On April 14th, 2020 my life changed just a bit.

Nothing earth-shattering but the just reintroduced and updated Dan Wesson Specialist chambered in .45 Auto walked into my life. Well, truthfully it rode in on a truck, but semantics and all.   I am a dyed-in-the-wool, hardheaded, and somewhat unreasonable 1911 guy. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy other platforms almost as well, looking at you, CZ  but my first choice is always the 1911-style pistol. Whether you agree with me or not, that is just fine, as what else could we argue about on gun forums?

My original review can be seen by following this link. 

Since the Dan Wesson Specialist review was completed, it quickly became my favorite, so much so that I bought it after the review but not all love is destined to be eternal. Once the new wore off, would the pistol be regulated to some dark corner of my strongbox? My affinity for that pistol was not a flash in the pan, if you will allow me a tired cliche. As I carried and trained with the gun, my endearment grew deeper. I do feel it is 1911 evolved.

While the manual of arms is the same as any other 1911, the enhancements are what set this gun apart from the crowd.

Truly the heart and soul of a pistol is reliability because, without that, nothing else matters. Throughout the initial review and the couple of thousand rounds afterward, the pistol has not exhibited any sort of issue with a myriad of ammunition and magazines. That said, the magazine you select has as much or maybe more to do with reliability, so quality magazines and SAAMI spec ammunition are paramount. With all steel parts, I was sure of the longevity of the pistol over time and abuse.

Speaking of magazines, the Specialists incorporates a magazine well. One disadvantage to a magazine well is you should be utilizing magazines with extended base pads. As you see above in the first photograph with the extended base pad, it is about flush with the magazine well. With a standard magazine base pad, it is recessed, so when you drive it home, you may need to use your thumb to ensure the magazine is fully seated. Dan Wesson ships the pistol with two eight-round magazines with extended base pads. I am not a huge fan of extended magazine wells on a pistol but considering they aid you in funneling that fresh magazine into the gun, helping with a speedy reload, I get why it was included with this pistol. If you loathe it, a simple mainspring housing swap deletes the mag well.

Ameriglo sights top the slide, allowing for a rapid flash sight picture by stacking the white dot on the front sight on top dot on the serrated rear sight. The front night sight is green while the rear is yellow, allowing you to easily differentiate the front and rear in low and no light situations. Of course, the serrations on the rear of the sight and between the sights help eliminate glare when shooting in hard light. The rear sight is drift adjustable via a set screw. With the rear sight incorporating a ledge, the pistol can be racked one-handed off a belt or table, for example.

The Duty finish and the internals have held up ideally, as I have treated this pistol as a tool, not a safe queen. The VZ Grips G 10 stocks were very aggressive, allowing a very firm purchase on the pistol; coupled with the front strap and mainspring housing checkered to twenty-five lines per inch and deep beavertail, it was easy to lock this pistol up. Some complained about just how aggressive the G 10 stocks were. For a fighting pistol like this, you may be sweating, bleeding, grappling, and have gloves on, and such stocks are warranted. Swapping stocks is straightforward enough if you prefer some less belligerent.

An ambidextrous thumb safety is not imperative for a range gun; in my opinion, but a welcome upgrade for a fighting handgun. The same could be said for the accessory rail machined into the dust cover. A defensive handgun having the ability to secure a light can provide an advantage if the situation goes off the rails while the moon is out. A deep beavertail with palm swell is well fit to the receiver, allowing for a positive grip safety disengagement.

The Specialist trigger left little to be desired. Breaking clean at four and three-quarters pounds with just enough take up to prep the trigger and minimal overtravel to facilitate correct follow through. The overtravel can be adjusted, but I elected to leave it as set as from the factory.

The 2020 Specialist includes a few features I usually do not care for, such as the magazine well and forward cocking serrations. Still, with such a purpose-built fighting pistol, I can appreciate why those features and others were included. Accuracy was exemplary, as was usability. This pistol is a prime example of the constant refinement of the defensive handgun platform. As far as trigger and ergonimics go, the 1911 style pistols set the standard, and in the 1911 world, Dan Wesson helped separate the wheat from the chaff. While aesthetics are often considered when buying a handgun, what is under the hood is of a far greater importance.

Please bear in mind this is my opinion and I am well aware many will not agree. However, one must consider that all modern semi automatic handguns owes it’s roots to John Moses Browning.  The locked breech, short recoil operation with the tilting barrel, and front slide removal came from Browning. The sliding breechblock was designed and implemented by JMB in 1898, and it appeared on his 1900 Model. The recoil spring under the barrel and the double camming surfaces on the lower barrel lug and the receiver mounted slide releaser used to raise and lower the barrel and the double column/single feed position magazine are also a design of JMB.

So next time you see fit to disparage that fella going on about his 1911 style pistol, look at your own autoloader and know without John Browning and his 1911, you may be carrying a Luger offspring, and no one wants that.

The initial video.


By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

4 thoughts on “Care and feeding of the Dan Wesson Specialist.”
  1. Thanks for all of your reviews Hunter. I appreciate that you show multiple individuals shooting the pistol being reviewed. Keep up the great work!

    I am looking at picking up a 10mm DW for hunting (hog and deer) and was curious which model you would recommend.

    Thank you for your time.

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