Ed Brown Makes A Special 1911 To Honor Sheriff Jim Wilson
January 03, 2011
Ed Brown built this limited-edition 1911 with Shooting Times Handgun Editor Sheriff Jim Wilson's input, so you know it has just what a good fighting pistol needs.
When the editor approached me about writing this article I immediately agreed. In fact, I looked upon it as a privilege. Since I first started writing for Shooting Times I have been lucky to come to know and work with some of the finest firearms writers in the industry. One of these is a soft-spoken former lawman from the Southwest by the name of Jim Wilson, known simply to many as Sheriff.
A true gentleman, Sheriff Wilson is polite and good-natured, but there is also an unmistakable tone of authority in his voice. He is also a gifted storyteller, and I always look forward to time spent in his presence. For me, having grown up in rural Maine just a stone's throw from the black North Atlantic where the five-masted schooner was born, his tales of the Southwest are fascinatingly exotic.
Born in Austin, Texas, Sheriff Wilson graduated from high school in San Antonio before attending Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Then, in the spring of 1968, he went to work for the police department in Denton, Texas. From patrolman he worked his way up to detective, detective sergeant, narcotics squad supervisor, and, finally, lieutenant.
In 1976 he went over to the Denton County Sheriff's Office, eventually becoming Chief Deputy. In 1985 he went to work for the Crockett County Sheriff's Office in Ozona, Texas. When the Sheriff there decided to retire, Wilson ran for the position and was elected in 1988. He served two four-year terms before retiring in 1996 to write full-time for Shooting Times. An integral part of the Shooting Times crew, he now serves as our Handgun Editor.
|Manufacturer:||Ed Brown Products, Inc.|
|Model:||Sherrif Jim Wilson|
|Barrel Length:||5 inches|
|Overall Length:||8.75 inches|
|Weight, empty||38 ounces|
|Safety:||Extended thumb safety. Memory groove beavertail grip safety|
|Sights:||Fixed Novak rear, Trijicon front with tritium insert|
|Stocks:||Bar S-Grips Tru Ivory|
|Magazine Capacity:||7 rounds|
Well respected in the industry for his commonsense attitude and writing, I suppose it was only a matter of time before a manufacturer decided to build a model based upon his input. However, when it happened it was no less an iconic manufacturer than Ed Brown.
I asked Sheriff Wilson how it came about, and he replied, "Ed Brown approached me at this last S.H.O.T. Show and asked if I would consider allowing them to do a 'Sheriff Jim Wilson' limited-edition 1911. I was pleased to do this as I already had one Ed Brown 1911, a .38 Super, and I had developed a great deal of respect for Ed Brown's work.
"You will notice that this 1911 has no forward cocking serrations, squared trigger guard, or accessory rails. Checkering is limited to the frontstrap. I think a fighting pistol should be devoid of all such silliness'¦more especially they are things that can make the pistol hang up or will hamper a smooth draw.
The pistol should have a good trigger and sights that are easily seen, this Ed Brown gun has both. I can't think of any reason that I deserve to be honored with a great 1911, such as this Ed Brown pistol. But maybe when folks see it they will pause a moment and think of the great Southwestern lawmen that have crossed the river for the last time--Bill Jordan, Dogie Wright, Skeeter Skelton, Frank Hamer, Capt. A.Y. Allee, Lee Trimble, Dan Westbrook, and many more. Ours is a better and safer world because they packed a badge and enforced the law."
The Pistol's Features Up Close
With my appetite whetted, I arranged to have a review pistol shipped to me. What arrived was a simple and well-thought-out social pistol that immediately caught my fancy. The foundation for the Sheriff Jim Wilson model is one of Ed Brown's forged frames.
(Left) Dovetailed to the slide is a Novak rear sight. It is a plain, easy-to-read black notch--no dots, bars, asterisks, or any other type of extraneous markings. (Right) The Trijicon front sight has a large tritium dot outlined in white that ensures a usable sight picture will be available even in low light.
Hand-polished to remove tool marks, it sports 25 lines-per-inch (lpi
) checkering on the frontstrap, a beveled magazine well, and an undercut trigger guard. Fitted to the frame is Ed Brown's lightweight Perfection hammer, sear, and disconnector, which are all machined from bar stock. They mate to a long aluminum trigger that features an adjustable overtravel stop. Trigger pull is set at 3.5 to 4 pounds.
An Ed Brown Memory Groove beavertail grip safety is carefully fitted to the frame. The mainspring housing is arched. To ensure reliable function the feedramp is carefully polished and contoured. Fitted to the left side of the frame is an Ed Brown extended tactical thumb safety. This piece is easy to manipulate without being obtrusive. To the front of this is a standard-length magazine release with 40-lpi checkering on the button.
Carefully mated to the frame is a forged Government Model slide with rear cocking serrations. It sports Sheriff Jim Wilson's signature on its right side in front of the ejection port, giving it a distinctive look. The ejection port is lowered and flared.
Per Sheriff Wilson this special 1911 has no forward cocking serration, squared trigger guard, accessory rails, or any other doodads that could hamper a smooth draw in a tight situation.
Carefully handfitted to the slide is one of Ed Brown's five-inch .45 ACP match barrels. Just as John Moses Browning designed, it features a 1:16-inch left-hand twist. The barrel is mated to the slide with a handfitted solid steel match barrel bushing. To increase reliability a handfitted and tuned extractor is mounted. Then, to keep things simple and reliable, a standard Government Model recoil system (no full-length guide rod) is installed. This model is intended for full-house self-defense loads, so an 18-pound recoil spring is standard.
|Shooting The Sherrif Jim Wilson 1911|
|Factory Load||Velocity (fps)||50-yard Accuracy (inches)|
|Magtech 185-gr. +P JHP||1092||4.00|
|Black Hills 200-gr. Lead SWC||897||2.60|
|CorBon 200-gr. +P JHP||1072||2.70|
|Hornady 230-gr. FMJ||846||3.10|
|Wolf 230-gr. FMJ||847||2.90|
|NOTES: Accuracy is the average of four five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 50 yards. Velocity is the average of 20 rounds measured 12 feet from the muzzle with a PACT Professional Chronograph XP.|
Dovetailed to the slide is a Novak rear sight. An utterly practical design, the Novak is simple, rugged, and has nothing protruding to catch on clothing. It is also devoid of sharp edges that can dig into expensive clothing or flesh. The particular model Novak fitted to the Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol features a plain, easy-to-pick-up black notch. No dots, bars, asterisks, or anything else is included. The Novak mates to a Trijicon tritium front sight neatly dovetailed to the slide. The Trijicon front sight has a large, easy-to-see tritium dot outlined in white. The tritium front sight ensures a usable sight picture will be available even in low light.
The forged frame has been hand-polished to remove tool marks. Fitted to the frame is Ed Brown's lightweight Perfection hammer, sear, and disconnector.
I asked Sheriff Wilson about the sights he chose. "As I've said in print numerous times, three-dot sights are useless...maybe worse than useless. As a general rule, a fight, when it occurs, will be at close range and in dim light. Time is of the essence. You really don't have time to play with looking at little glowing dots and trying to line them up.
You'll be lucky to get one quick shot off. Your shooting stance, which you should have been practicing religiously, will get you pretty well on target even if you can't see the sights at all. And the single tritium dot in the front sight will help to true things up. There's only one glowing dot out there, so put it on the bad guy's chest...and do it quickly."
This special pistol has a practical matte blue finish, and what really sets it off are the Bar-S-Grips Tru Ivory stocks. These add a distinctive look and give the pistol a little Southwestern flair. The stocks offer a few practical advantages over real ivory, such as being capable of withstanding most common solvents. Although they are not what this New England Yankee would choose, they are quite appropriate for this model.
The Ed Brown-designed Perfection hammer is machined from bar stock. The extended tactical thumb safety is easy to manipulate yet is not obtrusive.
"I asked for the Tru Ivory grips on my 1911 to honor the traditions of Southwestern lawmen," the Sheriff said. "Many of them were my teachers...and most of them packed ivory-stocked 1911s."
When the pistols are completed by Ed Brown's staff, they are then checked for reliability. If any functioning problems are encountered, the problem is diagnosed and the pistol is reworked.
Regarding accuracy, I was told when fed a quality match load, such as Federal's 185-grain Gold Medal Match, this pistol is capable of grouping into approximately 1 inch at 25 yards and 1.5 inches at 50 yards. Each Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol has approximately four hours of careful handfitting in its assembly.
The mainspring housing is arched for a comfortable fit. The Memory Groove beavertail safety is nicely fitted. The rear of the slide perfectly matches the frame, and the ejection port is flared and lowered for trouble-free ejection of spent cases. And as specified by Sheriff Wilson, the grips are Bar-S-Grips's Tru Ivory.
A Top-Notch Shooter
My initial impressions of Ed Brown's Sheriff Jim Wilson model were quite positive. I mean, what's not to like? It's an aesthetically pleasing take on a classic design using only basic commonsense modifications. The sights are simple, rugged, and straightforward. I like the clean looks of the slide without the front cocking serrations. The single safety lever is easy to manipulate yet unobtrusive. Handling it, I liked the way the pistol pointed with the arched mainspring housing and the long trigger just right for my average-length fingers. Sure, the flat 1911-type mainspring housing looks cooler, but the U.S. Army didn't ditch it following the Great War on a whim. For the majority of shooters the arched 1911A1-type mainspring housing is simply a better fit.
Working the action I noted that the slide mated nicely to the frame with very little play, and it reciprocated smoothly and easily. Pushing down on the hood of the match barrel revealed zero movement. Dry-firing revealed a crisp 3.5-pound trigger with just a hint of creep. Magazines inserted easily, thanks to the beveled well, and ejected cleanly with a push of the button.
Taking stock of the Ed Brown Sheriff Jim Wilson limited-edition pistol revealed tightly machined parts specced out by its namesake that come together to make a no-nonsense Model 1911 work gun.
To be blunt, though, this really is to be expected of a high-end 1911. So I scrutinized the Ed Brown a bit more closely. I noted the 25-lpi machine-cut checkering was attractive, perfectly executed, and provided a secure grip without being too sharp and tearing flesh. The beavertail was nicely fitted, and the rear of the slide matched the rear of the frame perfectly. Although the barrel bushing was tight, a wrench was not required for its removal. With just a little effort it was easily popped out by hand. Examining the slide and barrel I checked how the lugs were cut and the lockup. Everything looked nicely done. All in all, it was pleasing to the eye and the hand.
It was time to head to the range and put this handsome 1911 to work. I selected a variety of .45 ACP loads ranging in weight from 185 to 230 grains. I then checked practical accuracy by firing four five-shot groups off sandbags at 50 yards with each load. Why 50 yards? I believe any high-quality full-size service pistol should be capable of posting decent groups at this distance. Velocity readings were measured 12 feet from the muzzle with a PACT Professional Chronograph XP at an ambient temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
The 5-inch match-grade barrel has a 1:16-inch left-hand twist and is mated to the slide with a handfitted solid steel match barrel bushing.
The five loads were Magtech's 185-grain Guardian +P JHP, Black Hills Ammunition's 200-grain lead SWC, CorBon's 200-grain +P JHP, Hornady's 230-grain FMJ, and Wolf Performance Ammunition's 230-grain FMJ. Despite the various weights and bullet styles no problems of any kind were encountered during testing. Best accuracy was posted with Black Hills Ammunition's 200-grain lead SWC, which averaged 2.60 inches at 897 fps. Accuracy from all the loads was quite acceptable, so I ran a few practical drills with it.
Putting the Ed Brown Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol to work on multiple targets inside 15 yards revealed it to be quite able. Loaded with Black Hills 200-grain lead SWCs recoil was very mild, and shot-to-shot recovery was excellent. Stoked with CorBon's hot 200-grain +P JHPs it became harder to control. Practical accuracy, though, was excellent. At realistic self-defense distances it chewed one hole in the target when I did my part. Neither accuracy nor reliability was an issue. The Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol handled whatever ammunition I fired through it. No muss, no fuss.
The Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol handled every load it was fed with no muss, no fuss. At realistic self-defense distances, it chewed one hole in the target.
I ended the shooting session by checking all five loads' flash signatures in low light. One magazine of each load was fired, with the flash size and intensity observed. The load I expected to display the largest flash, CorBon's +P, was in line with the rest. Four of the five loads exhibited a small but noticeable spherical ball of fire with each shot. The Magtech load, however, displayed a noticeably larger and brighter muzzle signature than all the others. Just something to be aware of if you plan on choosing this load for self-protection.
Ed Brown's limited-edition Sheriff Jim Wilson pistol is a handsome and well-made 1911 sure to invoke pride of ownership. It's more accurate than I can hold and eminently reliable. Specced out by one of our most respected pistoleros, it will be of special interest to anyone who has enjoyed Sheriff Jim Wilson's articles down through the years. Here is a no-nonsense upper crust 1911 that will defend your family and impress your friends. Available during the 2007 production year only, this model will be a strictly limited edition. Included with each pistol will be a factory letter signed by both Ed Brown and Sheriff Jim Wilson. The price is $2295. That's not inexpensive, but this Ed Brown 1911 is a fitting tribute to a well-respected lawman and writer who I am lucky to know as a friend.