Dan Wesson TCP – Elegance Goes Tactical

Transmission Control Protocol. That’s what TCP stands for in the world where I’ve spent a large part of my career. That’s a computer networking term, but the words themselves could just as easily be re-fitted to apply to a quality handgun. The transmission of energy from a .45ACP cartridge to the intended target, which requires proper control. Dan Wesson has provided the perfect protocol for this. Okay, what it really stands for is Tactical Commander Pistol, for those who don’t work in IT.

Available in 9mm and 45ACP, the TCP is a 1911 designed handgun in a ‘commander’ sized package. That is, a barrel in the 4” range with a full-sized vertical grip and magazine capacity and shortened frame and slide. Our sample arrived in .45 ACP, and that was just fine with me.

The TCP is finished in all flat black and would be invisible in low light except for the glint of the stainless-steel barrel and the brass bead in the front sight. The pistol is also sparsely decorated – and by sparsely, I mean not at all. The flats of the slide are unadorned, except for a small “TCP” engraved just above the slide stop. A lot of imperfections and flaws can be camouflaged beneath large and busy roll-marks, but that is not the case here – for there are not only no flaws to hide, but a beautifully brushed texture to show off. Front serrations on the slide, which are all the rage these days, have been omitted on the TCP – and thankfully so. The five nicely cut grip points to the rear suffice, and the elegance of the pistol remains the focus. This may defy the “Tactical” part of the gun’s name, but this author appreciates the simplicity and eye-appealing smoothness.

Into the monolithic black slide are mounted front and rear sights of high quality, both in dovetail slots. The rear sight sits low and rises flush with the rear of the slide – maximizing the sight radius. The U-notch is flanked by matte black serrations that remove glare and offer no visual distraction. The front sight is a traditional blade, with one difference not seen often today – a solid brass bead insert. That “bead” is really a small brass rod that is press-fitted into a hole in the sight blade, in the same way a tritium insert would be. The rear sight has a squared front edge suitable for use as a catch point to manually reciprocate the slide in an emergency. It is also drift adjustable for windage, with a small set screw to keep it locked in position. Between those two sights is a long run of finely serrated cuts, bisected only by the ejection port. That serrated top rib is also designed to reduce any glare that could be caused by an otherwise smooth top. Dan Wesson chose an angular cut slide rather than a round-top for the TCP, which also helps reduce glare, and more importantly – looks fantastic. The designers at Dan Wesson also chose an intern extractor for the TCP, which helps keep that slab-sided look intact.

Moving down, the frame of the TCP is equally matched, with the matte black finish over its aluminum alloy surface. The dust cover is fitted out with a Picatinny/Weaver style rail section for mounting a tactical light, laser, or similar device. The TCP is fitted with a right-hand-only (left side of frame) manual safety, and of course a grip safety. The manual safety switch is narrower than found on some other ‘tactical’ style 1911’s, which keeps the overall width of the pistol minimized while providing perfectly adequate operation. The safety is quite stiff from the factory – a preference that this writer agrees with – but not to worry, in just the time it took to test this copy and fire a few hundred rounds it had broken in nicely. It has a clear and notable ‘click’ and tactile response in both directions, requiring the user to intend to engage or disengage the safety. High marks for this. The grip safety is standard fare, with smooth memory bump. It functions easily and smoothly, as a grip safety should. Just below the grip safety, the mainspring housing has 25-LPI checkering.

Around the front, you will find the same 25-LPI checkering on the front strap, which leads upward to the undercut section below the trigger guard. The stocks on the TCP are made of G10 material and are a new design for this pistol. The texture is reminiscent of a basket weave, with well-raised slats in a diagonal pattern. The grip provided is very good, without any discomfort or biting that some G10 panels induce. The shape of the grips is interesting, in that it is a flat centered panel with tapered front and rear ‘wings’. This angular approach takes its cue from the shape of the side and forms the partnership between the upper and lower halves of the gun. In addition to clever design, it is also quite functional, in that the tapered front and rear of the panels reduces the width of the pistol’s grip and adds comfort and ergonomic value for the shooter.

Those with smaller hands will appreciate that the G10 stocks are also tapered from bottom to top – the latter being reduced in thickness to offer a better trigger reach, as well as optimal access to the safety switch and magazine release button. Where the panel thickens at the bottom, it meets a one-piece extended magazine well that gives the tactical shooter a funnel for stuffing in reloads. Dan Wesson supplies two 8-round magazines with the gun – branded with the Dan Wesson name. I used a half-dozen different brands of magazine during testing, and as with most 1911’s, it liked some and didn’t like some – but the Dan Wesson magazines were flawless.

The trigger in the TCP is a “K” style, flat-faced trigger with adjustable stop. As if the design team hadn’t already knocked it out of the park with this handgun, the trigger has a fascinating finish that, when viewed close up, resembles the patina of aged and cracked paint. It is, of course, neither of those – but the attention to detail is well appreciated. As is the feel of this trigger. The trigger face is vertically serrated for positive contact to the finger. The pull is silky smooth, with just the faintest hint that the trigger bow is moving inside the frame. It breaks at around 3 ½ lbs. – which is just about as light as you’d want for a carry gun. Reset is extremely short with great feedback and absolutely zero creep. I expect a very good trigger in a top-shelf production handgun, and Dan Wesson does not disappoint. Magazine release button is slightly extended, well checkered, and works smoothly.

Under the hood, the TCP is just as impressive as its designer exterior. The four-inch bull barrel is match grade, and tapered/flared for a bushingless assembly. Lockup is drum tight. Paired with the barrel is a Bob Marvel style recoil spring/guide rod assembly. It uses a full-length steel guide rod inside a single flat-wire spring, which rides inside a bushing/sleeve. Flat wire recoil springs offer several advantages over traditional coiled and even dual coiled springs. The first is a longer life – up to three or four times longer. The second is that a flat spring is a far more consistent resistance mechanism and does not need to ‘build up resistance’ as it compresses like traditional springs do.

SHOOTING THE TCP

Testing the Dan Wesson TCP spanned several trips to the range and a total of about 300 rounds of ammo. If you have never purchased a very well made 1911 brand new, it is important to understand that most require some break-in. The tight tolerances of a modern match-grade 1911 means that some of the parts need some repetitions to wear-in together and ‘self-fit’. This was true with the TCP, as the first few magazines fired had some failures to feed properly or go fully into battery. This occurred with a variety of ammo and magazines, and quickly tapered off and eventually stopped. Once it crossed the line of break-in, it ran like a top – as long as I used the Dan Wesson magazines. As previously mentioned, this is the standard caveat of most 1911s – they can be magazine finicky. The most common ailment with other mags was a failure to lock the slide back after the last round. You can see some break-in footage in the video – not edited out, so the whole experience is shared with you. I think it is important to share this because many new gun owners do not realize the need for a break-in process with some guns.

After the short break-in, the TCP was a complete joy to shoot. It has the pleasing balance of the full-capacity but shorter barrel configuration, and the ergonomics of this Dan Wesson are excellent. The G10 stocks along with the front and rear grip checkering keep this gun planted firmly in your hand, even during very rapid fire. The sights are well suited for fast acquisition as well as sustained aiming, with the brass bead providing a nice focal point. Recoil is nicely managed by the spring, which helps keep follow-up shots on target.

To test accuracy, I retreated to 25 yards and used a precision rest. Four groups of five shots each yielded good average results. As I always do, I included the group size of the three best shots – which helps eliminate shooter-induced variables. Each of those was under 1 ¼”, with all but one inside an inch. However, what I found most impressive was my ability to stand and deliver three magazines in a row, offhand beyond ten yards – all into one ragged-hole group.

JUST MY OPINION

The short break-in with this TCP reminded me how conditioned we have all become to the cookie-cutter-polymer guns, mass-produced with tolerances that often tend toward the lowest common denominator. I re-learned a little patience, and it was worth it. When you buy a new performance car, and they tell you to keep the RPMs down for the first 1000 miles, it can feel excruciating. The same goes for a short break-in with a new 1911. I had almost decided not to like this gun but stuck with it for the first box of ammo. And as if a switch were flipped on, after that short break-in it was ready to go and handled everything I fed it. And it didn’t just handle the ammo – it shot everything accurately. I credit this pistol for letting me do my best – the ergonomics, sights, and best of all the trigger allowed me to shoot well. I consistently say that I try to judge a gun by how well I can shoot it, not by specs and rested accuracy results. On that scale, it has excelled. And that, my friends, is what we want from a top-shelf 1911 handgun – and it’s what Dan Wesson delivers with the TCP. Faced with the prospect of returning this gun back to Dan Wesson, I realized just how good it is – and opted to send them a check instead.

For more information visit Dan Wesson website.

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Don October 23, 2020, 1:26 pm

    The very consistent 2.4″ five shot groups from a “precision rest” at 25 yds. is disappointing from a gun as nice as this. Then the author wrote the last paragraph where he sounded like the gun turned the corner after break-in, but no, the groups didn’t tighten up any. That makes this one a bit easier to pass up (and I own a DW ECP model). After three shots under an inch, what causes two more shots to open up a group that much? Did this “precision rest” still have a human holding the gun and pulling the trigger?

  • PAT J October 19, 2020, 3:00 pm

    Dan Wessons always cost about an ounce of gold and are always worth it.
    My DWs are my only non-Glocks, and I often carry a V-BOB,
    Only own .45s, never fired a Wesson 9mm.

  • Leonard Stephen October 19, 2020, 2:54 pm

    It’s too expensive. Dan Wesson changes things around just a bit, but does nothing really special. When I buy a 1911 style gun, I fire a few rounds, then take it to a gunsmith for a trigger job. After a few thousand rounds, it goes back to the gunshop to see if anything got loose. I change the sights or tighten the slide, and get it to run like butter on a bunch of popcorn, and it costs me less, even with the accessories I put on.
    Now, if this was offered in another caliber, it might be a “have to have,” but there are smoother 9 mm guns out there and I already own a few .45s.

  • John Saunders October 19, 2020, 12:08 pm

    I own this gun in a 9mm, I would have to say it’s as good as it gets! I have many hand built and high end 1911s, none shoot any better than the TCP!

  • Lee Collins October 19, 2020, 8:09 am

    While the author allow for a “break-in” period, I do not. Spending this type of money on a quality 1911 should means that it has already been broke in. While I agree that final finish work on a quality well fit 1911 requires the “break in”, Nighthawk should complete this process prior to final finish work and selling pistol. The purchaser should not be expected to finish the manufacture of the firearm along with the cost of ammo to do so.

    • Jim October 19, 2020, 11:17 pm

      so you want them to break the gun in and sale used firearms?

    • DELCO October 23, 2020, 11:27 am

      Lee Collins WHAT ? Not be expected to have a break in period. Come on Lee. If that is your concern about such a well made 1911. Those first few mags that you feed not only an individual build like a DW but even an assembly line build , are not going to affect overall functionality, but are necessary. Tell us lee Collins in your expert opinion, what is the proper number of rounds that is except able to you before purchasing? Do you want a few hundred rounds to have been fired before you receive your gun lee? Are you going to ask for a discount then saying it’s a used firearm? If you get a new car do you stomp on the pedal before having a few miles on it. Or so you want the dealership to take your new vehicle for a few test drives and put a quick few thousand miles on it. On top of it all that brake in Period is fun, and helps the overall feel become personal.

  • Tracy Crocker October 19, 2020, 8:08 am

    I have been on the fence about this pistol for quite some time, but I believe you have summed it up for me. I haven’t owned a 1911 in a few years now but really think this is the best pistol for me and my budget as well. Many thanks!

  • Justin Opinion October 18, 2020, 2:08 pm

    BTW – in paragraph four, that should be “internal” extractor, rather than an extractor that is still in college, but trying to get some practical experience between semesters. 😉 J.O.

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