom-made, body-hugging, slim-line K-Rounds Kydex holster – prints like Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg. Ensconced in an OWB holster, all of my polymer pistols could win a wet T -shirt gun contest – without the water.
The Wilson Combat X-TAC Compact is slim (1.3″). Equally critical for OWB concealed carry, the pistol’s handle is small (3″ long measured from the trigger guard). Wearing my standard outfit, the handgun is damn near invisible. Done. Other than the Smith for when I’m suited and booted and mortgaging my house to pay for the Wilson. Yes, there is that. The X-TAC Compact retails for an eye-watering $2,785. Which buys “extra” reliability and astounding customer service, FWIW.
A 1911 is cool, a firearm from the world’s greatest gun designer. It’s sexy. A Wilson Combat 1911 is a status piece. But that’s not the reason I carry it. The X-TAC also offers me something I value above all in a carry gun: precision.
Using the X-TAC’s combat sights (re-zeroed to seven yards for Big Dot-like front sight placement) I can hit exactly what I’m aiming at, within centimeters, up to ten yards, what’s generally considered self-defence distance. I can hit center mass out to 25 yards. Mind you, that’s at the range. During an adrenal dump, in a defensive gun use, where bullets are flying and people are moving, shooting precision would degrade. Obviously. But it would degrade from nearasdammit perfect.
I reckon a carry gun should be as accurate as possible because I’m not a cop (much). I’m legally responsible for every bullet fired. While sending a hail of lead at a bad guy or guys is an excellent disincentive, suppressive fire isn’t a thing for us non-LEOs. I want to hit what I want to hit and nothing else. There are a lot of “nothing else’s” in a public environment. With the Wilson Combat X-TAC Compact, confidence is high.
As is my faith in the X-TAC Compact’s caliber.
At the risk of starting another round of caliber wars, decorated combat medic Jon Wayne Taylor reckons a .45 is better than 9mm for incapacitating people; that’s more than good enough for me. As for the 1911’s eight-round capacity…aimed fire. And I carry a spare mag, which I’ve trained myself to change under duress. Jon also corrected my grip, instructing me to put my strong hand’s thumb over the safety. It sounds silly, but that little change has made disengaging the external safety second nature.
When open carry comes to Texas, I’ll switch to carrying a SIG SAUER P229 Legion Series in a 5.11 Thumb Drive Retention Holster. It’s the only handgun I’ve ever shot as well as my Wilson. Advantage? Capacity. The P229 offers 16 rounds, plus another 15 in a spare mag. I’m willing to sacrifice the aforementioned .45-caliber round’s “stopping power” because bad guys sometimes travel in packs. I can double tap the tricked-out SIG quickerthanthis and get two rounds (or more) within an inch of each other (at ten yards).
I wouldn’t recommend any 1911 for anyone who’s not willing to train constantly in presentation, trigger discipline and marksmanship. And do some force-on-force training to check that trigger discipline. Simply put, a 1911 is not a beginner’s gun. I’m not a beginner. And the Wilson Combat X-TAC Compact is my carry gun. For now.