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Handguns

Dan Wesson Revolvers Return

by G&A Staff   |  January 3rd, 2011 25

CZ-USA has launched a major reintroduction of the Dan Wesson revolver line, beginning with its most classic configurations.


CZ-USA President Alice Poluchova (T) and the author put new Dan Wesson revolvers in .445 SuperMag and .357 Mag. to an exclusive field test in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa.

Way back in the 1980s Dan Wesson Arms produced some of the finest, most accurate, and popular large- and medium-frame revolvers ever made in America. In the demanding sport of handgun metallic shooting–where competitors are required to use open sights to knock down life-size, heavy steel (up to 60 pounds) representations of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and desert bighorns out to 200 meters–Dan Wesson revolvers literally owned the ranges.

Dan Wesson revolvers regularly captured 70 to 80 percent of the top places in the highest categories of these competitions year after year at local, state, regional, and national matches and at the annual International Championships. Dan Wesson revolvers still hold more records and titles in that sport than all other makes of revolvers combined.

Despite this record of success, however, Dan Wesson was a small company as compared to other famous-name handgun makers, and during the 1990s it fell on hard times. It went through a series of largely unsuccessful financial reorganizations and ownership changes with relocations of factories and erratic production, and it fell pretty much off the firearms industry radar except for die-hard long-range revolver fans. That’s about to change.

Last winter the Dan Wesson Firearms Co. was purchased lock, stock, and barrel by CZ-USA (Dept. ST, 3327 N. 7th St., Kansas City, KS 66115; 800-955-4486; www.cz-usa.com), the international powerhouse purveyor of some of the world’s finest hunting rifles and shotguns and the classic CZ75 pistol design. Beginning this year, CZ is launching a major reintroduction of the Dan Wesson revolver line, beginning with its most classic configurations and chamberings.

The new offerings include the Model 7445 Alaskan Guide Special, with four-inch compensated barrel and matte black “Yukon Coat” stainless-steel finish; the Model 7445 Tactical Revolver, with four-inch barrel and tactical accessories rail; the Model 7445 VH8, with eight-inch barrel, adjustable sights, and scope mount base; the Model 7445 VH8 Safari with special presentation case and both rubber and rosewood grips; and the Pistol Pack with four-, six-, and eight-inch barrels and English-style presentation case.

I’ve been a fan of the Dan Wesson revolver design for many years. I was privileged to know company founder Dan Wesson, as well as his family, and had the opportunity to consult in the development of several classic Dan Wesson models and chamberings. In November 1980 the company sent me the very first preproduction version of the .44 Magnum Dan Wesson Model 44 in a “Pistol Pac” with six- and eight-inch barrels.


DAN WESSON REVOLVER SPECS
MODEL: 7445 Alaskan Guide Special 7445 Tactical Revolver 7445 VH8 7445 VH8 Safari Pistol Pack
OPERATION DA DA DA DA DA
CALIBER: .445 SuperMag .445 SuperMag .445 SuperMag .445 SuperMag Various Dan Wesson chamberings
BARREL LENGTH: 4 inches 4 inches 8 inches 8 inches 4. 6. 8 inches
SIGHTS: Adj. white-outline rear; inter-
changeable front
Adj. white-outline rear; inter-
changeable front
Adj. white-outline rear; inter-
changeable front
Adj. white-outline rear; inter-
changeable front
Adj. white-outline rear; inter-
changeable front
STOCKS: Rubber Rubber Hardwood Hardwood Rubber; rosewood
CYLINDER CAPACITY: 6 rounds 6 rounds 6 rounds 6 rounds 6 rounds
FINISH: Matte black “Yukon Coat” stainless steel Matte black “Yukon Coat” stainless steel Polished stainless Polished stainless Polished stainless
PRICE: $1295 $1395 $1070 $1795 NA
NOTE: All Dan Wesson revolvers feature the interchangeable barrel system

On a cold, wet, miserably dreary day I took it out and proceeded to shoot a 1.12-inch five-shot group at 50 meters from the eight-inch VH barrel
with open sights from a sandbag rest using S&W 240-grain JHP ammo (no longer manufactured). That would be a good result even with a scoped single-shot pistol.

Why does this system give Dan Wesson revolvers an accuracy edge? All firearm barrels flex, whip, and vibrate as bullets pass down their bores in discharge. Conventional revolver barrels attach only the breech end of the barrel to the receiver or frame; the other end is left hanging.


(Top) Original Dan Wesson Model 445 V10 (Circa 1988) (Bottom) New CZ-USA Dan Wesson Model 7445 VH8 (Circa 2005)

It doesn’t matter how big, fat, and heavy the forward portion of the barrel may be; the only secure point is the thin-diameter threaded part that screws into the frame. By contrast, the straight, tubular Dan Wesson barrel is held in place at both ends–screwed into the frame at the breech and locked at the muzzle by the enclosing shroud and barrel nut.

The result is a more secure foundation, less barrel vibration, and less variation in the flexing of the barrel from round to round. The result, at the longer ranges where it shows and where it matters, is superior accuracy and superior ability to withstand continuous heavy-load stress.

There are other Dan Wesson design features that the company’s technical staff say contribute to their guns’ accuracy and endurance. One is the width of the barrel/cylinder gap, which can be carefully and precisely controlled–and altered–by carefully screwing the barrel in or out until optimal performance is reached. Another factor is the cylinder/crane assembly that locks shut to the frame by a latch in the crane itself–as opposed to a latch at the rear of the cylinder alone (like Colt) or at the rear of the cylinder and the front of the ejector rod (like a typical S&W).

The benefit of the crane-latch system (pioneered by the S&W Triple Lock .44 Special revolvers at the beginning of the century and then abandoned by that firm) is that it holds the crane tightly against the frame in firing. Systems that latch the crane only at the rear or in conjunction with the tip of the ejector rod allow the crane to move slightly away from the frame under stress.

This results in variations in chamber alignment with the bore at the moment of truth and loss of consistency in round-to-round accuracy. Sustained use of such latching mechanisms merely increases the amount of play and slop in their system.

Still other important ingredients in the accuracy and durability of the Dan Wesson system include the use of a one-piece sideplate-free frame and modular construction on all large-frame big-bore magnum models, broached rifling for more crisp edges to the lands and grooves for better “bite” on the bullet, and “choke bored” barrels.

A choke-bored barrel is slightly larger in actual bore diameter at the breech than at the muzzle. This results in an increasingly tight bullet engagement with the rifling as it moves toward the muzzle. By deliberately choke-boring barrels, a manufacturer ensures that a barrel bore will not actually wind up being a little bit bigger at the muzzle than the breech. If it were, the barrel would be “looser” around the bullet the farther along it moved, and rifling stabilization would diminish.

Why does this system give Dan Wesson revolvers an accuracy edge? All firearm barrels flex, whip, and vibrate as bullets pass down their bores in discharge. Conventional revolver barrels attach only the breech end of the barrel to the receiver or frame; the other end is left hanging.

It doesn’t matter how big, fat, and heavy the forward portion of the barrel may be; the only secure point is the thin-diameter threaded part that screws into the frame. By contrast, the straight, tubular Dan Wesson barrel is held in place at both ends–screwed into the frame at the breech and locked at the muzzle by the enclosing shroud and barrel nut.

The result is a more secure foundation, less barrel vibration, and less variation in the flexing of the barrel from round to round. The result, at the longer ranges where it shows and where it matters, is superior accuracy and superior ability to withstand continuous heavy-load stress.

There are other Dan Wesson design features that the company’s technical staff say contribute to their guns’ accuracy and endurance. One is the width of the barrel/cylinder gap, which can be carefully and precisely controlled–and altered–by carefully screwing the barrel in or out until optimal performance is reached. Another factor is the cylinder/crane assembly that locks shut to the frame by a latch in the crane itself–as opposed to a latch at the rear of the cylinder alone (like Colt) or at the rear of the cylinder and the front of the ejector rod (like a typical S&W).

The benefit of the crane-latch system (pioneered by the S&W Triple Lock .44 Special revolvers at the beginning of the century and then abandoned by that firm) is that it holds the crane tightly against the frame in firing. Systems that latch the crane only at the rear or in conjunction with the tip of the ejector rod allow the crane to move slightly away from the frame under stress.

This results in variations in chamber alignment with the bore at the moment of truth and loss of consistency in round-to-round accuracy. Sustained use of such latching mechanisms merely increases the amount of play and slop in their system.

Still other important ingredients in the accuracy and durability of the Dan Wesson system include the use of a one-piece sideplate-free frame and modular construction on all large-frame big-bore magnum models, broached rifling for more crisp edges to the lands and grooves for better “bite” on the bullet, and “choke bored” barrels.

A choke-bored barrel is slightly larger in actual bore diameter at the breech than at the muzzle. This results in an increasingly tight bullet engagement with the rifling as it moves toward the muzzle. By deliberately choke-boring barrels, a manufacturer ensures that a barrel bore will not actually wind up being a little bit bigger at the muzzle than the breech. If it were, the barrel would be “looser” around the bullet the farther along it moved, and rifling stabilization would diminish.

None of these individual features–save the screw-in barrel system–are unique to Dan Wesson revolvers. Other companies have broached rifling and choke-bored barrels. Other companies utilize sideplate-free, solid-frame modular construction. Other companies’ revolvers latch their cylinder assemblies at the crane (Ruger’s Redhawk and GP-100 Series revolvers are noteworthy examples).


new revolvers from CZ
will be chambered initially for .445 SuperMag and will feature the interchangeable barrel system and cylinder/crane lockup of the original Dan Wesson design.

But no manufacturer other than Dan Wesson has combined all these modern and innovative design elements into one refined revolver package, and the results are obvious. No other revolver manufacturer offers the same level of overall performance confidence with an average store-bought, off-the-shelf, regular-production gun.

With the performance comes the versatility, which is also a basic result of the interchangeable-barrel system. Think about it: one gun with as many different barrel lengths and styles as you care to put on it. If you want a multipurpose fixed-barrel revolver, you have no choice but to compromise.

If your uses are weighted toward the short side, you have to get a four-incher; if your uses are weighted toward the long side, a six-incher. Barrels that are shorter or longer than those two are special-purpose only and not for “general use.” But with a Dan Wesson, you can get one gun and as many different specific-purpose barrel lengths as you need. No compromises or tradeoff choices are necessary. Depending on the caliber you select, available Dan Wesson barrel lengths have run from 21/2 inches to 15 inches.

The range of Dan Wesson calibers has included blued “carbon” (chrome-moly) steel and stainless-steel models in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, .32 H&R Magnum, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum, all in a medium-size format with sideplated frame. The large-size, solid-frame model list has included blued and stainless versions in .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .357 SuperMag, and, at the upper reaches of revolver power, the .375 SuperMag and .445 SuperMag (0.3 inch longer than a standard .44 Magnum case). From plinking and small-game cartridges through law enforcement and defense to serious competition shooting to the biggest of handgun big-game loads, not much is missing.

Plus, there is a variety of shroud styles for nearly every barrel length. The standard (S) shroud has a short underlug ejector-rod housing and a solid top rib. The vented (V) shroud has the same profile as the standard shroud but features a vented top rib. The vent-heavy (VH) shroud has a vented top rib and a solid steel full-length underlug. These interchangeable shrouds allow you to easily use and switch different sight systems on the same barrel.

With one six-inch V shroud you might use standard metallic sights and then set up a different six-inch VH shroud with an Aimpoint electronic sight for action-shooting competition. Or set up an eight-inch or 10-inch shroud with a 1.5-4X or 2-7X variable-power scope for hunting and keep an open-sighted eight-inch shroud handy for other purposes.

The front sight blades on all the shrouds are also interchangeable. Red-insert ramp style is standard, but you can get yellow or a plain black Patridge-type competition blade.

And grip styles are interchangeable, too. Yes, I know that grips are interchangeable on nearly all handguns, but Dan Wesson goes a little further than most. On most traditional-form fixed-barrel revolvers from other manufacturers, a “full-profile” grip frame is used. That is, the grip frame is itself the size of the full outline of a standard-type grip, which consists of two panels or a two-piece wraparound unit. This limits the size and shape of the grips themselves. Square butts are square butts, round butts are round butts, and there is very little versatility.


The new revolvers performed as well as Dick’s original Dan Wesson in the African hunting fields. Irlene Mandrell (L) dropped a trophy springbok with one shot from the new .357 Mag. revolver, and Dick took this warthog with his vintage .445 SuperMag gun.

On Dan Wesson revolvers, the “grip frame” is a small stud protruding down from the rear of the frame body with a single threaded grip attachment at its base. It allows for nearly unlimited versatility in size and shape of grip configuration. And that makes a lot of sense when you realize that the same basic Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolver frame might be used one day for deer hunting with a scoped 10-inch VH barrel and used the next day with a 21/2-inch barrel for police duty.

With the wood and rubber accessory grips that Dan Wesson offers, you can equip those setups with an oversize two-hand unit for the heavy scoped version and switch to a sleek little roundbutt service style for the short-barreled form. Is there a Dan Wesson setup that will suit your particular handgunning purposes? I’d be surprised if there weren’t.

The Old & The New Compared
In Africa the first thing we did was sit down at the Professional Hunter’s outdoor range and do a side-by-side session with my tried-and-true Model 445S and the new version Model 445S that Poluchova had brought along. We used 240-grain JHP and 300-grain JSP .445 SuperMag ammunition that CZ is having commercially loaded and marketed under the Dan Wesson label, as no mainstream ammomakers as yet offer it.

With 4X scope settings, both revolvers shot about 1.5 inches at 100 yards. No difference I could see at all between the old gun and the new gun–except that mine was two inches longer and had a slightly crisper, personally tuned, trigger pull than Poluchova’s current eight-inch, heavy shroud version.

Using the 240-grain ammo I used her gun to evening-stalk a trophy-grade (but nonetheless diminutive) Steenbok antelope to about 75 yards and shot it chest-on, for full penetration and exit out the hip. It went down in place–performance like you’d expect from a 20-percent more energetic .44 Magnum-caliber load. The next day I also shot a small warthog that had gotten on the wrong side of a farmer’s fence, using my own .445

SuperMag (I couldn’t resist the nostalgic appeal). At 125 yards broadside, he went flat from the full-penetrating impact. Two days later Irlene Mandrell, CZ’s celebrity spokesperson, dropped a trophy springbok at about 150 yards with one shot using a scoped Dan Wesson .357 Magnum.

I am delighted that the great Dan Wesson revolver design will be reentering the mainstream. The CZ-USA people are all serious hunters and shooters and are committed to putting this superb tool back in front of serious handgunners. I’m particularly happy that one of the initial models on the resurrection list is the Alaskan Guide version of the stainless Model 445: a four-inch, compensated version with Hogue grips and a matte black finish, designed as a dangerous-game companion sidearm for wilderness security. Dig up some previous Dan Wesson catalogs and see if there’s a chambering or a configuration that interests you. Then let the folks at CZ-USA know. They can make just about anything if there’s customer interest.

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