November 2006

High-Dollar 1911s: Wilson CQB Beats Nighthawk, Rock River

How much should you spend on a "perfect" handgun? How much should you spend for anything that is generally considered to be at the very top of its field? A Ferrari F60 will set you back half a million bucks, give or take a few hundred thousand, and a new Purdey shotgun today lists at around $85,000. But how much ought you to spend for a really good 1911 .45 auto, when your lifeís on the line and money is no object? Weíre leaving engraving out of the picture entirely in this discussion, though many will want it on their ultimate handguns. Itís possible to acquire a thoroughly reliable 1911 for well under a grand, but it may not satisfy you completely over time, for one reason or another, especially if you have lots of experience with the type. It might not be completely dehorned, or its finish may not be all that durable, or itíll need a trigger job or better accuracy, or whatever. All these things can be fixed, but all cost time and money. How about if you spend around two grand?

For that kind of money, it seems to us, you ought to get a gun that needs exactly nothing. It ought to work every time for many thousands of rounds, with zero failures of any sort. It ought to outlive you, all your grandchildren, and then some. It should have a decent trigger pull. The finish, whatever it is, ought to be durable. There are plenty of excellent finishes available today that are in fact really durable, and you should not have to pay extra for that. Nor do we believe such a handgun should show any appreciable wear from several years spent in a holster. The gun should be fully dehorned so you can practice clearance drills, or go through any training center in the country ó or the world ó without the gun ripping up your hands. The sights may or may not be adjustable, but these top-notch guns probably ought to have tritium sights, unless you specifically donít want them. If the sights are adjustable they must never break, and thatís a tall order. If the sights are not adjustable, they should be capable of being regulated to your favorite load. The gun should at least hit mighty close to center when you get it. The grips and the front and rear straps should have decent traction, but not too much of it until you grab it hard.

The gun ought to be able to feed, fire, and eject any reasonable self-defense loads (we assume these are self-defense guns). It is unrealistic to expect the gun to print to the same impact point with light 185-grain target loads or with 165-grain JHPs as it does with 230-grain ball, so that means either the gun should have adjustable sights or, more important, the shooter needs to know what load he or she will use in it. If you get our drift, weíre assuming such a handgun will probably not be the best choice for the inexperienced shooter. To justify such a costly handgun, the shooter, we think, should have put in his time with a 1911 and ought to know what features he wants on his gun, and should have a good idea of the type of ammunition to be used.

The individual may want some special features, such as a lanyard ring or maybe a special grip material, checkering pattern, etc. Also, weíre talking a full-size 1911 in this evaluation. Lighter or smaller 1911 types are generally preferable for long-term concealed carry, but many shooters are mighty happy with the full-size gun and donít want ó or are not allowed ó anything smaller.

What we like may not be what you like, but remember the test crew for these 1911s has many years and hundreds of thousands of rounds experience with the type. The three we looked at were the Rock River Pro Carry ($1795), Wilson Combat CQB ($2150), and Nighthawk GRP ($2695 as tested). We tested them with five types of ammo. Black Hillsí remanufactured hardball, Federalís Hi-Shok JHP in both 185 and 230 weights, with Winchester 185-grain BEB truncated cone, and with sizzling Cor-Bon 185 JHP. Weíll jump ahead here and let you know there were zero failures of any kind with the three guns.

All three were very tightly fitted, yet none needed a "break-in" period before we could operate them in all their functions by hand. All had beavertails with bumps, skeleton hammers, lightened aluminum triggers of the Videki type, and grip safeties that worked without needing recontouring, as we found with the S&W. All had straight mainspring housings of steel, and checkering on front and rear grip surfaces. Two guns had forward slide serrations for the new-type press checking, but all three could be press checked the old way, with a careful pinch. All had tritium sight inserts, but one of the setups was superior. All three had decent triggers, but only two were perfect. They all had relieved mag-well openings to aid fast reloads, and all had pads on the magazines. They all had dovetailed front sights with the protrusions rounded to blend with the slide. One final observation that applied to all three is that they were very well fitted between slide and frame, with no observable movement. Letís see what else we found out.

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