All-Steel 1911 Performance Meets A Polymer Player!
I’m blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have a saying here, “If you’re tired of Idaho, you are tired of life.” I see the same thing applying to firearms, especially the past couple years as we are coming off the 100th anniversary celebration of the 1911 Government Model. Several people, including gunwriters — of all people — have basically said they are tired of 1911s. How in the world can that possibly be? That’s like saying you’re tired of shooting! I hope I never get tired of Colt Single Actions, Smith & Wesson Double Action .44s, and most assuredly never, ever get tired of 1911s. I easily tire of politicians, television, even pizza if I indulge too much; but tiring of 1911s? No way is that possible.
It may be possible to become tired of anything that consists of the same thing over and over and over. If every one of the dozens of companies and individuals who have provided 1911s over the past several decades had simply copied the original I could see getting tired. However, the interesting, exciting, stimulating attribute of all these 1911s is the fact they are all different in some aspect. This has been especially true the past few years. Just think of all the possibilities, of all the subtle changes, which can be made to individualize each 1911.
For example, consider the things normally changed in some way. Just a few of the obvious ones would be the rear sight, front sight, hammer, trigger, grip safety, thumb safety, grips, checkering pattern on mainspring housing, checkering pattern on frontstrap, and that’s just a few of the possibilities. Suppose we had four choices for each of these. That would give us the possibility of a staggering number of combinations. And actually, a bit of math revealed well over 260,000 combos! Tired of 1911s? No way.
Actually, I’m not only not tired of 1911s (isn’t that a double negative or something?) I’m even more excited about the latest examples than I was about the first surplus .45 ACP I had as a teenager back in 1956. To me that’s an example of real progress. I have no idea how many different companies and individuals have offered or continue to offer 1911s during my shooting lifetime so far.
When I started getting very serious about shooting in the 1950s the only 1911 available was marked “Colt” and Jeff Cooper would soon begin his campaign to sell the 1911 as the number one fighting handgun. The proliferation of manufacturers probably started in the 1980s, however I never realized how widespread it was until this century. Actually, my eyes were opened at an early 21st century SHOT Show, probably in 2001.
Sixguns To Semi-Autos
As was my normal procedure I made a list of all the sixgun manufacturers and tried to hit each one of those booths before looking at the rest of the show. One of the manufacturers on my list was Dan Wesson. I searched out the booth number, however there had to be some mistake, as when I got to the right spot I did not see any Dan Wessons. What I did see were 1911s. I rechecked the number, then looked at the booth name and saw that it was actually Wesson Firearms, as it had come to be known, and they made 1911s!
Early on, Dan Wesson himself had a better idea and carried it out in his excellent revolvers with interchangeable barrels. These sixguns became extremely popular during the heyday of long-range silhouetting. With the passing of Dan Wesson his son and family inherited the business. They were some of the finest people I have ever known, however the business rose and fell with the fortunes of silhouetting. The family lost the business, got it back, wound up closing the doors. It was purchased, moved and reopened, and then subsequently sold to CZ-USA. Today Wesson Firearms is part of a company, which produces some of the world’s finest rifles and semi-automatic pistols. And with that we are ready to look at the latest 1911s to come into my shooting life.
First Wesson .45 ACP
My first Wesson Firearms 1911 goes back about 10 years. The new Dan Wessons at that time were given the name of Patriot and offered in two versions originally, the adjustable-sighted Expert and the Combat/Carry-sighted Marksman. Both were offered in either a brushed stainless finish or chrome moly blue. My first Wesson Patriot was an Expert with a deep-blue finish. One thing did not change as Dan Wesson switched mainly to 1911s was the beautiful blue finish, which had always been a feature of Dan Wesson revolvers. Features of that first pistol included a Series ‘70-style forged frame, beavertail grip safety with a slot cut to accept the cocked Commander-style hammer, lowered and flared ejection port, external extractor, slanted deep cut cocking serrations on both the front and rear of the slide, matte finish on the top of the slide and dovetail-mounted sights consisting of a front post and fully adjustable rear sight.
The most recent Wesson Firearms 1911 resembles that first Patriot only in the fact they are both basically 1911s. The current offering is called the Specialist. When the Patriot was offered it was put together with the features the manufacturer thought most shooters would want. They took a different tack with the .45 ACP Specialist. This 1911 came about after police departments and special units who used the 1911 approached Wesson Firearms with the idea coming up with a more reliable and durable 1911 to replace what they were carrying. Wesson Firearms did not have a model which would fill the required needs so they went to the drawing board to come up with the Specialist, which was specially designed, as they say, to satisfy an officer’s special needs while at the same time also being offered to the general public.
Looking at the Specialist the first thing I notice is the finish and the grips. For an everyday, everywhere, any weather pistol a high bright blue finish is neither desired nor practical. The Specialist reflects this thinking with a matte black duty finish. Blued Dan Wesson sixguns were always difficult to photograph as the bright finish reflected light from every direction; there is no reflection with the Specialist. The grips on the Specialist are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, or for that matter, felt. When my friend Denis picked up the Specialist he labeled them as “aggressive.” He meant when they are gripped they are absolutely going nowhere. Call them positively secure. Wesson calls them their G10 VZ Operator II grips and they are not only quite attractive, but once grasped there should be no shifting in the hand. This is also aided by the 25 LPI checkering on both the mainspring housing and front strap.
The Specialist .45 ACP consists of a forged slide and a tactical rail frame, which is also forged. The bottom of the frame in front of the trigger guard has a Picatinny rail with three transversal slots for accepting accessories. The top of the slide is fully serrated lengthwise from the back of the front sight to the front of the rear sight. The sights themselves are simply superb, and consist of dual colored Trijicon tritium night sights. The rear sight, which is drift-adjustable in a dovetail and has a locking screw, is the new Wesson ledge sight with a single amber-colored tritium dot, which matches up with a green tritium dot with a white target ring in the front sight. These sights are easily and quickly accessed and show up beautifully in lowlight, appearing as a colored figure eight.
When cocked, the skeletonized hammer fits into a deep recess in the top of the beavertail grip safety, which also has a memory bump. The long trigger is not skeletonized and using my Brownell’s Trigger Pull Gauge measures out at a smooth, creep-free 41/4 pounds. The extended thumb safety is ambidextrous and easily operated.
The extended magazine release is easy to reach, aided by a cutout in the grip directly behind the release button. When the magazine release button is pressed the 8-round magazine releases quickly and positively. The Specialist comes with two padded-bottom magazines, and insertion is easily accomplished through a 2-piece magwell, which is detachable.
Slide to frame fit is very tight with no perceptible movement. The slide works very smoothly and is easy to operate. The ejection port is lowered and relieved, and the work shows top-quality craftsmanship all-around. The match-grade barrel is also tightly fitted to the bushing, which is aided by the barrel being about .005″ larger in diameter at the muzzle end. Total weight of the Specialist is a recoil-reducing 40 ounces. This is a very impressive .45 and if there’s anything wrong with it or there is anything else it needs I can’t find either one of them. Tired of 1911s? No way!
The second .45 ACP I have on hand is also a 1911, however it’s the size normally referred to as Officers Model. This model is the EOC and we can call this one the backup to the Specialist. Wesson Firearms says of this little gem: “There has never been a higher demand for self-defense handguns than there is today. The greatest demand is for the smallest, lightest gun available, but this has drawbacks. Generally these guns are difficult to shoot well, lack stopping power and recoil can be a problem. If you can’t hit or stop what you are shooting at, what good is the handgun? We can understand all of these concerns as we face them every day as well. We wanted to give our customers the smallest, lightest gun we could without sacrificing accuracy, dependability and stopping power.”
The EOC .45 ACP, with its anodized aluminum frame, weighs in at 25 ounces with a 31/2″ barrel. The sights are the same excellent Trijicon tritium sights as found on the Specialist and the finish is also matte black. The hammer and beavertail grip safety are also the same, however the extended thumb safety is single rather than ambidextrous and found on the left side. Trigger pull also measures 4-1/4 pounds on this much smaller pistol. Even with its compact grip frame, the flush-fitting magazine (it comes with two) holds seven rounds.
The grips are spectacular and not quite as “aggressive” as found on the Specialist. They are thinner and finished in a half-smooth, half-checked pattern and are dubbed DW Carry G10 grips. They are mated up with the same 25-LPI checkering on the front strap and mainspring housing. Unlike the Specialist, the EOC does not have a barrel bushing but rather the tapered muzzle end of the match-grade, target-crowned, ramped bull-barrel fits into the muzzle end of the slide.
Wesson Firearms says: “The recoil system is unique for this style of 1911 as we use a solid, 1-piece guide rod and a flat recoil spring rated for 15,000 rounds in .45 ACP. That is 15,000 rounds! Not the 500 rounds most 1911 dual recoil systems are rated for. This is unheard of in a production 1911! This recoil system also gives the benefit of a smooth slide for easier operation and less felt recoil.”
Just as with the much larger Specialist there is no play between the frame and the slide of the EOC, and using the same cocking serrations as found on the Specialist, the slide of the .45 ACP EOC is also quite easy to work manually. The bottom back corner of the mainspring housing is rounded for both shooting comfort in the hand, and slightly easier concealability.
The Night Sights
Both of these .45 ACP Wesson semi-autos arrived in mid-December, which is not the best time, at least for me, when it comes to test firing outside. So the next best thing is to move to the indoor range where it is much warmer, but unfortunately has less light. These days I need a lot of light to do my best shooting! The trade off was the fact both of these .45s have Trijicon tritium night sights, which gave me a much better sight picture than normal when used in the lowlight indoors.
Both of these .45s being basically designed as high-quality self-defense pistols, were fired at 7 yards to keep things realistic, with a variety of factory ammunition and handloads. No matter which bullet shape or which .45 Wesson I used, functioning was absolutely flawless, and accuracy was way above adequate for self-defense use, with many loads resulting in 1-hole groups. I know it was only seven yards, but that’s still very consistent performance. I think these would be extremely accurate at 25, based on their overall excellent workmanship and fitting, and their shooting performance. I’ll try them again when it warms up.
As expected, the 40-ounce Specialist was exceptionally easy to shoot, however I was surprised to find the 25-ounce EOC was much easier to shoot than expected. Felt recoil was no problem whatsoever. The Specialist is the easiest to shoot, while the EOC is easiest to pack, so we can pay our money and take our choice — or follow the easier path and simply go with both of them!
The third member of the trio from Wesson Firearms/CZ-USA is not a traditional 1911 but rather a double-action, polymer framed, double-stack 9mm; the CZ P-07 Duty model. Weight, according to my postal scale, is 25 ounces. It comes standard with two 16-round magazines, and this pistol is large enough for duty carry or small enough for concealment. The steel slide is fully machined from bar stock and is a dull matte black with the top rounded and tapered for easy concealability. The sights consist of a white-dot post front sight matched up with a white outline rear sight, which is adjustable in a dovetail and can be locked in place.
The polymer frame of the Duty is OD green and has a molded-in Picatinny rail in front of the much exaggerated triggerguard. Since there are no grip panels, but rather the “grips” are molded into the polymer frame, the profile is kept quite slim even with the double-stack 9mm magazine. The frontstrap, backstrap, and sides of the grip all provide molded-in checkering for a secure hold. The magazine release is easily accessed and manipulated and also releases the magazine positively.
The P-07 Duty has what is known as an Omega Trigger System. This new trigger simplifies the original CZ 75 trigger by using fewer parts, which also results in a better trigger pull. This one measures out at 33/4 pounds in single-action mode and 9 pounds when used double action. This particular model is the de-cocker version with an ambidextrous de-cocking lever. With the hammer down, the first shot may be fired double action or the hammer can be cocked for single-action use. Once the first round is fired subsequent rounds will be single action unless the de-cocker is used to let the hammer down. The Omega system allows versatility. The P-07 Duty came with the de-cocking lever installed, however a manual safety is available, which can be installed to allow the 9mm P-07 Duty to be carried cocked and locked.
The P-07 Duty 9 mm was also fired with a variety of factory loads including both FMJs and JHPs. Just as with the other two this little nine performed perfectly with no failures of any kind. It’s particularly comfortable to shoot 9mms and I think the grip shape has a lot to do with reducing felt recoil. Best results were obtained with the Black Hills 124 JHP, which should certainly make for a good carry load.
CZ-USA offers shooters a long list of 1911s or polymer-frame, double-action pistols. It should not be very difficult to find at least one offering, which will fit any situation. And, with the legacy of the great CZ75 design to their credit, they have the skill and manufacturing ability to get things right!
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