Dan Wesson Specialist 01802 45 ACP

The Specialist is the only tested gun with a rail, and it’s the heaviest as well. This gave it the lightest felt recoil among the steel-frame pistols. The pistol is accurate, well finished, reliable, and has good features. We didn’t miss forward cocking serrations.


After testing five high-end 1911 handguns in the July 2020 issue, we got four more guns to conduct an even greater and more demanding test of steel. The 1911 handgun has continued in service, even at the top of the heap, in competition and service use long after other mechanical designs have been out of service or relegated to the museum. A low bore axis, straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a grip that fits most hands well, and a design that lends itself well to customization has the potential to suit every shooter. Among expensive 1911 handguns, the primary difference in the pistols isn’t the number of features, although self-luminous sights and extended controls have a bearing on price. Rather, the reason they are so expensive is the quality of machine work and manufacture. The trigger compression, barrel fit, and frame-to-slide fit are usually as good as human hands can make them, and the cosmetics are almost always top notch. Such guns will almost always be able to outshoot their owners, and their operation is flawlessly reliable.

All of the pistols tested are 5-inch-barrel steel-frame 1911 hand­guns. This means they are not difficult to control with full-power ammunition. Our contestants were:

  • The Dan Wesson Specialist 01802 45 ACP, $1732. We found a Specialist “on sale” for $1575 and moved too late to obtain it, and we also located a few for $2020. It seems $1700 is about average. Our test gun cost us a bit more than the Springfield and a thousand dollars less than the Wilson Combat and Les Baer, on average. While the Dan Wesson may be a “production” pistol, unless the pistol is modified one at a time by a custom pistolsmith, most high-end 1911 handguns are products of a certain package or formula, so its factory SKU didn’t put us off one bit. The Dan Wesson Specialist is the heaviest 1911 tested at 43 ounces unloaded — just three ounces less than a 6-inch-barrel 357 Magnum Python.
  • The Les Baer 572 Hemi 45 ACP, $2853. This pistol is named after Les Baer’s drag car. It is a distinctive pistol with a chrome finish, black grips, and black Dupont S coated controls. Some of the raters were left cold by the color scheme, others were very enthusiastic, it is that type of pistol. The pistol features both standard and forward cocking serrations. They are nicely machined with a finer pattern than the other handguns.
  • The Springfield Armory 1911 TRP PC9107L18 45 ACP, $1648. We found this pistol listed for $1299 at several outlets, but also saw it as out of stock. The Tactical Response Pistol is a factory-production 1911 turned out by the Springfield custom shop. You cannot upgrade a Loaded Model by gunsmithing it into a TRP; the TRP is a tighter gun. The frame is fitted to the slide, and the result is a very tight pistol — it seemed as tight as the Wilson Combat or Dan Wesson pistols.
  • The Wilson Combat Close Quarters Battle 45 ACP, $2865. The Close Quarters Battle is the flagship combat pistol offered by Wilson Combat. The CQB is manufactured using the same parts you might order to build your own Wilson Combat pistol, save the parts fitted in house by Wilson Combat gunsmiths. A trademark of the CQB is excellent barrel fitting. The barrel-to-slide and bushing fit are tight, and the barrel crown is well done. This pistol’s steel frame and slide have an Armor Tuff coating that is evenly applied and seems durable, we thought.
Left to right are the magwells for the Dan Wesson, Springfield, Les Baer, and Wilson Combat pistols. The less expensive pistols featured magazine wells. While nice to have on the range, they were not strictly necessary on carry guns.

These are four different hand­guns with different downrange performance, but the bottom line connecting them is reliability. To check for this, we fired the 80 rounds of ammunition on the combat course, mixing up the lot with mostly practice loads, 40 rounds of Black Hills Ammunition 200-grain LSWCs, 20 rounds of Fiocchi 230-grain FMJs, and 20 rounds of a handload consisting of the Hornady 230-grain XTPs over enough Titegroup powder for 855 fps.

Among the guns, the Les Baer 572 Hemi is primarily designed for extreme accuracy. The Wilson Combat CQB is a formidable de­fensive firearm. The Dan Wesson Specialist is for service use. The Springfield Tactical Response pistol is intended to offer excellent performance, but it isn’t as expensive as the Springfield Professional, which is an FBI SWAT pistol, and it was deemed a good match on the lower end of high-end prices.

Gun Test Grade: A


The Specialist was designed for tactical use. There are no forward cocking serrations. It does have an ambidextrous safety. There is no full-length guide rod (FLGR), which may be a plus. However, one rater noted that an FLGR-equipped slide is more rigid and will not go out of battery if braced against an object. The pistol features a light rail, the only gun in this test with one. The stainless steel is nicely polished. The pistol features a skeletonized hammer and the only solid trigger of the test. Most raters felt a solid trigger is best for service and personal-defense use because stuff can’t get into the trigger body and block the trigger’s movement. Trigger action breaks at a smooth 5.5 pounds. Fitting of the barrel, barrel bushing, locking lugs and link is good and tight. There is no lateral play in the slide.

Action Typesingle action, short recoil-operated locked breech
Overall Length8.6 in.
Overall Height5.5 in.
Maximum Width1.25 in.
Weight Unloaded43.0 oz.
Weight Loaded48.0 oz.
Slide MaterialForged steel
Slide Retraction Effort18.0 lbs.
Receiver MaterialSteel
FinishStainless steel
Front Strap Height2.6 in.
Back Strap Height3.2 in.
Barrel Length5.0 in.
Grip Thickness Maximum1.25 in.
Grip Circumference5.2 in.
MagazineTwo 8-round
Rear SightFixed drift adjustable
Front SightDovetailed post with tritium insert
Sight Radius6.4 in.
Trigger Pull Weight5.5 lbs.
Trigger Span2.8 in.
SafetiesSlide lock, grip
Warranty5 years
Telephone(607) 336-1174
Made InU.S.A.
The front of the Dan Wesson slide (top left) features a ball end mill cut that makes for attractive blending of the slide (arrow).

The G10 grips offer good pur­chase, and the left-side panel is cut out to allow rapid manipulation of the magazine lock. The safety is well fitted. It isn’t as tight on the upsweep as the TRP, but it is very close and plenty rigid for service use. The beavertail grip safety is well designed. There is an undercut behind the trigger guard to lower the bore axis. Two eight-round bumper-pad magazines are supplied in the lockable hard case.

We rated the Specialist’s sights best of the test for service and personal defense, not target use. The Ameriglo sights feature a front dot surrounded by a white ring. The front sight glows green. The rear face of the rear sight is serrated to reduce glare. The single rear dot is amber to avoid confusion and offer contrast. The rear sight offers the familiar ledge or wedge type design that offers a good fulcrum for racking the slide. We don’t know how sure racking the slide actually is, but if the slide is on lock back and you are able to execute a one-hand reload, there is much utility in wedging the rear sight against a boot heel to drop the slide. The slide features a serrated top rib. This is a classy look the other pistols lack. The front of the slide features a ball end mill cut that makes for attractive blending.

Here is the disassembled Dan Wesson. We never missed forward cocking serrations on the Specialist. Some like the clean look.

On the grip, front strap checkering is well done, and the magazine well is a good touch. A word on the VZ G10 grips — most advertisements for the Specialist show black grips, but our new-in-the-box pistol features brown grips. The rear of the grips are angled with a different groove than the front half of the grips. The front of the grips has a honeycomb pattern and offers good purchase. We like this grip design and thought it was the best of the test. The slide lock isn’t quite a GI type, but neither is it enlarged. The slide-stop pin is flattened so as not to protrude on the right side. The last pistols tested with this feature were the Nighthawk and Guncrafter models in July 2020, considerably more expensive than the Dan Wesson Specialist.

In common with the other pistols, there is no firing-pin block or drop safety. The pistol instead relies on an extra-strength firing-pin spring, and in the case of the Springfield, a 38 Super-sized firing pin.

The DW pistol, left, has a single tritium dot sitting ahead of a nicely machined topstrap that we liked a lot.

The Dan Wesson was a pleasant handgun to fire in combat shooting. The Dan Wesson ranked closest to the Wilson Combat in combat drills. The pistol handles quickly, and magazine changes are rapid. In bench accuracy, the Specialist is more accurate than most 1911 handguns. It was more accurate than the TRP by a margin, but behind the Wilson Combat and Les Baer. This doesn’t often happen, but the pistols’ ranking in accuracy was in line with their ranking by price.

Our Team Said: The Dan Wesson is a good performer with no drawbacks.

45 ACP Range Data

All groups were fired at 25 yards from a benchrest position using a MTM Caseguard K Zone pistol rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity. The first screen of the chronograph was 10 feet from the muzzle.
Black Hills 230-grain JHPLes Baer Hemi 572Wilson Combat CQBDan Wesson SpecialistSpringfield TRP
Average Velocity870 fps855 fps861 fps863 fps
Muzzle Energy387 ft.-lbs.373 ft.-lbs.379 ft.-lbs.380 ft.-lbs.
Small Group0.9 in.1.5 in.1.8 in.2.0 in.
Average Group1.5 in.1.9 in.2.3 in.2.6 in.
Fiocchi 230-grain JHPLes Baer Hemi 572Wilson Combat CQBDan Wesson SpecialistSpringfield TRP
Average Velocity842 fps853 fps839 fps840 fps
Muzzle Energy362 ft.-lbs.372 ft.-lbs.359 ft.-lbs.360 ft.-lbs.
Small Group2.2 in.2.3 in.2.4 in.2.7 in.
Average Group2.6 in.2.6 in.2.8 in.3.0 in.
Handload Hornady 185-grain XTPLes Baer Hemi 572Wilson Combat CQBDan Wesson SpecialistSpringfield TRP
Average Velocity1125 fps1160 fps1140 fps1137 fps
Muzzle Energy520 ft.-lbs.553 ft.-lbs.534 ft.-lbs.531 ft.-lbs.
Small group1.3 in.1.4 in.1.9 in.1.7 in.
Average Group1.6 in.1.8 in.2.2 in.2.0 in.


  1. I was impressed by all of the pistols in the group. However I’ll stick with my Colt Gold Cup tuned by Jacky Best.


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