I tend to shoot .45 more than anything else. Call it a cross between a first love and an ego trip from a guy named Colt. Since I became the owner of my beautiful Ultralight Carry .38 Super/9mm Luger combo just over a year ago, I have put about 2,000 rounds downrange through it, with a bit more than half of that being 9mm. It isn’t entirely my fault that such a beautiful machine has been kept from doing more serious range time, but as this year winds to a close, it is something I fully intend to remedy in 2014.
During the review I did on Buffalo Bore 38 Super Ammo, I noticed a slide stop issue I had not seen occur with other 38 Super ammo or any 9mm I have shot. The gun would lock back under recoil from the hotter ammo with one round left in the magazine, even when the OAL and projectile were exactly the same as other ammunition that didn’t cause the problem. What I came to find out was that the slide stop didn’t have quite enough “detent” where it was contacting the plunger, and as a result the gun would lock back prematurely on the last round with hotter defensive loads. Wilson Combat said that it only happened with stout Super loads because Super magazines have slightly weaker springs, which allow the cartridges to feed without hanging up on the semi-rims, but that on the last round (when there was less tension on the round anyway), the recoil was enough with the stout loads that the round would move too far forward and lock the slide back. It wasn’t a classic inertia feed, in that the gun never failed to feed, and releasing the slide stop would pick up the round under the extractor claw properly and feed it into the chamber without a hitch; it was strictly premature lockback, and it happened even with a dimpled follower (but only with the hotter ammo). I talked to Wilson and they had me a call tag within hours, and paid shipping both ways. While the gun was there I elected to have the (then) new bulletproof round-butt magwell installed and blended, and the gun came back functioning perfectly. As the issue never occurred in 9mm, which is the focus of this article, and never returned in Super, I won’t mention it further, but it is something to test for if you intend on carrying a 38 Super with hotter ammo.
I’ve been told on forums or at the range since I started shooting 1911s that an alloy-framed 1911 isn’t “real” (whatever that means), that it’s destined to crack from the start, and that blued steel is superior in every way. But that’s from the same pundits who say a 1911 in any caliber but .45 can’t be reliable, and I don’t buy into that either. I understand steel lasts longer on heavier calibers, but alloy still isn’t fragile. When Wilson Combat builds something, they do it right, and in addition to fact that there are thousands of lightweight Colts out there ticking away, I have a lot of faith in a lightweight frame by Wilson Combat designed from the beginning to be the foundation for a daily use weapon, and beefed up in certain areas as a result. There’s no need to shoot down the “9mm being unreliable in a 1911” myth, as Todd Green has already debunked that one in spectacular fashion over the past year and a half (it really is a must-read…check out part one here), but since my ULC needs some more rounds put through it anyway, I’m making it my primary match gun in 2014, and I’ll be posting range reports along the way.
The all-steel, round butt, Bulletproof one-piece magazine well should protect the aluminum frame from the steel feed lips of the occasional botched reload (courtesy of yours truly), and although the weight of the gun will not be quite as high as an all-steel 1911 to further negate the felt recoil or the muzzle rise, I don’t foresee that being much of an issue when running a minor caliber like 9mm. I’ll be running it with factory ammo (usually 9mm, but occasionally 38 Super as well) and a flat-wire recoil spring setup I tuned for this gun while in close contact with Wilson Combat.
The first 1,318 rounds of 9mm are down the tube, and in the first 1,000+ rounds, what I can tell you is that there have been zero failures in 9mm (which is a notoriously finicky round in the 1911), except for the ones induced by me trying an 11# ISMI Glock flatwire spring from slide lock as an experiment with wide-cavity JHP loads and a fully-loaded 10-round ETM magazine. 11 pounds just wasn’t enough spring to overcome the tension in the magazine and get the wide-nosed round up the feed ramp; a heavier spring proved 100% reliable. That said, when hitting the slide stop on a full magazine of FMJ, the round-nosed profile still fed perfectly with the 11# spring. The pistol is equally smooth-shooting in both 9mm and 38 Super, and the accuracy is outstanding (hitting a half-size IPSC silhouette at 80 yards is no problem whatsoever). As you can see, the blending of the magwell goes one step past “amazing,” and the serrations on the top and rear of the slide are sharply and cleanly executed. The carry cuts are great for smooth holstering, as well as non-abrasive chamber checks, the trigger breaks like the proverbial glass rod right at 3.5#, the gold bead front sight has a nice “pop” to it, and the feedramps of both barrels remain mirror smooth after seeing a fair amount of use. Even when using it in a match, the smaller carry-profile grip safety and hammer, in conjunction with the high-cut and checkered front strap, allow a nice high grip and good purchase on the gun for quick follow up shots, and the ball cuts and dehorn give the ULC a look that harkens back to the original design without looking exactly like every other 1911 on the market today.
All in all, it is a great option for carrying a full-size 1911, and in the reports to come, I hope to show that just because a 1911 has an aluminum frame, it doesn’t mean you can’t shoot the heck out of it, especially in a minor caliber. After all, Wilson stands behind their products as well as anyone in the industry (better than anyone I’ve had to deal with), and every part of every current Wilson Combat gun is precision machined from billet and precisely fit to function as well as possible for as long as possible. There are far too many safe queens out there, so in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, let’s go sling some lead in 2014!
–Colt Driver; Product Photos by kChanko
*Originally Posted 12/24/2013