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Wilson Accu-Comp the choice of champions.

* Custom pistolsmith Bill Wilson of Berryville, Arkansas must be feeling very pleased with himself. Not only did American Rob Leatham use one of his Accu-Comp custom .45s to win the 1983 World Practical Pistol individual last year, but three of the top five competitors also used Accu-Comps. This included the runner-up, John Shaw and Ross Carter, who placed 4th.

The Wilson Accu-Comp is a customized Colt .45 Government Model that is designed to handle heavy loads both accurately, and with a minimum of felt recoil. Externally, the most significant feature of this handgun is the heavy compensator that is fitted to the barrel and which extends forward of the slide.

The Accu-Comp is not unique in having a compensator, since quite a few of the other top pistolsmiths who specialize in customizing the 1911 Colt offer a similar product. Such pistols are often referred to as "Pin Guns" as they were originally designed for use in the Second Chance Bowling Pin Match. This event is staged annually at Lake Claremore, Michigan, by Richard Davis who is president and founder of Second Chance, makers of body armour.

The Second Chance Combat Shoot can probably be best described as both a big money and a fun match in which competitors have to knock five bowling pins off a table 25 feet away--in the quickest possible time. Knocking these pins cleaf off the table requires a good hit with a fast moving, large caliber bullet, which, of course, means that shooters have a considerable amount of recoil to control.

The event is open to revolvers and autos, and, in the early matches, the .44 Magnum was popular. However, it was not long before competitors began to realize the advantages of the 1911 with its greater ammunition capacity. The problem was how to control the extra recoil generated by the heavy loads needed to down the pins. Pistolsmiths who specialized in customizing the .45 came up with the answer, and the Pin Gun with the compensator was born.

Many might question what a trick gun, like the Accu-Comp, is doing in what is considered primarily to be a practical match. The answer is that IPSC competitors face a similar problem to the bowling pin shooters in that a balance between speed, accuracy and knockdown power is needed to win.

Unlike other types of competition, IPSC shooters don't mess around with squib loads--they shoot full power ammunition. This means recoil which has to be controlled, and, as the pin guns are designed to do just that, they are being used by an increasing number of IPSC competitors.

Bill Wilson is well acquainted with the needs of the competitors who favor the Colt .45 for, when not working in his shop, he is an active competitor in all combat oriented handgun machines.

He has won the Second Chance Title twice and always placed high in the other big money matches like the Bianchi Cup and Steel Challenge. He is also one of this country's top IPSC shooters and was a member of the United States Gold team that won the team event at the 1983 World Championships.

I am familiar with the quality of work that comes out of the Wilson Combat Gun shop, having previously field tested one of his 130 Master Grade pistols. (See G&A November '82 issue). Consequently, I readily accepted Bill's offer to lend me an Accu-Comp to try out when I met him at the 1983 Steel Challenge match.

Early in 1984 the gun arrived and, for the first time, I got a chance to take a very close look at it. Externally, the Accu-Comp is a handsome pistol. The compensator has been mated to the front of the barrel in such a manner that it appears to be an integral part of the slide. The slide is blued with the flat sides brightly polished while the top and rounded surfaces have a non-reflective matte finish. The frame has a satin silver Metaloy rust and abrasion resistant finish that contrasts nicely with the blued slide and black Pachmayr grips. The pistol has the usual accessories like an ambidextrous speed safety and a low profile, fully adjustable Bo-Mar combat rear sight. Some of the other features, like the Combat magazine and the Beavertail Grip Safety, are off-the-shelf items that have been developed by Wilson for the combat shooter. The former is constructed of stainless steel and has a plastic rounded follower for positive feeding and an extended base pad of the same material that facilitates fast reloading. The grip safety, which can be had in either blued or stainless steel, is designed to prevent hammer bite to the web of the hand and help absorb recoil.

Of course, the barrel and compensator are the main components that are intended to reduce muzzle lift during firing. With the barel removed from the slide, its most significant feature is a heavy forward taper. This mates directly with the slide, dispensing with the need for a barrel bushing. It also plays quite a large part in contributing to the accuracy of the gun. The compensator itself causes the escaping gases to be deflected upwards, thereby reducing muzzle lift during firing.

Another Wilson-Rogers feature is the full length recoil spring guide system that helps keep the spring centered. This, in turn, has a Wilson poly-fiber Shok-Buff shock absorber kit that reduces wear and stress to both the frame and slide when heavy loads are fired.

In addition, the pistol has been fitted with one of Wilson's Combat extended ejectors for more positive ejection of spent cases, and a long combat match trigger that can be adjusted to reduce overtravel. Careful fitting of the barrel to the slide and the latter to the frame ensures increased accuracy while polishing of the feedramp gives added reliability. The magazine well has been chamfered to facilitate the easy insertion of the magazine. To complete the package, the Accu-Comp has been fitted with a Commander-style hammer manufactured by Wilson and a rubber Pachmayr mainspring housing.

In spite of the added weight up front, the Accu-Comp seemed well balanced, even when held in one hand. The trigger pull was excellent, being crisp and relatively light. The fact that the front sight is mounted on the compensator gives the pistol a slightly longer sight radius.

The Accu-Comp operates and handles like a normal .45. After inserting a loaded magazine, the slide is cycled to feed a round into the chamber. Being a single action, the hammer is cocked for the first and all subsequent shots. The gun has all the usual M-1911 safety systems including the grip safety, which has not been pinned. After the last shot has been fired, the slide remains locked open. Depressing the slide stop releases the slide allowing it to go forward, chambering a round if a freshly loaded magazine has been inserted.

The pistol is surprisingly easy to field-strip for normal maintenance and cleaning. The gun is first made safe by removing the magazine and pulling back the slide to check that the chamber is empty. The slide is then locked open and a small pin is inserted in a hole in the recoil spring guide just ahead of the frame. My gun came with such a pin supplied, but one can be easily fashioned by cutting off as section of a #4 nail about half an inch in length.

Once the pin is in place, the slide is unlocked and eased forward so that the spring is captured. The slide is then pulled back so that the disassembly notch in the slide is lined up with the slide stop. This permits the slide stop to be removed, allowing the complete slide, barrel and recoil spring assembly to be pulled forward off the frame.

Once the slide has been removed from the frame, the recoil spring assembly can be removed and the barrel then taken out of the front of the slide. The gun is reassembled in reverse order and the pin removed after the slide stop has been returned to the frame which releases the recoil spring.

The instructions which accompanied the pistol recommend that a minimum of 200 rounds should be put through the pistol to seat the slide and other parts before going into a match. It also recommends that the pistol be given a thorough cleaning after every 350 to 400 rounds. As far as ammunition is concerned, recommended factory loads for the Accu-Comp are: Federal match hardball, Remington 185-grain HP, and Winchester Silvertip.

As many IPSC shooters use reloads for practice and even matches, I contacted Bud Watson, of Watson Precision Loading. Bud's company, which is located at 2650 S. Myrtle Ave. #1, Monrovia, California 91016, specializes in the manufacture of commercially reloaded ammunition. Much of his business caters for the serious competition shooter for Bud is himself an IPSC shooter of many years standing who started way back when Jeff Cooper and others were developing the sport at Big Bear in the '60s.

Bud agreed to supply me with an assortment of loads he supplies to IPSC and Second Chance competitors. His IPSC loads were 5.7 grains of Olin 231 and 5.1 grains of DuPont 700X behind a 200-grain SWC lead bullet. His Bowling Pin load consisted of 5.5 grains of Hercules Unique behind a 242-grain, square shouldered lead bullet.

He also agreed to supply the loads Bill Wilson recommends for use in IPSC and Bowling Pin Matches. His loads for IPSC consist of 5 grains of Hercules Bullseye behind a 200-grain SWC Hensley & Gibb #68 bullet. For Bowling Pins, he suggests 5 grains of Bullseye behind a 230-grain round nose bullet. We also loaded up some of the loads Wilson recommends for the Bianchi Cup which use the Hensley & Gibb #68 bullet in front of 3.7 grains of Bullseye.

On a sunny February Saturday morning I met Bud at his club range in Canyon Country, north of Los Angeles. We were joined by Paul Smith and between the three of us we started to put the Accu-Comp through its paces.

While Bud and Paul set up the chronograph equipment, I loaded up a magazine of Federal hardball and warmed up by engaging some metal plates about 20 yards away. Each shot I fired was followed by a satisfying clang as bullet struck metal, which told me that I would not have to make much in the way of corrections to the adjustable sights.

I followed up the first magazine with several more that I loaded with a variety of factory loads which included some 180-grain Federal jacketed hollow points and some of their mid-range match ammunition. The Accu-Comp happily digested these as well without any problems. I was quite surprised that it handled the lower velocity match ammunition, especially as the instruction sheet states a recoil spring with less tension may have to be fitted for such loads. I finally loaded up a few magazines with an assortment of factory brands of dubious vintage and, once again, the gun functioned flawlessly.

By the time I had finished shooting all my factory ammunition, Bud and Paul were ready to start chronographing the various reloads that had been prepared for me. The purpose of the chronographing was to determine which of the various loads Bud had prepared would successfully meet the IPSC power factor. This is used to determine if a shooter's load has enough power to make major caliber, and is calculated by multiplying the bullet mass by its velocity and dividing the total by 1,000. If the final figure is 170 or higher, the load will qualify as a major caliber and will be scored as such.

Major calibers, like .357 Magnum and bullets of .41 and above score higher than .38 and 9mm because of their greater knock-down power. However, as many shooters use reloads, a power factor has been created to prevent the use of low powered squib loads.

Not all of the ammunition we chronographed made the power factor. Of Bud's ammunition, his Bowling Pin loads whistled through with an average velocity of 824 feet per second (fps) giving a power factory of 199. His IPSC load of 5.1 grains of 700X behind a 200-grain SWC gave an average velocity of 883 feet per second and a factor of 177.

Of the loads recommended by Wilson, only those loaded with a 230-grain round nosed bullet and 5 grains of Bullseye made it, achieving a velocity of 813 fps and a factor 187. Bud did warn me that his Bullseye was from an old batch which might account for the fact that the other IPSC load did not make it. However, as reloaders well know, loading tables can only be taken as a guide because the same bullet will give different velocities in different guns even of the same make.

Once the ammunition had been chronographed, I tested the Accu-Comp for accuracy from a benchrest 25 yards from the target. A compensator can have some adverse effect on accuracy, but this did not seem to apply to the Accu-Comp for most of my groups were around an inch and a half. My best was just under an inch with one flyer called and this was achieved with Watson's IPSC load of 5.1 grains of 700X behind a 200-grain semi-wadcutter.

Reliability was good with all except Wilson's recommended Bianchiload. The pistol had no problem in chambering this round but there just was not enough energy to work the slide far enough back to eject the spent case. While I did not find that this did improve towards the end of the test as the pistol loosened up failures to eject still occured. As this load is somewhat low powered a recoil spring of lesser tension is probably needed to ensure complete reliability.

As the main purpose of the Accu-Comp is to handle heavy loads with a minimum of recoil, I compared its performance with all of the ammunition at hand with that of a control pistol. This was a standard Colt Mark IV Series 70 belonging to Bud Watson that had been customized for IPSC competition.

As far as felt recoil is concerned, the Accu-Comp definitely had less muzzle lift than Bud's 1911. While this was not so apparent with the softer loads, especially when a two-handed combat hold was taken its ability to control recoil was obvious with the hotter ammunition. Both pistols had beavertail grip safeties which help soak up some of the recoil effect.

Even so, with loads like Watson's bowling Pin ammunition, the web of my shooting hand started to become tender while shooting the standard Colt. With the Accu-Comp I experienced no adverse effects and recovery was definitely much faster.

Paul Smith then put up some used bowling pins on a table and, after loading up some of Bud's Pin Loads, enjoyed himself blowing them clean off the Table. The effects were quite spectacular as some of the pins, having already been shot at before literally exploded into splinters from the impact of the havy bullets.

The differences in recoil were even more noticeable when I pitted my newly acquired Stainless Steel Randall .45 against the Accu-Comp in a shooting session with the Editor of G&a Specialty Books, Ian Libourel, the following Saturday.

This Randall, which has a ribbed slide and adjustable target sights is one of the most accurate and reliable out-of-the-box 1911s I have yet to shoot. However, it has the standard grip safety, and effects of the notter loads on the web of my shooting hand were even more noticeable.

I fired some fast strings of Watson IPSC loads in both pistols and found it much easier to shoot tighter groups with the Accu-Comp than with my Randall. However, it was when I shot the pistols using the classic one-handed target stance that the difference in recoil became patently obvious. Shooting the IPSC loads in the Accu-Comp was like using an Olympic Rapid Fire Pistol when compared with the recoil of the standard .45 caliber.

In all, I must have put some 300 rounds of different type ammunition through the Accu-Comp and, with the exception of the Wilson Bianchi reloads, it handed everything without a single malfunction. While not intended for target work, its accuracy was above average and well within the demands that are placed on IPSC shooters.

The main purpose of the pistol is to handle heavy loads with a minimum of recoil, and this it certainly did. Not only was it comfortable to shoot and easy to get back on target, but the added weight of the compensator had not adversely affected its balance. Consequently, It is easy to bring into action from a combat style holster, which of course, is a vital consideration in combat matches like IPSC, Bianchi, and The Steel Challenge. The quality of workmanship is of the same standard exhibited in Wilson's other custom pistols.

There are many very good pistolsmiths, both in this country and elsewhere who produce excellent custom .45 pistols for all types of competition. In my opinion the Wilson Accu-Comp ranks with the best of them. At the present time, the Accu-Comp costs $1,400 or $970 if the customer supplies a Series 70 Colt Government Model. You can get a price list by sending a self-addressed envelope to Wilson's Gun Shop, Dept. GA, Rt. 3, Box 211-D, Berryville, AR 72616. In addition, $2.50 sent to the same address will get you an illustrated catalog of all of Bill Wilson's products.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Arnold, Dave
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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