Dan Wesson: Red Hot 9mm’s

Perfect Carry Guns?
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This Streamlight TLR-4 matches up nicely with the abbreviated length of the TCP.

To those of us still clinging to the sanctity of the 1911 and the beloved .45 ACP cartridge, technology has chipped away at our core assumptions leaving us in a state of martial vertigo. I’m told today’s 9mm defensive ammo is the terminal-ballistic equivalent of the revered .45 ACP. I’m reluctant to drink that Kool-Aid. However, when I see “gun-guys” and trainers who have been friends of mine for 40 years embrace the 9mm, the room starts to spin just a little.

Dan Wesson’s TCP (left) or ECP (right) when combined with a holster like this old Davis Liberty holster make the ideal carry combo.

In the same vein, not too long ago the idea of modifying John Browning’s most inspired design would evoke a response akin to seeing professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem. History has shown the more the design deviates from the original pattern, the less reliable the functioning becomes — until recently.

Not too long ago, Dan Wesson unveiled two new models designed specifically to address the red hot market of 9mm 1911’s. Just who comprises this market niche is a little difficult to identify. In today’s defensive handgun arena, 1911’s have become the target of “chronological snobbery,” the belief anything de rigueur from an earlier time is inherently inferior to the present. If you gravitate toward the garish appeal of Miley Cyrus over the dignified beauty of Kate Middleton, there’s a high-capacity, plastic gun out there with your name on it. These Dan Wessons aren’t for you. However to the cognoscenti, these guns represent an amazing value.

Prior to removing the slide from the frame a paperclip is inserted into a hole in the guide rod, capturing the spring under compression.

After removing the slide, the entire recoil system can be pulled rearward out of the slide, intact.

Modernizing

The two models, TCP (“Tactical Commander Pistol”) and ECP (“Enhanced Commander Pistol”) both have shortened slides with bull barrels and forged aluminum frames. They differ in the ECP has a full-sized, bobtailed frame (alla their “Guardian” model) while the TCP sports a full sized frame with a Picatinny rail and large magwell which adds .2" to its overall height.

Initially I thought putting an accessory rail on a light weight, aluminum framed, shortened carry-gun was as illogical and poorly thought out as a Bernie Sanders lecture on economics. It just seemed incongruous with the purpose of the firearm. However, DW’s Vice President of Operations, Keith Lawton explained the TCP is designed to be an all-day concealed carry gun which can then also be used with a light or laser attached as a night-stand gun. Also as people transition from plastic guns to 1911's they want some of those features to carry over, and virtually every compact (and larger) striker-fired pistol on the market is equipped with an accessory rail.

Those who like the feel and balance of a lightweight Commander will appreciate the ergonomics of these guns. The overall length of the two models is .36" shorter than a standard Commander and the barrels are 4" versus 4 ¼". Nonetheless, the guns balance the same as the “full-sized” Guardian.
Both models wear stocks designed by the folks at Dan Wesson and manufactured for them by VZ. A few years ago when Colt debuted the Wiley Clapp models, their stocks tapered to the front making them thicker in the rear and thinner up front. The engineers at Dan Wesson shifted that concept 90 degrees so they’re slimmer at the top than at the base which helps maintain a high grip on the handgun.

Checkered, lightweight 1911 frames are as rare as publicity shy Kardashians. These two models sport 25 LPI across the front strap, which is aggressive without drawing blood. The coarse stocks combined with the robust checkering provides a positive tactile grip. The positive result is the gun won’t shift in your hand during the drawing stroke. The negative result is the gun won’t shift in your hand during the drawing stroke — should you bollix the maneuver.

While a deviation from John Browning’s design, the ECP is easily disassembled, and functioned flawlessly throughout testing.

The rear of the safety is beveled to keep from biting, even with the diminutive recoil of the 9mm. The rear sight “U” notch is a cross between a target aperture and a peep sight.

Triggers

Flat faced triggers have been increasingly popular with competitive shooters as aftermarket replacements in almost every genre of firearms except shotguns. With holster-drawn firearms, they compensate somewhat for a hastily mis-placed trigger finger, but only somewhat. Over the years I’ve had a few flat triggers retrofitted to 1911’s and one AR rifle and have come to love them. Both of these models come from the factory with flat “K” triggers (so called because the aperture cuts resemble the letter “K”).

Referring to the flat trigger, Lawton says, “If you are going to be competitive in the market today, you have to continually broaden your horizons and try new things to appeal to a broader, younger base.” Keith may or may not be a marketing savant, but he certainly brings a breath of fresh air to a segment of the industry that hasn’t been innovatively promoted since the Truman administration.

Dan Wesson spec’s their triggers to leave the factory at between 3.5 to 5 pounds, according to Lawton. On my Lyman trigger gauge both guns averaged 4lbs, 2 oz. Traditional wisdom has it that “crispness” trumps weight in defining an excellent trigger pull. Both guns have single-stage-rifle-trigger crispness and break as cleanly as a politician’s campaign promise.

Oversized slide safeties are esteemed in inverse proportion to the skill of the shooter, the critical factor being well they’re beveled at the rear. Both of these models are well contoured to avoid biting you even with the anemic recoil of the 9mm. Being designed for concealed carry, these models come without an ambidextrous safety that can be inadvertently brushed off of “safe” by a right hander while the gun is holstered. Southpaws of course have the option of adding an aftermarket ambidextrous safety.

The slide is tri-topped with the top flat being grooved, giving the gun a custom-rib effect. The result is aesthetic more than ergonomic, but tastefully distinctive.

The fixed rear sight resembles a Harrison-design with a 90 degree radius to allow racking the slide on a belt or holster if one-hand manipulation is necessary. The rear notch is “U” shaped which, according to Lawton is a cross between a target notch and a peep-sight and is ideal for defensive purposes. The front blade sports a brass bead nestling quite nicely in the “U” notch of the rear sight. What it lacks in precision, it makes up for in quickness.

The stainless steel slide sports their “Duty finish” which is a form of Melonite. It hardens the skin of the surface, blackens it and makes it scuff, scratch and corrosion resistant.

With the addition of a light/laser combination like this Streamlight TLR-4, the TCP serves double duty as nightstand gun as well as a lightweight concealed carry gun.

My 25 yard group from the prone position says little about the gun’s inherent accuracy and a lot about my lack of visual acuity and skill.
The “Wizard Drill” is shot in 4 sequences from 3 to 10 yards from concealment in 2.5 seconds per sequence. Targets for the Dot Torture test are downloadable from the internet

Accuracy

I’m always amazed at the preoccupation many have with the inherent accuracy of defensive handguns. Almost every new handgun can outshoot all but a handfull of shooters. My trifocal-spectacled eyes disallow ransom rest precision at distance and groups I shoot from 25 yards require as much extrapolation as measurement. The “Dot Torture Test” and other drills were easily maxed with the ECP. The bottom line is if you were more accurate than either of these models, this article would be about you, not the pistols.

Due to the absence of a barrel bushing, take down of these models requires a MacGyver-like protocol. Once the slide is retracted and locked, the tip of a paperclip is inserted into a hole in the guide rod capturing the spring under compression. Once the slide is removed from the frame, the recoil system (including paper clip) can be pulled rearward out of the slide as a complete unit and the barrel removed through the front of the slide as normal.

I’ve been carrying the EDC in an old Davis “Liberty” holster since they sent it to me for testing. The scant bulk of the gun disappears under a shirt and the mere 29 oz. heft is un-noticeable. The OWB holster and gun make an ideal combination for concealed carry.

Both guns come with two 9-round magazines manufactured by Checkmate and test fired prior to leaving the Dan Wesson factory. If you’re patrolling the back alleys of Fallujah or the more dangerous streets of Chicago, you may feel a need for a greater ammo payload. However, I’ve only been able to find one documented case where a civilian needed to reload their handgun during an armed encounter and in that case the adversary was a mountain lion. “Always opt for more ammo unless you’re on fire or under water,” is a cute cliche, but circumvents reality for almost all civilian concealed carriers.
When considering available features, fit, finish and functioning, many people feel Dan Wesson stands in 1st place in the genre of production guns, and in my opinion they have no credible contender. All Dan Wessons are fully machined from bar stock or tool steel, and you will find no MIM or cast parts on any of their pistols. MSRP on the ECP is $1,575, the TCP is listed at $1,700. Were the logos and names removed from the guns, they would be indistinguishable from the boutique manufacturer’s guns, many of which sell for twice the price of the DW’s.

To those of you who haven’t fully accepted the nanotechnology equating the 9mm to the .45 ACP, the good news is these guns are also available in the revered manly caliber helping us defeat the Teutons in two World Wars (who were equipped with the now-admired 9mm)! Either way these are both a lot of gun for the money.

For more info: www.danwessonfirearms.com