By John Taffin
In 1985 many shooters were shocked, apoplectic and dismayed or worse, to see the United States military put the beloved and almost mythical .45 ACP 1911 out to pasture, replacing it with a 9mm double-action/single-action high-capacity semi-auto pistol. It was the Italian firm of Beretta which won the contract and they agreed to build a new plant in the United States to produce the pistols required by the military.
Personally, I had blinders on when it came to the 9mm and I would not even consider it for several decades. However, I began to wake up about 30 years ago which is just about the time so many new choices arrived in the 9mm chambering. For many years I carried a 9mm in my waist belt. It felt comfortable, rode comfortable, and with the high quality 9mm ammunition chosen, I felt comfortable.
Even though I carried a 9mm quite often I totally ignored the new military pistol. In fact I managed to go nearly 30 years without ever shooting the new Beretta, let alone buying one. That changed a few weeks ago when my friend Denis purchased the latest military-style Beretta 9mm offered and I told him I thought it was time for me to pick up a Beretta. He just happened to have a Beretta 92 FS stainless steel he had purchased 20 years ago and was still new in the box. He offered it to me for an exceptionally good price and it did not stay new in the box very long. My oldest granddaughter helped me break it in and she enjoyed it immensely and shot it very well while wishing it would fit in her purse.
We had just finished breaking in the Beretta 92 FS when his Esteemed Editorship informed me he and Bill Wilson had put their heads together and I was to do an article on, would you believe, a Beretta 9mm from Wilson Combat. As one who has never believed in coincidence, it’s obvious to me this was all meant to be. In addition to the Wilson Combat Beretta, Esteemed Editorship asked Wilson to also send me a second gun for testing and evaluation so we could do a well-rounded article.
Targets fired at 20 yards with the Wilson Combat Ultra Light
Carry 9mm showed great consistency from load to load.
Targets fired at 20 yards with the Wilson Combat Brigadier
Tactical Beretta delivered repeated 3/4″ to 1″ groups.
The most accurate load in the Wilson Combat Ultra
Light Carry 9mm was the Winchester 115-gr. FMJ.
Any of you who follow semi-automatic firearms could reel off a list of names of those custom builders who are at the apex of their craft. Any list would have Bill Wilson’s shop among the top.
Bill did not start out to be a gun maker, or a gunsmith for that matter, but actually was following his father in the watch business. It’s no coincidence Bill bought his first .45 semi-auto in 1970 and soon took part in IPSC-style practical pistol shooting in the mid-’70’s. He also soon found it very convenient to work on his own handguns, and then opened a 1-man shop in the back of his dad’s jewelry store. That 1-man shop has grown and is now one of the premier custom shops for 1911’s as well as just about anything which could be considered tactical.
I have shot several Wilson Combat pistols over the past 30 years since I first met Bill in the mid-1980’s. Two of my cherished pistols are a Wilson Combat Commander-sized .45 and a full-sized .38 Super. For this go round Bill sent me two 9mm’s, both of which notched a first in my shooting life. That is not easy to do when one considers I’ve been shooting, ouch it hurts to say this, nearly 70 years. The two 9mm semi-automatics from Wilson Combat are the Beretta 92G Brigadier Tactical and the Ultra Light Carry 1911.
Wilson Combat Ultra Light Carry 9mm offers compact,
lightweight size with amazing accuracy.
The 92G Tactical has a barrel length of 4.7″, overall length of 8.25″, height of 5.5″ and a width of 1.3″. Magazine capacity is 15 rounds, with an empty weight of 36 ounces and a loaded weight topping out at 43 ounces. Those are the standard specs, and then Wilson’s shop performs their custom touches. The M9A1 frame has a 92A1 round triggerguard, the 92G Brigadier slide has been dehorned while the slide and frame have been hand fitted very tightly.
The front sight is a Trijicon tritium dovetailed style matched up with a solid black rear battlesight also fit in a dovetail. This rear sight notch is U-shaped to match up with the dot in the front sight. There is also a rail for attaching an accessory.
The Brigadier is fitted with a stainless steel barrel with recessed crown. The finish on the 4.7″ Elite II barrel is black, matched with the black finish on the slide. The oversized magazine release is steel as are the dual de-cocking levers and the trigger. This 9mm is also fitted with a Wilson Combat fluted steel guide rod. Grips are G10 “Dirty Olive” with the Wilson Combat Medallion.
The Brigadier is available only in 9mm and comes standard with three 15 round magazines of the later style made to be easy to operate in dusty/sandy conditions. The “first” experienced with this pistol is the fact it has the smoothest double action pull I’ve ever found on any pistol of this type. In fact it rivals a well-tuned double-action revolver. The double-action pull measures 9 pounds but is so incredibly smooth it seems even lighter. The single-action pull measures out at 31/2 pounds. Compare this to my standard Beretta 92 FS at 131/2 and 6 pounds respectively.
Wilson Combat’s Brigadier Tactical Beretta 9mm had what John
called one of the best DA trigger pulls he’s ever felt!
The 1911 9mm
Okay so we can accept 9mm everything else, why not in a 1911? Five years ago I went looking for a 1911 chambered in 9mm and I found how difficult they were to find. However, I did find one, and today we see more and more manufacturers are offering 9mm 1911’s. Somebody must want them! This 1911 from Wilson Combat is their Ultra Light Carry 9mm. However, it’s a little different in it has been fitted with a lightweight aluminum frame. Some special touches include a fluted chamber, on the outside of course, bulletproof one-piece magazine well, full-size rounded butt, bulletproof thumb safety and armor tuff finish.
The grip safety is a beavertail with a memory bump. Sights are absolutely excellent with the rear sight being a low riding Wilson Combat set in a dovetail with a U-notch matched up with the front sight, which is a high visibility fiber optic green dot. It really showed up during the cloudy days while testing this pistol in February in the great Northwest.
Slide to frame fit is absolutely without play of any kind and the top of the slide is flattened off and grooved from the back of the front sight to the front of the rear sight to reduce glare. The excellent sights matched up with a 4 pound incredibly smooth trigger, work together to make this Wilson Combat 1911 the most accurate 9mm I have ever experienced. Without a doubt it’s also one of the most accurate 1911’s it has ever been my good fortune to shoot.
The Wilson Combat Tactical Carry 1911 comes with one extra magazine and a very handy compact zippered range bag with seven magazine pouches on one side and two large pouches for carrying equipment on the other side. A heavy-duty zipper gives access to the pistol itself stored in the center of the bag.
Wilson Combat also provides exceptionally high-quality holsters for their pistols and these two came with Lo-Profile holsters of the Pancake style with loops at the front and back edges of the holster well for accepting the pants belt. These are quite attractive, as well as durable, as they are made of heavy-duty black leather with shark trim covering the entire front of the 1911 holster and the top half of the Brigadier version. These holsters ride high and close to the body holding the pistols securely.
Wilson Combat also offers custom holsters for the Ultra Light Carry
9mm and the Combat Brigadier Tactical Beretta (and other handgun models).
A Bit Of Testing
I was also handicapped by not being able to use my rock solid pistol perch on this particular test day, but rather had to rest my forearms on sandbags. In spite of this, both pistols performed exceptionally well, with 5-shot groups fired at 20 yards.
Twenty factory loads were fired in the Brigadier, with the Black Hills 115-gr. FMJ at 1,165 fps, and CCI Blazer 124-gr. JSP at 1,123 fps both shooting into 3/4″! CCI Blazer 115-gr. JHP, 1,181 fps; Hornady 115-gr. JRN, 1,153 fps; and Herter’s 115-gr. FMJ, 1,149 fps all gave 7/8″ groups. This is spectacular accuracy for any handgun!
Eighteen factory loads were used in testing the 1911 Ultra Light Tactical Carry, with tight groups being the norm. Six loads — American Eagle 115-gr. FMJ (1,244 fps), Black Hills 115-gr. FMJ (1,203 fps), Hornady 124-gr. XTP (1,184 fps), Independence 115-gr. JHP (1,246 fps), Sellier & Bellot 115-gr. FMJ (1,225 fps) and Speer Gold Dot 115-gr. JHP (1,203 fps) all grouped their five shots in 3/4″; six other loads came in at 1″ or less.
The most accurate load proved to be the Winchester 115-gr. FMJ clocking out at 1,218 fps, with five shots in a very tight 1/2″. Testing was accomplished in a cold February, and since I was recuperating from knee surgery I had not fired a gun on paper for four months. Plus it’s no secret I’m certainly not a young shooter anymore, but these Wilson guns made me look good.
So putting all this together says these are exceptionally fine Nines. Considering they came from Wilson Combat, this is definitely no surprise.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index