Dan Wesson’s Heritage 1911–Review

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Dan Wesson originally only made revolvers. You can check out my review of a new  DW revolver here.  In recent years the name Dan Wesson has been more closely associated with nice 1911s.  They make 1911s in the $1,000 to $4,000 range.  DW sent us a Heritage model, which is one of their entry level pistols for review.

The Dan Wesson Heritage 1911.

The Dan Wesson Heritage 1911 has a match grade barrel–a nice upgrade over the budget price-point.

We review a lot of 1911s around here–a lot of high end custom shop guns and some budget (aka cheap) ones.  This review is of a mid-range 1911, a group that does not seem to get as much coverage as their more expensive or cheaper brethren. In a way that makes sense to me; if you are on a tight budget you buy a budget pistol.  If you can spend over a $1,000 for a mid-range pistol, chances are you can save a little more or can already afford to make the jump to the custom guns.  Hmmm… this sounds a bit like the “dying middle class” situation.

So why pick a mid-range 1911?  What do you get in this price range that you don’t in the lower tier? And what do you give up from the top-end? I will give my thoughts below but first here are some specs on the Dan Wesson Heritage.

 

Specs

Top rib is clearly visible here along with the size of the controls.

Top rib is clearly visible here along with the size of the controls.

  • .45 ACP
  • Single Stack 8 Round Magazine
  • Stainless Frame
  • Fixed Tritium Sights
  • Match Grade 5 Inch Barrel
  • Weight 2.42 lbs
  • Length 8.75 Inches
  • Height 5.5 Inches
  • Width 1.45 Inches
  • MSRP $1,298

The Heritage is a good looking 1911.  The contrast of the polished sides on the slide with the bead blasted look on the frame looks sharp.  This is a stainless steel pistol and the two different finishes make for a more visually interesting pistol than the normal stainless monotony, even if the colors are just different shades of grey.  And the fit and finish is well done.

There are some other nice touches on this Dan Wesson.  The controls are all pretty much standard sized, but the grip safety/beaver tail has a nice bump and tail.  The top of the slide has a low, flat rib machined on it with some striations to help with glare. The hammer is skeletonized and the trigger is solid.  There is some nice checkering on the main spring housing but the front strap is smooth. As for the sights, the front one is a Tritium night sight with the back being plain, but well rounded for carry. In all, the gun feels solid in the hand, and everything works just exactly like it should.

The grips are a bit different than what you typically see on any 1911. They look like black versions of the classic Colt double diamonds but they are not wood.  These grips are rubber.  Not hard rubber or super soft rubber (middle class rubber?). They look good next to the stainless frame and they provide a good grip.

There it is. The mold line of a MIM part on the magazine release.

There it is. The mold line of a MIM part on the magazine release.

MIM

I recently reviewed a “budget” Metro Arms 1911 that had very obvious Metal Injection Molded (MIM) parts.  They were obvious in that the mold lines were still visible on almost all of the parts that were made this way.  There is a lot of controversy over MIM parts, some of it is warranted and some is unfounded paranoia. When MIM parts are made correctly, and used in the correct places, they are perfectly fine.  The issue with them is when manufacturing practices are not up to par, which creates voids in the parts that can crack open, causing failure. How can you tell if they are not made correctly? Unless you have an x-ray machine or some other wizbang imaging device, you can’t. Well, unless they fail. But these parts are here to stay in the firearm industry. They are cheaper to make. Much, much cheaper.

So why the talk about MIM parts in this Dan Wesson review? Because there are MIM parts on this pistol.  I had to look very closely to see, but there is a mold line on the magazine release.  Take a look at the picture to see for yourself.  The fact that I had to hunt for the evidence of MIM parts is one of the things that make this a mid-priced 1911.  Filing and polishing the mold lines off of these parts takes more labor and more labor means higher cost.

Whoops. I am pretty sure the round popped up past the magazine lips.

Whoops. I am pretty sure the round popped up past the magazine lips.

Function

I put around 500 rounds through the Dan Wesson Heritage for this review. In those 500, I had one failure to feed. I am 99% sure this was a magazine issue, a lot of feeding problems in correctly made 1911s stem from the magazine. I was using the supplied mag when the issue happened.  I also ran this pistol with some Wilson Combat, Kimber and random no-name mags that I have had good luck with in the past.  No issues were experienced with any of those magazines and only one failure over all.  Take a look at the photo to see the details on this failure.

Paper Punching

The one failure aside, the Heritage functioned and shot very well.  It is a 1911 in .45 ACP and feels, looks and shoots exactly like what it is.  See the target photos for details of what two shooters were able to wring out of this Dan Wesson.  I have shot tighter groups out of other 1911s and have also shot a lot bigger groups with them too.  The Heritage preformed a bit better than average in my experience. With a change to more of a target style sight from the carry/night sights that it comes with, I would expect to see the groups tighten up.

5 rounds from 25 feet made 2 holes.

5 rounds from 25 feet made 2 holes.

The trigger on this Dan Wesson is very nice.  There is a little bit of take up out of the box, but that is easy enough to adjust.  The pull is smooth, short and grit free.  The trigger breaks right at 4 pounds.

Why buy mid range?

So what do you get out of a mid priced 1911 that you don’t from a budget pistol?  Mostly fit and finish.  Look at the MIM parts for an example.  Putting a nice finish on a firearm takes extra labor and labor costs money.  On a $1,200 1911, I expect a nice finish, good fit and a bare minimum of tool marks–even on the insides.  I also expect some nice features, like checkering on the mainspring housing, nice grips and better-than-basic sights. That is what this Dan Wesson delivers.

Speaking of the grips, I want to say a bit more about the ones on this DW here.  I really like these grips.  They look good with the finish on the gun and have the classic 1911 style.  But they also work very well and I think they might be the perfect EDC grips.  I love the looks and the feel of the original old wood grips on Colts but they don’t really provide the most positive grip especially with some wear.  To me they are better suited on a historic gun or an homage to one and not a carry piece.  Then there are the G10 grips that are like wrapping your hand around a stack of band saw blades. Yes, they provide just about the best grip you can get but they also tear the hell out of your clothes and provide an extra area that could get hung up if you have to draw.  The rubber grips on the Heritage might be the perfect middle ground.  They are slick enough to pull free and not tear up your shirt but also have texture and the inherent grip of rubber.

However, the features you get on any 1911 are mostly a preference thing.  There are so many different ways to dress one of these out and most of the small details are quick and easy to change that it makes qualifying the features on a 1911 at different price points difficult. It is more of how well the extras are executed.  The quality of the checkering, sights and the other little things that add up to a well thought out and made pistol.  That is what this Dan Wesson is. If this is a design you can live with, and has options that you like, than this is a solid pistol and a great option.

Think of it this way. A lot of the bottom end guns are fixer-uppers, even when they are brand spanking new and sitting on a retail shelf. Some guys buy them knowing they’re going to start changing out parts and mixing things up. Some of those more well-to-do will invest in a pistol and pay to have every detail exactly to their liking–and they’ll never get their hands dirty. This mid-tier price range has some solid options for the rest of us, and this is one of them. It is a great looking, straight shooting, rock solid 1911.

Final Thoughts

The Dan Wesson Heritage is a nice addition to the pantheon of 1911s.  It feels and looks like it’s price point. Yes there are some MIM parts to be found here, but other than the one spot, the mold lines have been filed and polished away. The finish is well done and makes for a good looking pistol. Did it function better than a $500-600 1911? No, not in any quantifiable way. But it feels better and looks better. And odds are, it will last longer. That is what you are mostly getting in this price range–and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that.

I really like the contracting colors of the stainless on this pistol. The black grips also look nice.

I really like the contracting colors of the stainless on this pistol. The black grips also look nice.

Nice tail.

Nice tail. And the Hogue grips are rubber, but with a thin profile and a classic look. They feel great in the hand.

The thumb safety is slightly bigger than normal but not over done.

The thumb safety is slightly bigger than normal but not over done.

The Business end.

The Business end.

4 pound trigger.

4 pound trigger.

Night sight on the front.

Night sight on the front. Also note the rib on the top of the slide.

Rear sight.

Rear sight.

Mainspring checkering, grip safety bump and the black rubber grips.

Mainspring checkering, grip safety bump and the black rubber grips.

She opens up a bit from 50 feet and so do I.

She opens up a bit from 50 feet and so do I.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

 

 

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • John Pifer January 13, 2016, 9:35 am

    The article states that the Dan Wesson Heritage contains MIM parts; an assertion made by the author due to the fact that the mag catch button has what appears to be a mold line.

    I’ve been considering buying a Dan Wesson Heritage for over a year now; it would be my first 1911-style handgun. In my research, I’ve looked at the Dan Wesson section of the CZ-USA website, which claims that there are NO MIM PARTS in Dan Wesson 1911s:

    http://cz-usa.com/hammer/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015-CZ-USA_CATALOG.pdf

    Would the author care to dispute Dan Wesson’s claim of NO MIM PARTS in their 1911s?

    • Trevor January 20, 2016, 2:18 pm

      The Author jumps to a conclusion that a mold line = a MIM part which is pure hog-wash. I would also love to hear from the author how he can tell the difference between a cast part and a MIM part by looking at a mold line? How did he know it was not a cast part?

      Dan Wesson’s website is correct. There are no MIM parts in DW’s 1911’s. This particular part is a cast part (not the same as MIM http://mimaweb.org/Tech_compar.htm) because the requirements were such that a casting was adequate (per DW Customer service).

  • Mick Dodge June 29, 2015, 10:31 am

    $1000.00 ain’t entry level, never was and never will be until our politicians print enough paper to put us 25 trillion in the hole.
    Dan Wesson ain’t what it used to be so I’ll stick with my springer 1911 A1.

  • mark cecil June 29, 2015, 9:28 am

    Thanks for the great article. I wonder at the term mid range though. 1k or above does not seem mid range to me. To me any PISTOL that cost over a grand is either a collectors piece or a match pistol. Just me though. thanks.

  • Bill June 29, 2015, 3:36 am

    Unless I missed it… Was this a series 70 or 80?

    • John Pifer January 13, 2016, 9:24 am

      Series 70. All the Dan Wesson 1911s are.

  • Will Drider June 28, 2015, 12:49 am

    I see no fault with this basic review. I do see problems with the catagory and price though DW says its their entry level 1911. You can buy the entry level DW for $1200 or you could buy a top end Sig Match Target or a TACOPS wth threaded barrel full set night sights and 4 mags for the same price. Check the specs on both and see what you get. There are always personal preferences for manufactures. If DW had maintained the same quality as the Model 15-2 through all the following years that would have great but things change as does quaility and comany ownership. Sig and most firearms company have had issues too. My point here is if your lust for a “Name” lay your money down. If you want value, you need to shop around and get the most bang for YOUR BUCKS!

    1911’s have been around a long, long time. Their still in production because the design works and it still attracts buyers. The bad news is 1911s aren’t in as high demand as the double stackers. The good news is manufactures have the materials, tooling and craftsman so they keep pumping them out. Like ARs, just about everybody makes one.
    If you track 1911 advertised sales you will see very deep discounts every three months or so on 1911s that retail below the $800 mark. In the last two weeks I have see several at the below $400. Here is my 1911 category breakdown:
    Cheap: Low price, Poor Quaility and Reliability issues in reliable reviews.
    Economy: Low price, Average Quality, good reliability, fair accuracy.
    Standard: Price point equal to clean machining and finish, execellent reliability, average accuracy.
    Deal: Price below value of features, clean machining and finish, execellent reliability, above average accuracy.
    Perfect: Price equal to fit, finish, features, flawless reliability, execellent to outstanding accuracy.
    Trophy: Flawless in all areas, ZERO functional problems. Your buying a Name, it must deliver the goods.

    • John Pifer January 13, 2016, 9:27 am

      Actually, street price on a Dan Wesson Heritage is between $1000-1100. I am buying one on an online auction site today for a “buy it now” price of $1049.

      Not many question the fact that you get a lot of 1911 for your $$ with a DW.

  • Mr James June 26, 2015, 4:52 pm

    I Have liked Dan Wesson since I made one my first Hand Gun purchase at age 21. The gun a 357 mag wheeler with 3 different barrel length’s. I would not hesitate to buy more in the 1911 platform but they can’t get a seller agreement in the state of CA. and I just can’t move out just yet. I Would like a DW in 10mm for backcountry carry. The DW company has a particular type of quality Identifiable from all other Manufactures. Very worth the money outlay.

  • Jordan June 26, 2015, 12:19 pm

    That’s a good looking gun! I would definitely love to see how it fires myself. Thanks for sharing your review here!

    • Capt. Jack June 29, 2015, 12:00 pm

      I have to disagree with your assessment of good looking, With Respect. The thumb safety,(noted) mag release, and rear sight, is out of this world cheap looking and Fug-ly. It may shoot well but no Show Horse or even close. Not for my money and I’m told by my better half I am extravagant.

  • DRAINO June 26, 2015, 9:44 am

    I Love Dan Wesson’s…but as I have said before….won’t support a NY Company. Can’t imagine any reason that a company would stay in a state with such strict gun control laws…..And Crazy Taxes! It is self-defeating to stay there. I think all the firearms manufacturing companies should get out of the New England area. Would be cheaper for them to operate for sure….Less restrictive. I would certainly be much more inclined to buy their products…..as I’m sure many others feel the same way.

    • CR June 29, 2015, 2:45 pm

      Maybe the decision of Dan Wesson to stay in New York is rooted in a loyalty to the craftsmen they employ – a recognition that the people who have made this a great company cannot just sell homes and family farms and move themselves and their families to some far away state at the drop of a hat as a noble gesture to your political preferences and prejudices. You seem to think that moving a corporate manufacturing enterprise from one state to another is like changing hotel rooms. You can (and I’m sure will) continue to boycott companies which reside in states, or entire regions, you find politically incorrect; I will continue to buy my firearms from companies who recognize the importance of fine craftsmenship to firearms production and are loyal to their employees.

      • Chris Sarno November 12, 2015, 5:25 pm

        Craftsman? Cut it out, the facts are that NY-state is an obscenity, and its not happenstance that the loyalty you seem so proud of, has contributed directly to DW going belly up before! DW would be a far stronger operation, one not beholding to CZ-USA if it had moved out of that terrible state, Henry Firearms recently moved some of their operations into N.W. Wisconsin, and that is just where DW should be relocated too, while they remain subjects of NY-State democratic socialism they will also remain a company on life support…

        • DC May 14, 2017, 1:25 am

          Who cares what state they are in? Since when did “states” represent the views or values of every one of their residents? I’m not going to stop buying a product because I don’t like what state it’s made in. You go down that road, you may not like the result.

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