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Wilson CQB — The Gold Standard in M1911 Autopistols

Wilson CQB. Image Credit: Industry Handout.
Wilson CQB

One hundred and twelve years after its inception, the M1911 single-action (SA) semiautomatic pistol – especially in its original .45 ACP caliber – remains incredibly and enduringly popular.

In addition to its historical significance, another reason for the pistol platform’s popularity is the fact that it lends itself so readily to customization, and in the post-WWII era, many a superb gunsmith has built his reputation on building custom 1911 guns, from Ed Brown to Richard Heinie to Dave Lauck to TJ Jimakas. But one 1911 smith’s name stands out over all others as the gold standard: Bill Wilson.

The Bill Wilson Story

In Bill’s own words, as quoted in an October 2020 interview with Gun Digest’s Pinsky:

“I’ve always been interested in guns and got my first .22 rifle when I was 10 or so. My first involvement with the firearms industry was in 1974 with a retail store called Sportsman’s Headquarters in Berryville, Arkansas. Wilson Combat came from my competition shooting career and was started in 1977 … As I became a high-level competitor, I needed a better pistol … When guns from the top pistolsmiths of the day didn’t satisfy me, I used my jewelry and watchmaking skills to work on 1911s … As a competitive shooter, I learned what it takes to make accurate, reliable and durable firearms and accessories. As a hunter, I learned patience and determination. As a businessman, I added in customer service.”

Soon enough, Bill’s reputation for quality work would become just about every bit as legendary as the 1911 platform itself. 

The Wilson CQB

As the Wilson Combat official info page states, “The CQB Full-Size Pistol is the standard-bearer for our CQB family of pistols, and remains our most popular model. A thoroughly modernized version of the original 1911 design by John M. Browning, it is built in the original style but delivers the quality, reliability, and accuracy modern shooters demand – and is backed by our unmatched promise of performance and customer satisfaction.”

Personal Shooting Impressions/Range Report

I have been shooting M1911 pistols since 1990, starting with the Colt 10mm Delta Elite in June of that year and followed by the Colt Series 80 Government Model .45 auto in October of that year. It was that same year that I first learned of Bill Wilson’s work and came to be impressed by all of the great things I read about his pistolsmithing craftsmanship … though I must confess, that following year, when I made my first gun purchase – a Springfield Armory 1911 .45 – I was a tad perturbed when I read a passage in Mr. Wilson’s book titled “The Combat .45 Automatic: A Complete Guide to Purchasing, Modifying and Customizing the .45 Automatic for Competition or Carry” wherein he denigrated my brand choice in favor of Colt.

Oh well, way past time to let bygones be bygones – after all, good ol’ Bill does share my love for the Beretta 92F/M9 – and in the immortal words of Brooks & Dunn, “Ain’t no big deal/It’s just Whiskey Under the Bridge.” After reading and hearing so many great things from various shooting buddies and professional acquaintances about Wilson Combat’s work in general and the Wilson CQB, it wasn’t until July 2023 that I finally got to fire the CQB and see what all the fuss has been about.

I have Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor pistol range in Ashburn, Virginia and its incredible arsenal of rental guns to thank for finally getting to experience the joys of shooting the CQB. And I’m not exaggerating when I use the phrase “joys of shooting.” I mean, wow, just wow. I’m a true believer in the Wilson Combat brand now. 

With the fit and finish and ergonomics, I simply cannot do justice to it in words how slick and smooth everything looked and felt, from the ambidextrous thumb safety to the beavertail grip safety to the slide stop lever to the manual slide rack procedure to the magazine release to the ease of stuffing rounds into the 8-round magazine. The only criticism I can think of is that it takes a bit of extra oomph to get a full-loaded magazine to seat properly when the slide is fully forward (“in-battery”); mind you, when the slide is locked back, the mag slides into the mag well without a hitch.

Sight picture was superb. It was easy to maintain even with my slowly but surely deteriorating eyesight.

And then there’s the trigger. There’s just something about a well-tuned sliding trigger on a 1911 that just can’t be beaten for crispness. Maybe the SIG P210 can tie it, but none can truly beat it outright. And the Wilson CQB has the best trigger of any 1911 I’ve fired. 

The initial accuracy test was my typical 50 rounds – using PMC Bronze 230-grain “hardball” and the IPSC/USPSA practice target – divvied up evenly into head shots at 21 feet and center torso shots are 75 feet. At each distance, there was that one lousy stinkin’ proverbial black sheep that strayed outside the A-zone and kept me from claiming a perfect score. Nonetheless, shot group tightness was incredibly satisfying, especially the one-hole fist-sized head group. 

I enjoyed it so much that I bought a second box of ammo, this time doing head shots at 50 feet and torso shots at 150 feet. I had one lousy total miss at each distance – MY fault, not the gun’s – as well as some B-,  C-, and D-zone strikes, but once again, overall groups were oh-so-satisfyingly tight and well-centered.

Want Your Own?

True Gun Value states that “A WILSON CQB pistol is currently worth an average price of $3,385.41 new and $2,279.36 used. The 12-month average price is $3,385.41 new and $2,279.36 used.” If you choose to order directly from Wilson Combat, they list a Base Price of $3,430.00 for the .45 ACP and  $3,530.00 for the 9mm; with the “Matte Stainless (upgrade),” their asking price is $3,530 for .45 ACP and $3,630.00 for 9mm.

Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).