I knew something of locally manufactured custom 1911s. We had one or another “gun plumber” working on 1911 pistols all the time. A close personal friend owned a 1911 that he’d had customized by Bud Price of Western Gun Exchange in Miami, Oklahoma.
We shot around that area in the late 1970s. There was a fireball from Berryville, Arkansas, who came over to win our money every month at the gravel pit matches. A member of the Arkansas Combat Pistol League, his name was Bill Wilson.
He was fast and he shot okay. His guns always seemed to work, something of a rarity in those days. I knew of many 1911s and they always seemed to choke up during qualifications or at a match. I knew an officer who had to clear a stoppage during a shooting one night.
I later found out that Bill Wilson was customizing guns. I had no money for such things, and, I didn’t know how good Bill Wilson was. As years went on, I could read the stories of Bill Wilson’s guns. It seemed that he was winning matches and building guns that won matches. Eventually, the Wilson-Rogers magazines came out, known as the 47D.
They were good, much better than the gun show magazines I usually ended up with. Other parts including slide stops, barrels, bushings, thumb safeties and grip safeties came out wearing the Wilson mark. Pistolsmiths with big reputations advertised that they used Wilson parts in their guns. That spoke volumes. After I started writing, I was given the chance to write about a Wilson Combat pistol, the CQB (Close Quarters Battle). I jumped at it.
The CQB is a standard 1911 in many ways. It features the standard operating system: a standard barrel, barrel bushing, short recoil spring guide and recoil spring plug. The barrel in the CQB is a match barrel and it’s carefully fitted with the bushing, the slide and the frame. The sights are nominally fixed sights, the Combat Pyramid by Wilson Combat. There aren’t a lot of frills; no mud flaps, curb feelers or fuzzy dice.
There is checkering, needed to ensure a good grip even if your hands are wet. There are good sights, a good trigger and the pistol is reliable. You can upgrade your CQB with lots of extras. They aren’t needed, but since when does need have anything to do with it?
I’ve handled quite a few CQB pistols, including the Professional variant, and find them to be consistently high quality. I wish I had one of these when I was in uniform during those early years. What about an upscale CQB? While it seems to defeat the purpose for me, I’ve now handled three of these things. The upscale package is good, really good.
The standard CQB Elite has several interesting features. There are serrations on the top and rear of the slide, including the extractor. The rear sight has a U-notch aperture and backside serrations with subdued yellow tritium inserts. Honestly, I didn’t notice the U-notch on the first Elite I handled until I was doing photography. It’s hard to catch if you’re looking at the front sight.
The front sight has a bright green tritium insert, a good thing because the front sight is over the muzzle. The rear sight is the Tactical Combat Pyramid with a U-notch aperture. Why a U instead of a square-cut notch? Why not?
The mainspring housing and front strap are checkered and the standard G-10 grips have a tapered trough for easy access to the semi-extended magazine release button. The frame is an all-American steel forging that’s fully machined in Arkansas. A magazine chute is hand fitted. There’s a notch in the mainspring housing that leads to the hole in the rear of the magazine chute. It’s a good place to attach a lanyard.
You can get the CQB Elite in a variety of colors: green, black, tan, gray or stainless. My sample is black over gray, quite an interesting look. The trigger is black.
Being a full-size 1911, some data are standard. The barrel is 5 inches, and the magazine capacity is 8 rounds. The gun weighs in at 38.9 ounces empty. Loaded brings it up to a solid 47 ounces.
When Sales Manager John May said he was sending me a CQB Elite for testing, I told him I’d already done a couple of those. However, this one had a few slight differences. I was surprised. What else could they do? The gun is composed of machined parts all the way down to the grips, which are made of machined G10 material. G10 is a laminate and composite material made of a fiberglass-reinforced woven fabric, e.g., linen that’s impregnated with an epoxy resin binder.
The only parts on Wilson pistols that hadn’t been machined, grips excluded, were the grip safety, the thumb safety and the magazine release button. On this CQB Elite these are machined from bar stock. The slide stop, a part that has actually broken on some 1911 pistols (from other makers) that have seen lots of use, is and has been the bar stock “Bulletproof” slide stop by Wilson Combat. Is the grip safety likely to break? No, not really. Why go to the considerable expense?
“The question was, how do we do something better?” John asked. “We do it the right way, regardless. Quality is everything at Wilson Combat.”
With the CQB Elite, quality is the proper description. The CQB Elite is the “CQB PLUS.” The original was simply the 1911 you need with nothing you didn’t need. There was reliability, a great trigger, a safety you could reach, and sights that are quick and easy to see. Really, you don’t need anything else. The fact that the gun was marked “Wilson Combat” was a plus.
The Elite is all that and more. The rear of the slide, including the extractor, is serrated. A spare extractor, yes, they provide you with a spare, and it is also serrated. The top of the slide is serrated to break up glare.
Prospective attendees at FBI-sponsored law enforcement firearms instructor schools have to shoot a 90% score on the FBI “Bull’s-Eye” course. This conversion of the old bull’s-eye match is shot at 25 and 15 yards; the original was fired at 50 and 25 yards on different targets.
The FBI Bull’s-Eye target is different too. It’s called the FBI-IP 1. It features a generous bull’s-eye, the 10-ring measures 3.25 inches. Adding the “9” makes the total diameter of the black part of the target around 5.44 inches. The scoring area, which is the 7-ring and inside, is 11.13 inches. The entire target is a 15×15-inch square.
Thirty rounds were fired into this target. With the maximum scoring area being worth 10 points per shot, the maximum score is 300 points. Students must fire a minimum of 260 to get into the course and, once they arrive, have to fire a 270 or more to stay. With such a big target, you must wonder what the catch is. The catch is that they have to use their issued service pistol with service ammo.
With guns set up for bull’s-eye competition shooting light loads, the course is a walk in the park. With service pistols it’s tough. My usual score is in the 270s with any old holster gun out there. It was time for a walk in the park.
I fired the course: 10 rounds in 4 minutes (yeah, minutes) from 25 yards, 10 rounds in two 5-round, 15-second strings from 15 yards and a pair of five-shot 10-second strings from the same distance. You can start with gun in hand “aimed in” on the target, as I understand it.
It’s not a speed drill. It’s all about precision. With the Wilson Combat CQB Elite and Fiocchi 230-grain JHP ammo, I scored 289, or a 96%.
I felt good about that. I was on the timer, but I was interrupted midway through the course. There was a single bullet in the “8” ring. I had far too many nines, several along the bottom of the ring and across the top as well. I didn’t use the top third of the 10-ring; that was wasted space.
With conventional service pistols, I’ve not fired a 95% yet, though I keep working on it. With the CQB Elite, it wasn’t even a chore. I imagine a few more runs would get me into 98% territory in no time. That’s not the objective of the course or the gun. It’s being able to show up and do it without warm-up.
I tried three loads for accuracy. The Federal load and the CorBon are not front-runners for some 1911-style pistols in terms of feeding. The Wilson Combat CQB Elite had no trouble with either load.
The champ in fact was the CorBon 200-grain JHP +P load. Certainly a hot load, it was quite accurate as well. It was followed by the Federal 185-grain JHP standard pressure load. My group was just over an inch. Had it been a machine rest group, I imagine it would have beaten the accuracy guarantee.
Consistent accuracy is the hallmark of the Wilson Combat pistol. Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ standard velocity ball fired a 1.33-inch group.
An assortment of rounds followed in a few handling tests. When I pushed for speed, which isn’t my strong suit, there was nothing the pistol could do for me.
I used the Wilson Combat Practical holster as the range holster. It’s a vertical draw holster, comfortable to wear and to draw from, as it rides a little low. The low-cut front helps speed the drawing process and the front sight track prevents addition of leather “fuzz” to the front sight. Acceptable for casual concealment, the Practical is properly named.
Using the Wilson Combat Practical holster, I did some timed “draw to the first hit” exercises. I wish I could say my performance was up to the gun on this exercise. My best time out of seven trials was 1.08 seconds. The next best was 1.17 seconds, with the most dismal being 1.35 seconds. My average, 1.23 seconds, could have been measured by an hourglass.
It wasn’t the holster. It was me; I felt slow. The best time was reflexive since nothing mechanical was going on. The slowest, I could nearly count the serrations on the front sight. My handling tests should have racked up 100% scores. The skill simply faded after the bull’s-eye and accuracy tests.
I felt like I should be able to run the gun faster. I found that the CQB Elite felt good. The checkering on the metal and the aggressive lines cut in the G10 grips allowed a solid hold on the gun. It was the trigger control I was losing.
Before leaving the range, I placed a sticker on the target backer and fired two ten-round strings working strictly on my command of the trigger. It’s a short trigger pull, just under 4 pounds to trip the sear with a good reset. The first five bullets cut one hole. I had one flier 0.25 of an inch out of the second 5-shot string. I then worked on pairs in 1.5 seconds from 7 yards. Times of 1.55 seconds or so tantalized until I had a pair of trials at 1.46 seconds and 1.49 seconds. It seemed like a good time to quit.
I work with lots of different guns during the year. Many are service autos, compact hide-away autos and revolvers, combat shotguns and carbines. To go to a gem like the CQB Elite forces me to slow down and get into the gun more deeply.
At my skill level, spending a lot on a high-end gun with high-end ammo is probably not the best scheme. I need to spend five or six months and a pallet of ammo with a single handgun just doing basic drills.
That said, I can achieve things with the CQB that I simply can’t do with lesser guns. Of the Wilson line, and I’ve gotten to try a large selection of their line, I keep coming back to the CQB. From the first CQB I wrote up to this latest, all-machined, solid steel 1911, it comes down to this: It’s all you need, with nothing you don’t.
For more information contact: Wilson Combat, 2234 CR 719, Dept CH, Berryville, AR 72616; 800-955-4856; www.wilsoncombat.com.
I knew something of locally manufactured custom 1911s. We had one or another “gun plumber”…
by Denton Smith / May 11, 2009