Dan Wesson Specialist, the 1911 evolved.

The Dan Wesson Specialist, a culmination of mission-specific features applied to the tried and true 1911 platform.

For some reason, Dan Wesson discontinued the Specialist in 2019 but thankfully reintroduced it at SHOT show 2020 with some updated changes. Let’s go through those first.

The serrations of the top of the slide are no longer machined into a raised rib, but they are machined into the top of the slide. While this does not change the function of the serrations cutting glare between the sights, it does give the pistol a bit more of a traditional profile.   We still have the accessory rail mFachined into the dust cover; it no longer has the additional slots closer to the trigger guard. Those additional slots did not serve any real purpose, so they were omitted.  Forward cocking serrations were added for 2020, and while I am not a fan of forward cocking serrations on a 1911, purely for aesthetic reasons, this being a pistol designed for hard duty use, I understand their inclusion. Forward cocking serrations allow for racking the slide or a press check while keeping the pistol close in your workspace. The last change is the slide stop arm on the 2020 Specialist protrudes from the right side of the receiver a bit, as you expect on a 1911. The pre-2019 Specialist slide stop arm terminated flush with the receiver. I understand why it was flush; in the event, laser grips were installed, it would not interfere with the beam, but with the more traditional slide stop, it makes the pistol much easier to field strip.

Initially, the Specialist was offered in a 9mm Luger and .45 Auto, it can now also be had in 10mm Auto. There is a Commander version with a 4 1/4″ barrel, and you have the options of stainless or like with the test sample a black Duty Finish.

First Impressions 

A deep beavertail with palm swell is well fit to the receiver, allowing for a solid purchase and positive grip safety disengagement. The mainspring housing is checkered to twenty-five lines per inch and incorporates a magazine well.

Ameriglo straight-eight night top the slide, allowing for a rapid flash sight picture by stacking the white dot on the front sight on top of the single 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. This set up gives you quite the advantage in bright lights and low/no light conditions. Of course, the serrations on the rear of the sight and between the sights help eliminate glare when shooting in glaring or hard light. The rear sight is drift adjustable via a set screw.


The one disadvantage to a magazine well is you should be running magazines with extended base pads. As you see above on the first photograph with the extended base pad, when you slam it home, the base is about flush with the magazine well. With a standard magazine base pad, it is recessed, so when you slam 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. Normally I am not a huge fan of extended magazine wells on a pistol, but considering they do aid you in funneling that fresh magazine into the pistol, helping with a speedy reload, I get why it was included with this pistol. You have to consider that when stockpiling magazines for your Specialist, however, the pistol was reliable with numerous different magazines.


The front strap is also checkered to twenty-five lines per inch. The trigger broke cleanly at four and three-quarters pounds with just a bit of take up and a hint of overtravel. The trigger is adjustable for overtravel, but during the review, I did not change it.


The ambidextrous thumb safety is standard. The hammer is a kind of a Rowel style skeletonized speed hammer with serrations on the spur. 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 checkering and deep beavertail it was easy to lock this pistol up with a firm grip.

Range Time


Three shot groups fired from a rest at twenty-five yards.

Some complained about just how aggressive the G 10 stocks were. I get it for a fighting pistol like this you may be sweating, bleeding, have gloves and such and such stocks are warranted, but for range use, I added a set of Alumagrips, still plenty of aggressive but not as much as the G 10s and added a bit of comfort for some of the folks helping out.

I carried the pistol for about a month, and like any 1911 style pistol, it was not too hard to conceal as long as you paid attention to what you were wearing. I did want to add my Streamlight TLR 1 HL, as reviewed here, but I had a tough time finding a holster to accommodate a 1911 Government Model with a light attached.  While at the 2020 SHOT show, I spoke with Talon Holsters about my issue and was told to email them what handgun I was running and what light and they would get me something put together.


It was about two weeks later, and this holster showed up. I carried the Specialist with the light attached for over a month with zero issues. To be honest, when headed out after sundown, I felt a bit more prepared with a weapon-mounted light on my sidearm. The somewhat pancake style of the Talon holster did not make the rig any harder to conceal when running a standard holster.


The 2020 Specialist includes a few features I usually do not care for, such as the magazine well and forward cocking serrations, but with such a purpose-built fighting handgun, I can appreciate why those features and others were included. After some 500 rounds downrange with various magazines, various rounds, and several folks running the pistol, we had zero malfunctions. Accuracy was exemplary, as was usability. It is no secret Dan Wesson is one of my favorite 1911 manufacturers, but that is with good reason, and the Specialist is no exception. I believe this pistol would make an ideal concealed carry or home defense firearm but easily fill the role of a duty pistol. With a forged slide and receiver and all steel parts, durability will not be an issue. I know 500 rounds is not a tremendous amount of rounds downrange, but if something were amiss with this pistol, it would have shown up, especially shooting the DoubleTap .450 SMC.


Detail stripping the gun at the end of the review confirmed all the parts held up well and showed no signs of ill fit or premature wear. I am completely satisfied with this pistol in its performance and accuracy. If you are looking to step up your self-defense sidearm, I highly recommend taking a look at the 2020 Specialist line.


Model: Specialist Black .45 Auto
Caliber: 45 Auto
Magazine Capacity: 8
Receiver Material: Forged Stainless
Slide Finish: Duty Finish
Stocks: G10
Overall Length: 8.75 in
Barrel Length: 5 in
Height: 5.5 in
Width: 145 in
Weight: 42.3 oz
Trigger Mech: Single Action
Front Sight: Fixed Night Sight
Rear Sight: Tactical Night Sight
Safety: Ambi thumb safety, grip safety
MSRP: $2,049


Dan Wesson 

Defender Ammunition 

DoubleTap Ammunition 


Barnaul Ammunition 

Talon Tactical Outfitters



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6 Responses to Dan Wesson Specialist, the 1911 evolved.

  1. Michael A. September 14, 2020 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you for your review! Greatly appreciate it.
    I have the dan wesson Discretion and the specialist in 10mm.

    Can you please give me models for magazines fir the 45 and 10mm? It seems like every time i buy magazine even it says universal 1911.. it does not work right..meaning, it will fit but once i cock the slide it will not release. It seams lime it gets caught. They are full size 1911s.

    Thank you
    Mike A.

    • Hunter Elliott September 21, 2020 at 5:53 pm #

      My favorite magazines are made by Check-Mate. Take a look at what they got and pick the ones you like best. All of their magazines are top quality.

    • Derek C March 14, 2021 at 1:55 am #

      Tripp Research and Wilson Combat mags will be your go to. I’ve never had an issue out of either one of them. Ensure you’re not using 10mm mags in your 45 and vice versa. That will give you issues.

  2. matt mullins September 26, 2020 at 12:17 pm #

    Had to support my ol buddie over here…I’d like to find some extended mags for my dws10mm…gonna check your recommendations out now..took a 2hr hike here in eastern ky yesterday with my specialist and 6″ trp..damn cyotoes are everywhere here..I live in floyd co which is just west of pike co….Lotta old strip mines with plenty of rabbit they have a field day on…hope we run into one another someday I could enjoy a beverage or 2 shootin the bull..thanks again

    • Hunter Elliott September 28, 2020 at 7:09 pm #

      Thank you Matt, I appreciate that. A beverage or two would be awesome.

    • Derek C March 14, 2021 at 1:57 am #

      I run Tripp Research 10 round mags in my DW Bruin. They feed and function flawlessly. Best 1911 mags out there.

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