By Bob Boyd, Shooting Illustrated
For the consumer looking to buy a semi-automatic handgun for personal protection, one thing not in short supply is options. In addition to being offered in various sizes, further choices abound when considering the pros and cons of the different types of actions. For example, single-action pistols, such as the famed, battle-proven 1911, typically sport such appealing features as a slim profile that facilitates inside-the-waistband carry with ease, a short trigger pull with equally minimal amounts of takeup and reset to keep the sights on-target, along with redundant manual safety systems for added peace of mind and an impressive selection of chamberings.
Critics of the “Old War Horse” are quick to dismiss the 1911’s service record, citing how annoying its low magazine capacity is when compared with its more-capacious opponents: the double-action and the striker-fired semi-autos. Both have grown in popularity over the past several decades, due largely to features such as enhanced passive-safety systems, the incorporation of staggered magazines to greatly increase capacity and the use of alloys and polymer to offset the additional weight that came with the extra ammo. The new Wilson Combat EDC X9 is a well-designed, hybrid melding of the two.
Given its long history of building 1911s for competitive shooting and self-defense, the Wilson Combat EDC X9 is the company’s most ambitious project to date, offering a fresh design—and a significant departure—from the majority of 1911s on the market. With a name like EDC X9, it should come as no surprise that the company’s latest offering was designed from a personal-protection standpoint, where everyday carry/concealment plays a vital role. Yet, rather than jump into the polymer-frame pistol market to develop a handgun with greater capacity, company founder Bill Wilson chose a different approach by taking design cues from some unlikely pistols from the past.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the Browning BDM. A cool pistol that was way ahead of its time, one of the unique things about it was the way its frame was manufactured. The backstrap came in from the rear, and when you took the grip off almost all the internals and the frame were accessible. Such a concept allows for simple disassembly and maintenance while still accommodating a generous capacity and keeping the pistol lightweight. I also thought, wouldn’t it be cool to get a 15+1 gun that felt like an Astra A-70? And I could get there by trying the concept of the BDM because its frame doesn’t take up much room.”
The Wilson Combat EDC X9 project started in March 2015 and culminated in early 2017 after three working prototypes were made and thousands of rounds sent downrange. One look at the X9 will verify it as a no-nonsense, purpose-built pistol. The sample I received for testing is coated in Wilson’s matte-black Armor-Tuff finish, a form of Cerakote. Its 416R stainless-steel slide measures a quarter-inch shorter than the Colt Combat Commander, and a tri-top cut, complete with 30 lpi serrations, span the slide’s length. This unique contour reduces weight while contributing toward the pistol’s superb pointability and aesthetic appeal.
The respective ends of the slide are adorned with the company’s low-profile front post and a Battlesight rear. The latter I found extremely impressive, given its wide, .145-inch, U-shaped notch, which is recessed in a pocket and provides a crisp, protected sight picture that aids in rapid alignment under stress. This assembly also sports dual setscrews to provide a rock-solid interface capable of shrugging off abuse. Despite its robust nature, there’s a larger setscrew located directly in front of the rear-sight’s notch that allows elevation adjustment. Although the edges of the rear sight are radiused, an external shelf makes one-handed cycling of the slide easy. A bright-green fiber-optic pipe was also included. While this would not have been my first choice for a concealed-carry pistol like the Wilson Combat EDC X9, a tritium option is also available. Whichever you choose, it is anchored with a 4-40 hex-head cap screw.
Expertly executed horizontal 40 LPI serrations embellish the rear of the slide while adding to the X9’s wow-factor. Wilson’s talented gunsmiths give the gun a carry-bevel treatment to smooth sharp edges and an aluminum frame to reduce weight to a svelte 29 ounces, both pluses for such a handgun. Where a 1911 should not be smooth, the Wilson Combat EDC X9 has some nice touches. At the rear of the slide is Wilson’s X-TAC texturing. Scale-like in appearance, it provides a tactile surface when cycling the slide. The eye-catching treatment is also found on the frontstrap and mainspring housing, serving as a subtle means of purchase enhancement during recoil (without that annoying bite of conventional alternatives) such as checkering and stippling.
As with most custom 1911s, the ejection port of the Wilson Combat EDC X9 is lowered and flared for improved reliability. As one might expect, those are but a few of this pistol’s reliability-oriented features. Longitudinal fluting on the exterior of the barrel hood serves as a means of redirecting malfunction-inducing crud. Additional flutes span from the end of the chamber to just shy of the tapered muzzle that ends in a stylish flush-cut reverse crown. A gradually expanding contour along the barrel’s exterior offers a more-consistent lockup for greater reliability, as opposed to standard barrels with conventional bushings. On the opposite end, the presence of an integral feedramp, complete with a mirror polish, should foster flawless feeding.
To further address malfunction-free performance, Wilson Combat developed its Enhanced Reliability System (ERS) for9 mm 1911s. According to the company website, “The ERS is tailored to the varying power level of 9 mm ammunition and maintains impressive reliability in all conditions, even when heavily fouled and low on lubrication.” Other ERS-related features include the aforementioned tri-top slide, a match-grade barrel with a single-lug design that aims to reduce cycling friction, increase slide velocity and improve feed reliability. Wilson’s pistolsmiths have also taken the time to remove metal from around the area surrounding the magazine opening. Such interrupted rails serve as a means of further reducing friction.
Imagine a high-capacity 9 mm pistol with a grip so ergonomic, everyone who picks it up parrots the same three-word response, “This feels great” and that is part of the almost supernatural appeal that contributes to the Wilson Combat EDC X9’s allure. Built using the company’s innovative 7075 T6 aluminum X-Frame, Wilson and his engineers worked with Mec-Gar to jointly develop a frame that allowed for considerable firepower, resulting in one that accepted a double-stack, 15-round magazine. Surprisingly, its grip circumference of 1.25 inches is just under the width of a standard 1911—while retaining conventional 1911 controls—and without the need for designing a proprietary magazine. (The EDC X9 accepts Walther PPQ magazines.) But the magic doesn’t stop there.
In addition to the engineering know-how, unicorn hair and pixie dust that goes into such innovation, another possibility for the ultra-comfy feel pertains to how the pistol’s slim grip panels attach to the frame. Instead of relying on screws, the side of the frame is dovetailed to accommodate the thin G10 panels, which sport a mildly abrasive, purchase-enhancing sunburst pattern and are held in place by the one-piece, spring-loaded backstrap. (Other grips and backstraps are offered to customize the Wilson Combat EDC X9’s ergonomics to meet the individual needs of the shooter.) The end result is a pistol that melts into your hand.
Dimensionally, the 9 mm EDC X9 fits squarely in the compact-pistol category, but with a grip size that belies its double-stack magazine. Interestingly, the pistol’s length and height are nearly identical to a certain mid-size, striker-fired 9 mm pistol of Austrian manufacture. Control wise, the Wilson Combat EDC X9 is fitted with a skeletonized hammer and medium-length solid trigger, which promotes easy access even with gloved hands, and broke at a crisp 3 pounds, 13 ounces. (Different trigger-length options are available.) To accommodate my southpaw affliction, a sublimely contoured ambidextrous thumb safety was included. Its narrow ledges aided in easy deactivation while providing just enough real estate for my thumb to comfortably reside while shooting. (Given its absence of a grip safety, the argument could be made that the X9 is closer to resembling a Browning Hi Power in function than a 1911. The long, one-piece backstrap, complete with a beavertail-shaped tang, extends down the back of the frame, and it too can be swapped out to fit the pistol to the end user.)
The smoothness with which this pistol shoots and operates must be experienced. While 9 mm has never been known as a hard-kicking cartridge, in this 1911 it is undeniably comfortable. The Wilson Combat EDC X9 was subjected to 15-yard benchrest accuracy testing using three different loads. Out of the 20 groups fired, the largest measured 2.48 inches and the smallest .50 inch. An additional 385 rounds were fired conducting various drills. In total, during the firing of more than 525 rounds, not a single stoppage, malfunction or hiccup was experienced. The elegant Sunburst pattern in the G10 panels offered a welcome alternative to the popular cheese-grater texture found on competitor’s pistols. Surprisingly, this pistol proved noticeably easier-shooting than a full-size, steel-frame 1911 in 9 mm. My gripes about the EDC X9 are few. Undoubtedly a byproduct of the fluorescent lights of our indoor range, the fiber-optic front sight on my test sample didn’t appear as bright as I’d prefer. Therefore, since access to ambient light is not guaranteed in a life-threatening encounter, I believe night sights would be a more-practical option in keeping with this pistol’s mission.
While this ain’t your Grandpa’s 1911, the talented pistolsmiths at Wilson Combat gave the century-old warrior a contemporary face-lift. By loading it with high-end, practical features that make it exceptionally reliable and accurate for everyday carry and adding an impressive 15-round capacity, the Wilson Combat EDC X9 marks the next evolutionary stage of America’s “Old Warhorse.”