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Review: Railed-Up Wilson Combat SFT9



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[Editor's Note and Forward:

No one likes being wrong. But the most annoying and frustrating person you know, the often joked-about proverbial uncle at Thanksgiving, is someone who can never admit they’re wrong or that they’ve ever been wrong in the ­ first place.

While I can’t say I’ve always been the ­ first to the table, I de­finitely know I’ve been wrong in the past, and am undoubtedly wrong about something right now and don’t yet realize it. The same is true for you. When presented with evidence via training that was contrary, after consoling my ego a bit, I realized I’d have to sing a different tune or become a fuddy dinosaur.

And I’ve been proven wrong yet again — or rather, what used to be true is no longer. Contrary to my prior beliefs, 9mm double-stack 1911s (commonly referred to as 2011s) can now be reasonably reliable and suitable for both duty and defense. This Wilson Combat SFT9 is what changed my mind.

When your previous opinions, or even your ideals or identity, hit the hard wall of reality it’s something of a gift: you get to ­ find out what kind of person you are. Are you someone with enough bravery and mental resilience to be honest? Will you just double-down, bury your head, and deny? Or simply lie and pretend you were never wrong in the ­ first place? Changing your mind when you discover more evidence isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of good character. It sucks in the moment, but it can pay big dividends to reexamine your beliefs and lines of thinking to see if they’re still valid.

Times change. Do you?]

After the end of World War II, the U.S. government liquidated and unloaded an awful lot of equipment onto the American civilian market — gun parts sold by the pound. And of course, this included the .45ACP mass-issue sidearm, the 1911. What initially had a reputation of being a rough rattletrap morphed into the moniker of “too-tight and unreliable” — amazing what happens when you combine a pistol designed when hand-fitting was cheap and machine work was both expensive and imprecise, with disparate manufacturing and assorted standards. It was this environment in the late 1970s when Bill Wilson, a trained jeweler, began his first foray into firearms.

Wilson’s Gun Shop was opened in Berryville, Arkansas, with 1911s in mind. What started as custom 1911 pistolsmithing expanded into other firearms like AR-15s and shotguns, eventually evolving to complete in-house production.

The latest from Wilson Combat, and the subject of this article, is the 4.25-inch barreled SFT9, made for carry and equipped with a light rail. Further highlighting the CCW characteristics are that all sharp edges are chamfered and smoothed until removed.

Most pistols don’t come with a case, and if they do it’s usually some cheap Chinese sleeve. Wilson Combat includes what’s essentially a compact range bag. Constructed of 600D Cordura, padded, and with enough space for a pair of pistols, a shot timer, a couple hundred rounds, and more than a half-dozen mags, it’s more than simply usable.

Tucked inside the bag alongside the pistol is one of the reasons why Wilson Combat is a renowned maker: a quality control checklist with more than 40 separate sections, each initialized. There’s also a sight-in/test target, complete with a list of every pistolsmith who laid hands on it.

FEATURES & DESIGN

The basic details of the Wilson Combat SKU can be derived with a decoder ring. SFT9 equals Solid Frame, TRAK grip, 9mm.

“Solid frame” literally means solid. Don’t let the appearance of removable grips fool you; the entire frame of the SFT9 is machined from a block of T6-7075 aluminum. This allowed Wilson to achieve a width of just 1.155 inches for the SFT9. While it’s wider than the stagger-stack doubles like the FN Reflex, SIG P365, and Glock 48, it’s slimmer than Wilson’s standard offerings.

Those accustomed to custom 1911s might expect fine-line checkering and walnut for the body, but Wilson Combat offers what they call the TRAK grip. This texture consists of large, chamfered-edge rectangles in assorted sizes depending on location, a kind of radial burst along the sides and more aggressive at the back. At the risk of being a bit heretical, it’s much like the factory Glock backstrap texture but with a higher-quality feel. The deep DLC coating adds a little extra something to everything.

And, of course, the frame is equipped with a rail. Note that if you’re running a standard SureFire X-series, the spacer on the switch plate will have to be removed in order to properly attach it.

The slide stop is nicely countersunk into the frame in the “standard” position. Those with smaller hands may need to use the thumb on their support hand to lock or release the slide, but this is nothing new when it comes to double-stack 9mm 1911s. The frame-mounted safety laterally extends a bit further than the slide stop, is serrated to ensure purchase, and as-standard is in right-hand configuration. Those who like to use it as a gas pedal for the strongside thumb will like it. Dropping the magazine is aided by a conscientious extension combined with a nestle for your thumb in the grip itself.

As has become increasingly common, the 15-round magazines come from Mec-Gar. Unlike many 2011s, Wilson Combat magazines are more like BHP magazines than anything else. We have no complaints about the fit or function of the magazine, but a minor bitch about the lack of customization. Though the floorplate is logo’d and features recesses for mag identification purposes, Wilson Combat went with the now-standard orange follower for the Mec-Gars, opting out of a custom color — we’d suggest blue. For those with multiple pistols with Mec-Gar mags, differentiating them from one another requires a bit of inspection first. Otherwise, you might wind up with a Wilson Combat pistol and Canik or Arex magazines in your range bag — ask us how we know.

The commander-length slide and barrel are manufactured oversized, then fit by hand at Wilson Combat. It has fine glare-reducing lines running along the entire top; both front and rear serrations are aggressive without being too sharp. Our example has a red fiber-optic front sight (with a spare in the bag, as fibers tend to go flying with enough use) and a rear sight with a nice U-shaped opening paired with horizontal serrations. In addition to the Novak-style dovetail, a pair of Torx fasteners ensure the rear sight stays in place.

The 1911 has been the standard in triggers for more than a century, to the point that every new trigger out there seems to tout itself as “like a 1911.” While there are competitive shooters and other crazy people who want a trigger to break as soon as you breathe on it, the SFT9 is meant to be a carry piece. There’s no proverbial glass rod here, but a consistent and predictable pull measuring just over 3.5 pounds. There’s some slack, but just enough to allow your finger to settle on the serrated and curved trigger.

HOLSTERS

One of the persistent annoyances with newly released pistols is the lack of aftermarket support. We don’t have that problem here. Despite eating from a double-stack 9mm magazine, the Wilson Combat SFT9 had no problems fitting into any of the standard 1911/2011 holsters that we had on hand, as well as most of the holsters designed for the BHP.

Additionally, one reason this is a new model is because of the standard rail up front. All of the light-specific, gun-ambiguous holsters like the PHLster Floodlight series, SureFire Masterfire, and Armordillo Concealment X-FER will work great.

OPTICS

While you can have the slide milled and fit for a given optic by someone else like it’s 2014, the better choice here is to have the slide milled for Wilson’s True Zero Optic Mounting System. Long gone are the days where microdots were so dimensionally inconsistent and so finicky that they needed to be hand-fit to pistol slides, though Wilson will do that, too. First introduced in 2019, Wilson’s True Zero is an interchangeable plate system, allowing you to exchange optics with different footprints as well as giving you a windage-adjustable rear sight without the need for additional custom work.

But you’re unlikely to find a Wilson with a True Zero setup in the store, as it isn’t a standard option. While you could use an adapter for a dot, the best way to do it is via Wilson’s custom firearm page and have the work done when the gun is born. In for a penny, in for a pound.

ON THE RANGE

As expected with a pistol that’s well-tested with assorted ammunition before it goes out the door and sent out in smaller numbers, the Wilson Combat SFT9 gobbled up everything that went into it. Nothing in the rando grab bag of 9mm ammunition we like to use for testing made it choke. The trigger may not be the best you’ve ever used in a competition 1911, but damned if it doesn’t outperform the others we’d be willing to put in our pants. Wilson Combat guarantees that each of their pistols can pattern groups of 1.5 inches at 25 yards with match grade ammunition, and in the case of this pistol the weakest link would be the shooter themselves. Anything you can shoot at with a 9mm, the Wilson Combat is a pretty damned good choice to do so with. 

ON 1911S AND 2011S

Not everything stays true forever; even if you know absolutely everything about firearms, if you stop learning eventually your assumptions become backward and wrong — it’s the first real step into Fuddism (see “Don’t Become a Fudd” in CONCEALMENT Issue 27). As such, every so often you should reevaluate what you previously knew to be true. And here it’s mandatory to say: while 1911s in general and 9mm 1911/2011 pistols in particular used to be rather finicky in terms of function, that’s no longer the case.

Modern machining is better than it’s ever been, and the level of precision mills available even to smaller shops is unprecedented. The result? Even inexpensive firearms are pretty reliable, and the higher-end niches can put out more consistent wares.

That said, you’ll still have to be a bit more conscientious with lubrication and other maintenance compared to a stock Glock, but it isn’t anything to pull hair over. There’s over a century of written material about proper lubrication of a 1911-style pistol.

LOOSE ROUNDS

We’ve seen many businesses fail-to-scale or fail at scaling, trading quality for quantity and bilking their own customers until they inevitably fall. Wilson Combat hasn’t had that problem, because they have steadfastly refused to compromise their level of quality. This does mean that price points are higher, lest wait times for even the most basic blasters stretch to years. Realistically, nothing Wilson Combat makes is for the price-sensitive, at least not for those who evaluate price/value comparisons for anything that costs less than a car; if you do then this pistol isn’t for you.

What you need to keep in mind is that Wilson Combat is essentially a custom shop — one that happens to make their own stuff. You won’t find near the level of human attention and expertise on a pistol that’s cranked out by the tens of thousands, nor would it even be feasible to do so.

While these technically aren’t “true custom” pistols because you can buy base models on the shelves of dealers, they all have the capability, if not the intention, for that to be the case. Everyone will have a different perspective of what’s perfect, but eliminating the iron sights entirely in lieu of an optic mount and adding ambidextrous controls would be pretty danged perfect for a carry gun.

We’d really like to see the True Zero optic mount as a standard feature, but those in the market for a Wilson Combat gun are unlikely to scoff at the extra single-digit percentage on top. But hell, as we just got a railed version in 2023 … just give it a few more years. 😉

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