March 05, 2020
Wilson Combat has been a leader in the custom gun world since 1977, and after all those years former competitive shooter Bill Wilson’s company still drives innovation in many ways. Perhaps the pinnacle creation debuted in 2016: the EDC X9 9mm pistol. Still available to shooters with discriminating tastes, its compact hybrid design incorporated many Model 1911A1 elements and added modern features such as a high-capacity aluminum frame and a tri-top slide for concealed carry. Reviews of the EDC X9 were positive, even among those who felt that no handgun could be worth $2,895. Still, many of Wilson’s loyal customers wanted to see these features applied to a full-size format. Enter the Wilson Combat EDC X9L. The X9L is a 5-inch-barreled everyday carry (EDC) gun with a capacity of up to 18 rounds of 9mm.
Few handgun designs can match the single-action trigger pull, ergonomics and overall shootability of a really good M1911, and Wilson Combat’s 1911s certainly fit into that category. There is no doubt though that the M1911’s limited magazine capacity is a negative, but with the .45 ACP there is only so much that can be done in that regard without creating an unwieldy handgun. By combining the trigger, safety, hammer and top end of the 1911 with the high capacity aluminum 9mm frame, Wilson Combat created a novel handgun in the EDC X9 series that offers the best of both types.
Compared to the original EDC X9, the EDC X9L has a longer barrel, longer sight radius and greater overall weight, all of which make it potentially easier to shoot well compared to a compact. “There was a lot of customer demand for a full-size EDC and it was always part of the evolution plan for the platform,” Wilson Combat’s founder Bill Wilson told us.
Since the company’s humble beginnings tuning and building custom M1911s for International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) competition, Wilson Combat has become a company possessing an impressive manufacturing capability. Their seven-building complex now includes three complete machine shops and 50 gunsmiths who work on nothing but handguns. Wilson Combat is also capable of making every component of their handguns on-site — including the X series — and only outsources the G10 grips to VZ Grips (vzgrips.com) and the magazines. They even produce barrels, which is rare these days.
Building the EDC X9L started with Wilson Combat’s X-frame, which is CNC machined from billet 7075-T6 aluminum. The frame is what sets the EDC series apart, as it incorporates the high-capacity dual-column magazine used by many 9mm handguns while maintaining the ergonomic and familiar controls of the M1911A1. Despite the capacity, the X-frame’s grip is actually smaller in diameter than that of a single-column magazine 1911.
The X-frame doesn’t just hold more rounds than the single-stack, there are other differences. For starters, there is no separate mainspring housing and the grip safety has been deleted, which simplifies the grip contour. The frontstrap and backstraps are machined with an integral diamond pattern that provides plenty of purchase without being abrasive to skin or clothing. Four independent frame rails allow the slide to move with limited friction when compared to the original M1911 format. Wilson calls them “reliability enhanced frame rails.” Frames are available with or without light rails on the dust cover. (G&A’s test model did not wear rails.)
The combination of a built-in magazine funnel and a magazine that tapers to a single column is conducive to fast reloads. The steel and polymer magazines are an adaptation of the unit found on the Walther PPQ M2 and are produced by Mec-Gar (mec-gar.com). The proprietary 15-round magazines use quarter-inch base pads and fit flush with the bottom of the grip frame, while the 18-rounders extend just beyond the bottom with the optional and removeable magazine funnel in-place. The funnel arches upward on both sides of the frame allowing the shooter the ability to strip a magazine from the gun in the event of a malfunction. Specially designed G10 grips attach to the frame using dovetails, so there are no screws, the result is a slim profile despite the gun’s capacity. The frame is also cut high under the triggerguard, which allows a high grip on the gun. A beavertail prevents hammer bite.
In terms of controls, the trigger, slide stop, magazine release and manual safety are all of the M1911A1-style. Both Wilson’s Bulletproof slide stop and safety levers are constructed with oversize surfaces, so they are easy to manipulate in a hurry. I have average-sized hands and was able to actuate the checkered magazine release without shifting my grip on the handgun. Likewise, the serrated trigger was within easy reach. Our test gun’s trigger fires after a crisp and clean 3 ½ pounds. There was some take-up in Guns & Ammo’s sample. However, the trigger reset was extremely short resulting in fast split times between shots.
Wilson’s use of CNC milling stations is immediately evident when examining the X9L. There is complex cross-hatching cuts present on both the frame and slide, for example. The X-TAC pattern milled into the slide takes the place of front and rear cocking serrations and provides ample grip. Instead of a traditional rounded top on the slide, a five-sided surface results in a unique but attractive profile that also cuts weight. The slide is milled narrower near the muzzle in the style of the Browning Hi-Power and some of the custom M1911s of yesteryear. Wilson calls them “carry cuts” and it is a good look. Ball-end mill cuts on the slide’s transition to the dust cover adds a custom touch as well. The bottom edge of the slide is chamfered to eliminate the sharp edge. All of these cuts aren’t just for aesthetic reasons. The result is a low-mass slide that still manages to temper muzzle rise.
While the lower half of the EDC X9L has more features of a modern double-stack handgun, the top end is like an M1911A1. The slide is machined from 416R stainless steel, as is the 5-inch match ramped barrel. Neither component is coated, which gives the gun a two-tone look. A nearly imperceptible reverse crown protects the rifling from real-world abuse and the barrel locks up by means of a single top lug. Though the more compact EDC X9 uses a fluted-cone barrel that deletes the need for a bushing, the X9L uses a traditional barrel bushing to secure it for better fitment at the muzzle. Though the bushing may seem antiquated to some, it has a purpose: Bushings can be replaced to account for wear, which is important on a gun that will see tens of thousands of rounds. (It is better to wear out the bushing than the frame.)
The EDC X9L uses the standard recoil spring and plug arrangement of the M1911 with no full-length guide rod. Wilson’s polymer Shock Buff pad provides cushion to the metal components when the slide slams to the rear upon firing. As a result, disassembly of the X9L follows the traditional M1911 steps and will be familiar to any shooter comfortable with that manual of arms.
The sights on the EDC X9L are tall, visible and excellent. A user-replaceable fiber-optic front sight is framed by an adjustable snag-free black rear with 40 line-per-inch serrations. These cuts continue on the rear surface of the slide, cutting glare and looking good doing it. The flat on the slide’s top is serrated 30 lines-per-inch. The sights are adjustable for both windage and elevation using two Torx and one standard screw, respectively. Rounding out the slide, the ejection port is generously wide to allow for flawless ejection and the slide-mounted spring-loaded extractor and frame-mounted fixed ejector get empties out of the gun with authority.
The machining and polishing on the EDC X9L are first rate, without a single visible flaw in the various cuts made on the frame and slide. The barrel locks up tight, leaving no wobble when the hood is depressed. Slide-to-frame fit allows just enough clearance to ensure reliability. The surface finish is Wilson’s Armor-Tuff black coating, which is durable but only .001 inch thick so it doesn’t interfere with the critical fitting between the pistol’s various parts.
I’m a big fan of custom Model 1911 handguns, so I was excited to shoot the EDC X9L. I have already evaluated the compact original, too. Like that one, the X9L is a soft-shooting pistol with what I can only describe as a slow recoil impulse. Clearly, the 9mm chambering is part of the recoil equation, but I’ve shot other 9mm 1911s and none of them were this easy to shoot. Just as the sights are coming down from the peak of recoil, the gun can be felt locking back into battery. The X9L is a pistol that is most easy to control.
Accuracy ranged from average to great depending on the load. Reliability was 100 percent, but for heavy-for-caliber subsonic ammunition tempted the gun’s boundaries.
According to Wilson, “The basic EDC X9 has proven to be the most functionally reliable variant we’ve ever produced.” Thanks to a clean and consistent trigger, excellent sights and a well-engineered frame, the X9L was exceedingly easy to shoot with a blend of speed and precision.
What role does this handgun fill? Virtually any that a 5-inch Model 1911 would, and then some.
“Full size pistols are still our best sellers,” Wilson said. “And a lot of people carry a five. The X9L meets this need and is also a very good pistol for range use and IDPA competition in the ESP division.” (Team Wilson Combat’s Mandy Bachman recently used an X9L to win the High Lady slot at the 2019 IDPA World Championship.)
The X9L is also ideal for all-around defensive use, and would be a fantastic choice for a high-round-count handgun course where a .45 ACP might take its toll on the shooter. A dedicated individual could use it for EDC, and it is a perfectly suitable duty pistol for officers willing and able to pay the tab.
No one needs a gun for self-defense that runs just south of $3,000, but some are willing to pay that sort of price for a quality firearm built with premium components. Otherwise, Wilson Combat wouldn’t be the successful business it is. The EDC X9 and X9L are not guns built to meet a price point, but rather a handgun made to be the best that it can be.
Wilson Combat nailed it on this one. The company’s long experience with the 1911 combined with the manufacturing capability to adapt and update the platform really shine with this model. The EDC X9L is built to shoot and is accurate, reliable and ergonomic. It’s a handgun that combines the shootability of the 1911 with less recoil and double the capacity. You’ve gotta shoot one.
Wilson Combat EDC X9L Specs
- Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 18+1 rds.
- Overall Length: 8.7 in.
- Height: 5.25 in.
- Weight: 2 lbs., .4 oz.
- Material: 416R stainless steel (slide), Aluminum (frame)
- Grip: VZ Grips G10 Starburst
- Trigger: 3 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
- Safety: Manual thumb lever
- Finish: Armor-Tuff black
- Sights: Wilson Combat fiber optic (front); adj. notch (rear)
- MSRP: $2,995
- Manfacturer: Wilson Combat, 870-545-3310, wilsoncombat.com
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