Wilson Combat X-TAC
Compact 9mm

A Different Kind of Handgun Test
24

“Footprint” of X-Tac Elite Compact (right) compared to S&W J-Frame revolver.

When testing a gun, I like to shoot it under pressure. This is where you really pick up the subtleties of how it handles and performs. The schedule doesn’t always allow it but when I can, I shoot a match with it.
My time with the Wilson Combat X-Tac Elite Compact 9mm kinda went in the reverse …

The Wilson X-Tac Elite Compact 9mm test gun.

Tail Wags Dog

In June, I received an invitation from Bill Wilson to attend a reunion of a bunch of us who were involved in the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) in its early days. I checked my calendar, and damn … I had a trial scheduled for the same week in September 2019. I sent my regrets and filed the invitation away without opening the enclosures which described the event and the match.

In August, the trial was postponed. OMG — I could make the event after all! I called Bill who was kind enough to squeeze me in.

I got there early. In the course of conversation, I asked Bill if the Wilson Combat Compact Carry Beretta 92 I was wearing, one of my regular carry guns these days, would be suitable for the match. He cocked an eyebrow and said, “Didn’t read the enclosures, did ya?”

Big U-notch in rear BattleSight was easy to catch at speed and afforded
more than adequate precision.

Uh, Oh …

Turns out, in keeping with the “Early Days of IPSC”-theme, we were expected to use guns of the period — which in IPSC, of course, were 1911s. I asked sheepishly, “Um, Bill, you wouldn’t have a 1911 lying around that I could borrow, would you?”
Asking Bill Wilson if he has any 1911s lying around is like asking Croesus if he has any gold on hand. Bill was kind enough to fetch me one from his personal battery, an X-Tac Elite Compact 9mm with four magazines, a hip holster, and a magazine pouch, all Wilson Combat brand, of course. A test experience was underway.

“Footprint” of X-Tac Elite Compact (right) compared to S&W J-Frame revolver.

The X-Tac Elite Compact

This pistol has a 4.0″ coned barrel, Match Grade and stainless, perfectly crowned. I didn’t have a chance to bench it but several hundred rounds through the gun indicated it would live up to the manufacturer’s promise of 1.5″ groups at 25 yards. The dished muzzle crown helps. Wilson’s trademark Bulletproof parts are evident throughout: hammer and beavertail grip safety, low profile magazine chute (which did aid in speedloads), mag release, and the company’s BattleSights with a big U-notch in back and red fiber optic up front. Another WC trademark, the Starburst G10 grips, effectively complemented the wide, deep-but-not-sharp cross-cuts on the front and back grip straps. No matter how fast the shooting became, the X-Tac never shifted in my grasp. The usually-protruding right-side stud of the slide stop is flush with the frame and countersunk, to prevent it being pushed out of position by a clutching hand tightly holding the gun with the trigger finger over it, straight on the frame. Some serious thinking went into the X-Tac Elite’s design.

Grip safety and thumb safety were perfectly adjusted — not too hard, not too light, and positive all the way through in handling. Sweet triggers are a hallmark of the WC brand. The X-Tac Elite is spec’d for a 3.5 to 4.5 lb. pull and this gun was definitely on the light side.

Built with a short butt for better concealment (think Colt CCO .45 for overall footprint, but a quarter-inch shorter) the 9mm X-Tac Elite Compact comes with an eight-round flush bottom magazine, logically backed up with Wilson’s 10-rounder with a stop to prevent overtravel in a short-butt single stack gun. The latter mags were what I used.

Reliability is the non-negotiable baseline with any defensive firearm and it’s one of the things you’re paying for at Wilson Combat prices. This one perked 100 percent through several hundred rounds, everything from 115 to 147 grains. Remember, this was Bill Wilson’s personal gun and the guy owns an ammo company besides his gun company. He shoots a lot. He told me he figures he’s got about 20,000 rounds through this gun, cleaned every few hundred rounds and doesn’t remember it malfunctioning ever.

For a carry gun, you want comfort. The X-Tac Elite is beveled to eliminate sharp corners which might dig into the body. During the days at Bill’s WC Ranch in Texas this was my all-waking-hours carry gun, in Wilson brand leather of course. (In elephant, no less. Bill, veteran of many African safaris, has style.) The gun’s overall profile wasn’t much bigger than the S&W J-Frame snub revolver I carried for backup in a pants pocket throughout the week. Thumbs up for the X-Tac Elite’s “comfortable carry” element.

Clean target under pressure with X-Tac gives Mas a rare smile.

The Match

IPSC started before electronic timers were perfected and affordable so the courses tended to be fixed time events. This format was in play at the Reunion match. We were using International Defensive Pistol Association (IPDA) targets with an 8″ circle in the chest of the cardboard silhouette as Wilson (and some of the other folks in attendance) thought the IPSC targets had a too generously large center “A-Zone.” This puts a premium on accuracy with speed. In the fixed-time event, doing it fastest didn’t count — the object was to get the fewest points down from possible without going over the time limits. Bill presented us with four courses of fire, all on multiple targets.

On the first, the speed event, I got sloppy and dropped two points. On my very last target, sensing time was running out, I saw the front sight come into the down-zero zone at 3 o’clock, figured “good enough,” and broke the shot. Turned out it wasn’t “good enough.” It told me to tighten up, go “conscious competence” and think about what I was doing, managing to shoot the next two stages clean.

Then, I made the mistake of looking at the scores. I was only two points behind the leader, the legendary multiple-time world champion Rob Leatham. It gave me a case of the wobblies for sure. I shot the next event with the hardest focus yet: “Power stance, crush grip, focus on the front sight, smoothly roll the sweet trigger,” I told myself. The stage was “Los Alamitos,” from in-close to 20 yards and I managed to keep them all in. It turned out Rob dropped one point on this one. I can only assume some time in the late 1930s when the planet Krypton exploded, a meteorite from there buried itself on Bill Wilson’s range and Rob was standing too close to the Kryptonite.

At the end, out of 715 possible points, Rob Leatham had shot 714 and Jim McCreary and I had tied for second place overall with 713 points apiece. For the shootoff, Bill set a Day-Glo orange target ball on a silhouette and had us each take one shot at it, the hit closest to center determining the winner. Jim and I were exactly equidistant, me shooting the X-Tac Elite Compact and Jim, an ace PPC shooter among his many other accomplishments, running a Wilson Combat 1911 9mm with a longer barrel. We “shot off” again and Jim got me by a fraction of an inch, knocking me down into third place. Don’t think for a moment I whined about losing to such men.

Fiber optic BattleSight and coned barrel crowned for maximum accuracy come
as part of the X-Tac Elite Compact.

Conclusion

So, bottom line of the test? A Wilson Combat X-Tac Elite 9mm retails for $3,760. People ask what makes a 1911 pistol worth so much money. You can explain pride of ownership, the craftsmanship of Wilson’s superb staff gunsmiths who handcraft every one of them, the glassy smoothness of the mated parts, legendary accuracy and reliability. But the week at WC Ranch, I learned a new reason.

If the gun will let a worn-out old geezer come within a point of a multi-time world champion, it might just make it worth the money right there.

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