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Wilson Combat CQB Light Rail Lightweight Compact Review

by Peter G. Kokalis   |  October 6th, 2013 4

I’ve been at this about 35 years now and during that time I’ve written close to 2,000 articles about firearms. A substantial number of those have been about John Browning’s greatest handgun design, the Model of 1911 and its many derivatives. That’s because I most often carry some kind of M1911 on a daily basis.

One hundred and two years after its adoption by the U.S. Army, the Model of 1911 caliber .45 ACP pistol is, if anything, more popular than it has ever been in more than a century of service. More copies and clones of the M1911 have gone into series production from China to the United States than any handgun in history.

Right now, almost all of the major handgun manufacturers, no matter what the flagship of their product line may be, produce an M1911 clone in one configuration or another. Further, it remains the firm conviction of a substantial number of knowledgeable individuals in the United States, whether they are military, law enforcement or civilian, that the most effective handgun cartridge for deployment in a gunfight was, is and will be into the foreseeable future, the venerable .45 ACP cartridge.

In addition, a countless number of pistolsmiths have, for many decades, assembled custom M1911-type pistols for competition shooters and those who walk in harm’s way. Those whose lives may well depend upon this tool of the trade will spare no expense to obtain the ultimate degree of reliability and performance.

Yet, I can assure you that almost every time I write about a handgun costing more than $1,500, I will receive an infuriated letter or email from a reader filled with self-righteous indignation that I dared to write about something he insists he could not nor will ever be able to afford. The subject of this editorial review sells for more than twice that amount and yet if you really want one, you can expect to wait almost a year and a half.

As a longtime practical pistol match competitor, pistolsmith Bill Wilson knows what it takes to win. A significant number of championships have been won with his products. In addition, within the last decade, his son, Ryan, has added his considerable talents to the family business and has become an integral factor in its great success and ever expanding product line.

Wilson Combat/Scattergun Technologies/Wilson Tactical is the world’s largest manufacturer of custom, combat-type, M1911 accessories and components. The vast majority of custom pistolsmiths throughout the United States use Wilson parts to one extent or another. Wilson Combat also builds complete handguns, at my last count close to three dozen different models in .45 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum and .38 Super.

It is my honest opinion that there are no more than three pistolsmiths crafting custom-made M1911 pistols that match the standards required by those willing to pay whatever needed to obtain the maximum performance and reliability upon which their very lives may depend. Bill Wilson is one of them.

Almost two years ago, I decided it was finally time to acquire the M1911 of my dreams. Sparing no cost, I would ask Bill Wilson provide me with a handgun that had every single feature I had ever considered to be desirable; and a few that I just considered to be attractive; a pistol that I would want to carry every day and that I could justifiably take tremendous pride in owning. That pistol turned out to be a custom Wilson Combat’s CQB Light Rail Lightweight Compact with no less than nine extra custom features added.

As finally delivered to me, the weight, empty, is 27.3 ounces (774 grams). The weight, loaded, is 35.3 ounces (1001 grams). The slide is made from 4340 carbon steel and the lightweight frame from 7075 T6 aluminum alloy. Both the slide and frame are machined forgings. The overall length is 7.6 inches (193.04mm), with a width, at the grip panels of 1.3 inches (33mm) and a height of 4.9 inches (124.46mm).

The pistol has been finished in Wilson’s black Armor-Tuff Protective Firearms Finish that was developed specifically for use on firearms to provide a surface with optimum corrosion protection, abrasion resistance and lubricity. It permanently bonds to the pistol’s and its components’ surfaces to form a barrier from acids, oils, paint remover, powder solvents, bore cleaners and other strong industrial solvents. The extremely low curing temperature (300°) prevents damage to any of the parts during the lengthy curing process. Armor-Tuff is the most durable, chemical and heat resistant, thermally cured finish on the market.

It deserves a detailed technical description. Before applying Armor-Tuff, the pistol and its components are glass-beaded with extremely fine blasting media, then “dehorned” with great precision and surface prepped. All of the carbon steel parts are then phosphate finished (“Parkerizing”) before applying the material used to form a bonding surface with Armor-Tuff.

A highly trained technician then sprays the Armor-Tuff coating on the firearm just before the thermal curing process. After reassembly, a Master Class shooter performs a 100% inspection to insure that the final finish meets the Wilson Combat standards.

In appearance, Armor-Tuff has an attractive satin/matte look that is similar to an ultra-fine, sandblasted blued finish. Armor-Tuff is available in matte black, matte Olive Drab (OD green), matte gray or any combination thereof.

When applied to bare common gun steel, Armor-Tuff will pass the test protocols for salt water spray at 1,000 hours, salt water immersion for a minimum of 1,000 hours, accelerated salt spray test equivalent to 30 years marine atmosphere exposure, and 60 days sea water immersion. Armor-Tuff surfaces will never rust when subjected to normal firearm usage.

While Armor-Tuff contains molybdenum disulfide, which provides superb anti-friction characteristics, it’s still recommended that a high-quality synthetic lubricant, such as G96 Gun Treatment, be used on all of the reciprocating surfaces—especially the slide-to-frame rail contact.

Armor-Tuff will meet 24-hour immersion test protocols in the following harsh fluids: aviation gasoline, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, lubricating oils, paint removers, trichloroethylene, nitric, sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, hydrogen peroxide, gunpowder solvents, common gun lubricants, strong bases such as hydroxide, and numerous other harsh industrial chemicals.

Armor-Tuff will withstand exposure to temperature extremes ranging from +500° to -250° F. Armor-Tuff is applied with a nominal thickness of .0003″ to .0009″, which permits easy reassembly of precision-fitted components.

CQB Light Rail Lightweight Compact in Detail
So, what’s under the Armor-Tuff? Starting with the slide, let’s examine the Wilson Combat CQB Light Rail Lightweight Compact M1911 pistol in detail. Wilson’s open square-notch Tactical Combat Pyramid rear sight is quite unusual. It has a vertical face machined at about the halfway point down its front-sloped ramp.

For single-handed slide retraction, this vertical face can be lodged against any rigid surface (such as the outside corner of a wall, a doorjamb, heavy-duty gun belt or the heel of your boot) and the pistol pushed forward. The rear face of the sight has 40 LPI horizontal serrations to reduce glare and the square notch is .140″ in width to enhance the rapid target acquisition needed in high stress scenarios.

The front sight blade has a single green tritium insert. The sight radius is 5.6 inches (142.24mm). Both sights are dovetailed to the slide and can be adjusted for windage zero, if necessary. The rear sight has an amber tritium insert on each side of the notch. By means of this color contrast, the eye is led instinctively to the all-important front sight. All that’s required is to remember only what the late Jeff Cooper stressed to me several decades ago in a class at Gunsite: “front sight, press.”

A significant number of my personal carry handguns are equipped with self-luminous sights. Tritium (an isotope of hydrogen) provides the energy source for self-luminous sights of this type. Tritium gas and a phosphor particle are pressurized within a tiny glass capsule. Tritium creates soft beta rays that are converted to visible light when they strike the phosphor particle. Because they are nuclear in nature tritium sights have a half-life that provides a useful life of about 10 years. The capsules are resistant to oil, water, corrosion and temperature changes.

While it has been my experience that white dots or outlines are rarely noticed under stress, self-luminous tritium sights are useful adjuncts to firing at night or under subdued-light conditions. They are, however, no substitute for a flashlight, as they do not illuminate or aid in the identification of a target as a potential threat. And, for that reason, this pistol’s dust cover has an integral MIL-STD-1913 rail interface.

To this MIL-STD-1913 dust cover rail interface we attached SureFire’s brand new X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight. Already one of SureFire’s bestsellers, the powerful X300 Ultra features a high-performance LED that produces 500 lumens of blinding white light focused by a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens that provides a tight beam with extended reach and significant surround illumination for peripheral vision.

This virtually indestructible and incredibly efficient LED generates tactical-level light—more than enough to completely overwhelm your opponent’s dark-adapted vision—for 1.5 hours per set of batteries. The high-strength aerospace aluminum alloy body is MilSpec hard anodized for toughness and is O-ring and gasket sealed to make it weatherproof.

The new X300 Ultra can be attached to either a handgun or rifle as its patented Rail-Lock system permits quick attachment to and removal from either Universal or MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces. Its integral ambidextrous push/toggle switch provides one-finger operation for either momentary or constant-on operation. Optional grip switches for pistols and an XT07 tape switch for rifles are available.

The X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight features a body length of 3.60 inches and a weight of only 4.0 ounces with batteries. The bezel diameter is 1.13 inches. It uses two 123A lithium batteries. The price of the X300 LED Weaponlight is $299 and at this writing they are backordered for at least 10 weeks. Believe me, it’s worth waiting for as this is currently SureFire’s best WeaponLight for handguns. The new 500-lumen X400 WeaponLight, which features a laser aiming device has not as yet gone into series production.

This latter feature was not needed as I ordered the Wilson Combat CQB Light Rail Lightweight Compact M1911 pistol with optional Crimson Trace Lasergrips. Early on, I was not an advocate of visible laser aiming devices, especially on handguns. When deployed by inexperienced personnel, they all too often encourage shooting from the hip and employing the red dot only.

Then, when the shooter engages a target in bright sunlight and the laser beam is useless, the operator has not brought the pistol up into a Weaver firing stance and properly aligned the pistol’s sights on the target. However, if the laser aiming device has been properly adjusted beforehand in alignment with the front sight and the operator is programmed to always engage the target from the Weaver position, they can be useful adjuncts to rapid target acquisition, especially so in subdued light environments.

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