Review: Dan Wesson Vigil 1911

Review: Dan Wesson Vigil 1911
It never ceases to amaze me how versatile the venerable Model 1911 is. It covers every handgunning task from small-game hunting (see Layne Simpson’s report on converting a .45 ACP 1911 to .22 LR elsewhere in this issue) through competition shooting to everyday carry (see Layne’s other report in this issue on Springfield’s new micro-1911). The new Dan Wesson Vigil 1911s are particularly suited to defensive applications, and the CCO version that’s featured here has the high quality Dan Wesson is known for but at a lower cost than the company’s other fine 1911s.

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The Vigil CCO comes with Dan Wesson’s matte black Duty finish, but its barrel bushing is natural stainless steel. The barrel’s muzzle is precision crowned.

Dan Wesson has been building handguns for 50 years and top-quality 1911s since 1997. CZ-USA took over the marketing and distribution of Dan Wesson handguns in 2005, and the quality, feature sets, and reliability of the guns have gotten better since then. The new-for-2018 Vigil line was created to provide a top-notch Model 1911 at a lower price. In the words of CZ-USA Marketing Coordinator Danae Hale, despite the Vigil pistols’ lower prices, “these guns go through the same manufacturing process as our other pistols, handfit using quality non-MIM parts.”

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The Vigil CCO features a 4.25-inch, match-grade barrel; a standard recoil spring guide rod assembly; a forged aluminum Officer’s-size frame; and textured cocobolo wood grips.

The Vigil CCO

The new Dan Wesson Vigil CCO (MSRP: $1,298) is what I refer to as a hybrid 1911. It has a Commander-length barrel (4.25 inches) and slide paired with an Officer’s ACP grip frame. The Officer’s grip frame is shorter than the standard Government Model, making it more concealable, but with the Commander-length barrel/slide, the pistol is more manageable to shoot than the traditional Officer’s Model that typically comes with a 3.0- to 3.5-inch barrel. Obviously, the magazines are shorter, so the capacity is less. The Vigil CCO’s magazines hold seven rounds of .45 ACP and eight rounds of 9mm. (I have the .45 ACP version.) And since the Vigil CCO’s frame is forged aluminum, the pistol is lighter in weight, again making it better suited to carrying concealed.

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The chamber of the ramped barrel on my .45 ACP pistol is throated and polished, and the barrel-bushing-to-slide fit is nice and tight. The barrel’s muzzle is precision crowned, and the recoil spring guide assembly is the standard style.

There are nine rear grasping grooves on the slide, and each measures 0.08 inch wide. The ejection port is flared and lowered. The slide’s top is rounded, and the front and rear sights are dovetailed into the slide.

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The rear sight is a dovetailed tactical type with horizontal striations on the all-black face. The post front sight is also dovetailed into the slide, and it has a large tritium dot that’s surrounded by a white ring.

Speaking of the sights, the front has a tritium dot that’s surrounded by a white ring. The rear is all black with fine horizontal striations and is secured in place by an Allen-head setscrew. The front post is 0.130 inch thick and the square rear notch is 0.136 inch wide, making for a quick-to-acquire sight picture. The sight radius is 5.9 inches. A nice touch is the rear sight is shaped so as to allow a shooter to rack the slide by pushing the sight against something solid, such as the shooter’s belt.

The aluminum frame is matte black and has a checkered frontstrap, 25 lines per inch. The rear of the frame is slightly rounded, and so is the bottom of the mainspring housing. The mainspring housing is checkered to match the frontstrap. Along with the textured cocobolo wood grip panels, the checkered frontstrap and mainspring housing provide a very secure grip. I had no trouble with the pistol shifting in my hand while shooting even on hot, humid Midwestern afternoons.

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The manual thumb safety is standard rather than ambidextrous, and it is extended. The magazine release button is extended and checkered. The beavertail grip safety is smooth without a memory bump. The hammer is skeletonized, and so is the trigger. In addition, the face of the trigger has vertical striations, and the trigger has an overtravel adjustment screw, although I didn’t need to make any adjustments because the pistol came from the factory with no detectable overtravel whatsoever. There was a slight amount of take-up, which is normal for a 1911, but the trigger pull was smooth, crisp, and consistent.

According to my RCBS trigger pull scale, the trigger on my Vigil CCO measured a consistent 4 pounds, 4 ounces with less than 4 ounces of variation from pull to pull for five measurements. Obviously, that’s extremely consistent.

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The frontstrap is checkered 25 lines per inch and so is the mainspring housing. Note the mainspring housing’s rounded bottom.

The Vigil CCO’s black finish is called Duty. According to Dan Wesson, this finish is a revolutionary treatment process that actually bonds to the components, in effect creating a super-durable matte black skin, and is superior to any of the spray-and-bake finishes a lot of gun companies use.

The barrel bushing and recoil spring guide rod plug are finished in natural stainless, and the aluminum trigger finger piece is matte silver. The stainless-steel magazines have flat followers and unnumbered witness holes. The bases are drilled and tapped for bumper pads. And the magazines are marked “DW,” “.45 ACP,” and “Made in USA.” The pistol comes with two magazines.

Premium Performer

I first fired the Vigil CCO from the bench over a sandbag rest with seven .45 ACP factory loads with bullet weights ranging from 185 through 200 to 230 grains and in style from SWC through FMJ to JHP to gather velocity data. The results are listed in the accompanying chart. The pistol functioned perfectly and produced velocity values as I expected. In other words, there were no surprises. I will mention that the Black Hills 200-grain SWC ammunition produced the lowest extreme spread and standard deviation numbers, which indicates the ammo is very consistent.

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The aluminum trigger is skeletonized, has vertical striations on its face, and is adjustable for overtravel. The sample pistol’s trigger pull averaged 4.25 pounds with very little variance from pull to pull.

With that portion competed, I removed the grip panels and mounted the pistol in my Ransom Rest and fired three, five-shot groups with each of the seven factory loads for accuracy at 25 yards. I really like shooting 1911s, but I firmly believe shooting for accuracy mounted in a Ransom Rest is a fairer assessment of the gun’s accuracy potential because it removes the human factor. The pistol was pleasingly accurate with all loads, and its best average accuracy came with the Federal Gold Medal Match FMJ, which averaged 2.34 inches. Overall average accuracy at 25 yards with all loads was 2.68 inches.

When the shooting for accuracy was completed, I put the grips back on and banged away at steel plates and bouncing ball targets. The Vigil CCO was well balanced and easy to shoot well. Using a technique that Shooting Times writer Layne Simpson is fond of, I fired the Vigil CCO left side up, left side down, and upside down. It didn’t miss a beat. All in all, the Vigil CCO is a very nice 1911.

Perhaps the best news of all is that the Vigil CCO carries a retail price of $1,298. That is a substantial amount of money, but it’s nearly $850 less than the top-of-the-line Dan Wesson Discretion 1911 and $715 less than the equally high-quality Dan Wesson Specialist Commander. Granted, the Vigil CCO doesn’t have all the same features as the Discretion or the Specialist Commander, but it has the most important quality: performance. Compared to the Dan Wesson Discretion I tested two years ago and the Specialist Commander I tested a year ago, the Vigil CCO was every bit as accurate. I’d say it’s a premium performer without the premium price.
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