Category Archives: Wilson Combat

Wilson Combat Spec-Ops 9

Shooting Illustrated

Published in “Shooting Illustrated” May 2010

Polymer Twist

                                                                                                                            Photos by Loyd Hill

In a life full of changes, it’s nice to know one company’s innovation shows, year after year.

Enter the Wilson Combat Spec-Ops 9

Some things are pretty safe bets. Taxes must be paid by April 15. birthdays come once a year, and Wilson Combat turns out good pistols. There are some exceptions. Congress might pass a law exempting themselves from having to pay taxes. If you were born on Feb. 29. your birthday only comes around once every four years. On the other hand. I’ve yet to be dis­appointed in a new Wilson pistol, and that includes the company’s latest offering—the Spec-Ops 9.

The Spec-Ops 9 is aimed directly at the concealed-carry market with two predominant characteristics driving the design: light weight and increased capacity. Light weight in today’s semi-automatic pistol market means a polymer frame, while increased capacity dictates double-stack maga­zines. In a sense, those thicker maga­zines do not result in guns conducive to the “concealed” part of concealed carry because the grip frame must be wider than guns using single-stack magazines. Wilson’s approach to this problem is a polymer frame with stainless steel rails molded in place. The result is minimum bulk and weight (29.6 ounces empty. 7 ounces heavier fully loaded) with plenty of structural strength. The Spec-Ops magazine not only holds 16 rounds— satisfying the increased-capacity promise—but loading the magazine to full capacity without a special tool was easier for me than any other double-stack pistol I’ve tried. My thumb was most appreciative.

The slide is carbon steel with a 472-inch barrel, which to me is a good compromise length. You get almost as good a sight radius as with a 5-inch barrel (6.2 inches), while the balance point doesn’t move too far forward as is the tendency with polymer-framed guns equipped with longer barrels. There are serrations at the rear of the slide to facilitate cock­ing, but none near the muzzle. However, about an inch from the muzzle there is a small but noticeable reduction in slide width, creating a distinct shoulder I found to be very helpful in performing chamber checks, both visual and tactile. As always when grasping the slide near the front end. be careful that no part of your hand extends in front of the muzzle.

Hammer

Wilson's skeletonized hammer not only adds to the modern aesthetics of the gun, its reduced mass also helps ensure a crisp trigger pull.

Sights are of the 3-dot tritium vari­ety, making them highly visible in low-light conditions. On a recent trip where the Spec-Ops 9 became my nightstand gun, the glowing sights made it easy to find in the dark. These are Wilson’s new Tactical Combat Sights and are considerably less bulky than the sights on my Wilson CQB 1911, the primary gun on my California concealed-carry permit. The front sight blade is almost the same width and height as on my CQB, but instead of being fit into a laterally cut dovetail slot, it slides into the front of a longitudinally cut dovetail slot. The rear sight is considerably smaller than on my CQB and is screwed into a recessed cut in the slide rather than slid into a dovetail. One similar fea­ture on both rear sights is the concave rear surfaces to eliminate any possible glare or light reflections. Nice touch. The Spec-Ops hammer is Wilson’s new ultra-light, compact design and resembles a commander-style ham­mer with the top and bottom “pinched” together. The Spec-Ops fea­tures a single, hand-fitted lug barrel.

Trigger

The Spec-Ops 9 features Wilson's custom-machined, aluminum three-hole trigger, which is adjustable for overtravel.

The polymer frame has Wilson’s distinctive starburst grips, a feature I fell in love with while evaluating an earlier gun. Both frontstraps and backstraps have checkering molded into the polymer. The grip safety is the compact-carry design, which closely resembles the grip safety on my CQB except that the beavertail doesn’t sweep as high on the new 9 mm. Wilson’s extended tactical model thumb safety is slightly smaller and shorter than that on my CQB. but is easily, naturally and reli­ably operated by my thumb in the act of presenting the gun. I would describe it as being as small as it can be. and no bigger than it needs to be—a great combination on a gun intended for concealed carry.
The magazine release is slightly larger in surface area than the one on my CQB. but it doesn’t protrude as far from the frame. My fingers are rela­tively short, so I have to shift my grip to hit the release on single-stack 1911s as well as the Spec-Ops 9. Recog­nizing that as a strictly personal limi­tation, the Spec-Ops magazines released cleanly and dropped from the gun on every touch, whether or not there were rounds in the maga­zine. Likewise, those inserted quickly and cleanly into the gun due largely to the flared mag well molded into the grip frame.
Double Stack Magazine

The distinctive look of the gun comes from the shape of the trigger guard with its sharp corner, as opposed to the more common rounded guard on steel and alloy guns. It seems almost a throwback to some of the designs of yesteryear, but it may simply be an easier shape to mold.  I had no problem shooting the gun since my grip doesn’t involve the front of the trigger guard, but a couple of custom 1911 holsters would not allow the 9 mm full entry due primarily. I think, to the bulkier trig­ger guard. Fortunately, one of my favorite factory holsters is Galco’s Avenger, and it eagerly accepted the Spec-Ops 9 like an old friend.

Molded Rails

To provide maximum concealability with minimal bulk, the Spec-Ops 9 contains molded-in stainless steel rails

Internally, the Spec-Ops 9 has the features we’ve come to expect from Wilson Combat. Its barrel has a pol­ished feed ramp, and the polished extractor is precisely fitted. The gun has an extended ejector, the Wilson custom three-hole trigger, an extra-power firing pin spring and a heavy-duty recoil spring. There are actually five holes in the trigger, but only the three large holes are there to reduce weight. Two tiny holes allow mounting of the trigger bow to the trigger.
There was no pretense of being gentle or babying the gun when I got the Spec-Ops 9 out for a shooting session.  I had a mixture of ammo, including some various-weight cast-bullet handloads that have been in my garage for more than 20 years. I literally jammed a mixture of factory ammo and hand-loads with jacketed and cast bullets indiscriminately into the magazines and started blazing away. Targets were paper plates at 10 yards, and every load with every weight, style and shape of bullet chambered, fired and stayed in those plates, even when I hit the throttle. The gun gob­bled up everything I fed it. When I concentrated. I could feel the vari­ance in recoil between the different loads. Slowing down. I thought I could detect a slight difference in point of impact between the various loads, even at 10 yards, but the disparity was insignificant. The 147-grain jacketed hollow points went exactly where the sights pointed, while the 115-grain jacketed hollow points hit perhaps 1/2 inch lower.
Sight picture with Wilson’s new Tactical Combat sights was crisp and clearly in focus thanks in no small part to the “old guy cheater lens” in my DeCot shooting glasses. The paper plates are another way of cheating by ensuring a clean white background in front of your sights, thus enhancing your sight picture. And since the plates are round, they tend to provide a natural assist in pulling your groups toward the center. Just as the eye nat­urally centers an aperture or peep sight, the eye wants to find the center of the round plate. Having said all that, there was no discreet aiming point on the plates that might help a shooter produce smaller groups.
Sights

Wilson's new Tactical Combat sights complement the Spec-Ops 9 in its concealed-carry mission. The svelte profile mini­mizes the chances of the gun getting hung up during the draw, and the longitudinally cut dovetails enhance the practicality and aesthetics.

Even shooting off hand. I felt the gun could live up to the Wilson claim of 1 1/2 inch groups at 25 yards (I actu­ally saw one of the Wilson technicians do this test a few years back). But more importantly for a carry pistol, the Spec-Ops 9 put every single shot into the kill zone at fighting distances, even when I pushed things beyond my reliable speed and regardless of ammo selection.

Given my hand size and short fin­gers. I would prefer a slightly shorter trigger on the Spec-Ops 9. The wider grip frame stretched my hand just enough—more than a standard 1911 — that I had trouble putting the pad of my finger on the trigger. As you know, changing your grip plays havoc with shot-to-shot recovery times, and despite the 9 mm’s low recoil, I found myself readjusting my grip more than once in the course of emptying a 16-round magazine. Admittedly. I’m notoriously sloppy about proper shot-to-shot recovery, and I get even more careless when shooting mild-mannered 9 mms. But. besides emphasizing my need to work on this deficiency, it stresses the importance of having a gun that fits your hand. For you. the Spec-Ops 9 may be a per­fect fit. or as many small-handed shooters (including me) have found, one of Wilson’s narrower frame guns might better suit your needs.
All that said, the new Spec-Ops 9 is a gun I would find quite comfortable to carry exactly as it comes from Wilson, except I would purchase a couple of extra magazines. With two spare magazines and one in the gun. you’re hitting the streets only one round short of a full box of ammo—all of it ready to rock with only two lightning-fast reloads. That’s a lot of defensive fire­power per ounce carried. At a retail price of $1,995, the Spec-Ops 9 is delivered with two magazines and a Wilson carry bag. t’s not cheap, but good life insurance rarely is.
Disassembly

Disassembly of the gun should come naturally to those familar with a 1911. No busing is necessary thanks to a flange on the reversed recoil plug.

Speciifications
Magazine Well

Despite the gun's thin waistline, the magazine well on the Spec-Ops 9 is flared to aid in ultra-fast reloads.Unlike most custom 1911s which contain full-length guid rods, the Spec-Ops 9 utilizes a standard recoil spring guid complete with a Wilson Shok-Buff.

Recoil Spring

Unlike most custom 1911s which contain full-length guid rods, the Spec-Ops 9 utilizes a standard recoil spring guid complete with a Wilson Shok-Buff.

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Subtle Improvement

Shooting Illustrated 

 

 

 

Published in “Shooting Illustrated” August 2009

Bill Wilson Carry Pistol

 

Bill Wilson is no stranger to the shooting world. His CQB pistol graced the cover of Shooting Illustrated’s November 2005 issue and was the subject of a full length feature entitled “The Perfect IDPA Pistol.”

Given IDPA’s emphasis on designing match scenarios that might duplicate potential real life street encounters, it was not surprising that much of my evaluation focused on CCW requirements in addition to match rules. Upon completion of the article, I purchased the CQB from Wilson, and it became the number one gun on my CCW permit. Until now, I did not expect to find an all-steel 1911 that I would prefer for street carry.

 Wilson Combat recently created the Bill Wilson Carry Gun, and as you might expect when one is introducing the next generation of a great handgun, the new carry pistol is not vastly different from the successful CQB. That said the minor changes are truly worthwhile and quickly appreciated. Overall dimensions remain the same; a slide shortened from a standard 1911 to accommodate a 4.1 inch barrel, and a frame reduced in height to 5.25 inches overall (with the 7 shot magazine installed.) Like the CQB, the new model handles both the 7-round magazine (recommended for concealed carry) and slightly extended 8-round magazines that are easily concealed in spare carriers without revealing any unusual lumps or bulges. Internal configuration, cuts and polishing is essentially the same on both guns which accounts for the superb accuracy and reliability of a Wilson 1911.

Wilson

The first 15 rounds through the Wilson were a mix of bullet styles and weights. Functioning was perfect and, at the group at 15 yards offhand, indicate that whatever ammo is fed to the new gun, it will reliably handle any threats to its owners life and well being.

 Most noticeable and having the greatest impact on my shooting the new gun is the modified Ed Brown bobtail on the shorter grip frame. Normally this rounding of the base is only done on full-size 1911. On the smaller frame, the curvature is not as severe, but the change is dramatic in terms of comfort during firing, and the more magazines fired in a range session, the more you’ll appreciate the increased comfort. Because of the bobtail treatment, the base had to be modified slightly making the gun feel a bit smaller, but shot-to-shot recovery didn’t seem to be compromised. The rounded edge of the back strap is fully checkered just as it is on the CQB, but there is no longer a distinct edge to create abrasions on your palm. A couple of years ago when I first acquired the CQB, I spent some time at Thunder Ranch and ended up applying bandages on the second day and changing guns on the third day. In a recent trip to Gunsite with the Carry Gun I was able to comfortably complete the week long class without having to apply any patches to my palm. For me, the bobtail is much more important on a downsized 1911 because the sharp edge of the backstrap doesn’t extend below the palm swell, but rather is driven into the meaty part of the hand by the recoil of each round. Given that steel is harder than flesh, can you say “Ouch!”

 The other “comfort” revision is the G10 grips. These feature radial lines instead of checkering with the edges of each line slightly rounded. Tactile control is still excellent, but long term abrasion in an extended class is reduced. Call me a sissy if you like, but I like those grips. The single thumb safety lever, set up for right handed shooters, is smaller on the new carry gun. I think it’s a good idea if you can reduce the size of a component on a CCW weapon without compromising performance, and over the 5 day-class, I did not notice any difficulties in operation when presenting the gun from concealed carry. The slide stop pin has also been shortened with the frame countersunk on the right side. This change does two things. One, it will allow the use of Crimson Trace grips with no interference from a protruding pin. Second, you may need to modify your disassembly technique slightly when you clean the gun. There are also serrations on top of the new gun’s slide for the purpose of reducing glare. Firing both the old CQB and the new pistol in the bright Arizona sunlight I did not notice any difference in glare from either gun, but most of our outdoor shooting was during morning hours with the sun behind us. Still, I would rate this as a worth while addition on a carry gun.

 The new gun has several relief cuts that strike me as being well thought out and useful. The front half inch or so of the slide has been reduced in width. It may not save much weight, but depending on how you execute a press check, you might find the new configuration helpful in grasping the slide with the support hand. There’s also a relief cut in the front strap just behind the trigger guard. Perhaps it let’s you get your hand in higher and tighter into the grip, but it’s so small that I really couldn’t notice a functional difference between the two guns either when holding or firing. The final relief cut is in the left grip panel behind the mag release button, and this did have some tangible benefits. I’ve never been able to drop a magazine on a 1911 without shifting my shooting hand grip simply because I don’t have particularly long fingers/thumbs. With Wilson’s new carry gun, I still have to rotate a bit, but it’s noticeably less movement than is required on the CQB, much more comfortable to execute, and much quicker to recover. This is the kind of change whose value will depend on your individual dimensions and operating technique for an evaluation, but even with only a partial improvement, I like the change.

 The last change noticed was the “U” shaped notch in the fixed rear sight. I believe the purpose of this is to make sight acquisition a bit faster in a life-threatening situation. Perhaps it did, but I couldn’t tell. In fact, the entire time on the line I didn’t notice the difference. Sight pictures on both guns are extremely similar simply because you don’t see the bottom of the notch where it’s rounded. Neither could I detect any difference in the amount of light visible on both sides of the front blade, even when shooting slowly. The only thing that struck me as slightly different was that the first 15 shots fired offhand with three different Black Hills loadings at 15 yards seemed to have more of a lateral spread than usual. I know Wilson pistols shoot one-hole groups in the hands of testers at the factory shooting from a rest, and while I didn’t expect exactly the same results, I felt the vertical spread (about 1 ½ inches) was more representative than the horizontal spread of something like 2 ½ inches. As stated, when I got into the class, both worked superbly. For the record, I was wearing corrective lenses and I’m quite new to “U” notch rear sights.

 I can’t fault the Wilson’s reliability. By being abusive, I was able to cause malfunctions, but it was only by breaking all the rules. After firing 2 to 3 boxes of ammo (without first cleaning the gun,) I put the gun away dirty and un-oiled for two weeks before going to Gunsite. Again without cleaning or lubricating, I shot the gun for two days of class. When the gun failed to go into battery, some oil cured the problem until late in the third day when the same failures reoccurred. Additional lubrication continued to cure the problem but for shorter periods of time. As the instructions state, clean the gun and it will (and did) work flawlessly. The only “failure” not attributed to my atrocious behavior was on the third day when the “Wilson” escutcheon in the left grip panel fell off. A call to John May in Arkansas revealed that this was one of those occasions where the least expensive adhesive worked the best and the expensive glue failed. Problem fixed forever.

 I’ve succumbed to the Siren calls again. No, I’m not buying a new carry gun because my existing CQB is tied to my CCW permit by serial number, and changing things like this is California would be a nightmare. But I am having my CQB remodeled to the new Wilson Carry Gun. It’s that good.

 

Three-Part Plan

Published in “Shooting Illustrated” June 2007
 

At the age of seven it became apparent that I was destined for a lifelong love affair with firearms.  There would be other even greater loves in my life, but my interest in guns has never faltered and remains a dominant force these many decades later.  For almost that entire time, my focus has been on recreational rather  than tactical uses of guns.  Unfortunately, the world is not as safe or friendly a place as it used to be.  As a younger man. I kept a loaded handgun in the house, but unless there was some kind of civil disturbance or unrest underway, I rarely risked breaking the law by carrying a handgun in my vehicle.  Today, many citizens believe quick access to a self-defense firearm is nothing more than good, common sense.

In the mid-’80s, Florida enacted the greatest piece of firearms legislation since the Second Amendment. That state made it crystal clear that no one could deny an honest citizen the right to carry a concealed weapon. Many states followed Florida’s lead with similar laws, including those recognizing concealed-carry permits from other states. The majority of states now have “shall issue” laws, while others that have not passed such legislation still have provisions for their citizens to be granted concealed-carry permits.
It may come as a surprise to many shooters to know that in California it is still possible to obtain a concealed-carry permit, depending on where you live in the state. This apparent contradiction of California’s anti-gun law reputation exists because permit approval is left to the discretion of the applicant’s senior local law enforcement official. If you live in Los Angeles or San Francisco, don’t bother applying. Those bastions of personal security and welfare simply don’t grant permits to average citizens. But in many communities and counties, permits are issued to citizens who have presented a viable reason to carry, attended mandatory training and passed the required tests. It’s not as good as a “shall issue” environment, but it’s far better than a “won’t issue” state.
Fortunately, I live in a California county whose sheriff ran for office promising to make concealed-carry permits available to us common folk, and to date he has kept that promise. I’ve submitted an application for a concealed-carry permit, and in the process have encountered the kind of dilemma a gun writer dreams of. California allows a maximum of three guns to be listed on the permit, and the bearer of it is prohibited from carrying any gun not listed. For years I have avoided the classic “if I could only have one gun” dialog. But if I were allowed to choose three guns, maybe I could get through the exercise and generate only a minimal amount of hate mail.
Wilson Combat CQB

Proven design and a record of superb stopping power gives the Wilson Combat CQB in .45 ACP high credentials as a primary concealed-carry pistol. A slightly shorter 4-inch barrel makes it easier to carry than the standard 5-inch barrel of a full-size 1911.

 
Concealed Considerations
An immediate thought was to pick the “best” gun and follow that up by choosing two almost identical guns for backup. This would ensure I always had the optimum gun available regardless of possible downtime for such mundane things as repairs or modifications to the primary firearm. There would be no retraining on handling procedures when switching guns, and I could use the same accessory gear no matter what gun I carried. I mulled this strategy over for some time because it made a great deal of sense and offered a solution with the utmost simplicity. It also defined the type of firearm I would carry, because if there would only be one kind of gun, it would be the one with which I am most familiar and proficient. That meant I would have three 1911s in various configurations and sizes, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. But ultimately I discarded this approach, thinking that since this would be a concealed-carry gun. there would be situations and dress codes that might suggest a different firearm in order to maximize concealment and carrying comfort.
This change in approach made it easier to choose the type of gun that would be number two on the license. With some kind of 1911 as number one. the second choice would be a pocket pistol of the utmost simplicity. It could be carried anywhere on my person for a reasonable period of time without fear of discharge and would function with absolute reliability simply by pulling the trigger and if there was a failure to fire, another pull of the trigger would be all that was required. You’ve probably guessed that I’m talking about a small-frame revolver, with only the model and caliber to be determined.
My thoughts on the third gun didn’t start to gel until I took one of the training classes that California mandates in order to obtain the permit. My instructor was Bill Murphy, an active-duty California police officer and head of the SureFire Institute’s low-light training program. He did not tell the students what gun they should carry, but he strongly advised our alternate guns function the same way as the primary firearm with which we trained. Murphy’s key message was that during moments of stress we do not rise to new levels of performance, rather we revert to our basic training. If you trained with a Glock or Springfield Armory XD. for example, and had to deal with an emergency using a gun with an external safety, you would probably forget to deactivate the safety and try to fire just by pulling the trigger, because that was how you had trained. Such an error, however short lived, could prove fatal. It became clear my third gun would have to be a 1911. but probably tailored to different circumstances than my primary.
 
Number 1 Gun
More than a year ago. I wrote an article on Wilson Combat’s CQB entitled “The Perfect IDPA Pistol” (November 2005) in which I stated the CQB would make an excellent concealed-carry handgun. The CQB became my pick for the first and primary handgun on my concealed-carry permit, and while no man ever needs to defend his choice of a Wilson Combat pistol for his self-defense gun. I will review some of my thinking during the original evaluation.
This pistol was absolutely reliable, first shot, every shot, regardless of the ammo I used. Its barrel is 4 inches long, and it’s 5.4 inches high, making it easier to hide than a full-size 1911. However, since the gun is steel it is not unpleasant to shoot serious self-defense loads.
The CQB has excellent, fixed Combat Pyramid sights with tritium inserts, and all sharp edges have been rounded and smoothed. Its trigger is a crisp and repeatable 4 1/2 pounds. Though the colors are not particularly important, the Armor-Tuff finish does protect the OD green frame and black slide from corrosion. The feed ramp is polished, the barrel is throated, the frontstrap and flat main spring housing are checkered, and the magazine well is beveled. There is a high-ride beavertail grip safety and an extended tactical ejector.
Wilson offers two magazine sizes, a feature I particularly like. The standard seven-round magazine fits almost flush, while the eight-round spare magazine extends slightly below the grip frame. This allows concealed carry of the gun with eight rounds (seven in the magazine and one up the spout), and provides eight more in each tucked-away backup magazine.
While shooting three Black Hills .45 ACP jacketed hollow point loads (185, 200 and 230 grains), the lighter bullets printed dead-on at 25 yards and the 230-grain slugs hit about an inch left. I’d call that street-ready.
 
Backup Made Better
Smith and Wesson Model 442 and Model 340PD

Smith & Wesson's Model 442 (right) weighs just 3 ounces more than the company's Model 340PD and is nearly half the price of the top-tier .357 Magnum. The author plowed that savings into an XS Big Dot front sight, along with some refinements and an action job from Cylinder 8 Slide.

Nothing is as inherently reliable as a revolver, and while I normally prefer the large-frame magnums, concealed carry dictates something smaller. Since this was to be the go-in-any-pocket gun. and therefore would not be supported by a belt or other type of body harness, lightweight was the order of the day. Smith & Wesson makes some very light snub-nose revolvers, and then it makes some insanely light snub-nose revolvers. I say “insanely light” because when you touch off a full-house .357 Magnum in an 12-ounce scandium-frame revolver, you’ll start thinking only an insane person would do such a thing. In a moment of stress you might not immediately notice how painful the recoil is. but you will during practice sessions. Even if you minimize your practice. California requires that permit holders shoot 75 rounds through each handgun listed on the permit. I’m a big believer in handgun practice, so selecting the revolver and caliber required some serious thought.

Since this was a pocket gun. I wanted a hammerless model. The Smith & Wesson website shows two interesting candidates. One is the top-of-the-line Model 340PD. a scandium-frame .357 Magnum weighing 12 ounces. The other is the Model 442, an aluminum-frame .38 Special weighing 15 ounces. That’s not much difference in weight, but you can feel it when holding the gun in your hand or in your pocket. I’m not sure if the extra few ounces would make a difference in firing .357 Magnum loads, since the slightly heavier gun is rated for .38 +P. not .357. The real noticeable difference is in the price, with the scandium .357 retailing for several hundred dollars more than the aluminum .38. I made a decision and sent the Model 442 off to Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide to work his magic.
The fixed sights on a snub-nose revolver are rudimentary at best. Even with the red insert in the front blade of the Model 340PD. I could barely see the sights in daylight. I couldn”t see anything in low light. The first change Laughridge made was to install an XS Sight Systems Big Dot Tritium front sight on the Model 442. Given the minimal space at the rear of the topstrap and shallow trough that was the rear sight. Laughridge rounded out the channel so the Big Dot nestled nicely into the enlarged half-moon notch. Without my shooting glasses nothing was clearly in focus, but I could see the large white ball in daylight and the glowing tritium in darkness. I wasn’t ready to take the little gun squirrel hunting, but I was definitely a force to be reckoned with even in low-light conditions.
Laughridge added some other nice touches that should prove useful, such as chamfering the rear edges of the cylinder’s chambers, polishing the trigger and tuning the action. My first thought in looking at the finished Model 442 was the vertical face of the front sight would be prone to catch the tight edge of the front trouser pocket during the draw. While true, I think this is a non-issue since it only happens in small pockets on tight pants like jeans, and when the pocket is that small and tight. I have trouble getting the gun and my hand in and out of the pocket. With more realistic clothing it is fine, and besides, ramped front sight blades frequently have serrations that can snag clothing as well. Eliminating the front sight would alleviate the problem, but in a situation warranting the use of a concealable firearm. 1 want to see something at the front end of that barrel.
 
Smith and Wessson Model 442 in .38 Special

When wearing a holster just isn't practical. Smith & Wesson's Model 442 in .38 Special is an effective alternative to going unarmed. Its simple operation and reliability, combined with the shrouded hammer and light weight, allow it to be carried unobtrusively in a coat or cargo pants pocket.

Last But Not Least
Picking the third gun was even more difficult than the second. I decided it would be another semi-auto, and based upon Murphy’s Law (the good one learned in class), it would have to be a 1911. However. I wanted something a little smaller than the CQB for slightly-easier concealment and a little lighter for more comfort during prolonged carry. This meant I needed a pistol with a shorter barrel than the one on the Wilson and an alloy rather than steel frame.
I recently spent some time with a pair of little 1911s from Kimber and Springfield Armory and was very impressed with the offerings of both companies. In the March 2007 issue
I reviewed Kimber’s Aegis and Springfield Armory’s EMP, both in 9 mm. Ordinarily I would have selected a .45-caliber micro compact for my third concealed-carry gun. but those pistols opened my mind to the world of mini-nines. They are easier to shoot than a comparably sized .45. Since they’re 1911s, all the controls are the same. If I suffered some kind of injury that forced me to shoot with the weak hand, I would do much better with a 9 mm than a .45. Finally, if I found myself in a life-threatening situation, the outcome of which depended on one of the women in my family picking up my carry gun. I think our safety would be better served by a more manageable, less intimidating 9 mm.
Springfield Armory's EMP

Springfield Armory's Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) in 9 mm takes the final spot on the author's California concealed-carry permit. The ability to carry as many as 27 rounds of 9 mm ammunition should make him relatively comfortable when venturing into the urban wilderness.

For now. I plan to list the Springfield Armory EMP as the third gun on my permit. The differences between the EMP and Aegis are small, but the EMP does have an ambidextrous safety, making it easier to operate with the weak hand. Its magazine carries one more round than the Aegis (nine versus eight), and its frame is slightly shorter.
I’m familiar with the arguments regarding stopping power of the .45 versus that of 9 mm. which is why the .45-caliber CQB is my primary gun. Likewise, the .38 Special gives up something to the .357 Magnum, but as always, measuring or calculating stopping power requires a hit rather than just a very loud miss. Perhaps a heavier weight .357 Magnum snubbie might be better for the number two gun, allowing me to use .38 Special loads for practice while carrying magnum loads on the streets.
During the next year. I may change my mind about what guns I want on my concealed-carry permit, and the good news is that for a few bucks and a short qualification session using the new gun, firearms listed on an individual’s permit can be changed in California. What I am comfortable with is the XS sight on the front end of that little barrel. In fact I might put an XS sight on the third gun. and as long as I don’t change firearms, this would not require any modifications to my permit. As always, more low-light practice sessions are in order, particularly since cockroaches rarely come out to dine in bright light.
Smith and Wesson new subnose revolver
Another Option
 
S ince I started this project. Smith & Wesson introduced a new snub-nose revolver that has some of the custom touches Cylinder & Slide made to my Model 442. It’s the Model M&P 340, and at a weight halfway between my two prior options (13.3 ounces) it’s worth a look. Mean­while, if any of you aging warriors with dim­ming vision have a snub nose on which you might someday bet your life, you might want to give Bill Laughridge at Cylinder & Slide a call.
 
Cylinder & Slide
245 East 4th Street Fremont, NE 68026 (402) 721-4277 www.cylinder-slide.com
 
 
Smith & Wesson
2100 Roosevelt Avenue Springfield, MA 01104 (413) 781-8300 www.smith-wesson.com
 
Springfield Armory
420 West Main Street Geneseo,1161254 (800) 680-6866 www.springfield-armory.com
 
Wilson Combat & Scattergun Technologies
2234 C.R. 719 Berryville, AR 72616 (800) 955-4856 www.wilsoncombat.com