In late 2017, Wilson Combat did something unexpected. The company known for its impeccably finished, high-dollar 1911 handguns (with a few Berettas thrown in for good measure) opened up a new avenue of customization for owners of popular Glock models. While the company isn’t selling complete, worked-over Glock pistols, Glock handgun aficionados can send in their OEM firearm and choose from a list of à la carte options to build a unique Wilson Combat Glock.
While many owners of Glock handguns might question the benefit of spending more than the cost of a pistol on upgrades and add-ons, there’s no doubt that the market for Glock modifications is a popular one, keeping companies like Lone Wolf Distributors, ZEV Technologies, Salient Arms International, Agency Arms and others in business. Wilson Combat certainly saw an opportunity to add more options to the mix, so we sent an OEM Glock pistol to receive the Wilson Combat treatment.
The Glock G19 offered up is about as plain as it gets. Purchased in 2015, the gun is a standard Gen 3 model that remains as unchanged as the day it left the factory, save for a desperately needed sights swap. With more than a few thousand rounds through the gun, it provided a solid, reliable, daily-carry option for several years before becoming transformed by the arcane arts practiced in Wilson’s Berryville, AR facility.
Right off the bat, I’ll admit that I was one of the myriad many who never saw much use in customizing a carry gun. Workhorses are rarely pretty. Plus, with the possible exception of trigger upgrades, the utility of flashy enhancements displayed in many feature-worthy firearms seemed questionable at best. After all, if ZEV or Agency guns were that much better than their fabriqué-en-masse cousins, wouldn’t we see more of them applied in professional roles?
Misgivings aside, I forged forth in Wilson Combat’s à la carte options to see what the company had to offer. Of course, you’ll need a Glock to send in before choosing customizations, and the company offers model-specific enhancements and upgrades for Glock G17, G19, G22, G24, G31, G34, G35, G42 and G43 pistol models.
Since Wilson Combat is an FFL holder, consumers can send their guns in without going through an FFL, provided that the gun returns to the same address from which it was shipped. To have the company perform work on any Glock pistol, the minimum work order must total $100. The company will perform any requested work billed under this amount, but the invoice will be adjusted to meet the $100 minimum.
The à la carte work options are divided into different segments that focus on separate elements of the gun, such as the frame, slide, barrel, trigger, sights and finish options, along with a few miscellaneous choices. For this Glock G19, we chose to stipple the frame and a left-side thumb pad, add a high-cut trigger guard and install a grip plug on the frame.
In the slide, we had the company install its Wilson Combat Barrel, a stainless-steel option with traditional land-and-groove rifling that differs from the polygonal rifling used in Glock factory barrels. The company added fluting on the outside of the barrel and chamber and also installed its Shok-Buff recoil buffer to the front of the slide. Additionally, the company installed a pair of Wilson Combat tritium-illuminated Battlesights to complete the package.
Finally, the entire pistol was finished in the company’s Burnt Bronze Combat-Tuff coating, just one of 28 different finish options offered by Wilson Combat in its à la carte customization shop. As for trigger options, at the time we sent in our OEM G19 for customization, the company only offered drop-in triggers from Apex Tactical. However, now, Wilson Combat will do its own tune-up of the trigger assembly, should the consumer desire it.
After a couple months in the Ozarks, the gun came back a bona-fide Wilson Combat Glock G19. In fact, the pistol looked so drastically different that I checked the serial number just to make sure it was the same firearm. There’s no denying that the gun looked stunningly better than the bland, black pistol that shipped out for the full treatment.
However, looks are one thing. Did any of the enhancements added to the pistol improve its performance? To find out, we headed to the range to run the Wilson Combat Glock G19 through its paces, comparing some performance notes against the OEM Glock model.
The first element of the design that stood out on the range was the enhanced grip and control offered by the company’s Starburst Pattern frame stippling. This laser-engraved pattern offered a solid balance of control and comfort, anchoring the frame in a firing grip without feeling as aggressive as other texturing options on the market. In addition to the frame, the thumb-pad stippling also offered an additional tactile reference point for obtaining a solid, secure, two-handed firing grip on the gun, and the high-cut trigger guard allows the gun to sit lower in the hand, providing improved recoil control.
Wilson Combat also installed its own stainless-steel barrel on the gun, ensuring a tight lockup and a flush-cut crown, along with fluting cut along the length of the barrel and chamber. There are a number of obvious benefits of the barrel design, such as the reduced weight, the enhanced cooling provided by the increased surface area and the ability to shoot lead-cast rounds. However, the real question was, “Will it shoot better?”
With the OEM Glock factory barrel, we shot our best five-shot group from 15 yards that measured 1.94 inches in diameter. When the Glock G19 returned with the Wilson-Combat-fit barrel, we repeated the five-shot group from 15 yards using the same ammunition. This time, the best group size measured 1.18 inches, a 0.76-inch reduction from the original group. It’s worth noting that the Wilson Combat barrel seemed to perform better after a few hundred rounds downrange.
Of course, the other highlight feature on the Wilson Combat-tuned G19 is the Burnt Bronze, battle-worn Combat-Tuff finish. It certainly allows the gun to stand out from other nitride-finished brethren, and Wilson Combat touts the corrosion-resistance and added protection offered by its Combat-Tuff finish, and our experience with the pistol leaves no reason to doubt its toughness. After several months of daily carry and holster work, some slight wear is evident around the trigger guard, and that’s normal for any firearm finish.
Of course, the principal component to consider in all of this is cost. When tallying up all of the à la carte options offered, it’s easy for the price to balloon past the original cost of the OEM pistol. This Glock G19 was purchased for about $500 in 2015. The Starburst-Pattern stippling on the frame costs $139, plus an extra $20 for the thumb-pad stippling. A Single High Cut Trigger Guard will run $50, the added Grip Plug was $15.
There’s significant investment in the slide with the Wilson-Combat-fit barrel. The barrel and install runs $200, and the fluting and flush-cut crown shown on this model add an extra $170. Undoubtedly, this is a significant investment, but there are measurable benefits associated with that cost. The slide also features a Shok-Buff Recoil Buffer that adds an extra $10, as well as tritium-illuminated Battlesights that cost $111.
The Combat-Tuff finish for the entire pistol will cost consumers $350. As far as utility goes, the OEM Glock pistol finish, a gas-nitrided treatment complete with a Parkerized surface, guards these guns effectively, so much of the benefit with the Burnt Bronze finish is aesthetic.
There’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, a concealed-carry gun is a highly personal item. Not only is it a part of a person’s daily gear, it’s also a constantly carried reminder of the personal responsibility of all individuals for their own safety and security.
For an object infused with such deep purpose, it’s no wonder that many defense-minded citizens choose to add personal touches to their personal-defense firearms. Handgun Editor Tamara Keel argued in her column that people should feel free to customize their guns for just that reason.
At the beginning of this project, I felt ambivalent about the necessity and utility of such custom upgrades. However, seeing, shooting with and saddling up my daily carry rig with this Wilson Combat Glock G19 gave me a new perspective on having a custom personal-defense gun.
Before these custom touches, this Gen 3 Glock G19 was just a carry pistol. Now, it’s my carry pistol, complete with all the wants and needs to make my carry and shooting experience more enjoyable. How can you put a price on that?