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Wilson Combat Master Grade Limited

Every Master Grade pistol is guaranteed to shoot 1 inch or better. All are test-fired before they leave the factory. The Wilson Tactical limited-edition knife and presentation case are extra-cost options, but they are included with the Presentation Model package.

Bill Wilson didn't have a clue of what he was getting into when he started building custom 1911s in the late-1970s. But as often happens when the right guy shows up in the right place at the right time, Bill's shop exploded lock step with the popularity of IPSC, the proliferation of concealed-carry permits, and the later rise of IDPA. Thirty years have passed since Wilson began building pistols full-time; a commemorative pistol was long overdue.

Wilson Combat actually introduced two commemorative pistols. The limited-edition $6,995 Master Grade Presentation Model is a hand-crafted work of art that will appeal to true collectors. Those looking for a more affordable commemorative pistol will opt for the Limited version of the Master Grade, which has an MSRP of $2,995. The latter is the subject of this article.

The Master Grade Limited is a handsome, two-tone pistol meant to capture the classic look of the customs that made Wilson famous. It is built on a stainless-steel frame with a high-cut frontstrap and flat mainspring housing. Both are flawlessly checkered at 30 lines per inch. A beveled magazine well and High Ride beavertail grip safety are also standard.

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Wilson Combat Master Grade Limited:

Model:Master Grade Limited
Purpose: Tactical
Manufacturer: Wilson Combat
2234 CR 719
Berryville, AR 72616
Action type: Recoil-operated semiauto
Magazine type/ capacity: Single-Coloumn/eight rounds
Frame and slide material : Stainless-steel frame, steel slide
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel length: 5 in.
Rifling: 1:16 RH twist
Sights: Adjustable rear; serrated blade front
Finish: Matte
Safety: Side-locking thumb safety, beavertail grip safety
Trigger type: Single-action
Pull weight: 2lbs., 5 oz. (as tested)
Grip material and finish: Black G10 with Starburst striations
Overall length: 8.69 in.
Weight, empty: 40 oz.
Width: 1.31 in.
Accessories: Two magazines, test target, bushing wrench, instructional video, and soft carrying case. Optional matching knife and wood presentation case and available.
MSRP: $2,995

The trigger is Wilson's extended, aluminum model in the classic three-hole design. The trigger on my test pistol broke at an incredible 2 pounds, 15 ounces with a minimum of creep and overtravel, though factory specs call for a pull weight in the 3.5- to 3.75-pound range.

Other controls include Wilson's extended ejector; stainless, tactical ambidextrous safety; skeletonized, Commander-style hammer; and extended magazine release. All are well-fitted and work perfectly. The feedramp is throated and polished to a mirror finish.


The Limited's frame also wears a striking set of grips. The black G10 panels are striated in a pattern that Wilson Combat calls a starburst. The pattern is easy on the hands, but its deep, angled grooves give it a solid, nonslip feel.

The sample pistol's slide is finished in Wilson's proprietary matte-black Armor-Tuff. It isn't as sexy as traditional charcoal bluing, but it is as rugged and c

orrosion-resistant a finish as one could want on a carry gun.

The slide is machine-engraved on both sides. Behind the rear grasping grooves, the Wilson Combat eagle and the number "30" are framed in a box with double borders. The left side of the slide has "30th Anniversary Limited" and "1978-2008" framed in a double border with a bit of scroll engraving in each corner. The right side has "Classic 130" and "Master Grade" framed in the same border and scroll work. Forward grasping grooves and the same border, sans engraving or scroll work, at the muzzle end round out the slide work.

The front sight is a black, serrated blade. The rear sight is Wilson's adjustable unit with a plain black blade. I have this set-up on my personal Wilson pistol, and I really like the sight picture and adjustability for general-purpose work, but I prefer a fixed rear for daily carry. The supplied sights match the theme of the pistol perfectly.

The full-sized slide is fitted perfectly to the frame; it is nice and tight for accuracy, but not so tight that it hampers reliability. The ejection port is lowered and flared for enhanced reliability, and a full-length guide rod and plug are standard.

The 30 lines-per-inch frontstrap checkering is flawlessly executed. When combined with the starburst grip striations, it makes for a nonslip package that isn't hard on the hands.

The 5-inch, stainless, match barrel and bushing are Wilson parts. Both are hand-fitted to perfection, as evidenced by the pistol's smooth, positive lock-up. The throat is polished to ensure reliable feeding; the extractor is one of Wilson's Bullet Proof models.

The Master Grade Limited comes with a test target, bushing wrench, instructional video, two magazines, and an attractive soft case with two large pockets on one side and seven magazine pouches on the other. Extra-cost items include an attractive presentation case and the Wilson Tactical limited-edition knife.

A Commemorative Model That Really Shoots
It was cold and rainy for the better part of the month I had to test the Master Grade Limited pistol, so I did my testing indoors at Houston's Top Gun range. The lighting was not conducive to great photography, but the 50-foot range allowed me to run each pistol through a wide range of accuracy and reliability tests.

I started out shooting at 7 yards to get a feel for the pistol. As expected, the sights were dead-on, and the crisp, light trigger pull made breaking accurate shots easy. It wasn't long before I drilled a gaping hole right in the X-ring.

After familiarizing myself with the 1911, I worked quickly to get a feel for its real-world behavior. Controlled pairs, double taps, and failure-to-stop drills were a snap thanks to the great sights and crisp trigger. Despite my best efforts, the pistol fed flawlessly, ejecting empties smartly, and it shot to point of aim.

With the reliability work out of the way, I moved the target back to 15 yards and did a bit of accuracy work from a sandbag rest. I found the black sights to be a bit tough to pick up in the indoor range, but I managed to shoot some really nice groups when I took my time and made sure of my sight picture before squeezing the trigger. Hornady's 200-grain XTP and CorBon's 230-grain Match load averaged right at an inch, but that average was below the pistol's ability; I blew several amazing groups with called flyers, but the sights were really tough to shoot indoors.

Overall, I really liked Wilson Combat's Master Grade Limited. It's as pretty as a commemorative pistol should be, and it's an accurate and reliable piece, too. My sample gun had the best trigger I've ever tripped.

I can usually come up with a long list of changes on any custom 1911, but there wasn't much I would change on this one. I would definitely replace the full-length guide rod with a standard-length model, and I would probably opt for a single-sided tactical safety over the Limited's ambi-safety, but those are just my own preferences. Truth be told, Wilson Combat's Master Grade Limited is darn good as is. It's also a fitting tribute to a man and company that have done so much for the shooting sports for the last 30 years.

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