Buy one on GunsAmerica: /dan wesson heritage
Check it out at CZ: DW RZ–Heritage .45 ACP
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.
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.
- .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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.