With so many gunmakers flooding the market with yet another plastic-framed, striker-fired pistol, Wilson Combat stays true to its roots by focusing instead on perfecting the 1911. Although the 1911 is probably the most customized and improved pistol of all time, the design has its vulnerabilities.
This became apparent to Bill Wilson through decades of experience with this iconic pistol as a shooter, manufacturer and instructor. Knowing how even the best-made 1911s can fail from design shortcomings and faults of the end user, Wilson incorporated new features into the EDC-9 that make it well suited to those who want a tightly fitted, accurate and reliable 1911 for daily carry but don’t have the time or inclination to properly inspect, clean and lubricate it. And because Bill Wilson understands that intangibles such as pride of ownership are as inseparable to a Wilson Combat 1911 as high performance and craftsmanship, the design and execution of these new features go beyond the purely functional aspects and give the EDC-9 a striking look.
The EDC-9 Professional is a leading example of Wilson Combat’s focus on the finer details of pistolcraft, both in form and function. It starts with a strong foundation: a forged 4140 carbon steel frame and forged 416R stainless slide. Wilson then fits the slide to the frame so there is no discernible side-to-side movement. Wilson pistols are made to retain this fit over their lifetimes, rather than building them too tightly to function easily and then letting them break in to an acceptable fit. Bill once told me that the steel he uses is so hard that if he fit them that tightly, they would probably stay that way.
The EDC-9 Professional is a compact 1911, at 7.6 inches in overall length and 5.6 inches in height. It is fed with a single column, 10-round magazine. The “Professional” designation signifies a full-sized grip and 4-inch barrel. Its weight of 39.6 ounces is more than a similarly sized Colt Commander, but the Wilson is more substantial, with a Picatinny rail, larger magazine and flared steel mag well. Customers who want a lighter version can have the EDC-9 made with a type 7075 T6 aluminum frame, which weighs about 28 ounces. (Customers can also order one with a stainless frame.) The magazine is Wilson’s own and holds 10 rounds, compared to most others that hold nine. This mag is a third-generation design with improved springs and a follower that prevents the bullets from nose-diving.
I have used these mags extensively and consider them the best available for a 9mm 1911—not only because they work so well and hold more, but because of the sensible design features, such as a bumper pad and polished stainless steel construction for easier insertion, along with large numbers with an easy-to-see cutaway window to determine how many rounds are loaded. It’s also the mag the Smith & Wesson custom shop includes in its 9mm 1911.
Wilson Combat pistols use material of unimpeachable quality, starting with forged, instead of cast, frames and
slides; CNC-milled small parts (instead of MIM or stamped); flat recoil springs made of chrome silicon spring steel with a long lifespan; and extractors made of S7-hardened tool steel used on metal stamping dies and the tip of concrete breakers. The barrel is made from 416R stainless steel and is made oversized so it can be fitted tightly to the slide for best accuracy. The finish is Wilson’s Armor-Tuff, a two-finish process with Cerakote applied over a phosphate finish that is first applied to the base metal.
Weight matters with a carry pistol, and steel-framed 1911s are heavy by contemporary standards, so Wilson shaved ounces by trimming the slide into a triangular profile on its top and ball end milling grooves on the barrel. The slide’s reduced mass is also intended to improve function.
ENHANCED RELIABILITY SYSTEM
The EDC-9 Professional is one of two new Wilson Combat pistols made with a collective called the Enhanced
Reliability System (ERS), which consists of a modified frame, match-grade barrel, simplified locking system,
external extractor and new sights. The ERS makes the 1911 more reliable under adverse conditions, more user
friendly, better suited for combat fire and less maintenance intensive than the original design.
The 1911’s design has been considerably improved over its 100-plus-year run, but it still has a locking system that
needs cleaning and lubrication much more frequently than contemporary pistols.
In particular, the locking lugs that mate the barrel to the slide, as well as the slide rails, are friction areas that need proper lubrication. Without it, they will cycle sluggishly or not at all. Just ask Bill, who has seen students, customers and less-experienced 1911 shooters create problems for themselves as a result of improper maintenance.
The EDC 9 addresses these issues by eliminating the 1911’s twin locking lugs in favor of a much simpler system via which the top front of the barrel just ahead of the chamber locks with the rear of the slide’s ejection port. This is a reliable system used on many pistols and is far easier to clean than the interlocking lugs.
Another vulnerability consists of the frictional forces from the 1911’s slide-frame contact. Wilson addresses this issue by eliminating about 1 3/8 inches of frame rail in the area of the magazine well. The shorter rail surface reduces friction and mitigates the risk of a sluggish slide when using a gun oil that is too viscous in cold weather or as a result of dirt buildup.
Some might wonder if trimming the slide rail reduces accuracy; it doesn’t… for two reasons. First, slide-to-frame
fit is a minor portion of what makes a 1911 shoot accurately, according to Bill Wilson (slide-to-barrel fit at the front and rear are much more important). Second, the rails are removed midsection, so the slide-frame tightness is maintained when the slide is in battery (when it matters).
A totally reliable extractor is necessary for any combat pistol, and although the internal design of the 1911 works well, it tends to accumulate debris between the extractor and slide, thereby potentially affecting its function. Internal extractors also require more machining to the slide and are more complicated to fit and replace. A pivoting external extractor also works over a wider range of spring tension and with more case rim thicknesses than the internal design, according to Bill. The recurrent themes of reduced user maintenance and increased mechanical reliability permeate this pistol’s design.
The final element of the ERS are sights designed for quick acquisition and simple removal. Up front is a green fiber-optic sight that can be easily changed by removing an Allenhead screw, instead of drifting out of a dovetail using a sight pushing tool (Wilson sells a red fiber-optic and a tritium front sight for night fire).
At the rear is Wilson’s new Tactical Adjustable Battlesight (TAB) that is click-adjustable for elevation using a
screwdriver and can be drifted by hand for windage by loosening two torx screws. This sight blade has a wide U-notch and a flat, non-reflective finish. A cocking ledge facilitates racking the slide by catching the rear sight on a holster or belt buckle should one hand be injured. Underscoring how Wilson Combat makes a pistol with the shooter in mind, the front sight surrounding the green filament and part of the rear sight blade have fine, 40-LPI
(lines per inch) horizontal grooves to reduce glare and make the sights easier to align.
CUSTOM SHOP DETAILS; EASY TAKEDOWN FOR CLEANING
Many details on this pistol are strictly custom shop enhancements that blend the aesthetic with the functional.
- To cut glare and enhance appearance, there are fine, 40 lpi horizontal serrations milled on the rear of the slide.
- The slide stop pin sits inside a countersunk hole, instead of protruding from the frame.
- The bottom edges of the slide are chambered to break an otherwise sharp edge.
- The rear sight blade is held to the sight base with a steel pin that is prevented from drifting outward from recoil by a fine Allen-head screw on either side (many gunmakers ignore this pin drift problem or peen the ends of the pin, which often fails to stop drift).
One of this pistol’s more unusual aspects is the X TAC-patterned gripping surface on the slide, mainspring housing and front strap. Even the G10 grips show custom shop quality by using Wilson Combat medallions made of pewter, instead of plastic, plus a unique texture in Wilson’s own sunburst pattern. To speed reloading, the EDC-9 has a flared steel magazine well integral to the mainspring housing that is rounded to reduce the chance of the pistol’s butt printing under lightweight garments. The slide top has been re-contoured to reduce weight and has 30-LPI serrations.
The EDC-9 offers more enhancements to the 1911—and no greater one to me than eliminating the barrel bushing that mates the muzzle end of the barrel with the slide. Instead of a partial-length guide rod and bushing, the EDC-9 uses a one-piece stainless steel guide rod and a barrel flared at its end to ensure a consistently tight fit to the slide (a critical element of accuracy). Disassembly of the EDC-9 is easier, quicker and without the very real hazard of a spring-tensioned guide rod plug being ejected, as on a traditional 1911. As an added touch that no other maker I know of includes in its 1911s, the EDC-9 has Wilson’s Shok-Buff poly-fiber washer on the guide rod, which cushions the recoiling slide and reduces battering of the frame. It can also slightly reduce perceived recoil. I recommend trying a properly designed buffer; they are inexpensive, easy to install, effective and won’t hurt function on most pistols.
I shot the EDC-9 Professional for accuracy from a Caldwell rest, followed by offhand, in five loadings made by Wilson Combat, Black Hills and SIG Sauer. There were no malfunctions throughout more than 300 rounds.
The EDC-9 Professional has an accuracy guarantee of five shots into a 1.5-inch group at 25 yards using match ammo. This claim was validated with Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ practice ammo. Because this pistol’s accuracy was obvious, and the EDC-9 is not intended for bulls-eye target-shooting, I dispensed with bench rest
testing of all loads and focused instead on practical use. If you’ve ever shot a Wilson Combat, you can attest to its accuracy.
“The EDC-9 Professional has an accuracy guarantee of five shots into a 1.5-inch group at 25 yards using match ammo.”
Moreover, the green fiber-optic front sight works best for its intended use as a combat sight. It is quickly acquired in daylight but doesn’t work as well for precision target-shooting. The TAB’s rear sight, with its non-glare finish and large U-notch, allowed me to easily see and quickly align the front sight. This pistol was very easy to manage, even when shooting with one hand, using Black Hills 124-grain +P loads (which are not throttled down on velocity as so many other brands are). The texture on the G10 grips cemented my hold to the pistol as intended.
I could access the mag release, thanks to a groove milled into the G10 grip. Follow-through was easy, and the sights were rapidly reacquired after recoil. The trigger on my test pistol broke at 3 pounds, 11 ounces using
a Lyman electronic scale. It had slight creep and zero over-travel consistent with the factory specs of 3.5 to 4.5 pounds. Although the EDC-9 Professional is offered in one basic design, Wilson Combat is a custom shop and can make pistols to customers’ specs. My preference would be to order the larger slide stop and safety levers and use a tritium front sight for night fire.
“The recurrent themes of reduced user maintenance and increased mechanical reliability permeate this pistol’s design.”
The EDC-9 Professional is a custom quality pistol with parts, fit, accuracy, reliability and aesthetics that are a given in a pistol in its price range. However, what elevates this pistol above its custom shop 1911 peer group are Wilson Combat’s many additional engineering enhancements that make it a much better carry and combat pistol.
ACTION TYPE: Semi-auto
SLIDE: 416R Stainless
FRAME: 4140 Carbon Steel
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 10
TRIGGER: Single action
BARREL LENGTH: 4.0 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.6 inches
HEIGHT: 5.6 inches
WEIGHT: 39.6 ounces
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.