Dan Wesson ECO–The Perfect EDC 1911?

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The ECO on top of a full sized Dan Wesson.

The ECO on top of a full sized Dan Wesson.

Read more at CZ: http://cz-usa.com/product/dw-eco-45-acp/

Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Dan Wesson ECO

I spend a lot of time around single action pistols. This is partly because I’ve had a life-long obsession with the nostalgia of the fighting 1911. Then there’s the added benefit of living in Arkansas, home to companies like Nighthawk, Wilson, and Gun Crafter. I know my way around the platform, and have a short list of favorite guns. That said, it has been a few years since I carried a single action with any regularity. That’s all about to change. I’ve finally found the perfect out-of-the-box single-action carry gun: the Dan Wesson ECO.

The short grip requires a short mag (but it will still hold 7 rounds.)

The short grip requires a short mag (but it will still hold 7 rounds of .45 ACP–9mm also available.)

With the ECO's shorter girp, a full sized mag sticks out slightly. Short mags fit flush.

With the ECO’s shorter girp, a full sized mag sticks out slightly. Short mags fit flush.

Having just clearly stated that I love single actions–and then inferred that I don’t carry one–I should explain myself. I used to carry a full sized 1911 whenever I could open carry. If I were going into the woods, that’s what I took with me. I wore it in a leather OWB holster, strong side, and I wasn’t really concerned with how fast I could draw the thing. Just knowing I had seven rounds of .45 ACP was good enough. And when I was carrying concealed, I carried a Colt Mustang.

Lately I’ve been going to the woods with a big .357–primarily because of the increase in terminal ballistic performance. The single-action .380 was too much for summer-time carry, so I moved to a polymer framed mouse gun. The 1911s all had something about them that kept me from carrying them. Sometimes it was size. Sometimes it was texture on the frame, or the sights. Sometimes, I just got tired of lugging around all that steel. In short, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been addressed with some assistance of a gunsmith or an armorer, but that costs real money.

I've run a lot of single-actions through the review process, and I consistently have a bone to pick. Not here.

I’ve run a lot of single-actions through the review process, and I consistently have a bone to pick. Not here.

Enter the ECO

When the folks at Dan Wesson showed us these guns, I was impressed. We reviewed one of their full sized guns this summer. It shot great and looks stunning. The ECO is noticeably smaller, more compact, and it is as if someone had a checklist of all of my requirements for a concealed carry single action.

What do I want in a 1911 for EDC?

Size. While I will often try to conceal a big gun, I need a gun for EDC that I can always carry. Summer–winter. While the ECO is larger than some .380 mouse guns, it maintains a very thin profile and manageable frame and grip length. This is a true officer sized 1911. 3 inch barrel, shortened frame under the grips. And the frame is aluminum, too, which helps with the weight.

Power. There are a slew of great .45 ACP carry rounds. While they’re slow (when compared to 9mms) they hit hard. There’s nothing wrong with the round, as far as I can tell.

The G10 grips are rock solid, and offer excellent texture.

The G10 grips are rock solid, and offer excellent texture. Frame ad backstrap cut at 25 LPI.

Grip texture. I like for a grip to bite my hands. Carry guns should have aggressive texture. Some grouse about what the sharp edges of G10 might do to their clothing, but I’ve never seen any wear on my clothes that I thought was more important than the option of having a good grip.

Frame texture. After carrying a couple of heavy pistols with no front strap texture, I’ve decided that a nice set of lines or some checkering is a must. The ECO has a shortened grip, but it is still big enough to hold with three fingers.

Ambidextrous safety. When I train, I try as many hypotheticals as I can. That includes left handed shooting and one handed manipulations. Having an ambidextrous safety is helpful for lefties, but it is also a benefit for all of us in certain circumstances. Perhaps because the ECO is meant for low-profile carry, the ambi safety was left off. It is a simple enough addition.

Fast sights. The ECO has a straight-8 two dot system instead of the typical 3-dot line up. The front sight is also much more prominent. As you drive to a target the front sight is easy to pick up, and the flat black serrations on the rear offer a good frame for the front. The sights also glow.

That small spot glows, but is smaller than the white spot on the front, so you won't mistake the two in the dark.

That small spot glows, but is smaller than the white spot on the front, so you won’t mistake the two in the dark.

The front bead.

The front bead.

One handed manipulation. While we’re talking sights, I’d like to praise the designers of the ECO for going the extra mile with the ledge on the sights. Most compact pistols have slanted sights that are designed to prevent snags. The ledge on the rear sight of the ECO, though, is a great place to catch a belt, or a heel, or a counter top when trying to rack the slide.

The rear sight has a ledge for one handed manipulation.

The rear sight has a ledge for one handed manipulation.

A single point and plenty of flat black for accurate work.

A single point and plenty of flat black for accurate work.

Quality parts. This one is harder to nail down than most of the others, and difficult to test in a review. But the ECO makes some bold claims. The gun has a one piece guide rod and a flat would recoil spring that is rated for 15,000 rounds. They’re pretty serious about the quality.

The safety engages the slide cut precisely. These details will tell you how well a 1911 is made.

The safety engages the slide cut precisely. These details will tell you how well a 1911 is made.

The ribs on the top cut glare. The attention to detail is on par with what I've come to expect from Dan Wesson guns.

The ribs on the top cut glare. The attention to detail is on par with what I’ve come to expect from Dan Wesson guns.

What would I add?

Apart from the ambidextrous safety, there’s only one thing missing from the ECO–serrations on the front of the slide. The rear serrations are fine, but the smooth texture in front of the trigger guard won’t be easy to work with wet hands. Is this a deal-breaker for me? Hell no. Nowhere near. I understand why they’re not there, I think. I have a hard time putting my hand on the slide without connecting with the rear serrations. It isn’t as long as a full-sized frame. And those extra cuts mean more machining and more money.

The texture of the grips is perfect, but I'm ambivalent about the colors.

The texture of the grips is perfect, but I’m ambivalent about the colors.

So what’s wrong with it?

This is a fair question. There has to be something wrong with it, right? Every gun has some odd personality quirk, or a strange way of behaving. If my effusive love-fest above wasn’t a good indication, I really like this gun. There is only one thing that I would change out immediately, and it has everything to do with my vanity. I love the feel and texture on these G10 grips, but I think they’re a bit much. I won’t say they’re ugly–I’ve seen some ugly ass grips. But the black on white pattern is garish. And it draws attention to the gun. If this were to flash out from under a coat tail, it would draw attention. Not that a gun won’t. They draw attention. But a nice subtle grip color might be less conspicuous.

In the end

This has been a hard gun to review. My first impressions of it were so uniformly positive that I just knew something would go wrong. I halfway expected that the short barrel would have too much muzzle rise for rapid target reaquisition. Not the case. The internals on guns like this are not as easy to tune as those on a full sized 1911, so I had expected failures. But there wasn’t anything about it that let me down. I did most of the shooting for this review the week after returning from a 1911 skills class, and I was really pleased with how well the gun ran, and how well I ran the gun.

The price may be a stumbling block for some. The $1,662 MSRP is steep (if you’re accustomed to the price tags on polymer pistols or import 1911s). I see it differently. If you were to compare the ECO with other 1911s built for concealed carry, it actually comes in close, or under.

Read more at CZ: http://cz-usa.com/product/dw-eco-45-acp/

Buy one on GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Dan Wesson ECO

A full magazine from 25 yards, standing.

A full magazine from 25 yards, standing.

Five from the holster at 7 yards, as fast as I could clear leather.

Five from the holster at 7 yards, as fast as I could clear leather.

The targets illustrate my bad habits. Too much finger on the trigger. The gun is better than I am.

The targets illustrate my bad habits. Too much finger on the trigger. The gun is better than I am.

The trigger pull felt a bit heavier than I would like, but it is something that can be adjusted.

The trigger pull felt a bit heavier than I would like, but it is something that can be adjusted.

This one won't be as easy to take apart as most full-sized 1911s.

This one won’t be as easy to take apart as most full-sized 1911s, but the flat spring inside is rated for 15,000 rounds. And I love the “flush-cut ramped bull barrel with target crown.”

Together, the two dots line up fast.

Together, the two dots line up fast.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Steve August 6, 2016, 6:01 pm

    the ECO is 3.5″ barrel, not 3″. just fyi

  • Steve August 6, 2016, 5:56 pm

    The ECO is a 3.5″ barrel, not 3″. just fyi.

  • Rik P November 1, 2015, 11:20 pm

    The 3″ conical barrel reminds me of Colt’s 1991 Commando model, with more bells and whistles. Only problem I have with 3″ bbls is the loss of velocity. Having said that I love them and the Dan Wesson combat 8 rd mag is the best!

  • Luc October 20, 2015, 6:53 am

    It looks like a clone from the sw e series less the front serrations and bobtail grip, and msrp is much less

  • ButchnJax October 19, 2015, 10:30 pm

    I like the grips, kind of urban camo zebra ninja ish. Love gun, agree with, but hate price at this point in economy. Traded my Defender 45 w/CT grips many years ago to my neighbor, even, for his 91 Bronco. All gone now, along with ex-wife… lol…miss gun.

  • Mark October 19, 2015, 10:01 pm

    I own several Kimber’s 2 Super Carry’s Ultra and Pro also Ultra Raptor and pro I have never had a Kimber jam or have ejection issues. It really bothers me to hear some complain of jaming with 3 inch models Kimber, Colt ect are they buying hand loads or 3 boxes for 10.00. If you own a decent 3″ 45 and shoot a a name brand ammo your not going to have issues. I trust my life with a Kimber Super Carry Ultra loaded with Critical Defence. I Guarantee you he will be carried by 6 if I have to defend myself.

  • Dave spears October 19, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Any mim parts on that model?

    • kirk August 25, 2016, 9:58 pm

      No mim on any dan wessons.

  • Larry Koehn October 19, 2015, 4:15 pm

    I have carried for 30 years. A Colt Officers ACP that was a piece of junk. The sights fell off twice. It shot random gathering never a group. Had to go to a smith to get it to feed anything other then ball ammo and after the smith I could shuck empties through it. I had a range in my basement and the final insult was going down to shoot I could not get the safety off. Like the sights the spring assembly was staked and had worked it’s way out and jammed the safety. Traded it on a Sig P220 and will never ever buy another Colt pistol. Carried a Ruger SP-101 which was indestructible but too fat in the cylinder. Tried a number of 380’s but never really had faith in the cartridge. For the last few years it has been an ugly as a brick Glock 23, with a Lone Wolf ported barrel, Advantage sights, a stainless guide rod and 20pound spring and a Taran Tactical 3.5 pound trigger kit. The cartridge, 40 S&W, I have confidence in, the size is concealable and comfortable. the cycling is 100% reliable and the gun is drop dead accurate and is comfortable to shoot. I did all the “work” myself and have a little over $800.00 in a custom gun that is all I can ask for out of a pistol. A seven shot 45 at 1600 bucks does not seem like much of a deal no matter what they put on it plus the grips are tacky.

    • Joe Gabriel April 27, 2016, 8:18 pm

      Larry, Wow! I hope your better with your $800 Frankenstein than you are writing a review. 14 (arguably 22 if written properly) sentences about, well just about everything in your mind but the Dan Wesson the article was written about. Thanks for adding it at the end, just in time for my retirement. Take it from an old soldier…B.L.U.F. It means: Bottom Line Up Front.

      Just kidding.(sort off). You really should try one. I have three….and my friend, if you ever have been in a gunfight, you would know tacky grips are exactly what you want. That’s just a little fun with words… I can’t ever remember fashion points added or taken away while in contact.

  • Don October 19, 2015, 12:59 pm

    I have two dan Wessons and will never part with them. You can pay more but you won’t get more…pure quality…

  • JR October 19, 2015, 12:35 pm

    Kimber addressed all of the issues of a compact .45 with the introduction of the CDP many eon’s ago and have continually improved with variations since.
    Another compact worthy of consideration is the all steel Sig Compact Nitron. It out shoot’s many of it’s bigger brothers and with a proper holster weight and concealment is not really an issue.
    I’m sure the featured Dan Wesson is a fine firearm but if Dan Wesson only makes firearms for individuals with really deep pockets I’ll stick to my Sig’s and Kimbers with a nod to S&W.

  • Ken October 19, 2015, 10:45 am

    I just want my old Detonics back…. That was my ultimate compact .45 ACP.

  • Tony V October 19, 2015, 10:28 am

    Great article showing why one can carry a smaller 1911. Own three Kimber Ultras. Have the Ultra CDP in 9mm and 45ACP and had Ultra Crimson in 45ACP (sold it when I bought CDP). CDP Came with ambi safety which I removed because do not want even the remote possibility of catching/hitting the strong side safety on anything that might accidentally release the safety. Both have laser grips and night sights (back up for laser). Carry AIWB using Keeper holster and there are times I almost forget the gun is there. I am 5” 7”, average build, 67 years old & nothing unusual about me or my body – have no problems with concealment. Have never had to draw my gun & hope to live another 67 years without drawing.
    Have put around 10,000 rounds through the two 45ACP without a problem. Only about 2,000 through 9mm. Use mostly aluminum or brass Blazer Brass & so far so good.
    Have Springfield Mod.2 in 9mm & 45 ACP and really like them both. Prefer to carry Ultra 1911. I usually buy same handgun in both calibers because they handle similarly. Also prefer handguns with grip safety. Less chance of negligent discharge which could be a killer with AIWB.

  • Hal Fritz October 19, 2015, 10:25 am

    The Ruger SR1911 CMD is a great alternative 45 Cal conceal carry pistol. Slightly smaller, narrower, and lighter than the full size Ruger 1911, it is suggested MSRP at $899 on the Ruger site. My recent purchase cost locally was $673 including Illinois sales tax. It has a 7 round capacity and a titanium feed ramp in an aluminum frame for smooth ammo feeding. The stainless steel slide and bushing are from the same stock making the pistol one of reasonable accuracy. My range experience showed no FTF or FTE using various brands of 45 Cal ammunition. Accuracy out of the box was excellent at ranges from 7 -25 yards. This is an affordable and reliable 1911 for the range, field carry, or conceal carry. I have owned several 1911s (various brands) and am very pleased with this recent acquisition.

  • Michael October 19, 2015, 10:15 am

    Whmm…..OK – so what does this bring to the table that STI or Kimber hasn’t already provided? Frankly, any 1911 platform with a barrel length under 4 inches has proven to me to be less than 100% reliable (a beautiful Kimber Ultra carry comes to mind!). And $1,600? Ouch! Listen, I love my 1911s, particularly my old Colts, but I have a Glock 26 for daily carry (mostly here on my ranch) that is accurate, has never suffered a single FTF, gets bumped and scratched regularly while I do my daily chores, sometimes is dirty from the dirt, dust, and grime yet has always fired when required. No special magazine or ammo requirement for this Glock, or any other idiosyncrasies I regularly see with my 1911s. It is a reliable, functional “tool”, not a museum piece or fine crystal. Frankly, a pistol would not be my first choice if I was going into a gun fight or other combat or self defense situation – a rifle or shotgun would be my first choice. It is just more convenient and easier to carry a pistol around on my belt than to lug a rifle everywhere, otherwise my rifle would be the weapon of choice. So, in summary, this ECO may be trying to fill a niche that isn’t there.

    • carl October 19, 2015, 3:47 pm

      I have a PARA executive carry, 3inch barrel full capacity mags. Shot 1000s of every type ammo not one jamb. It was msrp at 1299.00 worth every penny and has the brown rounded grip doesn’t dig in side, weight 27 ounces…

    • greg October 19, 2015, 7:05 pm

      what kind of ranch..what kind of rifle?

  • James Anderson October 19, 2015, 10:14 am

    Short and sweet and easier on the wallet is my Citadel 1911 CS. I have no experience with the cited weapon but priced out of the average guys range. Out of the box with the best trigger I have ever enjoyed my Citadel has found a home with concealed carrying for me. Dan Wesson is a Cadillac priced weapon and no doubt a good one. Nice to read about but not realistic for the general populace.

  • Jay October 19, 2015, 9:28 am

    I have owned, worked on, carried, instructed, and shot 1911’s competitively for many years, and own quite a few. While I have no experience with DW firearms, I can say how much I love my Colt Defender. A small picky correction though – the no longer manufactured Colt Officer’s ACP is 3 1/2″, the current production Colt Defender is 3″.

    I am kind of in the same situation. I have always been told to shy away from less than Commander size 1911’s. For that reason alone, I switched to a Glock 30SF because of my love for the .45 and because I really didn’t seem to be able to carry my Commander as well. I’ve always been a 1911 fan, but went to the G30 because it worked well, and was a little easier to conceal. During winter last year (and cover garments), I wanted to go back to the full sized or Commander sized 1911, and they just “felt better” on my hip, but I am in my vehicle most of the day on some days, and the barrel is just too long for comfort while sitting.

    I found a nice used Defender at a good price at a LGS, and I’ve not looked back. Please don’t get me wrong – the G30SF was my favorite defensive firearm for a long time and was excellent in that role. The Defender just felt better to me on my side and in my hand, and I shoot better with it. I purchased a Colt Defender – more because I just wanted to own one than specifically to carry, especially with what I was told about short 1911s. After getting it home, and buying a good OWB leather holster, I couldn’t believe the difference! The little 3″ felt sooo much lighter that I kept feeling for it to make sure it was still there. Putting it on paper, it shot as well (with me) as the G30, and the G30 was -I thought- the most accurate carry pistol I owned. Almost 1800 rounds downrange later with NO problems, excellent accuracy, tiny (for a large caliber) and light weight makes it the best carry pistol I have ever owned.

    I now have NO ISSUES with owning a less than 4″ 1911 and would highly recommend it IF you are familiar with the 1911. I really wonder if all the “no less than 4″” guys have really owned a short 1911, or did they by chance get one that didn’t work properly? I owned a Kimber Ultra Carry II that I couldn’t get to run, and I too blamed it on a short barrel, but I’m sure all manufacturers let a bad one out every now and then. I dearly liked my Glock, but I dearly LOVE my little baby 1911.

    I will carry my Defender until I wear it out, and my son is now carrying an Officer’s ACP Enhanced. I’m off the “short 1911s are bad” bandwagon….. In my personal and very biased opinion, there is one carry caliber and that is .45, and the two best carry pistols are a good quality 3″ 1911 or a Glock 30SF.

    • Matt October 19, 2015, 11:30 am

      I carry a Kimber Super Carry Ultra Have runs Hundreds of rounds through it Never had a Jam, stove pipe ect, Yes you can find something wrong with any gun, But there was never a more true Saying when it comes to CC guns “You Get What You Pay For”

      • Russ Newkirk October 22, 2015, 11:11 am

        You get what you pay for is NOT a Kimber slogan, sir. I waited for a small stainless 1911 from them and bought it when it came out. Within 6 months, the finish on this “STAINLESS” firearm looked like it had been drug behind my truck for AWHILE! I pain to have the gun refinished for it’s NEW OWNWER and ended my Kimber buying. Why would you spray a “stainless finish” on a STAINLESS FIREARM? Never mind, I’ll stick to Detonics and my one departure from my favorite being my PARA-CARRY LDA!

  • Walt Reasons October 19, 2015, 8:27 am

    I have tried several platforms the last 50 years, including small mouse guns like baby Browning to the small plastic mousers of recent and never found one I felt properly armed with because too small for a proper grip. The only mouse gun that was 100% was Baby Browning 25 ACP and that was when only ball ammo was to be had for 25ACP. I have a two year old DW Guardian in 38 Super and so far 100% with everything I’ve fed it, L/SWC, JHP and solid copper HP’s. I never leave home without it, and it’s is deadly accurate.

  • Will Drider October 18, 2015, 10:05 pm

    Good article. The pistol is a square peg (1911) trying to fit in a round hole (medium size CC)
    by cutting a few corners off. There was nothing clearly written about function being 100% or were there failures? The lack of any mention of type and mfg of ammo also raise flags. Shouldn’t a CC gun be reliable above all else? This is a higher end pistol @ $1600 purpose built for CC but if it can’t perform as well as a $600 handgen then it just a range toy or paperweight.
    I love the 1911A1 full size, 45APC and 38 Super. Always had issues with alt sizes and cailbers. I am willing to accept progress but not sure the ECO delivers it.

  • Mark N. October 17, 2015, 2:29 am

    I like small 1911s, but everyone I have ever read about suffers FTEs and failures to return to battery, an issue related to the short slide that changes the natural timing of a 5″ 1911. Stovepipe jams are commonly reported. Which is why I have always admired them, from the Colt to the Springfield EMP to the Kimber, but never pulled the trigger on a purchase. Again from what I’ve read, this size gun is far more reliable in 9mm (which Colt builds, or used to build, but is not available to California residents, as does Springfield). The report is a bit vague on this point. Did it run flawlessly?
    Second, I hve never carried a 1911 primarily because I could never find a way to conceal it; the grip either slices into my ribs or sticks out and makes itself obvious. How does the short grip handle this issue, versus say the rounded grip on Wilsons and Kimbers?

    • Dave Higginbotham October 17, 2015, 2:43 pm

      I love a bobbed grip. Have never found a 1911 grip that I like more. But the ECO feels like any other 1911 grip to me. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed it was shorter until I ran a mag change with a full sized mag. When it didn’t go all the way in, I hammered on it. Then it hit me. Duh. So I wouldn’t say there was any difference in feel, just in how much sticks out.

  • Mike October 16, 2015, 6:50 am

    Nice review- Thanks!
    First sub 5″ 1911 that’s looked interesting to me.

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