December 14, 2017
By Patrick Sweeney
Thirty-five years ago, the gunsmith I was apprenticing to and I had a brainstorm. We'd modify the 1911 pistol to accept a high-capacity magazine. We'd have lots more shots per magazine in competition, and we'd have a grand time until the rest caught up with us. It did not happen, of course, and for one simple reason: No suitable magazine existed then.
Well, one does now, and Bill Wilson has done what we and so many others thought of back then: a high-capacity 1911 that isn't bigger than the existing 1911s. Enter the EDC X9.
EDC stands for Every Day Carry, and that is the big market for handguns these days. Bill got his start in competition, but for every competition gun made or pistolsmithed, there have to be a hundred or more handguns purchased for daily carry. And even 1911 aficionados appreciate more ammunition. X is for the new frame size and 9 for 9mm Luger—the current popularity champ for carry guns.
The EDC X9 is the size of a Glock 19, with the same 9mm capacity, but it is no larger than a 1911 with fat grips (and not even the fattest grips, either). The configuration is more of a happy accident than a purposeful strategy.
"I wasn't trying to make a 1911 Glock, just the most compact high-cap 1911 I could," Wilson said.
The heart of the X9 is the Wilson Combat X-frame. Machined out of a billet of 7075-T6 aluminum, it has its frontstrap and mainspring housing machined with the Wilson Combat X-TAC non-slip pattern. These are diagonal diamonds machined into the aluminum, and they provide a non-slip grip without chewing your hands.
The frontstrap has also been lifted. The front face of it has been machined up behind the trigger guard to allow your hand to ride higher on the frame.
The grips are ultra-durable G10 (black, gray, olive drab or black cherry), machined in the Wilson Combat Starburst pattern, and there are no fastening screws. Wilson designed a system where the hammer spring tension not only powers the hammer, it also secures the grips in place. So you won't need to keep a screwdriver in your gun bag just to keep the grips tight.
"I got the basic idea from the Browning BDM," Wilson said. "The grips go on from the rear, and then they are locked in place by the backstrap and mainspring housing. My first design used one screw, but one of my engineers came up with a better idea, and now it doesn't need even that one."
The gun is available with or without an accessory rail. Wilson said orders are running about 50/50 for railed versus non-railed models.
Inside the frame is the part that matters: the magazine. What Wilson did was take a 9mm magazine from a Walter PPQ M2 and modify it to work in his prototype frame. Why the PPQ M2? "I started with it for a simple reason," Wilson said. "It was the most compact high-cap 9mm magazine out there. Of course, being ultra-reliable didn't hurt."
The excellent magazines in the Walther are made by Mec-Gar, and in fact, the batch of magazines I received with the test gun were Walther magazines modified by Wilson Combat. The regular X9 production guns will have magazines made specifically for Wilson Combat by Mec-Gar, and they'll be sold on Wilson Combat's website.
For those of us accustomed to ultra-cheap 1911 magazines, the $43 price might seem a bit high, but us old-timers have to let go of the prices of the past. A quality magazine costs these days, but none of them will be bad, and they will last a long time.
The magazines have a Wilson Combat base pad that matches the contours of the frame and blends in with the mainspring housing extension, which acts as a magazine well funnel. The right and left sides of the base pads have a slight bevel on the top edge. This gives you a bit of purchase should you need to rip one out in an emergency.
To aid in speed reloads, the magazine well is gently tapered, and combined with the taper of the magazine top, you really ought not to miss.
Inside the frame, the X9 is assembled with the Wilson Combat Bullet Proof magazine release, thumb safety and hammer. You can have yours with a regular thumb safety or an ambidextrous one. In deference to my odd shooting grip, where most ambis don't work for me, Wilson shipped one with a standard thumb safety.
The slide gets its own extra touches. The bottom edge of the slide is given a heavy chamfer to remove a potential sharp edge that might cause wear on your hands, clothing or holster. The cocking serrations, front and back, are the Wilson Combat X-TAC pattern, and the slide also has a huge external extractor. The front of the slide is machined with a relief cut, reminiscent of the Hi Power, to aid in one-handed smooth holstering, and the dust cover cut has been done with a ball-end cutter. It is a small touch, but an attractive one.
Inside the slide is a Wilson Combat barrel. The X9 gets both the chamber and barrel exterior fluted to reduce friction. A heavily used pistol can collect so much powder residue on the barrel and chamber area that the slide can be noticeably slow in function. Yes, a minute of lube and wiping with a cloth eases that, but the fluting increases the time and volume of ammo needed to crud things up that much. And it gives the inevitable lint of daily carry a place to go, and not bind, until you clean the X9. Plus, the fluting looks good.
The X9 barrel has a coned front end, so there's no barrel bushing to be fitted, work loose or break. The barrel is also designed not to lock up like a regular 1911. It lacks multiple locking lugs up on top. Instead, Wilson designed this new barrel to lock up on the front and rear, in the ejection port, like so many newer pistols do. There is just the one locking lug out front, and it makes the barrel simpler to machine, simpler to fit and easier to design into a compact carry gun.
The barrel has an integral feed ramp for full case support. If you are of a mind to be using +P or +P+ ammunition for your defensive needs, the X9 won't care. They'll feed up the ramp smoothly and get all the case support possible.
The muzzle is trimmed flush with the slide end and crowned with a deep and angled cone to provide maximum protection to the ends of the lands and grooves.
On top of the tri-topped slide, the pistolsmiths at Wilson Combat install the Battlesight rear sight. It's elevation adjustable and durable, and its profile allows for one-handed slide manipulation on the holster or another convenient edge in an emergency. The rear sight is paired with a green fiber-optic front blade. Options for the front sight include red fiber optic, tritium or gold bead.
Underneath the barrel, the X9 has a recoil spring retainer that, when you reassemble, you have to insert from the breech end. The recoil spring rides on a guide rod, but the rod is not full length. The end of the rod is a rounded cone. I asked Wilson about this, and he said he did it to make it easier to assemble and disassemble without tools.
As if all that isn't enough, the X9 also offers extra fitting options. You can have yours made with one of three different trigger lengths. And you can select from three different sizes of backstraps. So if you find you want the smallest and most compact pistol to be had on the X-frame, you order the short trigger and the small backstrap. If you have strangler's hands and everything is too small, then you get the long trigger and the biggest backstrap.
I asked for a medium trigger and a small backstrap. Typically, I find the smallest version of any pistol size to be the most comfortable, even if it doesn't change my times on drills. And the medium trigger is most likely to position my trigger finger properly.
The backstrap does not have a grip safety. It is fixed in place by the assembly of the hammer, its spring and housing and the grips.
None of this was done hastily. Wilson worked on the prototype and the preproduction samples for two years. Once he had a final design worked out to his satisfaction, he made a dozen guns and sent them off to testers. Meanwhile, he took a sample gun and gave it to his Wilson Combat crew who put 25,000 rounds through it on an accelerated schedule. Other sample guns got a slower pace and have not yet reached the 25,000-round mark. There haven't been any problems.
"We had zero failures to feed and fire in 60,000 rounds through 20 test guns," Wilson said. "We had some pistols that started to show failures to extract after 10,000 rounds, so we switched the production guns to a heavier extractor spring."
The accuracy guarantee that Wilson Combat builds into each X9.