I understand the rationale that most concealed-carry enthusiasts have for moving away from full-size handguns to something they believe is more comfortable to carry and/or easier to conceal. However, when the move is to a platform completely different than the one with which they practice, compete or qualify, I’m mystified. Muscle memory being what it is — ability built from thou- sands of repetitions — these folks are handicapping themselves in the event of a lethal confronta- tion. They are deceiving themselves, believing their skill with one handgun type will transfer readily to another.

Those feeling the need to carry something smaller than the handguns with which they are proficient — and let’s hope they’re proficient — have two choices, excluding deluding themselves: Choose a similar platform, benefiting from one’s developed muscle memory, and practice with it; or choose another platform and practice to develop muscle memory and proficiency!

Compact versions of most full- size handguns are available in production and/or custom mod- els, making option one probably the most logical. For 1911 enthusiasts, there are a number of excellent sources of production and custom compact versions, with Wilson Combat riding high in the custom arena.

Wilson Combat

Nestled in the Arkansas hills, in Berryville, Wilson Combat has been building beautiful, function- al, reliable 1911s since 1978: their products are synonymous with modern 1911s. The com- pany was begun by a hotshot IPSC shooter (long before the founding of the USPSA) who tired of waiting on the era’s pistolsmiths to deliver custom 1911s, which on occasion did not meet expectations.

Bill Wilson leveraged his watchmaking skills into a part-time, then full-time pis- tolsmithing career that blossomed into today’s Wilson Combat, builders of top- notch custom firearms and purveyors of outstanding parts. The pistolsmiths of yesteryear built much of what they need- ed and assembled pistols with a ton of hand fitting. Wilson Combat might not need to build parts, thanks to their own line of Bullet Proof parts, but their abundant hand fitting still goes into each firearm they produce.

Wilson Combat has several compact models available. Twelve by my count: four in the Sentinel line and eight in the slightly more conventional Compact line. I’ve been lucky to test a number of Wilson 1911s over the years, compact and full-size — I’ve even tested a few of the company’s long guns — and the only problem I ever encountered was caused by my incorrectly installing a reverse plug beneath a heavy barrel!

Two of the newest compact offerings, one from each line, are the Super Sentinel and the X-TAC Compact. Chambered solely for the .38 Super and .45 ACP respectively, they bring signifi- cant calibers to the table, while differing in more than cartridges.

X-TAC Compact Details

Wilson’s X-TAC Compact, their full- size X-TAC’s smaller brother, tosses the 5-inch barrel for a 4-inch, improving portability. Steel slide and frame are reduced to accommodate shorter barrels, and the butt was cut 0.5 inches to hold seven rounds, for enhanced concealment. Distinguishing the X-TAC family from other 1911s are its enhanced design parameters, which produce exceptionally controllable pistols. These include the distinctive, bi-directional “checkering” on the frontstrap and main- spring housing as well as on the rear slide-cocking grooves. Picture tightly meshed X-shaped grooves, pro- ducing diamonds where they cross. When wet or dry hands grab these Xs, grip pressure embeds flesh in the grooves and diamonds, creating almost unbreakable traction. The X-TAC check- ering is more durable and effective than traditional treatments — it’s less likely to be nicked and dinged than is the case with other kinds of checkering — and it cannot snag on clothing.

Finishing the enhanced grip of the pistol is Wilson’s attractive and highly functional Starburst G-10 grips. The
Starburst’s grooves, radiating in numerous directions, ef- fectively handle the different directional forces of recoil.

Completing the X-TAC Compact’s concealment and function package are Wil- son’s Round Butt frame, its serrated rear Battlesight (with a wider U-shaped notch surrounded by a recessed semi-circle), a fiber optic front sight, a Tactical Thumb Safety, a high-cut frontstrap, a beveled magazine well, and the High-Ride Beaver- tail. All steel parts are finished in a black, Mil-Spec parkerized phosphate, its slight texture adding to the grip’s friction. The 4-inch stainless Match Grade Cone Barrel and reverse recoil plug are left bright.

With only 3.75 pounds of pressure on the black, skeletonized trigger, the black oval burr hammer fell. The pull was crisp and overtravel was imperceptible, as expected on Wilson pistols.

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