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A Wheelgunners’ 1911? Dan Wesson’s Valkyrie & Silverback – Full Review

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For more information, visit http://cz-usa.com/product-category/danwesson/.

To purchase a Dan Wesson 1911 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Dan%20Wesson%201911.

Like many of the names in American firearms, Dan Wesson has quite a history. I was rather curious when this project started myself, what were the odds that someone else randomly named Wesson had started a revolver company? Well, it turns out, not that great. Dan Wesson was actually the great grandson of Daniel B. Wesson, the co-founder of Smith and Wesson. The younger Dan also actually worked for S&W from 1938 until 1963. When Smith and Wesson was purchased by the Bangor Punta Corporation, Dan Wesson went his own way in order to produce American made, high-quality revolvers held to demanding standards. Dan wanted his revolvers to excel both as duty guns and in competition, and worked tirelessly to that end. The Dan Wesson revolvers that resulted, which featured a unique switch-barrel design and some interesting chamberings, proved extremely accurate, but anyone that has ever been in manufacturing knows that the best product doesn’t always win. Sales were less than spectacular on the original models, and the company experienced a series of upheavals after Dan Wesson’s death in 1978. The original company went through some serious financial troubles and was eventually sold to the CZ Group’s American branch in 2005.

The Valkyrie (top) in 9mm is a CCW-ready 1911, while the Silverback (below) in .45 ACP is a stunningly accurate beast.

They Make What?

While Dan Wesson might have earned its reputation for radical revolver designs, it in recent years has developed a solid line of high-quality 1911 pistols. So what do you do when you have a product name known for high quality and demanding standards, but that hasn’t found a good commercial following yet? Well, if you are CZ-USA, you double down on that quality and expand the line. The Dan Wesson series of 1911 pistols now has 28 models, available in a variety of calibers. And one lone wheelgun, just to keep things interesting. There is every shape and size of 1911 you can thing of, to cover competition, tactical, and CCW needs. And from what I can tell, the new Dan Wesson is poised to give any custom 1911 maker in the country a run for their money.

As an introduction to the line, I received two models of 1911, the Silverback in .45 ACP, and the Valkyrie in 9mm. Both pistols have proven to be extremely well built, and are shining examples of what an American-made 1911 can be.

The 9mm Valkyrie from Dan Wesson features an Officer’s-sized frame and a Commander-sized slide and barrel.

VALKYRIE

The 9mm Valkyrie is built on Dan Wesson’s new ECO frame. The ECO frame is a variation most similar to an Officer’s frame in size, that is to say it is a ½ inch shorter in the grip. Pretty much a good rule of life, Officers are a ½ inch shorter, at least. This frame is also aluminum, and was designed to really cut down on the weight of ole slabsides for a CCW piece. Rather than feature a 3-inch or 3.5-inch Officer’s-style barrel ( see what we did there?), the Valkyrie features a Commander-style 4-inch barrel. Dan Wesson refers to this as a CCO style, or Concealed Carry Officers. It is pretty much the best of both worlds, a long enough barrel to shoot accurately, and a lightweight and compact frame. The slightly shorter grip on the frame does help with concealment all out of proportion to what has been chopped, and the 4-inch slide and barrel balances very nicely.

The author really liked the shooting characteristics of the Valkyrie, despite its compact dimensions.

SPECS

  • Chambering: 9mm
  • Barrel: 4.25 inches
  • OA Length: 8 inches
  • Weight: 28.8 ounces
  • Frame: Forged aluminum
  • Grips: Micarta
  • Sights: tritium, Straight 8, fixed
  • Finish: Duty black nitride
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • MSRP: $2,012

The Valkyrie features all the bells and whistles one would expect from a full custom shop gun. The butt of the pistol has been rounded, to further help concealment. I have larger than normal hands, but still had no issues with acquiring a normal grip on the gun. The front strap and main spring housing have been checkered at 25 LPI, which provides a firm but gentle purchase. The grips are G10, cut with a block type pattern. They are both beautiful and functional. They are textured just enough to hold onto your palms, but not so grabby as to hold your clothing and print your gun. The beavertail safety is extended, which I feel is a must on a 1911. Not once in my shooting of the Valkyrie did I get the much-hated trigger that won’t pull. The trigger itself is a medium size trigger, making the gun usable for a variety of hand sizes. The trigger features the slightest bit of take-up, and then breaks smoothly at 4 pounds. This is obviously not as light as you can make a 1911 trigger, but it is a pretty good balance in a carry gun, and most people are going to be very happy with this set-up.

Rounding out the features on the lower half of the gun, the Valkyrie comes with a classic ring-style Commander hammer. This is a really nice touch, and it adds to the elegant look of the gun.

While Dan Wesson may have made its name with revolvers, today it is known primarily for its high-quality 1911 pistols like the Valkyrie.

The slide is tight, but not overly so. It takes a little pressure to get it moving, but once you do, it feels like ball bearings moving on glass. It is as smooth as the day is long. The barrel has been ball end mill cut, adding a very different look to the pistol. The front of the pistol also features “carry cuts” that reduce the slide overall width and provide a Hi Power look. The barrel feels like a hybrid bull barrel. It is still held in place by a barrel bushing, but is slightly bulged at the end. The sights are Trijicon, with the front a Novak-style snag free shape. The rear features a shelf built in to facilitate one hand manipulations. Instead of a three-dot style, these tritium sights are a “Straight 8” configuration. The big dot in the front goes on top of the little dot in the rear, which for night shooting is a very fast acquisition.

Takedown is classic 1911, with a few surprises. Not surprises in the steps you have to take, but with what you find. First, the gun is built to very tight tolerances. Lining up the slide stop to remove it is an exacting affair. It takes very little pressure to get it out once you do, but it has to be precise. A big surprise to me, the notch in the slide stop didn’t hang on the ball detent from the safety plunger tube, even though this is a new out of the box gun. I have owned dozens of 1911s, some very high quality, and they all snagged here the first 50 or so times you dissembled them. Third, this gun features a non full-length guide rod, the way John Moses Browning ( peace be upon him) intended. That is quite shocking for a pistol in this price point, but it tells me the engineers are very much paying attention. Most shooters think a full length guide rod adds to reliability, which it does not. I bet Dan Wesson hears about this from an uninformed gaggle of internet commandos, but points to them for sticking to a winning design.

The Silverback .45 ACP pistol is a two-tone tackdriver with adjustable sights.

SILVERBACK

The Silverback is currently the only two-tone 1911 in the Dan Wesson line up. It is a full-sized 1911 featuring a stainless steel slide, with the flats polished to a mirror-like finish. It is built to the same demanding tolerances as the flagship Valor series, and shares many features with its smaller Valkyrie cousin.

The author was shocked by the accuracy of the Silverback and had a hard time returning the pistol when the evaluation was over.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .45 ACP
  • Barrel: 5 inches
  • OA Length: 8.75 inches
  • Weight: 40.8 ounces
  • Frame: Steel
  • Grips: Micarta
  • Sights: Tritium, 3 dot, adjustable
  • Finish: Brushed stainless/ Duty black nitride
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • MSRP: $1,883

The similarities with the Valkyrie include the 25 LPI checkering fore and aft on the grip, ball end mill cut barrel, and an incredible fit of all the components. Being a full-size duty gun, however, the Silverback has some important differences.

The front sight on the Silverback is also a fixed Novak style, but the rear sight is an adjustable two dot set up. It is adjustable for both windage and elevation, allowing you to tune this gun to your shooting style and/or ammo out of the box. The rear sight also has machined-in serrations to cut down on glare. The trigger is a long model, with a serrated face. It also has two triangular cut outs top and bottom, resembling an hour glass, giving the Silverback a distinctive look. The Silverback retains a square shape to the butt of the pistol, a more traditional look. The hammer on this model is skeletonized, both for weight reduction and to keep the lines clean aesthetically. It also has a Clark style top rib on the slide to further reduce glare. Finally, the Silverback features full thickness G10 Micarta grips, which round out the package nicely.

The author was truly impressed by both Dan Wesson pistols during his testing of them.

Conclusion

These 1911s are not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but you get a lot for your money. The Silverback is hands down the most accurate pistol I have ever picked up, it makes even my attempts at bullseye shooting look good. The Valkyrie is a marvelous carry piece, if it fits your style. I am not even a 1911 guy and I want to keep these. You know, from the moment you open the box, when you have something special. And these are something special.

For more information, visit http://cz-usa.com/product-category/danwesson/.

To purchase a Dan Wesson 1911 on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=Dan%20Wesson%201911.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • PaulWVa April 10, 2017, 9:56 pm

    They look like nice 1911s for sure and I use to own a DW .357 that I wish I had back. At half the price of a Nighthawk or Wilson the DW looks good but at twice the price of the new Kimber Target II, 9mm. I just bought I think I’ll pass …for now anyway.

  • Rich. April 10, 2017, 12:07 pm

    2000.00 for a 1911. Your paying for his name. But I wont. RIA GI 45, 400.-500.00. Or ATI GI 45, 350.00 400.00. That’s just me.

  • Bob Pauli April 10, 2017, 10:12 am

    Need to give credit where due, Bob Serva started the 1911 series under the DW name, he sold to CZ.
    I proudly own one of his Patriot Experts SS 45ACP match grade. I have shot it in matches for years and never disappoints.

  • Mark N. April 10, 2017, 2:48 am

    Do Wessons usually run heavy? I note the Valkyrie gun is 1.8 oz heavier than my .45 cal. Kimber (with aluminum frame and 4″ barrel), and the Silverback is about 2 oz. heavier than the typical full size 1911. Also, that’s not much of a bob on the tail of the Valkyrie; my biggest beef with carrying a 1911 is the tail sticking in my ribs!

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