April 09, 2020
In 2016, Wilson Combat changed the game when it released the EDC X9 9mm. That pistol, which combines the best features of the 1911 and more modern handguns, was an immediate success. Wilson’s next evolution on the X-Frame was the full-size X9L, which couples the features of the X9 but with a five-inch barrel.
This year the company released the latest model in the series: the subcompact EDC X9S. The X9S has many of the design hallmarks that have made the X9 popular but in a smaller format. This handgun has a similar footprint to many of today’s most popular carry guns but with some highly upgraded features.
Unlike previous offerings from Wilson, which have all been true 1911s of one flavor or another, the X-Frame series is its own animal. The new EDC X9S is the smallest handgun in the X-Frame lineup and is ideal for everyday concealed carry.
I’ve previously tested and written about the X9 and X9L, and I was excited to get my hands on the newest release from the Berryville, Arkansas, company.
“The EDC X9S is the end product from our quest at Wilson Combat to produce a very controllable, yet easy to conceal, pistol without sacrificing accuracy or aesthetics,” founder Bill Wilson said. “Personally, at practical self-defense ranges of 10 yards or less, I can shoot this pistol just as fast and accurate as any of my full-size pistols.”
At the heart of the X9S is a high-capacity frame that is machined in-house from billets of 7075 T-6 aluminum. The X-Frame is actually narrower at the grip and provides an overall smaller circumference than that of a traditional 1911, but its staggered magazine allows for additional capacity.
Part of the reason the X9S is so narrow is that there are no protruding grip panels. The X-Tac gripping surface of the handgun is machined right into the frame itself.
In terms of dimensions, the X9S is 4.5 inches from the top of the sights to the base of the grip and 6.6 inches in overall length. For comparison’s sake, this handgun is roughly a half-inch smaller than an Officer’s Model 1911 in both directions.
The frame is machined to allow the gun to sit as low in the hand as possible thanks to an undercut trigger guard, and the machined surfaces of the frontstrap and backstrap provide plenty of grip without being abrasive. My hands are average size, and I was just able to get a full five-fingered grip on the X9S.
The frame on the X9S deletes the 1911’s grip safety, but it maintains all of its controls. There is a manual safety on the left side of the frame, and it’s available in two different options: a “carry” version and a wider “standard” safety. My test gun was equipped with the narrower carry version, and it strikes a nice balance between being accessible and concealable.
The skeletonized trigger with a serrated face, slide stop and checkered magazine release will be familiar to anyone with experience with a 1911. The slide rides on what Wilson calls “reliability enhanced” frame rails, which do not run uninterrupted along the frame. The configuration uses four independent rails that reduce friction and result in very smooth cycling.
The X9S uses a fixed ejector and maintains the 1911’s sear, disconnector and Commander-style hammer. An optional rail machined into the dustcover allows for the attachment of a white light or laser, and the price is the same whether the buyer chooses the rail or not.
Like the other X-Frame handguns, the X9S uses a dual-column magazine that tapers to a single round at the mouth. The magazine is adapted from the Walther PPQ M2 design and is produced by Mec-Gar. The X9S ships with two magazines: one that fits flush with the frame and holds 10 rounds and an extended mag that holds 15 rounds and adds 0.8 inch of length below the grip.
Both magazine bodies are constructed of steel and use polymer followers. The base pad on the flush-fit magazine is polymer, while the extended mag has an aluminum base. Relief cuts on both sides of the frames allow a shooter to forcibly strip the magazines from the pistol in the event of a malfunction.
The top end of the X9S is a more traditional 1911 than the frame, but it also has plenty of custom touches. It is an adaptation of the single-stack EDC 9 pistol and includes the company’s reliability enhancements as well as some aesthetic upgrades.
The top corners of the stainless steel slide are angled, creating a five-sided look that Wilson calls “Tri-Top.” There is also a heavy chamfer machined into the bottom edge of the slide that looks attractive and removes any potential sharp edges. The X-Tac pattern is milled into the side in the place of cocking serrations, and the front of the slide narrows in the style of a Browning Hi Power. The top of the slide is serrated 30 lpi along the sight radius.
The sights on the X9S are highly visible and conducive to good shooting. The interchangeable front sight is secured via a Torx screw accessible through the bottom of the slide, making sight changes an easy process that won’t require a visit to the gunsmith.
My test gun came with a green fiber-optic front sight blade, but several other options are available on Wilson Combat’s website, including tritium and tritium with orange and gold beads. The rear sight is a snag-free design with a U-shaped notch and a serrated blade. It is drift adjustable for windage and secured by a Torx screw.
The most significant departure from the 1911 design on the slide assembly is the external extractor, which helps cure many of the tension-related malfunctions that can occur with Browning’s original design. This one simply articulates on a steel pin under coil-spring pressure.
The stainless steel barrel is fluted along its length with ball end mill cuts, and the barrel’s taper thickens to a full cone at the muzzle to facilitate lockup with the slide. There is no barrel bushing. Identical end mill cuts are present on the barrel hood except at the 12 o’clock position.
The barrel is ramped, which provides a smooth feeding surface, and a fully supported chamber is compatible with +P defensive ammunition. The reverse crown tapers inward toward the bore at a sweeping angle and provides 0.10 inch of protective clearance from the face of the slide to the rifling.
One of the factors that make 1911s attractive to shooters is the potential for a great trigger. The trigger on the X9S breaks consistently at 3.5 pounds after roughly a quarter-inch of take-up. I detected only the slightest hint of creep on the test gun, and the reset is very short. The sight and trigger combination on the X9S really shined during range testing.
Engineering a compact 1911 that functions properly requires some timing tweaks that can be a design challenge, but clearly the team at Wilson Combat took its time to get things right.
Part of that downscaling is the use of dual recoil springs that ride on a telescoping full-length guide rod. A small stainless steel plug retains the spring assembly at the front end, and the barrel link locks into a mortise at the rear.
To disassemble the X9S, the slide is drawn to the rear until the slide stop can be removed through the half-moon-shaped notch. The slide can then be removed from the frame, allowing for removal of the recoil spring assembly and barrel. Reversing the process assembles the handgun. No tools are required.
With the exception of the bead-blasted stainless barrel and guide rod assembly, the entire pistol is coated in matte black using Wilson’s Armor-Tuff finish. The finish is applied evenly over the entire handgun, making the various materials used in its construction appear seamless.
Various finish colors and color combinations will be available. Wilson currently offers Armor-Tuff in matte black, matte OD green, matte gray and matte tan. This finish cures at a low temperature, so parts warpage is not an issue, and thanks to a thickness of less than 0.001 inch, Armor-Tuff won’t compromise the overall fit of the gun.
My sample came with a test target that appeared, at first glance, to be pretty ambitious. I was wrong. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this is the most accurate subcompact handgun I have ever fired.
Even with a 3.3-inch barrel and accompanying sight radius, the X9S was capable of sub-one-inch groups at 15 yards. This was also my first time out with the Target Shooting Inc. Model 1500 handgun rest, and it made a great deal of difference in terms of my stability on the bench.
Wilson Combat’s 124-grain load featuring Speer’s Gold Dot hollowpoint presented the best groups, and the Fiocchi 115-grain full metal jacket ran a very close second.
Despite its accuracy from the bench, the X9S isn’t a target pistol—it’s a handgun built for serious defensive use. With that in mind, I ran the X9S through various drills at seven and 10 yards on an IDPA target. The handgun not only was accurate but also was quite controllable for a gun of its size.
With a shot timer and the X9S at Low Ready with the safety engaged, first round hits in the center circle were repeatable at just over a half-second. Thanks to the mild recoil and short trigger reset, split times on follow-up shots were extremely low for a handgun of this size. With great sights and a good trigger, shooting this handgun well came easy.
The most accurate pistol on earth isn’t useful for defensive purposes if it isn’t reliable, and the X9S passed that test with flying colors. Oftentimes, when 1911-style handguns shrink in size, their reliability can suffer, but that was not the case here. My test loads ranged significantly in velocity and bullet design, yet this handgun swallowed all of them with 100 percent reliability.
Thanks to the correct timing, ramped barrel, external extractor and fixed ejector, the X9S fed, fired, extracted and ejected without a hint of trouble. Based on my testing, I would carry the X9S with confidence.
Carry guns can be curious things. Many a firearms enthusiast has a safe full of high-grade handguns but carries a polymer-framed pistol on a daily basis due to advantages in size, weight and reliability. With the introduction of the EDC X9S, those who appreciate a well-built, custom-grade handgun can carry one without compromising concealability or performance. The entire X-Frame line has been a hit, and I expect this small but capable handgun to continue that trend.
WILSON COMBAT EDC X9S
- TYPE: single-action semiauto
- CALIBER: 9mm Luger
- CAPACITY: 10+1, 15+1
- BARREL: 3.3 in., ramped, fully supported chamber
- OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.6/4.5/0.9 in.
- WEIGHT: 25.6 oz.
- CONSTRUCTION: 7075 T-6 aluminum alloy frame, stainless steel slide; Armor-Tuff black finish
- GRIPS: integral textured aluminum
- SIGHTS: black adjustable rear, interchangeable front, green fiber optic (as tested)
- SAFETIES: frame-mounted manual
- TRIGGER: 3.5 lb. pull (measured)
- PRICE: $2,695
- MANUFACTURER: Wilson Combat, WilsonCombat.com