I recently had the opportunity to evaluate the new X-TAC from Wilson Combat. The X-TAC receives its name from the distinctive “X” pattern on the frontstrap and cocking serrations. It is a full-size 1911 that is intended to be an “entry level” pistol for Wilson. As I wrote in the original article, “the X-TAC is built using the same exacting parts as every other Wilson Combat 1911. It is fit, assembled, and finished by the same master gunsmiths and undergoes the same quality control and test firing procedure as the most expensive pistols in the Wilson line.”
I recently returned from a two-day visit to Berryville, Arkansas and the Wilson Combat facility. After touring the plant and meeting the employees, I have a better appreciation of what goes into making a Wilson Combat 1911. The company now has over 60 full-time employees and the production facility is bursting at the seams, again. In touring the shop, I visited with a number of the employees and each impressed me with their skill and enthusiasm. The 60 or so employees of Wilson Combat are from the heartland of America and truly represent what made our country great.
The experience level of the employees at Wilson Combat is astounding. The shop is run by master gunsmith, Vic Tibbets. Vic is a homegrown talent who started working at Wilson Combat when he was 17 years old. He spent 18 years at Wilson before leaving to pursue other adventures. After several years, Vic returned home and now is the manager of the Custom Shop. Two other master gunsmiths I met were Jim Wilson and Steve Kelly. Both are long time employees and each having been with Wilson Combat for over 20 years. With mentors and trainers like Jim and Steve, the next generation of gunsmiths is guaranteed.
The amount of hand fitting that goes into each and every Wilson Combat pistol is simply amazing. I watched as talented gunsmiths, young and old, worked with sanding sticks, files, and fixtures to remove tool marks, straighten lines, and hand lap slides to frames. They also used air driven sanders and drimels to shape and polish specific areas of the frames and slides. My only thought was that one slip with a drimel and a frame or slide is ruined. Just to give the reader an idea of the time that goes into every Wilson 1911, a standard Wilson pistol such as their popular CQB, takes about 40 hours to build. To build a Supergrade takes, on average, twice as long however, according to John May, “It takes as long as it takes!” Wilson will not cut corners on any model when it comes to fit and finish. The X-TAC series is no exception.
During my visit, I noticed that a number of the gunsmiths were building X-TACs. In speaking with John May, I learned that the 5-inch X-TAC has proven to be extremely popular. When a full size gun is that popular, the question becomes, “When is a compact version going to be available?” The answer came when all the writers sat down over lunch with John May and Bill and Ryan Wilson. While the pizza was good, the table also held almost a representative sampling of Wilson Combat pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Among the assorted mix was the first, and at the time, only X-TAC Compact.
That afternoon, the group spent some time on the range that is literally in Bill’s backyard. The X-TAC Compact proved to be as well executed and accurate as every other pistol on the table. Hitting steel silhouettes at 50 yards was almost too easy and the plate rack at 15 yards did not stand a chance. I asked John to put me on the list for the new Compact. When I asked how long it would be, May replied, “It will take as long as it takes!” Classic May.
I have just received the production X-TAC Compact from Wilson in their signature gray, monogrammed, pistol rug. The Compact, like the full size X-TAC is intended to be an “entry level” pistol for the Wilson Combat line of 1911s. However, as I previously stated, entry level does not imply that the short cuts are taken in the parts or production. The X-TAC Compact is built with the same parts and to the same exacting standards as all Wilson 1911s. The reduction in price comes from using non-tritium sights, a parkerized finish, and the machining of the “X” pattern, which is less expensive than checkering.
The “X” pattern is machined on the frontstrap, mainspring housing, and cocking serrations giving the pistol a unique appearance. This pattern is bi-directional and offers improved traction without the need for any sharp points. The wide lines of the “X” cuts create a series of flat tipped diamonds that grip the hand. To complement the pattern, the X-TAC is equipped with a set of G-10 grips that have the, now familiar, Wilson Starburst design. The combination of the stocks and the “X” treatment provides a positive gripping surface that will not snag or abrade clothing and is quite appealing to the eye.
At the heart of the X-TAC Compact are Wilson’s standard compact steel frame, slide, and quality Bullet Proof parts. The parts used in the X-TAC are the same as in the Supergrade Tactical Compact and the popular CQB Compact. The compact slide is an inch shorter and the butt is 0.05 inches shorter than a full-size 1911. The slide and frame are hand fitted and lapped by Wilson’s talented gunsmiths. A 4-inch, match-grade, bull barrel is fitted to provide match-grade accuracy. The standard X-TAC is parkerized but the sample pistol was coated with Wilson’s excellent Armor-Tuff.
The operating controls on the X-TAC consist of Wilson’s Bullet Proof Slide Stop, a single side Tactical Thumb Safety, and a high cut beavertail grip safety. One nice feature is the relieved frontstrap at the base of the triggerguard that allows a higher purchase on the pistol. The trigger is Wilson’s ultra-light, 3-hole aluminum unit that is equipped with an adjustable overtravel stop. The edges of the mainspring housing are perfectly blended to the frame and the butt of the mainspring housing has been slightly rounded. All of the edges have been broken and the pistol is finished in Wilson’s black Armor-Tuff finish. The X-TAC has that “bar of soap” feel that epitomizes a clean carry gun.
Like the full-size pistol, the X-TAC Compact uses Wilson’s Battle rear sight. The rear sight retains the familiar Wilson profile but is slightly higher and features a 0.145-inch “U” notch. The rear of the sight blade is serrated and the actual notch has been recessed into a semi-circular pocket. This combination reduces the glare on the sight blade and provides a rapid and crisp sighting plane to locate the front sight. Wilson equips the X-TAC with a fiber optic light pipe in the front sight. The X-TAC Compact comes standard with comes with two Wilson stainless steel 7-round compact magazines, a test target, inspection sheet, and an instruction booklet. Both magazines are fitted with a Wilson low profile bumper pad.
On the range, the X-TAC Compact was 100% reliable with every .45 load we could find. Even in the Georgia summer heat, the “X” pattern kept the pistol secure during presentations and drills. The bright green dot was easy to find during the draw stroke and follow-up shots. The trigger broke cleanly at 3.75 pounds and was perfectly adjusted with no overtravel. We ran approximately 200 rounds of assorted loads through the X-TAC Compact with no malfunctions. The weight of the steel frame helped moderate the recoil of even the hottest loads.
We tested three premium personal defense loads in the X-TAC Compact. The lightest was the ASYM Precision 185-grain that is loaded with a Barnes TSX, solid copper bullet. The ASYM averaged 950 feet per second (fps) out of the Compact with a 15-yard group that measured 0.51 inches. The next load we tested was Federal’s 230-grain HST. The HST is a law enforcement load that features a copper jacketed hollow-point bullet that expands close to 1-inch in tests. The HST averaged 887 fps with a 0.35-inch group. The final load was Wilson’s own production that was loaded with the proven Hornady 230-grain XTP jacketed hollow point. This load is optimized for short barrel autos and averaged 800 fps with a 0.76-inch group. All loads were very controllable and pleasant to shoot. In all fairness to Wilson, the size of the groups was more related to the shooter than the pistol or the individual load.
For those who want to add a custom touch to the X-TAC, Wilson offers a number of options. These include an ambidextrous safety, ball endmill cuts, and a fluted barrel. There are also a number of sight options to include tritium inserts as well as an extreme dehorn package and chamfering the bottom edge of the slide. Wilson will also omit the slide markings, serrate the top of the slide, and countersink the slide stop.
I highly recommend their Armor-Tuff finish. It is a very attractive stain or matte finish that is available in black, green, or gray. Armor-Tuff will pass the test procedures for saltwater spray and salt water immersion. It will also protect the pistol from 24-hour immersion in aviation gasoline, hydraulic fluid, paint removers and a host of other caustic chemicals. The only parts not receiving the Armor-Tuff coating are those that are stainless steel such as the recoil spring guide. The finish also contains molybdenum disulfide providing some lubricity properties. The coating is applied in-house at Wilson’s production facility under very strict quality control standards. Having seen the coating room, I can personally attest to the attention to detail in each step of the process.
Were I ordering an X-TAC for personal defense, I would opt for the tritium sights since the fiber optic is hard to find in low light environments. My sample pistol was finished with Wilson’s excellent Armor-Tuff, which is resistant to wear and corrosion while providing a degree of lubricity. It is a permanent bond that also protects the pistol from acids, oils, solvents, and other chemicals. All of those who shot the X-TAC found the finish attractive and befitting a serious fighting pistol. I highly recommend this finish for both pistols and rifles!
The X-TAC Compact fit well in my Sparks 55BN belt scabbard and my IWB Summer Special. Both were cut for a 4.25-inch Commander length slide but the extra 0.25 inches did not present any problems. Wilson also offers their own line of belts, holsters, and magazine pouches. I have been using one of their 1¼-inch belts, single magazine pouches and Practical holsters and find them comfortable and secure.
For those who have missed the recent press, Wilson Combat is also in the ammunition business. They will be offering 39 different loads in 10 different calibers to include nine loadings in .45 ACP. In the pistol calibers, Wilson will use bullets from Hornady, Barnes and Speer. All ammunition is assembled by Wilson employees at their facility in Berryville. Each lot is tested for both velocity and accuracy from an actual firearm, not a test barrel. The velocities advertised are real. The label on our box of 230-grain XTP ammunition showed 815 fps. Our test results average 800 fps. Given we were in a different state, with significantly different temperatures’, that is close enough for me.
During the company’s 30 plus years, Wilson has earned a reputation for quality products for the serious minded shooter. The X-TAC comes from a long line of quality 1911s and is the perfect edition to the Wilson line of pistols. Dollar for dollar, and pound for pound, the X-TAC is worth saving your change for, or better yet, using Visa. It is one of those pistols that is hard to put down. If you are looking for a compact 1911, the X-TAC is worthy of your consideration.