Let’s face it: Wilson Combat makes some pretty okay stuff. Their magazines are the okay stuff of legend. Funny, right?
Wilson Combat has been known for the best 1911 magazines since the first Wilson-Rogers #47 samples made it to market. Its magazines have been issued with the Springfield Professional Model, the Colt USMC CQBP, and so many other .45’s that it’s just about impossible to keep track of the accolades. Elite military units privileged enough to be using the .45 today still swear by them, as do most of the top single-stack shooters in the country. These magazines never were just okay. But Bill Wilson and the bright people at Wilson Combat know that if you aren’t making improvements, you’re falling behind, and so they’ve continued tweaking the design over the years to offer better and better performance for people whose lives may well come down to whether their magazine performs when called upon.
Several years back, Wilson Combat’s engineers and consultants got together and started from scratch on a new 1911 magazine. The resulting magazine tube was slightly longer and purpose-built for an eight-round capacity. This allowed for a couple of things that hadn’t been seen in the 1911 world to that point. First, it made room for a full powered spring in an eight round magazine, which was simply not possible in any eight round design that utilized the same tube as a seven-rounder. As good as the Wilson 47D was (and is), it represented a compromise: increased capacity for decreased spring life. In addition, the longer tube of the new magazine allowed it to be seated more easily when fully loaded under a closed slide. The extra space in the tube provided enough room for the rounds to compress, which resulted in a magazine that would seat with relative ease. This solved the problem of having to REALLY smack the magazine to get it to seat (which gives “timid” people a fit when they’re trying to reload on a closed slide).
The Elite Tactical Magazine, or “ETM,” as it came to be called, was the result of that project. And for the past three years, I’ve been trying to wear one out. I’ve dropped it hundreds of times. It has fallen on rock, sand, and mud. It has been put through conditions that made me wish I was shooting a Glock that day. Through all of this, I have never once cleaned the inside of the magazine tube, and it has fed thousands of rounds flawlessly. While the ETM magazine feeds smoothly and decreases the likelihood of magazine-related failures, it doesn’t eliminate the chance. And while mine have all been 100% since day one, some people have not had the same experience. The fact remains that any traditional eight-rounder is more prone to a weakened magazine spring and the resulting failures than a similar seven-rounder, and many people (including myself) have made a conscious choice to carry seven-round magazines in their .45’s for that reason.
But the good people at Wilson Combat like .45’s, and they like having more bullets. They simply weren’t happy with people having to give up capacity or longevity in their magazines. So they made sure that this newest iteration of the ETM would deliver both an eight-round capacity and a spring that wouldn’t ever fatigue or need to be replaced. For all of you 1911 guys out there, that translates to no more instances of the slide outrunning the magazine with hot rounds, and no more failures to lock back. EVER.
Enter the Wilson Combat ETM Heavy Duty/+P magazine. It utilizes a revolutionary square-wire magazine spring that, like its flatwire recoil spring counterpart, promises a highly extended spring life. Not only that, it delivers more spring tension in the same amount of space as the traditional ETM spring, which allows for an eight-round magazine that FINALLY reaches the same level of reliability as a seven-rounder without extending so far beyond the mag-well that no one in their right mind would ever attempt to carry it. Termed theflatwire MAX, these new springs never become over-compressed or overstressed like traditional magazine springs, and as a result they never lose proper tension. Further, they are heat-treated stainless springs, so fatigue as a result of corrosion isn’t as much of a concern as with some other manufacturers’ traditional carbon steel or chrome-silicon springs. And Wilson Combat guarantees you’ll never have to change the spring– or they’ll change it for you.
So for those of you asking, “Why should this impress me?” the short answer is because it works better. The long answer is that this innovation allows for you to quit counting rounds (or days) between magazine spring changes, allows you to carry an extra round confidently, guarantees positive lock-back in your 1911 after the last round, and keeps up with the slide speed on +P rounds much the same way as the existing Wilson 7-round HD/+P magazines. And, of course, the tacticool answer is that it impresses everyone else. To those of you who relate most to the third answer: if nothing else, you should upgrade because if you do it quickly, you’ll be the first one of your friends to have these.
People around the industry who have had the chance to try the ETM HD/+P (or, as I have nicknamed it, the ETM²) love them. Rob Schauland of Alchemy Custom Weaponry (formerly of Springfield Custom and Les Baer) told me this is “absolutely the best thing ever,” and he went on to say:
The area that is particularly impressive is the way it locks back a slide on empty where other magazines fail to do so. Sometimes, customers complain that they are either getting weak lockback (meaning the slide stop is not fully engaging the slide) or they are not getting their gun to lock back at all. This magazine has never failed in that regard…even where Baers, Tripps, and Metalform mags have.
So far, I have run the ETM HD/+P in my personal Colt Series 70 built by Novak’s and tweaked by Alchemy Custom, a Kimber TLE/RL II (made famous by the LAPD), and a bone-stock stainless Springfield Mil-Spec. The weapons ranged from being tuned to perfection to being tuned whatever amount may or may not have occurred when the gun was assembled. My evaluation included duty ammo, ball ammo, +P rounds, and light match loads. At one point, I rubbed it around in sand prior to loading, and without exception, the magazine performed as I expected. I shot strong hand only, weak hand only, and freestyle; nothing phased it. The ETM HD/+P loads easily (this is not to say that you can’t feel the extra tension), feeds smoothly, and locks the gun back on empty with authority. Wilson Combat insists that “the MAX spring will change the 1911 magazine forever.” I think they might well be shortchanging themselves with that statement. They’ll change the 1911 world again before too long. HP
Originally Published September 30, 2013; Special thanks to Wilson Combat for letting us be an early adopter for this great product!