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Staff Handgun Review: Dan Wesson Valor

By staff writer: Charles Coker

I love 1911s, I consider John Browning’s design to be the ultimate marriage of engineering, craftsmanship, functionality and ergonomics.  Yes, I have my plastic guns and they absolutely serve a place.   But as far as pure enjoyment of shooting, nothing to me beats a 1911, not even a nice revolver.  To me, they are like an extension of my hand, I see what I want to hit and engage.  I have had quite a few of them and had been hearing great things about the Dan Wessons for quite some time but had never actually shot one much less ran one hard.

A few months ago, I decided to give one a try and ordered a Valor.  Click below to read my Dan Wesson Valor 1911 review.

 

I liked what I read about the Dan Wesson guns and the Valor in particular.

I would say that the Dan Wesson is producing a 1911 that is in a unique place in the market, they are not mass produced but aren’t one off custom’s either.  What you get is a gun that has the attention to detail of a custom without the price tag so long as it has the specs/parts you want.  They produce only a few hundred Valors a year and they are made by one guy start to finish.  No assembly line work there.  One at a time, with pride and done right.

Specs for the Valor include:

  • forged stainless frame and slide
  • 25 LPI checkering
  • undercut trigger guard
  • Ed Brown grip safety and mainspring housings
  • Heinie Straight 8 Ledge night sights
  • Optional “Duty Finish” ceramic coating in flat black (I chose this)
  • EGW Carry Bevel Bushings
  • VZ Slim Line G10 grips
  • no MIM internal parts
  • series 70 internal extractor
  • 2 Dan Wesson 8rd mags with base pads

In short, the gun is specked very nicely and includes lots of the nice items you might want in a custom.

When it arrived at my FFL (GT Distributors in Austin, TX) the guys in the shop were fondling it when I got there, all were very complimentary on the fit and finish.

Everything was fitted nice and tight, frame to slide, grip safety, barrel bushing, etc…

The edges of the frame were beveled as is the magwell.

Upon dis-assembly I only saw one minor fitting issue on the barrel underlug.  Being ultra nitpicky this could have been executed a tad better.

The trigger felt perfect.

Enough with the cork sniffing…

How did it shoot?

Initial session:

First range outing with a few boxes of 230g ball to do the initial testing at my local range (Reds Indoor Range) showed me the gun ran.

Put the target out at 15 yards and aimed for the small black 2″ dot in the middle and first round drilled it, I quickly chew on ragged hole and moved out to 25 yards.

Shooting off a rest I was getting 2″ groups with a variety of ammo.

Extended testing:

Over the next few months I ran all sorts of ammo through the gun, intentionally not cleaning it.

I ran everything from match ammo from Black Hills, light target hand loads from my buddy that were tuned for his gun with a lighter recoil spring and running his 10rd Chip McCormick mags at a match.  I also ran cheap Russian steel cased ammo, 255g +P hard cast loads from Buffalo Bore and Double Tapp, 185g +P JHP loads, etc…

Never a SINGLE malfunction, not even when the gun was brand new.  I generally will excuse a new gun for a feeding issue within the first 200 rounds. This was not needed with the Valor.

I shot this gun at the range a bunch, a match, and took it with me out hunting.  That’s the reason I got the 255g hard cast.  While I have a great “hunting handgun” in an S&W Performance Center 44 I don’t really want to carry that all the time when out at our hunting property.  I would much rather carry a 1911 and frankly, I am must faster and more accurate out of the holster and first round on target with a 1911 as I just shoot them so much more.  There are times when I would like to pop a hog at say 40 yards that I run across, and the 255g hard cast at 950 FPS should do the trick.  I don’t like JHP for hunting, especially pigs.

The finer points

I already covered the basics of the gun, the specs, fit, finish, accuracy, reliability… so what’s left?

The finer points of the gun of course, things like the checkering, the sights, etc…

I really like the Heinie Straight 8 sights.   I have used them before but it has been a while,  I really liked the sight picture and found it to be dead on for my hold. Basically, if you want to hit a 2″ circle at 25 yards hold to the tip of the front sight like a 6 o’clock hold and squeeze the trigger.

I was busting clay pigeons one day from 15 to 40 yards on a berm with ease.

I can’t stand 3 dot night sights.  I like a flat black rear and for competition day use,  a Fiber Optic front sight like a Dawson setup.

I found the sight picture intuitive, accurate and fast.  The small tritium dot on the rear didn’t distract me from the front sight like a 2 dot sight.  In low light, the larger/brighter front sight just pops better.  The front blade is thin enough to be precise and the tritium insert near the top of the blade catches your eye in the daylight even though it’s not lit up.  These sights are the “ledge” version which has a, well, a ledge on the front of the sight to facilitate one handed slide racking.

The 25 TPI checkering is nice, aggressive enough for a good grip but not cheese grater like a 20 TPI.  It’s sharp enough to be very positive but not cut into your hands.

I really like the VZ slim line Grips, though for myself having very big hands I would prefer the standard thickness grips, but, hardly a show stopper.  And as popular as they are, you could sell them for probably 75% of the cost of a new set.

The finish on the gun seems very tough and showed no signs of wear after several months of use and I don’t baby my stuff.  I don’t go out of my way to abuse gear but I see guns as a tool that should be able to handle some hard use.

About the only thing I could see to improve the gun would be to perhaps add an extended mag well for competition and may end up doing that.

Summary of gun review

I think the Valor is an outstanding gun.  It was put together with good parts, attention to detail on assembly, is very accurate and it ran flawlessly.  I truly feel it is a step above the Springfields Kimbers, etc… And will hang right there with guns costing a lot more money.

In short, while it’s not a cheap gun, it’s a very good value.  At the end of this review period I will not be sending it back, I just can’t.  It runs too damned good and I trust it 100% and that is something that can only be earned over time.  The Dan Wesson Valor did just that.

Time to pony up some hard earned cash, this one’s a keeper.

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ccoker

Founding staff member, avid shooter, hunter, reloader and all around gun geek with an obsession for perfection
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One Response to Staff Handgun Review: Dan Wesson Valor

  1. Mike Silverton says:

    My own happy experience with a stainless-finish Valor reflects that of Charles Cocker. I can well understand his reluctance to let the gun go.

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