Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 3 (Summer '08) - Pistol Review: Wilson 30th Anniversary Limited

Wilson Combat 30th Anniversary Limited M1911 Pistol

Reviewed by Tom Keown ()

"Wow, that's a really nice gun!" That was the universal reaction from everyone at my local dealer when I arrived to pick up my test pistol, the Wilson Combat 30th Anniversary Limited (or WCTA for short). As I stood waiting while my paperwork was being processed people from both sides of the counter would walk up, look at the pistol lying there, and ogle it. Who knew that one gun would command such attention? I couldn't wait to get this pistol home. Now only to pry it out of the lecherous clutches of the store owners and customers!

Celebrating 30 years of customizing and building custom M1911 pistols, Wilson Combat decided to release a pair of 30th Anniversary Limited Edition M1911 pistols. Both pistols are based upon Wilson's renowned Classic 130 Master Grade pistol: a Limited model (reviewed here) and a Presentation model. Both pistols are built on a CNC-machined forged stainless steel frames and feature similarly crafted steel slides machined to perfectly align with the frames. Slides on the Limited models are coated with Wilson's black Armor-Tuff® finish and feature engraving indicating the 30th Anniversary. Slides on the Presentation models are high polished charcoal blue, with hand engravings and silver inlays, serrated slide top and checkered rear. Both models come with Wilson's black Starburst G10 grips, fully adjustable rear sights and ambidextrous thumb safeties.

While the Presentation model is geared to the exclusive collectors' market, the Limited, while certainly a special commemorative model and a value to collectors, is also designed to be a regular shooter.

Both models will only be made during 2008, with the Presentation model being limited to only 30 units.

First Impressions

When you first look at the WCTA pistol, you're immediately drawn to the engraving on the slide. The "30th ANNIVERSARY LIMITED 1978-2008" markings on one side and "CLASSIC 130 MASTER GRADE" on the other, along with additional scrollwork, eagle head and bold "30" clearly make this a unique pistol. Fit and finish appear very solid. There's no rattle, even with the slide locked back, and the barrel is snug inside the bushing. The front strap and mainspring housing are checkered, and the thumb safeties and slide stop are serrated. Trigger is of the lightweight, three-hole aluminum variety, and pull was crisp, between 2˝ and 3 pounds. Sights are black with a fully adjustable rear. The magazine well is beveled to allow easy insertion of the standard 8-round magazines.

Left side of pistol.

Close-up of the 30th Anniversary markings on the slide.

Note the serial number.

Close-up of the Wilson eagle head cartouche and "30" engravings.

Wilson's front strap checkering is sure but not too aggressive.

Close-up of the Wilson Combat logo on their Starburst G10 grips.

The bushing is fit tight to the slide and barrel.

There is no mistaking who makes this pistol.

The mainspring housing is checkered like the front strap.

Edges of the magazine well are beveled.

The WCTA uses a full-length guide rod configuration.

The barrel and feed ramp area appeared polished and in testing had no difficulties feeding various types of ammo.

Brass markings here indicate the pistol was test fired at Wilson before shipment.

The WCTA pistol comes with two Wilson new ETM 8-round magazines.

Wilson 500 ETM magazine base plate.

My next step was to field strip the pistol and have a look at the insides. Per the instructions I received from my contact at Wilson, field stripping is accomplished by first retracting the slide and removing the slide stop pin. Once that is removed, the entire slide assembly is then removed from the frame. To remove the full length guide rod (FLGR) and barrel, I was then to push on the rear of the guide rod until a hole drilled through it is exposed below the barrel, into which a small pin or bent paperclip could be inserted. Well, the model I was sent seemed to be missing this hole. I pushed the entire rod up through the front of the slide and could not find any hole. And my attempts to depress the plug and turn the bushing failed, as the FLGR was perhaps 1/16th of an inch too long so the bushing would not clear the end and I didn't want to damage the pistol trying to force something not intended.

Vexed though I was, I still managed to examine the inside of the WCTA pistol. In addition to the FLGR, a shock buff is also installed. The feed ramp appeared to be polished, as one would expect from a premium pistol maker. An abbreviated wipe-down, reassembly and a couple drops of oil down each rail, and I was ready for the range.

Range Session

My first selection for testing the WCTA was the ever-popular Winchester "White Box" 230-grain FMJ round. I loaded up the two Wilson 8-round magazines, along with several 7-round magazines by Metalform, and started shooting.

I had no issues at all with either of the two 8-round Wilson magazines, shooting both to empty and slide lock. However, during my initial run through my own 7-round magazines, I had one failure to return to battery (FTRB) on the last round in one of the magazines. Being unsure if the stoppage was a magazine issue or a pistol issue, I reloaded all the magazines and tried again. This time I was unable to recreate the problem, and well after 100 rounds I never was able to duplicate the problem. I had to chalk this one incident up to a fluke.

This being my first time with the pistol it took a little time to get the feel of it, and my initial shots were a bit erratic. However, once the first few magazines were emptied I found my shots to consistently be a bit to the left.

Next on the ammo menu was Armscor 230-grain FMJ. The WCTA ate a steady diet of over 100 rounds of this ammo without a single hitch. Again, my shots were consistently to the left, even when shooting off a sandbag. Once I was sure it wasn't me pulling my shots, I made a slight adjustment to the rear sight and tried again. A little more tweaking and my shots were landing in the center of the target. Several more series of magazines later, I was confident the pistol was accurate-more accurate than I am, at any rate. While I couldn't duplicate the reported 1-inch at 25 yards accuracy, nearly all my shots were landing in the center area of my B34 "Smurf" targets at 25 yards.

Now that I was confident the pistol would reliably eat FMJ rounds, it was time to give it a diet of various types of JHP ammo: Winchester JHP, Remington Golden Saber, Federal Premium and Speer Gold Dot JHP. All of the different brands functioned flawlessly in the WCTA regardless of the type of magazine used. And accuracy from the premium brands was noticeably better than from the cheaper brands, with the best performance coming from the Speer and Federal products.

A group of gentlemen a few tables down from me were performing IDPA-style drills, and having watched me put the WCTA through its paces, invited me to come join them for a few stages. What better test is there than some practical shooting? In addition to the pistol I was sent, Wilson also included a leather OWB holster and magazine pouch, so here was my opportunity to try them all out.

After familiarizing myself with the rules of each drill it was time to put the WCTA to the test. The pistol proved to be accurate enough in my amateur hands, scoring a "down zero" on a couple stages. I found that even shooting off-hand was easy and comfortable, and accurate.

Having put over 500 rounds through the pistol against stationary targets and during IDPA-style conditions, it was time to pack up and come home. Since I could not figure out how to fully field strip the pistol, the best I could accomplish was a light wiping down of the outer surfaces with an oily cloth and a couple drops of oil down each rail.

Range Session, Part II

My wife, hearing the details of my recent range trip with the WCTA, wanted to feel what a premium M1911 pistol felt like. So with very little arm twisting, we met up at the range one evening after work. Again, I set out the targets and turned the WCTA over to her. After the first few rounds to become familiar with the pistol, she started consistently hitting the target at various distances. Her only complaints with the pistol were the front strap checkering and the grips, finding both to be uncomfortable. As a plus, though, she liked the fact that the "memory bump" on the grip safety wasn't so pronounced as to be uncomfortable after long shooting sessions.

With another 200 rounds or so through the pistol without a hitch, we packed up and came home.


Below are the results of testing through a Competitive Edge Dynamics chronograph:

Ammo donated by:

All groups fired at 25 yards.

Closing Thoughts

The Wilson Combat 30th Anniversary Limited pistol is clearly a well made pistol, exemplifying the craftsmanship that makes Wilson Combat a leader among M1911 manufacturers. Attention to detail is obvious when examining all aspects of the pistol. It's hard to consider the pistol to be something you could use at the range. You feel it should be behind glass or in the deepest recess of one's gun safe. And at a cost of $3,000, it's not difficult to come to that conclusion. But this pistol was designed to be used as well as enjoyed. A collector's item for certain, but not a "safe queen."

The pistol itself was everything I thought a premium M1911 pattern pistol should be. It was tight, without being overly so. It performed with no fuss right from the case. No break-in. No special lubrication. No babying. Take it out, load it up and start shooting. And it went "Bang" every time the trigger was squeezed and the hits were where they were supposed to be.

Is the Wilson Combat 30th Anniversary Limited pistol for everyone? No, probably not. But for those who want a high quality M1911 pistol from a legendary manufacturer that also has collector appeal (along with bragging rights at the range), then this pistol will certainly fit the bill.

If you want to discuss or comment on this test, please use this thread in our Forums Site.


Caliber: .45 Auto
Trigger Pull: 2.5 - 3.0 lbs (1.12 - 1.36 kg)
Overall Length: 8.625 in (219.0 mm)
Overall Height: 5.50 in (139.7 mm)
Overall Width: 1.31 in (33.3 mm)
Barrel Length: 5 in (127.0 mm)
Sights: Wilson Combat Target Sights
Weight w/ empty mag.: 41.15 oz (1.17 kg)
Magazine Capacity: 2 magazines, 8 rounds each
Grips: Wilson Starburst G10
Finish: Black Armor-Tuff® slide/stainless frame and controls
CA Compliant: No
MA Compliant: No
MSRP: $3,000 USD



Wilson Combat® & Scattergun Technologies™
2234 CR 719
Berryville, AR 72616

Order Toll Free: 1-800-955-4856
Technical Questions: 1-870-545-3635
Fax: 1-870-545-3310

Email: info@wilsoncombat.com
Web site: http://www.wilsoncombat.com


Armscor Ammo

Advanced Tactical Firearms
150 N. Smart Way
Pahrump, NV 89060

Phone: 775-537-1444
Fax: 775-537-1446

Web Site: http://www.advancedtactical.com


Competitive Edge Dynamics USA
P.O. Box 486,
Orefield, PA 18069-0486

Orders: (1) 888-628-3233
Phone: (1) 610-366-9752
Fax: (1) 610-366-9680

Email: info@CEDhk.com
Web site: http://www.CEDhk.com

Home - Volume 3 (2008) - Issue 3 (Summer '08) - Pistol Review: Wilson 30th Anniversary Limited