June 03, 2023
Constant evolution and refinement have become hallmarks of custom gunmaker Wilson Combat. Headquartered in Berryville, Arkansas, the company’s operations include manufacturing and modifying handguns, rifles and shotguns, as well as aftermarket parts, accessories and even ammunition. Led by renowned competitor and custom gunsmith Bill Wilson, Wilson Combat is best known for 1911 pistols tuned and refined for competition and defensive carry. At least, it used to be.
First reviewed in the October 2017 issue of Guns & Ammo, Wilson’s EDC X9 marked a turning point for the company. A truly original design, the EDC X9 combined the best elements of the 1911 – including a fantastic single-action trigger – with new innovations, most notably a skeletonize aluminum-alloy frame capable of accepting a 15-round-capacity dual-column magazine. Comparisons could be made to the Browning BDM pistol which inspired the frame design, the double-stack 9mm Browning/FN Hi Power, and even the Walther PPQ from which the magazine was borrowed and modified. But it was the enthusiasm and know-how of Wilson and his team that brought those elements together to create a truly formidable pistol boasting life-saving reliability and match-winning accuracy.
The EDC X9 was an immediate success, and it wasn’t long before the platform was being tweaked to fit the needs of a hungry market. While the original 4-inch barrel configuration is probably the best all-purpose model, customers wanting a deep-concealment model were rewarded with a 3.25-inch barrel and slide. Likewise, those wanting a longer sight radius received a 5-inch version. And, of course, features such as the sights, grips, trigger length, accessory rail and manual safety could be tailored to suit personal preferences – these are custom guns, after all.
I tested the EDC X9 for the first time in 2018 and was immediately enamored. It was reliable, accurate and extremely comfortable to shoot. It also fell in line with the 15-round, 4-inch-barrel profile of the ubiquitous Glock 19, bolstering its bona fides as an ideal duty/carry/competition pistol. The only complaint – however slight – was that the grip felt a little too large for my medium-size hands.
It turns out, I wasn’t alone.
Enter the SFX9, another evolution from Wilson Combat. Carrying over many of the EDC X9’s features and components, the SFX9 relinquished the skeletonized frame and interchangeable G10 stocks for a fully machined, and completely solid frame (hence, the “SF”). To provide purchase on the all-metal grip, the XTAC diamond-like texturing was retained on the frontstrap and mainspring housing, and frame’s flats received a complementary starburst-checkered hybrid pattern. Like the EDC X9, the SFX9 and has been sized up and down to include 3.25-, 4- and 5-inch barrel configurations. For this review I received a full-size 5-inch model with 15-round magazines.
The most notable difference between the 5-inch model and its smaller stablemates, beside the added length, is the use of a traditional barrel bushing, spring plug and guide. The smaller pistols use a flared barrel to effect lockup in conjunction with a reverse plug and full-length guide rod for the recoil spring. Neither method is inherently better or more reliable than the other, and both methods have been used with 1911-style platforms previously.
That said, reliability in a recoil-operated pistol comes from correctly balancing the weight of moving components with the power of the recoil spring and combating friction as best as possible. These factors must be just right in order to allow the slide to travel rearward far enough to eject the spend case and clear the magazine well. It must then travel forward with enough velocity to strip a fresh round from the magazine and fully seat it within the chamber. Given their expertise and track record, I trust the determination by the engineers and gunsmiths at Wilson Combat that the traditional bushing is the best option for the bigger guns.
My test gun also had some customizations from the base model. First of all, using Wilson’s True Zero Optics arrangement, the gun came with a Trijicon RMR red dot mounted atop the slide. Further, both the black, serrated, U-notch rear sight and the tritium-powered front night sight were tall enough to co-witness through the optic. Standard models will include fiber-optic front sights. As well, rather than the standard left-side-only manual safety, my test pistol had an ambidextrous control.
As expected, fit and finish was exceptional on this gun – everything was tight and smooth. Wilson Combat’s Bullet Proof controls, like the slide lock and magazine release, are large enough to be manipulated with ease, and textured for sure activation. X-TAC pattern cocking serrations on the front and rear of the slide add to the aesthetic and provide excellent touchpoints for working the slide. The trigger, too, was excellent, breaking at a clean 3 pounds, 10 ounces, when tested with a Lyman digital gauge.
Probably the best revelation, for me at least, was that the grip fit my hand just right. Where the EDC X9 was a touch wider than a single-stack 1911 – and felt like it – the SFX9 comes closer to replicating that iconic grip. At the same time, it was a new and original experience. The base of the frame and mainspring housing are slightly curved and bobbed, interfacing nicely with the meaty portion of my shooting hand. For those of you on the fence between the EDC X9 and the SFX9, rest assured that both have comfortable, ergonomic frame designs. But, if you have medium or smaller hands, or just prefer a slimmer grip, the SFX9 is going to be the better choice for you.
On the range, the SFX9 didn’t miss a beat. While I wasn’t capable of keeping every 25-yard, five-shot group below the 1-inch mark, I’d still say the gun lived up to its accuracy guarantee. Paired with premium Wilson Combat ammunition, it was an absolute machine from the bench and during fast-paced defensive drills. At the 25-yard line, my overall average for 20 five-shot groups using four different loads was a hair under 1.5 inches – absolutely amazing. Three of the four loads had best groups under 1 inch.
For reliability testing, I expanded my ammo options to also include a grab bag of range loads and proven defensive cartridges. The SFX9 fed, fired and ejected everything I put through it. Nine-millimeter 1911s have historically struggled to cycle varied lengths and bullet profiles consistently, but there is no question Wilson has the SFX9’s barrel ramp geometry dialed in. Too, the external extractor – another departure from traditional 1911 design – was tuned to perfection.
In order to give readers the best service possible, I strive to objectively report any issues or areas for improvement. Admittedly I couldn’t find fault with the SFX9 5-inch. It’s a premium full-size gun that takes cues from traditional pistol design while offering an evolved and thoroughly modern shooting experience.
Wilson Combat SFX9 5 Inch
- Type: Recoil operated, single action, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 15 rds.
- Barrel: 5 in., stainless steel
- Overall Length: 8.7 in.
- Weight: 2 lbs.
- Materials: Stainless steel (slide), aluminum (frame)
- Finish: Black DLC (slide)
- Grips: Machined X-Tac frame
- Sights: Trijicon RMR, tritium front, U-notch rear (tested)
- Trigger: 3 lbs., 10 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $3,160 (base)
- Manufacturer: Wilson Combat, 800-955-4856, wilsoncombat.com
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