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Dan Wesson DWX: The Best Of Two Worlds? [Hands-on Review]



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THE BEST FEATURES OF THE 1911 AND CZ-75 – PLUS THE AFTERMARKET SUPPORT OF BOTH!

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

Dan Wesson has been teasing us with the DWX since they first showed it at SHOT Show in January 2019. Promising the ideal mashup of 1911 and CZ 75 components, we waited, like the rest of the gun world, with bated breath for it to hit the shelves. 

And then we waited some more. Eventually, we gave up and found other new, shiny things to spend our depreciated dollars on, while DW dealt with the tribulations of bringing out a new handgun in a world beset by the problems we’ve become all too familiar with. Now, three years later, we finally got to take one to the range.

Several commentators were quick to categorize the DWX as a 1911 slide on a CZ 75 frame, and while it might superficially appear that way, there’s actually a lot more going on than initially meets the eye — you can add a splash of Charles Petter’s M1935A, and SIG’s P220 and P320, to the recipe as well.

UNDER THE HOOD

Let’s start with the slide. Like a 1911, the DWX’s slide runs outside the frame rails, but strays from Browning’s design through its use of an external extractor — not a big deal as both S&W and SIG’s 1911s use them, as does Ed Brown. Hell, even the 1911 gurus at Wilson Combat chose to incorporate one in the design of their XC9, which has JMB’s DNA coursing through its veins. 

The next area that departs from 1911 geometry is the ejection port. First used in 1975 in the SIG P220 and carried forward into just about every centerfire handgun design ever since, the DWX uses the squared-off front of its ejection port to interface with a ledge on the barrel in order to lock the two together.

Remember when we used to shoot just for fun? The DWX makes no pretense of being a convenient carry gun, a high firepower service pistol, or a cheap plinker, but it puts a smile on the face of everyone who pulls the trigger.

This eliminates costly machining associated with the 1911 (and CZ 75) locking lugs. Finally, like Petter’s French service pistol of 1935, the DWX drops the 1911 barrel bushing and adds a full-length guide rod; in doing so, the typical 1911 recoil spring plug is deleted as well. So much for the upper’s lineage. 

Finished in satin black nitride, the slide on the example we played with is well machined, with no tool marks evident, and it fits tightly to the frame with very little play evident. The breech face features a 9mm-sized firing pinhole, while the firing pin itself is retained with a 1911-type firing pin stop, rounded appropriately for the caliber. There’s no Series 80-style firing pin block here, so thank you, 8-pound, 6-ounce newborn baby Jesus.

Dimensionally, the DWX slide is both wider (0.978 versus 0.915 inch) and shorter in the Z axis (0.880 versus 1.035) than a 1911, so there’s no chance it’ll fit on a 1911 frame — trust us, we tried. The difference in height can be attributed the choice of locking mechanism, as the 1911’s swinging barrel link takes up a lot of space, and its absence allows the bore axis to drop slightly closer to the shooter’s hand. 

Sights consist of a dovetailed front sight, 0.110-inch wide with a green fiber-optic rod, while the rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, with a serrated rear surface and 0.125-inch-wide notch. The combination gives good visibility in order to rapidly pick up the front sight, with enough space around it to fine tune the sight picture for difficult shots, while seven serrations milled into the sighting plane cut down glare and draw the eye. 

Yeah, it’s dirty. Sorry, not sorry.

About the only criticism of the sights we can offer is that in this day and age, bringing a pistol to market without an optic cut is like only chambering it in 40 S&W. We’re told that a compact model, along with a full-sized gun with the ability to accept an MRDS, will be here around Q2 of 2023, but given the length of time it’s taken to get this far, we’ll believe it when we see it.

A six-groove, conventionally rifled heavy barrel spins 9mm bullets down its 4.8-inch length and sits flush with the slide at the muzzle, relieved with an 11-degree target crown. It sits above a full-length steel guide rod and recoil spring, which you’ll be pleased to know is from a 1911, so tuning it to your liking takes about 2 minutes and 10 bucks.

The slide stop pin, long a weak spot in the CZ 75 design, has been beefed up; it’s about 25-percent thicker than that on the Czech gun. Unlike the P10 whose magazines it uses, the DWX’s feed ramp is reasonably long, though not as long as the SP01 we compared it to. 

We expect it to avoid the issue that shooters using extended base pads have found in the P10, which can suffer from nose-down failures to feed. The standard base pads are anodized red to match its grips, with dimples to accept a paint marker.

If you look closely, you can make out the 1911-style mainspring housing in the CZ75-style backstrap. The rear sight is fully adjustable but requires an Allen wrench to drift it in the dovetail.

So far, so good. It’s in the DWX’s grip area where things get a bit weird. The CZ 75 heritage is obvious — it has the long dust cover of the TS2 and Pic rail slots of the SP01, but the trigger guard houses a 1911-style trigger, rather than the pivoting blade of the Czech guns. 

The backstrap also looks like a CZ 75 profile, but instead is removable and keyed in like a 1911 mainspring housing, which is fine, because that’s the function it performs. 

And right where you’d expect the typical CZ sear cage, it’s enlarged to form a fire control group, just like the P320 — yep, it’s a chassis pistol. The mag release is also a mashup, CZ profile but retained with a 1911 lock screw. 

It’s as if Dan Wesson’s engineers sat around with a bottle of bourbon one day and spent their time slapping each other on the back with tears streaming down their faces as each one came up with a new joke to play on gun geeks. “Hey Bob, you know how the SP01 has ambi safeties — let’s make them look like they came off a Springfield Operator!” 

The DWX is fed from CZ’s excellent P09/P10F magazines with a 19-round capacity right out of the box. The grips are standard CZ pattern, so the well-established aftermarket for these models will allow owners to modify their guns as soon as the ink dries on the 4473. 

Fortunately, the mags are about the only thing that’s imported from Europe, bypassing supply chain issues; while the frame looks like it came out of Uhersky Brod, it’s forged and machined in the USA, like the rest of the major components.

Despite the seemingly odd combination of parts, the resulting meatloaf actually works very well. There’s a very appealing heft to the gun due to its steel frame, without it being too muzzle heavy. 

And the CZ 75 grip geometry is retained, while taking advantage of that sweet 1911 trigger. Purists of both camps may well turn up their noses, but if this bastardized hybrid is wrong, then why does it feel so right? 

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

We first shot the DWX at a media event at Gunsite, arranged by the marketing conglomerate created by CZ’s acquisition of Colt, Dan Wesson, 4M, and Spuhr. We have an editorial policy of never basing gun reviews on junkets, as there’s always more to be learned about the gun when you have the opportunity to put several hundred (or preferably, thousand) rounds through it, versus the handful sent downrange under the watchful eye of an engineering team. 

So at the end of the event, we managed to pry serial number 8 away from its proud parents, putting it through its paces at in a couple of training sessions and a local match. And boy, does it shoot.

Without doing anything to the pistol apart from taking it out of the box and jamming it into a holster, it turned in the first of many sub-2-second Bill drills, no warm-up required. Shootability is a somewhat nebulous term, but you can get a good idea of how quickly the gun recovers from recoil, how fast the sights can be acquired, and how rapidly the trigger can be reset if you stand at 10 yards and just burn it down. 

It’s as soft-shooting as only a 43-ounce, steel-framed pistol can be, and its remarkably consistent 4-pound, 2-ounce trigger allows the shooter to hammer without disturbing the sight picture. Reliability was tough to gauge, as we were limited by an impending deadline, but out of the 600 or so ball rounds we managed to send through its barrel there were zero failures to feed, fire, or eject. 

Our only criticism was a too-short front sight, such that even with the rear cranked all the way down, 115-grain FMJ struck about 6 inches high at 50 yards. As this is an early production pistol, we expect certain bugs, and in the grand scheme of things, swapping it out for one that’s 20 thousandths of an inch higher isn’t a big deal. 

But prospective buyers should be aware of it before they slide their plastic across the counter. Oh, and it’s a Novak dovetail, in case you were wondering.

While it’s no carry gun, we’re left scratching our heads as to the niche this particular model is supposed to fill. Due to its single-action trigger, minor caliber, and portly weight, it’ll struggle to find a home in USPSA and IDPA divisions, though it would make for a very competent three-gun pistol. 

A .40-caliber version would absolutely slay in Limited division, so long as magazine capacity can be reliably upped with base pads, and if equipped with a red dot, it would dominate IDPA Carry Optics. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just buying a handgun to, you know, shoot. 

And while its full potential on the competition circuit will no doubt be realized by shooters who aren’t afraid to put an expensive pistol under the knife, the majority of sales will be to people who just think it’s a very cool gun. And you can count us in on that score. 

THE GUNROOM

Want to see the DWX in action? RECOIL TV has that and a whole lot more. Take a look!

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