Review: Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 Pistol

posted on April 27, 2017

Since the early 1960s, gunsmiths have been trying to make the 1911 pistol more concealable. Throughout this evolutionary period, the Colt Lightweight Commander was the gold standard for professionals who carried a 1911 pistol. However, the standard-length grip of the Commander made concealment problematic for some. Then some enterprising individual plugged a Commander slide onto an Officer-sized frame. A new genre of 1911 pistol was born and, for many, it has replaced the Lightweight Commander as the 1911 platform of choice for those “who know." The Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 is a great example of that new genre.

Wilson Combat has addressed the demand for concealable 1911 pistols with several models over the years. The newest, introduced in December 2016, is the Ultralight Carry Commander Compact, marketed as the traditionalist’s ultimate concealed-carry 1911 pistol.  Based on Wilson’s alloy Compact frame, the ULC Commander is loaded with features and, like its predecessors, conceals better than a full-size 1911 yet retains the reliability of the time-proven Commander with its barrel bushing and traditional recoil spring setup.

We have been shooting and carrying the 9 mm version of the Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 for more than a month and a half now, and it has proven to be a superb pistol in both form and function. The two-tone finish is Wilson’s Armor Tuff, featuring black slide and trim over a Flat Dark Earth frame. The 4.25-inch carbon-steel slide is topped with Wilson’s Battlesight and, as we requested, a gold-bead front sight. The top of the slide is serrated at 30 LPI and the rear has 40 LPI serrations which match the rear of the Battlesight. The slide is set off with carry cuts and ball cuts at the front and an attractive machine-cut chamfer along the bottom edge.  The 4.25-inch ramped match barrel and its bushing are stainless and have a reverse-flush-cut crown. The barrel also has attractive chamber flutes.

Engraved with Wilson Combat on the left side and the Wilson logo and Ultralight Carry on the right, the slide rides atop a compact, aluminum, round-butt frame with a 30 LPI high-cut checkered front strap and a checkered aluminum mainspring housing. The Bullet Proof grip safety and hammer are steel and, like the mainspring housing and other controls, are finished in black Armor Tuff. The Bulletproof mag release is checkered for non-slip manipulation and the end of the slide stop shaft is countersunk on the right side of the frame. We had a Low Bulletproof speed safety installed before the gun was shipped to us and, after it arrived, we replaced the medium-length trigger with a long one. Trigger pull with the new trigger installed measured 3 pounds, 3 ounces.  The frame is finished off with G10 Starburst grips with pewter Wilson Combat medallions and the front edge of the beveled magazine well has been nicely dehorned.

The Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 arrived in a soft case with six of Wilson’s newest ETM eight-round 9 mm magazines with steel floorplates and followers. These are designed to fit flush with the bottom of the magazine well as required on a concealment firearm. All six magazines loaded easily, fed reliably and ejected freely. Fully loaded with 8 rounds, they also seated in the pistol with the slide in battery without undue force.

Shooting the Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 has been great fun but predictably uneventful. It has proven to be both reliable and accurate. With nothing more than a dousing with lubricant, we have shot the Commander Compact almost daily (the advantage of having your own range) with the round count, as of this writing, being close to 1,200 rounds. Mainly, we have fired the pistol with Federal Premium 115-grain ball ammo as well as our 9 mm do-all handload consisting of a 124-grain Extreme HP over 4.1 grains of Winchester 231. We also managed to gather up a considerable assortment of currently available defensive loads with bullet weights running from 115 grains to 150 grains. All functioned without a hitch in the new Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911. The smallest group was achieved with the 115-grain handload, while the smallest average group was realized with Hornady Critical Duty 135-grain JHP. Velocities measured very close to factory estimates, with the 150-grain Federal HST the slowest at 890 fps and numerous 115-grain offerings well into the 1,100 fps range.

Our testing procedure is really pretty simple, as we can stop by the range and run a few drills on our steel or paper.  Carrying the pistol every day and burning just a few or as many rounds as we want offers what we believe is a more real-world view on the pistol’s functionality. Cleaning occurs when we think of it. We also like to shoot new pistols in competition, so we took the Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 to an IDPA event in Virginia. If a gun is going to screw up, it has been our experience that it will happen at a match, especially if you don’t clean the gun beforehand.

Viewed from the rear, the precisely fitted Concealment Grip Safety and the crisp slide serrations attest to the quality of the WC ULC Commander Compact. Also, note the Bulletproof Low Thumb Safety.

We had one failure to fully chamber a first round when loading for a stage. The problem was solved by just bumping the rear of the slide. This also happened to two other shooters who were trying the gun out after the match; same minor problem and the same solution. Upon returning home, the pistol was thoroughly cleaned and lubed and has been flawless in function ever since. Multiple runs of one of our favorite drills (shoot two rounds to slide lock, reload, shoot one round) failed to produce the failure to fully chamber malfunction again. The pistol just runs, regardless of bullet profile or power factor.

Before carrying the Wilson Combat ULC Commander 1911 on a daily basis, we did run a reliability check on the gun. After a hundred or so 115-grain ball rounds followed by 50 rounds of the new Speer G2 147-grain Gold Dot load we pronounced the pistol “good-to-go." Loaded with a magazine of G2s, we holstered the Commander Compact in a prototype of the new Selous Scout holster from Erik Little’s Rafter-L Combat Leather. This rendition of Thad Rybka’s iconic Rhodesian holster is a straight drop strong side rig that is exquisite in execution and function.

So now Wilson Combat has another model of the 1911 pistol for shooters to choose from. The Ultralight Carry Commander Compact is not a new configuration in the world of 1911s but it is certainly one of the most functional. Easy to conceal, reliable and more than accurate enough for its intended purpose, we predict Wilson’s Commander Compact will garner quite a following with those “in the know."


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