By Todd Burgreen
John Browning’s 1911 pistol is an icon and the 100 year old design is still going strong after its adoption by the U.S. military. Mr. Browning would surely take satisfaction in the fact that military units with a choice in the matter still choose to carry his design into harm’s way over any others. 1911 manufacturers have never been more plentiful. The 1994 Clinton magazine ban helped prompt the 1911’s resurgence in popularity. It is easy to understand why when comparing 10 rounds of 9mm versus a similar number of .45 ACP. What better platform for the .45 ACP than the 1911. Its slim frame width makes it an ideal carry gun and single action trigger promotes accurate shooting. It is not intended here to rehash all the well known 1911 design characteristics only to point out a particular manufacturer is quietly creating a loyal following due to its quality and grounded approach in making its homage to the 1911 design lineage.
In 2000, Dan Wesson started working on the development of a 1911 style pistol. The objective for this product line was the same as Dan Wesson revolvers: to be the most accurate and reliable out of the box 1911s on the market with features dictated by listening to feedback from customers. Dan Wesson became part of the CZ group of companies in 2005. CZ is the largest firearms producer in the world. Operating under the CZ corporate umbrella gave Dan Wesson the financial backing and corporate resources to once again pursue the quality products Dan Wesson was known for with its innovative revolvers in the 1980s.
In the stainless steel Valor model, Dan Wesson has turned its attention to creating its version of the classic full size Government Model 1911. While offering shorter, more compact 1911s in this age of concealed carry, the full size DW Valor attracts attention with its all business air. The DW Valor measures a total of 8.8 inches long and 5.5 inches high. The Valor weighs 2.4 pounds thanks to its use of stainless steel in its frame and slide. The Dan Wesson 1911s are “Made in the USA” at Dan Wesson’s Norwich, New York facility. The Dan Wesson Valor being reviewed herein combines the time proven .45 ACP cartridge with a carry platform that benefits from nearly a century of refinement. The association between the .45 ACP cartridge and the 1911 platform is seamless. Many may forget that Browning is not only creator of what many feel is the ideal handgun in the form of the 1911, but also the designer of the .45 ACP cartridge. The Dan Wesson Valor represents portability, reliability, controllability and lethality. This is a perfect combination for a personal defense handgun.
The Dan Wesson Valor is equipped with features more accustomed to be found on full-blown custom 1911s costing much more. The parts used on today's Dan Wessons are a key reason for the Valor’s performance level. Ed Brown makes the beavertail grip safety and mainspring housing. The in-house DW thumb safety is not an ambidextrous design, which makes it convenient for anyone desiring to install Crimson Trace Laser Grips. Greider makes the trigger. The stainless barrels and bushings are match-grade parts made by Dan Wesson, as are the tool steel ignition parts and slide stop. The springs are by Wolff. The Valor’s frame and slide is built from forged 416-type stainless run through Dan Wesson’s state-of-the-art CNC machines before being sent to the polishing department to be de-burred. The barrel, frame, and slide are hand-fitted along with blending the parts together. One striking aspect is the polishing of the throat and feed ramp, which is also done by hand. Next, they stake the plunger tube, pin the ejector and thoroughly clean the gun before sending it to the assembly department. Dan Wesson does not use any drop-in parts on its 1911s, which is one reason they are so accurate and reliable. An undercut trigger guard allows for a higher grip and combines with 25 lpi stippling pattern on the front strap and mainspring housing providing for positive grip and recoil management. The stainless steel slide and frame provide protection against wear that a personal defense handgun is subjected to. A full-length guide rod is NOT employed in the Valor, but rather a plug bushing and spring as designed by Browning. This will warm the heart of many 1911 purists who deride the use of full length guide rods in a 1911 as a solution to a problem that does not exist with the 1911; not to mention the full length guide rod contributes to “over tightness” in the 1911 design that may cause finicky behavior in the reliability department. Aesthetically pleasing, yet functional, black Slim Line VZ grips with texturing to match frame stippling contrast nicely with the Valor’s stainless finish. The Valor typifies why the 1911 is still popular as ever.
Dan Wesson delivers the Valor with two eight round capacity magazines. Kudos should be given to Dan Wesson for making the higher capacity magazines standard with the Valor and supplying two magazines versus only one compared to some other 1911 manufacturers. Heinie Straight Eight night sights with Ledge-style rear sight with Bicolor Trijicon tritium inserts compliment the Valor’s intended role as a personal defense weapon. The front and rear sights contain contrasting color vials for easier orientation when aiming in dark conditions. Furthermore, a white ring on the front post assists in concentrating on the front sight during the daylight. The sights are designed in a way allowing for fast target acquisition while still allowing for precise shot placement as situation demands or increase in target distance. The Heinie Straight Eight Night Sight Configuration consists of a tritium dot in the front and a slightly smaller tritium dot in the rear. When aligning this sight picture, one dot is on top of the other dot making an elongated figure eight.
The 1911 is an aficionado’s weapon that continues to attract users with its natural handling, great trigger, and potent .45 ACP chambering. Is the 1911 a prime weapon for all situations or users? No. However, it should not be given a second thought as a carry weapon once it has been proofed on the range. A 1911 should be trained with to ensure that functions are natural and instinctive if having to deploy in haste – the same as any other personal defense weapon. No one can argue that there is a more instinctive handling weapon as the 1911. The trigger and grip size/angle cause it to be most accurate handgun in most arsenals. Why do you think hostage rescue units and other special purpose military/LE teams use it? It is accurate and conducive to precise shot placement.
Numerous 1911s models have been owned and tested from different manufacturers over the years. Refreshingly, the DW Valor had no issues performing straight out of the box. The first range session consisted of over 600 rounds without cleaning or adding any lubricate to the Valor besides what it had applied leaving Dan Wesson’s facility. The bulk of firing was with 230gr FMJ practice ammunition. An assortment of premium ammunition was used such as Hornady TAP-FPD, Winchester PDX-1, Federal Hyda-Shoks, Speer Lawman, Wolf, and Black Hills 185gr and 230gr JHP, to verify reliability. Firing was at a relatively steady pace with different shooters running the Valor thru its paces on plate racks, dueling trees, and other drills. During this, all made comment on the Valor’s uncanny accuracy. The DW Valor fired groups into one jagged hole at 7 yards and come close to this performance at 15 yards. If the shooter does his part, the DW Valor easily groups inside a silhouette’s targets head at 25 yards. A weapon like the DW Valor should be fired as it is designed to be used - standing up from the hand. This is the true measure of accuracy combining trigger pull, grip, and sights. It was refreshing to experience the subdued recoil of the steel framed Valor compared to lighter alloy-framed 1911s and polymer handguns handled lately. The VZ grips offer excellent purchase and keep the hands steady during recoil allowing for fast follow-up shots. Subsequent range visits have only reinforced initial impressions.
One of the unspoken benefits of choosing a 1911 for use is the abundance of aftermarket accessories available to support your decision in the form of holsters, magazines, grips, lasers, and ammunition. Surely, with everything it offers “standard,” the Dan Wesson Valor would be worthy of Mr. Browning’s approval. The DW Valor arrives ready to go right out of the box. Kudos to Dan Wesson for including the right features for maximizing performance without turning it into a finicky or fussy competition gun. The DW Valor represents a good balance of features for daily use as a duty or concealed carry weapon.
PO Box 171073
Kansas City, KS 66117
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