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Old 11-18-2013, 10:12 AM
Dan1612 Dan1612 is offline
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I wrote this for my local forum. Thought it'd be more relevant here:
Originally Posted by Welldoya
I always wondered how the high-end 1911s stacked up to each other - Nighthawk,Les Baer, Ed Brown and Wilson. What are the major differences?
Or is it kind of like Ford vs Chevy?
I had too. I used to LOVE my Kimbers, I had great luck with them, and wondered how much better semi customs could possibly be. I came across a fantastic deal on an old Wilson and figured if I wasn't satisfied I could always sell it and get my money back.

Long story short, I can tell you it's most definitely not a Ford vs Chevy type thing. There are distinct differences between the 4 main semi-custom shops. One vs the others may suit you better depending on your tastes. I'll write a quick summary of what I've experienced.

Nighthawk:
Fit: I had the GRP, which was supposedly originally designed for a unit in the Middle East and a bit of slop was deemed acceptable to ensure reliability in a sandy environment. To me, while a loose slide is perfectly reliable, it's one of the hallmarks of the hand fitting resulting from the skill of a master gunsmith. At the price range, the tight have fitting is part of what you're paying for, and unacceptable to not have it. Nighthawk did offer to fix it, but I just don't have the patience. That pistol should never have left Berryville in the first place. I'm sure they CAN build a tight gun, but consistency is to be expected at the price range.
Finish: I had the Diamond Black, which is really just Ion Bond. Very interesting finish, and very durable. The gun showed no considerable wear, even on the barrel hood, very impressive. They also make some shiny finishes that are drop dead gorgeous, they're supposed to be rather soft, but very beautiful, especially with a set of alumagrips.
Trigger: Fantastic! No creep, minimal travel, short reset.
Summary: Beautiful guns, nice trigger, unacceptable fitting in my experience. If you want a sweet looking modern style 1911, but you're willing to deal with the possibility of it having to go back, it might be for you.

Les Baer:
Fit: Fantastic, the skill to build such a tight gun that runs reliably, is astonishing. These things are amazingly fit. These guys know how to fit. On the flip side, if you carry condition 3, which I sometimes do, good luck doing an Israeli draw. I know 1911's are supposed to be in 1, but I carried in 3 while in the military, so that's what I'm comfortable with.
Finish: a deep, beautiful dark blue. Absolutely classic. Had I kept it , I would have loved to put a set of stag or bone grips to offset the gorgeous blue.
Trigger: Heavy and creepy, sure, it's an easy fix, and Les Baer offered to fix it. I really wanted it to feel like a Wilson trigger, but I figured, if you want a Wilson trigger, get a Wilson.
Summary: Its a nice, heavy steel gun, it's built like a tank and you can feel it in the hand. It feels great in addition to the excellent fit and finish, and it feels like a well built, solid, manly gun. Les Baer justifies the trigger as being heavy enough for real-world defensive use, but I shoot better with a light, Wilson style trigger, and if I can't hit what I'm aiming at, it defeats the whole purpose of the whole thing, and I didn't want to mess with it, being what the builder meant for it to be and turn it into something it's not. Highly, highly recommended if you like a heavier trigger and believe its safer and all that. Another consideration is that they are a great value for what you get for such a fantastic price. Real world price of only a bit more than a Springfield TRP, also a great gun with a shiny finish, but no semi-custom.
Ed Brown,
I've only handled it. Jays downtown has a Special Forces bobtail. Very nice fit finish and trigger and surprisingly similar to Wilson. If I wanted a commander bobtail gun, I'd definitely give it a go. They came up with the bobtail thing, which I like, but I like a 5" barrel more than the bobtails. This is a rare combination, I almost bought a Kimber because it had a bobtail on a 5" barrel. I would definitely recommend it. The one at jays, they've got for 2200, I think it could be talked down to 2k flat, which is a fantastic value.

Wilson:
Fit: perfection. Not too loose, not too tight. Tight enough to be much more accurate than most, loose enough for Israeli draws, like I like to do.
Finish: very nice, parkerized or parkerized + armor-tuff. Not shiny, which may be a good thing for working operators, but I'm not one. Armor-tuff is a bit shinier than just parkerized, so I'll do the upgrade later on, after the parkerized wears a bit. Who knows, could take some time, and that's ok. Either option is a tough, good looking, durable option, can't ask for much more than that.
Trigger: absolute perfection. Not much more to say. I don't care about triggers in rifles, even my nastiest trigger (sig 716) is more than good enough to hit what I aim at within the ranges I shoot, but on a handgun, it makes a huge difference in accuracy, so to me, it's my #1 consideration.
Summary: The best fit for what I'm looking for. To me, no one does it better. In fact, I should have a spankin' new X-Tac in a couple of days.

The original question: Are the big 4 different? Absolutely, it's good to know what you're looking for, or learn along the way, but once you figure it out, nothing else will do.

The big question: Is it worth it? Depends on you. My dad has a custom fitted beretta worth several thousand dollars. I would NEVER pay that much for a shotgun. I used to shoot clays competitively and find my old SX1 more than good enough. I don't hunt as much as he does, but he doesn't even own a handgun. People have ARs costing 2k and more, I'd never pay that much for a rifle, especially in a useless caliber, like 223, but people use them a lot and feel they're worth it. Varmint hunting, carbine courses, etc, not for me. People have Rolex, Tag Heuer, I wouldn't pay that much for a watch, but I understand the appeal in having something so well made that it feels good to wear it, to hold it, to admire it. I could have Glocks that would work well and consistently and do the job just fine, and save lots of money, but they don't stir the soul like a 1911, also, when I grip another gun, my thumb subconsciously looks for the thumb safety, it knows that's what's it belongs. A Glock is perfect for what it is, but if you want a 1911 that is as accurate as it can be, and 100% reliable, it comes with a price of admission, a price that I'm willing to pay. Carrying a semi-custom, I know it'll get worn and scratched, which can be easily fixed by sending it back to its maker, I'll even upgrade the finish. I know I have the best possible tool on my side for my skill and training to effectively protect myself and my family should the need arise. God forbid I ever have to use it, if I'm successful and I'm able to walk away, the law will probably take it, and I'm ok with that by simply asking myself the question: how much is your life worth?


Whew, got a bit winded. Mods feel free to move this, and if you were patient to read this far, please comment. Maybe there's a method to my madness, maybe I'm insane, you let me know. Either way, just my 0.02, YMMV, and all that jazz.

Last edited by Dan1612; 11-18-2013 at 09:48 PM.
  #2  
Old 11-18-2013, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Dan1612 View Post
especially in a useless caliber, like 223
Welcome to the forum and Congrats on your incoming X, she's sure to be a mighty fine pistol. We try to keep the WC subforum focused on WC products, since a comparison thread is likely to invite a myriad of other products, it's probably best to post this in the General Discussion subforum. Perhaps that way, we'll all be able to learn what makes one of the most versatile rounds ever created worthless. Or, perhaps you may find yourself enlightened.
  #3  
Old 11-18-2013, 06:42 PM
SpeedRazer SpeedRazer is offline
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Wilson, Nighthawk, Ed Brown and Les Baer in that order. Les Baer last because the finish is sub-par IMHO (my TRS frame is HORRIBLE!!) . I like Guncrafter with Nighthawk, the thing that really sets Wilson apart is the customer service X1000 any problem big or small no questions and prompt positive action.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:02 PM
GotUzi GotUzi is offline
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I started with Springfield's, then I went to Kimber's, then to Les Baer, and now Wilson Combat. I prefer Wilson Comabt over all of them for Comabt/daily use gun. If I wanted a match type pistol I'd go with either a Colt Gold Cup 70 Series or a Les Baer match gun. If I had it to do all over again I'd have started with Wilson and saved myself a lot of money and time.

It's hard it explain to people why WC, NH, EB,LB ect guns cost so much more than others. It's something that you have to see and understand for yourself.
  #5  
Old 11-18-2013, 07:13 PM
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This was an awesome read (even with the silly 223 comment LOL), THANK YOU for posting it!

I'm gonna go clean my LWRC m6a2 spr now...
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:22 PM
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Army Chief Army Chief is offline
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Originally Posted by Dan1612 View Post
People have ARs costing 2k and more, I'd never pay that much for a rifle, especially in a useless caliber, like 223, but people use them a lot and feel they're worth it. Varmint hunting, carbine courses, etc, not for me.
"Not for you" is one thing. We can all understand that.

Referring to 5.55 or .223 as a "useless caliber" is beyond silly, and tells me that you are not especially well-informed on the topic.


I approved your thread for posting here, but as others have stated, I'm not really sure where it may be headed, or what the underlying intent was or is. Personally, I don't see any of your suggested peer competitors (NH, LB or EB) as being on par with where Wilson's is these days, but that is open for discussion, and all are invited to make their points for or against. Much of this is always going to be subjective, and that is fine.

Let's just be sure that we know what we are talking about when we do engage on these points, as this sort of thing can get anecdotal -- and senseless -- in relatively short order. While I don't want to be unkind about it, I also need to point out that these very same kinds of threads tend to show up over and over and over around here. A quick search will reveal that they all follow the same predictable path.

AC
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Old 11-18-2013, 08:07 PM
SPR_shooter SPR_shooter is offline
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Was a great assessment up until ya started trashing shotguns and ARs.
I love all guns, I know guys that have $3k in an AR, but will not spend a dime on a 1911 because they think they are outdated and over priced.

I love ARs, I love my Browning Citori and I dearly love my 1911s.
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Old 11-18-2013, 08:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan1612 View Post
I wrote this for my local forum. Thought it'd be more relevant here:

if you were patient to read this far, please comment. Maybe there's a method to my madness, maybe I'm insane, you let me know.
insane
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  #9  
Old 11-18-2013, 08:43 PM
og556 og556 is offline
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OP I came to the same conclusion as you but a little differently recently. I don't mean to hijack your thread so mods please delete if this is out of one but here it goes.

I went to a local shop recently and handled a couple of gorgeous Ed Brown pistols and a Wilson X Tac. Due to a recent situation I found myself in I will soon be able to buy my first ever actual high end semi custom 1911.

The Ed Browns were absolutely stunning in terms of looks. They had a stainless steel Kobra Carry which was just dead sexy. I picked it up, asked permission if I may carefully rack the slide slowly and carefully, and try dry firing it.

I did this a few times and I liked what I felt. I don't know how to describe it but as gorgeous as that little 4.25" barreled bob tailed 1911 was it just wasn't the one for me.

I thought the trigger was ok and the ergos were ok but the bob tail was not what I was looking for and I also prefer 5" 1911's for a number of reasons.

My attention then turned to the X Tac. This particular model had been built Sept. 2013 and looked like a base model with tritium front sight. The fellow helping me told me it was an armor tuff optioned one but I have no idea how to check for that.

At first when I started researching these higher end 1911's I was settled on a Les Baer or an Ed brown due to price/value for what you pay. After a lot of research and soul searching I decided if I was going to shell out $2k+ for a single pistol I would be getting one that had the highest quality internals, highest quality forged carbon steel slide/frame, and the best CS in case it needs some tuning or service down the line. I read on forums about the different parts 1911 smiths use and thought back on various options I had wanted when customizing my existing 1911. It seems like Wilson's bullet proof parts are top shelf choices for custom builds and aftermarket upgrades for a reason. Also they stand behind their products for life. I was settled on a Wilson. Unfortunately the wait for a Wilson build right now is almost 2 years.

Fast forward to my trip to this gun store/range I decided to visit and I have these beautiful examples of 1911's in front of me. I picked up the X Tac and instantly knew this was the one. The gun just felt right in my hands and every thing about it felt like perfection.

The slide to frame fit was perfect without being too tight but it was tighter than the Ed Browns. Barrel to slide fit had zero movement. The trigger was unreal. The checkering was absolutely perfect. Every thing about this 1911 was just right. I put money down for 2/3rds of it in cash and should have it in hand by this Friday. I can't wait.

In the end what really drove me over the edge to buy the Wilson was the known quality of the parts in their guns and the fact that they properly fit their guns. The icing on the cake that really did me in was my own experience with Wilson's CS on a TTU trigger and also the countless positive glowing experiences I've read about on here and other forums about Wilson Combat's CS. They stand behind their guns. I know 1911's may inherently need more attention then the Tupperware I've been shooting and carrying my adult life so far so I expect some minor issues along the way. Based on my experiences with my Colt I also understand there are things which I need to do such as adjusting extractor tension, changing recoil spring every 5k, proper lubrication(run wet), and using/testing the highest quality mags I can get my hands on. Luckily for me a I have a decent sized stash of Tripp Research mags already and a few Wilson mags. It's comforting to know that if something comes up they are there to help and they seem to go the extra mile. The only other modern companies I have experienced this with are Surefire and Noveske.

Last edited by og556; 11-18-2013 at 08:46 PM.
  #10  
Old 11-18-2013, 09:04 PM
Dan1612 Dan1612 is offline
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Congrats to og556 on the X-Tac. I agree about the 5" point. I used to have shorter guns, and would take them to the range but never shot them, because I knew I shot best with the 5" guns, so that's what I shoot and carry. I'm thinking about a 6" or a 1911 in a flatter, faster caliber, we'll see.

AC, thank you for approving it. I do apologize for the usage if the term "useless" I really meant useless to me, which was part of the point about shotguns. I don't hunt very much or shoot clays much anymore, so a multi k shotgun is not for me. By the same token, Im not a varmint hunter, an operator, a carbine course, 3 gun type, so an expensive 223/556 is not for me. One more try, a pair of $500 stilettos are useless to me, but my wife would disagree. I do think, based on feedback from several friends and classmates from Annapolis that 5.56 is really not working as well as they'd like in the sandbox, but that's another discussion. I do have a couple, but they were just cheap and cheerful builds. I do shoot handguns at least every couple of weeks, and I carry one daily, so personally, a multi k handgun is very useful and rewarding for me to have. Based in our preferences, we skimp on some things, but we spend where we feel is important. I for instance, value quality in socks, toilet paper, and handguns, most everything else, I really couldn't care less about. Different people with different needs, such as my father may find a handgun in any price range "useless"
The intent on posting here was that I could share my experience with someone in the same predicament I found myself in recently, and also get some feedback so that I could learn something and perhaps be enlightened to points that perhaps I would not have considered otherwise.
I also do know there aren't many owners of semi customs in my area, so I thought I could learn more about what I'm most interested in by joining and participating in this forum.
I really appreciate you guys approving my post and participating and commenting. Perhaps it would be best in the general discussion area, I really didn't know where to go, this is only my second forum, ever, and I'm not a "MyFace" or "VineTweet" kind of guy, so I do t know the social media etiquette rules as well as others. I'll be more mindful of my diction in the future. All the best!

Last edited by Dan1612; 11-18-2013 at 09:25 PM.
  #11  
Old 11-18-2013, 10:33 PM
tidalforce79 tidalforce79 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Army Chief View Post
"Not for you" is one thing. We can all understand that.

I approved your thread for posting here, but as others have stated, I'm not really sure where it may be headed, or what the underlying intent was or is. Personally, I don't see any of your suggested peer competitors (NH, LB or EB) as being on par with where Wilson's is these days, but that is open for discussion, and all are invited to make their points for or against. Much of this is always going to be subjective, and that is fine.

AC
I actually agree with you there. I think Wilson is the king of the 4. That being said, NH, EB and LB make excellent pistols. The NH I own is on par with the Wilson as far as build, however, it's not as reliable with my reloads and most of my mags.
My brother's Brown is, IMO, ALMOST equal to the Wilson. The build is as good, and the trigger is maybe even a tad better. However, it won't feed certain ammo, and the rear sight uses a single screw(which came loose).
The Baer I handled was a step below the other 3, in terms of finish and trigger pull, however, I think the build itself was equal.
All in all, you really have to cherry pick the perks/flaws in these 4 guns to really decide which is "better". I can pick up the NH and Brown, and shoot them exactly the same. When I replace my "used to be blind" sights on the Wilson, it will be the same.
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  #12  
Old 11-19-2013, 01:44 PM
bjeffv bjeffv is offline
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I handled two les baers once, I was very much so not impressed.

Everybody has things they will spend their money on, and wouldn't. I won't own horses, but I have friends who spend oodles of money on them. I have had them look at my snowmobiles or four wheelers and call them wastes of money.... oh the irony.

I say as long as its not tax dollars being spent, nobody has business telling others whats worth spending money on or not.

I own a billet wilson AR in 5.56 that cost just south of 3k, it is worth every penny to myself, and I if it was destroyed tomorrow in some terrible accident I would buy another.
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Old 11-19-2013, 01:59 PM
Dan1612 Dan1612 is offline
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Honestly, I'm a bit afraid of handling a Wilson AR "just to see what the fuss is about" that's how it started with the 1911s.
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Old 11-19-2013, 04:47 PM
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I see no superiority by my Wilson over my Brown and, in some ways, the Brown edges out the wilson. I love them both though.
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Old 11-19-2013, 04:54 PM
Dan1612 Dan1612 is offline
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I see no superiority by my Wilson over my Brown and, in some ways, the Brown edges out the wilson. I love them both though.
I could definitely see that, but I didn't shoot the brown. I do prefer the grips on the Wilson, both in looks and function. Can't have starburst grips on another gun without feeling silly. The only downside is that I must wear an undershirt, otherwise, they tear me up.
  #16  
Old 11-19-2013, 05:39 PM
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I could definitely see that, but I didn't shoot the brown. I do prefer the grips on the Wilson, both in looks and function. Can't have starburst grips on another gun without feeling silly. The only downside is that I must wear an undershirt, otherwise, they tear me up.

To make your statement above, I think you should have at least shot an Ed Brown.
I can't say I like my Ed Browns over my Wilsons. All have been great shooters. The beavertail of the Ed Brown seems to fit my hand a bit better then the others. Battlesight of the Wilson seems a bit better. I don't worry about grips because you can change them. Both reliable and accurate. Cost wise for the base pistol they are within a couple hundred dollars. Wilson being a bit higher. Both offer more features then anyone needs. Brown will do a custom serial number.
I didn't like my Baer at all. Tight is right didn't work for me. Didn't like the look of he Knighthawk. Sold both and bought additional Wilsons and Browns.
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Old 11-19-2013, 05:47 PM
.45_ACP .45_ACP is offline
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Several of my friends who own firearms themselves think I'm nuts for spending north of 3K on a Wilson Combat 1911 and that I ordered a Wilson Combat AR that is north of 2K. It's not a matter of jealousy either, these guys have access to the same or more financial resources that I do. Many of them have a lot more firearms than I do so I think it's a matter of quaNity over quaLity with them. I'm just the opposite when it comes to that.

It all boils down to what you value. I won't spend $60.00 on a fancy steak dinner because to me that's a ripoff but I won't think twice about dropping 100K+ on a car.
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:25 PM
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I sold my Nighthawk and my two Baers. I have no interest in owning either of those brands again. I don't see a need to discuss the reasons why on this forum.

Small parts quality on a modern, full Bullet Proof Wilson Combat is superior to Ed Brown. That's fact. That said, I really like Ed Brown 1911's and own two currently. They make a really nice pistol. Oh, and in my experience, their customer service is quite good.
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:29 PM
SVTNate SVTNate is offline
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It all boils down to what you value. I won't spend $60.00 on a fancy steak dinner because to me that's a ripoff but I won't think twice about dropping 100K+ on a car.
See I'll pay cash for a 40k car every 4-5 years, but no way I'd own a 100k car.

But $60 steak dinner? That's cheap. Just last weekend I paid $60 for a raw piece of meat, that I had to cook myself, with no sides and no waiter to serve it for me. 32 ounce Prime bone-in ribeye. I took care of the steak in short order, one of the dogs took care of the bone.

It was well worth it!

A $60 piece of steak is a small treat, but a 100k car? I can be perfectly happy with a new or used car in the 40k range and the extra 60k can earn more money for me in an investment account or my retirement account.

40k buys me enough power to get sideways on the way to work and destroy my rear tires in 15k miles
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:50 PM
Raylan Givens Raylan Givens is online now
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I like to have a variety of guns. Everything from pistols, shotguns and rifles in many different brands. Always having production 1911's and continuing to buy them, I always wanted a Wilson. I started investigating them and looking at the best ways to obtain one.

While on this venture I began looking at other semi custom brands to see what is out there. I set a goal to own at least one gun from Wilson, Brown, Baer and Guncrafter. Nothing against Nighthawk, but I have never been enamored with them. I'm sure I will obtain one eventually. But, right now I am rounding out the rest of my "collection".

In my opinion Brown and Wilson are very close in the finish department. My No Name should be here soon, so I can't give a hands on evaluation. My expectations are high and from what I hear I won't be disappointed.

As far as shooting, they all do a great job of sending bullets down range. This being said, I really like the Wilson examples I own. Looking at the bigger picture, Wilson Combat is collectively my favorite.
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:02 PM
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I'm at the point where I want a variety of Wilson Combat 1911's.

I think I'll keep my two Browns, but the more 1911's I've owned I hone my tastes and now really have no interest in anything but WC.

I'm thinking about ordering a Tactical Elite. That would make 4 full size Wilson 45's in my safe, plus the one 9mm.

EDIT - I do want an Heirloom Precision. I may pick up a second Colt S70 reissue and have Ted or Jason build me a retro gun. They are beautiful guns, and those guys build some of the nicest 1911's on the planet.
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:24 PM
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Congratulations guys.

This is one of the more civil comparison discussions I have read on the 1911 forums in a while.
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:32 PM
Dan1612 Dan1612 is offline
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Congratulations guys.

This is one of the more civil comparison discussions I have read on the 1911 forums in a while.
Lol. I thought it was gonna get ugly because of my choice of word for things that are not as useful to me as others. I think once I explained myself, it's calmed down and it's all good now. Not bad for a first post, huh?

For anyone interested, this is a video I took of the slop in the nighthawk frame.
http://youtu.be/_kYiSbY-6p0
Needles to say, I'm now a Wilson man. Starting to think about what my third will be. Maybe a hunter?
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:48 PM
scw2 scw2 is offline
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I think you got the first post length record.
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Old 11-19-2013, 08:11 PM
SCS1911 SCS1911 is offline
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It all boils down to what you value. I won't spend $60.00 on a fancy steak dinner because to me that's a ripoff but I won't think twice about dropping 100K+ on a car.
Damn, I have issues. I will pay for good food, good cars and good 1911's. I call it frugal (getting the most for your money), some may call it crazy.
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