Sheriff Jim Wilson: The Man Behind the Gun

posted on March 28, 2018

We were sitting in the shade at Gunsite Academy, watching aspiring gunwriters send rounds downrange. I looked over at Sheriff Jim and asked, “You reckon any them fellers ever pointed a gun at someone and meant it?” Jim grinned, thumbed his hat back, and said, “Well, if they did, they probably apologized afterward.”

From 1968 until 1980, Jim Wilson worked at the Denton, TX. Police Department as a patrolman, detective, detective sergeant, narcotic sergeant and lieutenant. In 1980, he became the chief deputy in Denton County, and held that position until 1984 when he became the chief deputy in Crockett County. From 1989 until 1997, Wilson was the sheriff of Crockett County. That’s damn near 30 years of law enforcement experience—30 years of pointing guns at folks in bad situations. That kind of experience does not make you a gunwriter, but it does make you a subject-matter expert.

Fortunately, Jim is a consummate storyteller, a skill he’s applied in the pages of Petersen’s Handguns, Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handloader Magazine, Gun Digest, American Rifleman and Shooting Illustrated. He also puts those same engaging and captivating story-telling skills to work in the recording studio. Wilson has released three albums containing his eloquent renditions of the songs he grew up listening to his father sing.

Wilson has studied at some of the most prestigious firearms training schools in the country. Maybe more importantly, he was the recipient of some one-on-one training with the late, Border Patrol and gunwriting legend, Bill Jordan.

All of this is why Nighthawk Custom sought the advice of Sheriff Jim Wilson to help the company put together a practical carrying/fighting pistol. A pistol like Texas Ranger Charlie Miller would’ve carried cocked and locked. (According to Wilson, a firearms instructor once asked Miller if his cocked-and-locked 1911 wasn’t dangerous, to which Miller replied, “If the damned old thing wasn’t dangerous, I wouldn’t be wearing it.”)

: Jim Wilson entertaining some shooters at Gunsite Acedemy with some old time western music.

Wilson suggested the Commander-length barrel and slide because he prefers it for everyday carry. He also suggested the 45 ACP chambering, gold-bead front sight, and the concealment contour of the grip, because, “…it fits my hand very well.” Then, most importantly, Wilson demanded, “…that nothing be added to the pistol except what was needed for a defensive pistol. What I tried to design was my idea of a fighting pistol…so it would work for the police and the armed citizen.”

Yes, the Border Special pistol Sheriff Jim Wilson worked to create with Nighthawk is an expensive sidearm, but is wrapped in a veil of experience and craftsmanship you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. According to Wilson, “The mark of a quality 1911 has to do with using the best material available and fitting them properly…not how many gadgets and gizmos you can stick on a gun.” That’s some solid advice from an old man.

Yeah, Sheriff Jim Wilson is an old man. Sadly, too many of the folks looking for defensive-handgun advice discount the wisdom of old hands like Wilson. They seem to think for guidance to be relevant in this modern age it needs to come from some tattooed, tight-T-shirt-wearing Instagram star. I know now the lessons I learned from my grandfather when I was a teenager were some of the most important, but back then I thought his ramblings were simple foolishness.

When you get advice from an old gunslinger like Sheriff Jim Wilson, it might seem too simple to be effective in the 21st century. Thing is, the best advice on using a defensive handgun is actually simple. Simple like the Nighthawk Border Special, a pistol that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Jim Wilson and his Mozambique buffalo, taken with a single shot Ruger in 375 H&H.

I’ve seen Jim Wilson shoot a handgun. I’ve seen Jim Wilson help others shoot a handgun. I’ve stood beside him, knee-deep in a Mozambique swamp while he fought it out with an African buffalo. I’ve played the guitar while he sang old-western tunes. I’ve also benefited from his advice, and guess what? You can, too. You can also own a pistol he’d be happy to point at a bad guy. When it comes to handguns, that’s about as good a recommendation as you’re gonna’ get.


SIG buys General Robotics
SIG buys General Robotics

SIG Sauer Acquires General Robotics

Israel-based General Robotics makes communications devices, remote weapons stations and surveillance drones.

First Look: Bear & Son CB10N Slide Lock Knife

A 4 ¼ inch blade, cocobolo grips and a fast opening slide lock make for a nice little knife.

Review: The Smith & Wesson Equalizer

Smith & Wesson’s new Equalizer takes the proven formula of the EZ series to the next level. 

First Look: PARD Optics TD5 Thermal / Nightvision Scope

Night vision, ambient light and thermal optics, all in one scope.

Fightin' Iron: Rent-A-Gun?

Creating and/or maintaining movie guns is a complex business, and some prop houses are virtual wizards of weaponry.

The Rise Of The “Wonder Nine”

There was a time when 9mm semi-automatic pistols were not the default option for concealed carry.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.