Meet ‘WilBer’

Wilson Combat Custom Beretta.

By Massad Ayoob

Beretta has all but dropped out of the American police pistol market after being one of the more popular LE pistols. But the legacy remains among a couple of generations of American cops, not to mention countless military vets and armed citizens. The Beretta 92/M9 has earned an enviable reputation for reliability and accuracy, and many connoisseurs of the pistol feel it reaches its zenith when tuned by pistol champ and master gunsmith Ernest Langdon. Another man who fits that profile, Bill Wilson, likes the Beretta as much as his own trademark 1911, and in 2014 enlisted Langdon to train his staff of gunsmiths at Wilson Combat. The result is a simply outstanding modification of the 92 series 9mm and 96 series .40.

I sent a new stainless 92 Compact with integral light rail. From the top down, aiming was vastly improved with a green fiber optic front sight and Wilson’s Battlesight rear, with a big, easy-to-index U-notch. The oversized Wilson mag release and beveled mag well enhanced reloading speed. Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish gives it a low-profile professional look.

Most important perhaps was the WC action tune, which took the standard Beretta from good to great in terms of pure “shootability.” Externally distinguished only by the skeletonized Elite II speed hammer, it’s a difference you feel rather than see. I write this after a week teaching an advanced course with this Wilson/Beretta (which I now think of as “WilBer”), and shooting the double-speed police qualification on the last day, it gave me a 300 out of 300 score. Can’t ask for much more than that in an encompassing “shoot fast and hit center” test under pressure with three dozen people watching you to see if you can do what you’re teaching.

Double-action trigger pull weight once the gun came back from Wilson was deliciously smooth and weighed 8.99 pounds. In single action, it was a very uniform 4.83 pounds, with a reasonably quick reset and a very clean break.

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Oversize Wilson Combat magazine release speeds reloads.

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Wilson’s rear Battlesight and Beretta Elite II
speed hammer are two changes Mas chose.

Accuracy

At 25 yards off a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench, the little Beretta put five 115-gr. Federal Classic 9BP jacketed hollowpoints into 13/4″, the best three of them in 1″ even, center to center. With the same maker’s American Eagle 124-gr. FMJ, five shots went into 3.15″, but I suspect unnoticed error on my part because the other four were in 1.65″ and the best three in 1.15″. The years have taught me this second measurement of the best three from a 5-shot bench rest group very closely approximates what the same gun and load will do from a machine rest. The same 124-gr. American Eagle, from 50 yards standing strong-side barricade, put four out of five into the center A-zone of an IPSC target, with the fifth a called flyer (my bad) in the D-zone.

My records show when I benched the same gun with the same load from the same lot before it went to Wilson, it gave me five shots in 2.85″ and the best three in 1″ even. It should be noted you don’t send your Beretta to Wilson Combat to get it accurized for Bullseye shooting, you send it there to get slicked up for faster shooting with the accuracy level it had to start with.

For a 147-gr. subsonic load I went with Winchester’s jacketed truncated cone round. In what may well have been unnoticed human error, one shot went wide enough to extend the five shot group to 3.50″, but the other four were in only 1.70″ and the best three, in 1.35″. I was happy with that.

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The Beretta 92 Compact, renovated by Wilson Combat, showed
great shootability and reliability.

Perspective

While police pistol trends have gone largely to striker-fired polymer-framed sidearms, the Beretta remains a viable choice for police duty, and still a good choice for home defense. The Compact 92, with its short butt, is suitable for concealed off-duty carry. Our nation’s standard military service pistol for going on three decades, the 9mm Beretta’s place as a classic handgun is assured in this country.

The Wilson Combat treatment isn’t just gilding the lily, it makes a good pistol even better. I’m glad I sent my 92 Compact in for the Wilson work, and I expect I’ll be but one of many very satisfied customers with a “WilBer.” Line up your own mods for your favorite Beretta on their website.

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