After 50 years of firing and using ‘Old Ugly,’ I am still surprised at the many uses the 1911 has been put to. The 1911 has not only done the job, it has excelled in small-game hunting, competition, personal defense, and home defense—not to mention warfare and police service. A Government Model .45 is as versatile a general-purpose handgun as we are likely to find. Among the best I have tested in some time is the Dan Wesson Heritage, a full-size stainless steel Government Model .45.
Dan Wesson began offering 1911 handguns more than 20 years ago. CZ-USA has been responsible for marketing and distribution of the Dan Wesson line for over 15 years. Quality, reliability, and options have grown considerably in that time. I think it is a wise move for Dan Wesson to compete in the mid-range 1911 field.
There are excellent handguns in the $1,200 to $1,800 range. Dan Wesson doesn’t compete for the bottom line; it competes against worthy competitors including Les Baer and the Springfield Professional. The next tier includes Ed Brown and Wilson Combat pistols.
The Heritage 1911 is designed to offer a lot of value at a fair price (MSRP over $1,400, k-var.com price just over $1,200). The pistol doesn’t have forward cocking serrations or super-fancy grips. It may be a Dan Wesson entry-level type, but the bottom line is that the pistol is manufactured to the same exacting tolerances and with the same care as much more expensive Dan Wesson handguns. It is arguably the nicest and best-made 1911 many of us will ever own.
Many of the parts are hand-fitted, and the piece benefits from the use of solid steel parts. There are no MIM parts in any Dan Wesson handgun. While Dan Wesson also offers Commander-length handguns, the steel-frame Government Model is the most comfortable to shoot and gives the best predictable accuracy.
The match-grade barrel is a tight fit. While barrel-to-bushing fit is tight, the barrel bushing does not require a tool to dismount. The recoil guide is the original type without the complication of a full-length guide rod. The barrel locking lugs are what is referred to as a hard fit. The muzzle is nicely crowned. There are nine cocking serrations on the rear of the slide.
At .08-inch wide, they offer plenty of leverage. The ejector port is properly lowered and flared in the modern fashion. The slide is a flattop design with a grooved ridge between the sights. The front and rear sights are dovetailed in place. The rear sight features a notch that allows precision fire as well as rapid sight acquisition. The rear sight may be moved in the dovetail slot by loosening the set screw and tapping the sight with a brass hammer. The front sight features a tritium insert set in a white circle. With a .130-inch front sight and a rear notch of .136 inch, the sight picture is ideal for most uses.
The stainless steel frame features a slightly beveled magazine well. The beavertail grip safety is an upswept-type with memory groove bump. This makes for easy funneling of the hand into the grip and lowers the 1911’s already low bore axis. The grip safety releases its hold on the trigger about midway into depression.
The solid aluminum trigger breaks at a perfect, smooth, and repeatable 4 pounds even according to the Lyman digital trigger-pull gauge, dropping the cut-out Commander-style hammer. The trigger face features vertical striations. The grips are rubber Hogue in the double diamond style. The safety is a well-designed speed type similar to the original Swenson design. The checkered magazine release is slightly extended compared with GI guns. The pistol is supplied with two eight-round magazines with witness holes and a rubber basepad.
Prior to firing the Dan Wesson Heritage handgun, I cranked up the Lyman press and turned out a number of handloads I felt would be a good match. The first comprised a Hornady 185-grain XTP and enough Titegroup powder for 890 fps—a mild target load by most standards. The second has been my standard heavy load for more than a decade. A Hornady 230-grain XTP rides over a stiff charge of Unique for 900 fps. The first load I fire often, the second sparingly. The Heritage 1911 came out of the box running without any failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
I had carefully lubricated the long bearing surfaces, barrel hood, and barrel bushing. The initial firing was conducted at man-size targets at 7, 10, and 15 yards. The groups were centered and well placed. The trigger and sights added up to excellent practical accuracy. Moving to the heavy 230-grain load, recoil was increased but controllable. This load also ate the center ring out of the target in rapid fire.
I fired two factory loads from Hornady. The first is renowned for accuracy potential and an excellent balance of expansion and penetration. This is the Hornady 200-grain XTP. Recoil is modest in the Government Model 1911. Control is excellent. Moving up in energy is the Hornady Critical Duty 220-grain Flex Lock. At 950 fps, it has plenty of power. This load is the equal of if not the better compared with my heavy handload. Control is good and practical accuracy excellent.
After the combat firing stage, I fired for accuracy from a solid benchrest position at a long 25 yards. The following table shows the results of two five-shot groups using three loads.
25-Yard Five-shot Group Average
Dan Wesson Heritage
|Hornady 185-grain XTP handload||1.5 inches|
|Hornady 200-grain XTP handload||1.2 inches|
|Hornady 220-grain Critical Duty||1.75 inches|
Clearly, the Dan Wesson Heritage 1911 is accurate enough for personal defense, competition, or even hunting. This is good kit well worth its price.
Carrying a Government Model in comfort requires careful leather selection. The Galco N3 features a solid rear guard-type belt loop that cinches the pistol tight against the belt. The holster offers good concealment as well as a balance of retention and speed.
Are you a Dan Wesson fan? Which model is your favorite? Share your answers in the comment section.
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