For most serious firearms users, there are three types of firearms. There are those that are used a lot, such as serious self-defense models and plinkers. There are those that spend most of their lives in a safe because they’re too valuable to handle or have just fallen from favor. And there are “barbeque guns.”

It wasn’t until after my first six months with a state PD that someone explained the Texas Rangers’ barbeque guns—highly decorated pistols worn exposed in exotic hide holsters when attending public events. The Rangers have a long, honored history and many people expect the cowboy hats and boots, starched and ironed shirts, and barbeque handguns at functions.

Of course, this practice is not limited to the Rangers. Sheriffs and elected LEOs tend to dress similarly for events. And of course, this is not limited to just Texas! Reasonably, because I don’t have a badge to ride on the belt beside the holster, my handgun is only displayed when it needs be, such as while I am at a shooting range, and because it is no one’s business what and if I am carrying.

I almost bought a Colt revolver way back when that was undergoing extensive engraving. But the family needed things more than I needed the revolver. Since then, I’ve always wanted to have my own barbeque gun.

It is almost a waste of ink to introduce Wilson Combat of Berryville, Arkansas. But I will. In 1978, with IPSC becoming a new, fast-growing competition, Bill Wilson founded Wilson Combat—a one-man shop specializing in making other companies’ firearms, specifically those used in IPSC, primarily 1911s, run better.

Today, Wilson Combat now manufacturers its own 1911 frames and much more. The company offers custom-grade 1911s and modified Berettas, competition and home-defense shotguns, AR-platform rifles in a number of calibers and configurations, concealed-carry holsters, various firearm accessories, top-grade ammunition, duty-ready knives and, surprisingly to me, extremely high-quality engraving.

High-Powered Art

Like painting and sculpting, engraving requires a special person. Wilson Combat is working with such a person, someone imminently qualified to provide engraving services. They have award-winning engraving artist Wayne D’Angelo. D’Angelo is one of the world’s foremost firearm engraving artists and his attention to detail is legendary. He is the former chief engraver for Smith & Wesson as well as a former contract engraver for Colt.

Through D’Angelo’s artistry, Wilson Combat offers three levels of firearm engraving on any Wilson Combat pistol. Engraving can be performed only before the build process begins and only on stainless pistols or those destined to have a blued finish—guns receiving Armor-Tuff finishes are excluded for obvious reasons. The service is noticeably faster than from other companies. Customers can select from three levels of service depending on the amount of hand engraving and intricacies they want included on their gun.

The folks at Wilson Combat were nice enough to send me one of the company’s Level 1-engraved Texas BBQ Special 1911s and photos of a Level 3 gun. It’s enough to make a grown man cry looking at all the beautiful work done on a stainless steel version of John Moses Browning’s design!

On the rear right side of the BBQ Special’s slide is the Texas state seal, a ribbon enclosing the words “Texas BBQ Special” as well as intertwining designs in several spots including the muzzle. A border extends from the muzzle to the ejection port. On the opposite side, the Wilson Combat logo fills the rear spot along with strategically located intertwining designs. Both sides of the frame have three intertwining designs engraved. The Level 3 BBQ Special has everything described above but with a ton more intertwining designs. The hand engraving on both pistols is astounding!

Built To Last

There are several things to remember about the hand-engraved Wilson Combat Texas BBQ Specials and any other engraved pistol from the company. The Texas BBQ Special is a full-blown fighting pistol that’s quite capable of defending its user. The pistols do not leave Wilson Combat’s shop without passing the same rigorous testing all the non-engraved pistols do. In other words, they are reliable shooters first with hand engraving added.

Pushing myself past the beauty, I found a full-sized, stainless steel 1911 pistol built just like all Wilson Combat 1911s. A solid, tight, smooth-cycling, perfectly built 1911 with my sample chambered in 9mm. (.45 ACP is also available). The medium-length, solid trigger’s pull weight was perfection, breaking cleanly at 3.75 pounds.

The pistol’s sights are extremely effective and fast, consisting of a serrated Wilson Combat Battlesight rear sight and a ramped gold-bead front sight, both with bases trimmed to the slide’s contours. Running across the slide’s top between sights are 30-lines-per-inch (lpi) serrations. No front cocking serrations or carry cuts adorn the slide to allow acreage for engraving. The slide’s bottom edges have a heavy machine chamfer, which looks good and is functional, and the slide’s muzzle end has ball endmill cuts. The rear of the slide is serrated 40-lpi to match the rear sight.

Wilson supplies the Texas BBQ Special with a fitted, 5-inch, stainless, match-grade barrel and bushing. The muzzle is flush cut with a reverse crown, and the barrel hood is fluted, which reduces the effect of buildup over time.

Effective Wilson Combat black cherry slant grips with sterling medallions attach with engraved Torx-head grip screws. The flat, round-butt backstrap and undercut frontstrap both feature 30-lpi checkering. It appears the frame is shortened enough to add the Bullet Proof mag well so it still retains the standard full-sized frame length. The undercut frame raises the hand higher on the frame, and the 30-lpi checkering grips the hand well without abrading skin or clothing.

Wilson Combat makes some of the finest 1911 parts you can find through its Bullet Proof line. Bullet Proof parts on the frame include the concealment beavertail grip safety, the trim tactical thumb safety, the minimally extended magazine release and the Commander-style concealment hammer. The pistol’s shortened, countersunk slide stop shaft is an improvement I really wish was on all my 1911s. It reduces the chance the slide stop could be accidentally dislodged and prevents the slide stop shaft from blocking a Crimson Trace Lasergrip laser.

BBQ’ing Targets

Wilson Combat sent one of its nice looking and effective black shark Practical outside-the-waistband holsters to accompany the BBQ Special pistol. I did a couple of draws from the holster during my testing and it is as excellent as all the Wilson Combat leather always is.

A 1911 chambered in 9mm may be the best of both worlds. Modern ammunition makes today’s 9mm a serious self-defense round and certainly makes a 1911 much more controllable. Also, I found the gold-bead front sight worked great during testing.

When the smoke cleared, the Wilson Combat Texas BBQ Special fell right in line with the rest of the family. Perfect functioning and excellent accuracy at 25 yards really came as no surprise.

The engraving by Wayne D’Angelo is flawless and very attractive. For most 1911 fans, having any Wilson Combat pistol would be a pleasure, and adding hand engraving would be doubly so. Knowing it was a fully functioning, reliable pistol would be icing on the cake! And for those of us in Texas, Wilson’s Texas BBQ Special, with its Texas-centric engraving, would be even more special.

For more, visit or call 800-955-4856.

Texas BBQ Special MSRP

  • Level One Base Price: $4,960 (.45)
  • The Level Two Base Price: $5,495 (.45)
  • The Level Three Base Price: $6,045 (.45)

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