Bill Wilson Signature Match
Wilson Combat Expands Its Ammo Line
Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis
Just after the arrival of the new year (2013), a package materialized on my doorstep from Wilson Combat. I thought that was interesting, because I couldn’t recall having ordered anything, and the package was surprisingly heavy for its size. When I opened it, I discovered that the folks at Wilson Combat had sent me some ammunition for evaluation in our e-pages.
Wilson Combat had previously sent us samples of their premium self-defense ammunition, which was discussed here some time ago. That was (and presumably still is) excellent ammunition, but this new arrival was clearly something different. The self-defense ammunition came in cardboard boxes holding twenty rounds each, which is fairly typical for premium self-defense ammunition. The new ammunition came in a translucent blue, hinged plastic ammunition box holding a full hundred rounds, with an adhesive-backed label affixed to the lid. It looked like the product of someone’s weekend reloading project rather than commercial ammunition. Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
When I first cracked the lid on the ammunition and removed a round for inspection, I thought the folks at Wilson Combat had packed the wrong ammunition in the box. Here was a box labeled “Bill Wilson Match Ammunition,” and inside was 100 rounds of jacketed hollow-point (JHP) ammunition. Surely, I thought, someone goofed. But then I looked more closely at the tip of the bullets, especially the portion directly surrounding the opening of the hollow. Something was missing. Personal defense JHP bullets typically have several slits or cuts (called “skives”) in the jacket where it folds over into the mouth of the hollow tip. These bullets had no skives. Obviously, I needed to do my homework.
What Is This Stuff?
My immediate thought when I saw the word “Match” in the product name was that this must be ammunition for bullseye competitors. Of course, I wasn’t remembering that Bill Wilson is an action shooter, not a bullseye shooter. As I began to delve into the specifics of this new ammunition, I realized that it is intended primarily for action shooting competitors, not for bullseye competitors.
The projectile chosen by Wilson Combat for the Bill Wilson Signature Match ammunition was Hornady’s HAP (Hornady Action Pistol) bullet. The HAP bullet is derived from Hornady’s premium XTP jacketed hollow-point (JHP) personal defense projectile. But, while the XTP bullet has both a cannelure and skives to promote expansion of up to one and a half times the nominal diameter, the HAP projectiles are intended for smooth aerodynamics rather than terminal expansion. Hornady omitted the cannelure and the skives to produce a smooth, uniform projectile optimized for reliable feeding and smooth trajectory. In addition, Wilson Combat loads the bullets at the maximum cartridge overall length in order to further enhance feeding.
Hornady XTP Bullet Construction Hornady HAP Bullet Construction
Wilson offers the Bill Wilson Signature Match ammunition in both a 200-grain version with an advertised muzzle velocity of 865 feet-per-second, and a 230-grain version with an advertised muzzle velocity of 760 feet-per-second. Our sample was the 230-grain flavor, which is so new that it doesn’t even appear on Wilson Combat’s web site as I write this review. Obviously, a 230-grain .45 caliber projectile launching at 760 feet-per-second is not exactly a “hot” loading. In fact, the ammunition is clearly designed to safely make major power factor and not a lot more, in order for competitive shooters to better facilitate muzzle control and minimize muzzle rise between shots.
Wilson Combat Signature Match ammo between two premium self-defense rounds
Wilson Combat Signature Match ammo between two premium self-defense rounds
Our Wilson Combat representative had the following to say about the Signature Match line of ammunition (and it is a complete line, not a single offering):
“I cannot give you specifics on components other to say we are using Starline brass and Hornady HAP bullets. You will notice that ammo is loaded on the long side for optimum feeding in a 1911 pistol. It also has a proper taper crimp and is final polished again after loading -a critical step that results in some very smooth feeding and good looking ammunition.
We have expanded our line up of "Signature Match" ammunition to include 9mm, 38 super and also a lead 200 gr SWC and a 200 grain HAP bullet. I believe we are the exclusive loader of the 200 grain HAP at this time. That would make a superior bullseye centerfire load for the 50 yard target since the velocities are a bit higher to reach out there.”
For the benefit of those who may have heard of “major power factor” but don’t fully understand it, it’s nothing more than a function of bullet weight and velocity. For USPSA, the formula is PF = Weight x Velocity ÷ 1000. The minimum required power factor to “make major” in USPSA is 165.
In IDPA, the formula is simply PF = Weight x Velocity. In IDPA the minimum required power factor to “make major” varies by class, typically 125,000 except for Custom Defensive Pistol and Enhanced Service Revolver, which require a minimum power factor of 165,000.
How does the Bill Wilson Signature Match ammunition measure up? Using the advertised velocity for the 230-grain version, the result would be
PF = 230 x 760 ÷ 1000 = 174.8
But for large, sanctioned matches, the officials don’t just take your word for it, they test samples of each competitor’s ammunition themselves. So we also tested a representative sample to see how close it came to the claimed velocity. We ran ten rounds through a CED Millennium chronograph set ten feet from the muzzle. Our result was slightly faster than the claimed velocity, at 786 feet-per-second average. The full run-down was:
| ||Bill Wilson Signature Match, 230-grain|
|Average Velocity||786 Feet-per-Second|
|Maximum Velocity||797 Feet-per-Second|
|Minimum Velocity||773 Feet-per-Second|
This shows us that the ammunition is consistent, and that even the slowest single round out of our sample of ten rounds was comfortably above the minimum velocity needed to “make major.” This is good stuff, which is what we would expect of anything Bill Wilson puts his name on.
How does it shoot?
Specifications are interesting but the purpose of shooting, whether it’s for competition, for hunting, or for self-defense, is to be able to have the bullet hit where we want it to hit … consistently. This new-fangled ammo with the alphabet soup bullet name may look all nice and shiny but, if it scatters like a sawed-off shotgun when you shoot it, it’s just not going to be much help in serious competition. Even though this ammunition is intended for action shooting competition, it would be difficult to assess its accuracy potential by blasting away with it in a typical “run-n-gun” combat shoot scenario. We wanted a better check than that, so we sent up a smoke signal.
In response, my friend and fellow 1911 aficionado Mark Falade came down from the hills and met me at Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range to help wring out this new ammunition. Mark was as curious as I was. Mark isn’t a combat shooter; he is a highly competitive bullseye shooter, and he brought with his the perfect test instrument for evaluating match-grade ammunition: His Rock River Arms 1911, set up with an UltraDot red dot scope. Bill, I apologize for not using a Wilson Combat pistol to test Wilson Combat ammunition, but it’s not like I had a lot of choice.
I first ran the ten-round sample through a box-stock Para USA GI Expert for the chronometer, along with a couple of other ammo types we used for comparison, then I turned the show over to Mark for the serious work. He shot from a rest, seated, initially at fifty feet. Bullseye competition is based on 5-shot groups anyway, so we shot 5-shot groups. Unlike in bullseye, however, when testing for inherent accuracy we have the luxury of discarding obvious flyers.
It quickly became obvious that I had called in the right guy for the job. After one “warm-up” group measuring three-quarters of an inch, Mark went on to shoot group after group after boring group, all measuring five-eighths of an inch. That’s pretty good shooting with a handgun, and definitely “minute of A-zone.” More importantly, the ammunition can be consistent if the shooter is consistent, which is why I was so glad I had brought Mark in to assist with the testing.
Once Mark was satisfied that he had done the best he could with the Bill Wilson Signature match ammo, I tried a couple of groups at fifty feet through the Para GI Expert with open sights. My first group was a ragged one inch, then I settled in and managed to shoot a group measuring three-quarters of an inch. Both Mark’s groups and mine were just a hair below point of aim at fifty feet. That could be easily corrected with adjustable sights, but not so easily with fixed sights such as on my Para. However, the distance below point of aim to centers of groups was typically less than an inch, which would be of virtually no consequence in action shooting competition.
For comparison, to get some sense of a benchmark, I asked Mark to shoot a couple of groups with each of two other types of ammunition. First was some Ultramax 200-grain, lead semi-wadcutter (LSWC), commercially reloaded ammunition. I have found this to be generally consistent and accurate, and I believe it is intended for bullseye shooters who don’t load their own ammunition. Second was my own reloads, the stuff I shoot in the informal action shooting competitions at Chris’ range. The Ultramax ran through the chronograph at 858 feet-per-second. My reloads, consisting of 230-grain Berry’s plated round-nose bullets and 5.4 grains of Winchester 231 powder, ran at 782 feet-per-second.
Mark shot two groups with the Ultramax, one measuring three-quarters of an inch and one measuring five eighths of an inch. With my reloads, Mark shot two groups that both measured five-eighths of an inch.
Finally, we sent the targets out to the 75-foot line, which is the limit of Chris’ indoor range. Mark had some trouble at 75 feet because I had brought only 50-foot bullseye targets, and at 75 feet the red dot in his scope completely covered the black. We scrounged up a couple of targets with larger bullseyes and ran them out. Mark shot two groups at 75 feet, both of which measured an inch and a quarter. I could tell he wasn’t happy with that, but the targets were not what he is accustomed to shooting at that distance, so we might cautiously infer that both he and the ammunition are capable of better under other conditions. That said … an inch and a quarter at 75 feet isn’t shabby.
Wilson Combat informed us that out of a test barrel fixture, the ammunition (all the loadings) is capable of shooting ½-inch groups at 25 yards.
Bill Wilson Signature Match ammunition is premium competition ammunition, and it performs like premium competition ammunition. The chronometer results show that it has good consistency from round to round, and the shooting proved that it performs both well and consistently.
Bill Wilson Signature Match ammunition is available directly from Wilson Combat. List price is $69.95 per 100-round box.
Thanks to Chris Dogolo, owner of Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, for the use of his facilities to conduct our testing. And special thanks to Mark Falade for his invaluable assistance in conducting the test.
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