Dan Wesson makes some of the finest 1911s on the market. I regard most of their products as highly as those from, say, Wilson Combat, Nighthawk, Les Baer, and others. The crazy thing is that MSRP on a Dan Wesson is often 33% to 50% less. In 2014, I got my hands on and reviewed a DW Valor and loved it. I didn’t purchase it, though, as I wanted just a bit more pizzazz. But with the release of their suppressor-ready Discretion — the better part of Valor? — I found my new 1911 . . .
Looking back on that Valor review, I went into a lot of detail about how high-end 1911s are custom fit and how purchasers are generally looking for super tight tolerances, plus how you pay for that tight fit both in dollars and reliability. Also, I speculated at how Dan Wesson distinguishes itself here. I’d suggest reading the first section of that review for more information, but the short version is that a Dan Wesson leaves the factory fit to what I feel is the exact sweet spot. They’re flawlessly snug, yet they run smoothly. But more on the Discretion’s fit later.
There she is, in the case, complete with two, 10-round magazines — my Discretion is chambered in 9mm! — bottle of lube, barrel bushing wrench, owner’s manual, warranty info, and Dan Wesson decal. The thread protector was installed from the factory, and I don’t know what shenanigans it was up to when this photo was taken.
It’s intentionally missing from this one, though, to show the extended, threaded barrel. That’s half of what makes the Discretion “suppressor-ready,” whether you’re picking one up in .45 ACP or in 9×19 like my example here.
The other trick to true suppressor-ready status is tall sights to see over the girth of the silencer. The Trijicon rear sight sports horizontal serrations to reduce glare, a tritium dot inserted below the notch (for Straight Eight-style alignment), and a vertical front so it can be used for slide manipulation.
No surprise, the mountainesque Trijicon front sight is a perfect match.
Between those tall sights the flat-topped slide is serrated. Like the serrations on the rear sight, this helps to reduce glare.
Moving down from there we find an M1913 Picatinny-spec accessory rail on the front of the forged steel frame.
On the other side, the only slide marking is the model name — “Discretion” engraved discreetly above the slide stop. Once again, I very much appreciate how clean Dan Wesson keeps “old slab sides.” They’ve avoided turning their slides into billboards like so many other manufacturers do.
Of course, those giant slide cuts aren’t exactly subtle. It’s a pretty big aesthetic departure from the rest of the Dan Wesson line, and I can’t seem to decide if I like it or not. Among the folks I’ve asked, it’s running about 50/50.
Many will say it isn’t only aesthetic, though, and that lightening up the slide can reduce felt recoil while also offsetting some of the additional heft of bolting on a suppressor. For those who like front serrations for slide manipulation, rejoice. Those giant slots provide excellent purchase.
Headed down the pistol again we get to the trigger. It’s a skeletonized job from EGW with the slightest curve to its serrated face. Those serrations look a bit aggressive, but feel great on my trigger finger. Although this trigger is not externally adjustable for overtravel, Dan Wesson has tuned it to perfection…but more on trigger pull quality later.
Below that, frontstrap and backstrap are cleanly and finely checkered to 25 LPI. It’s sharp enough to provide incredible grip while fine enough to be all-day comfortable.
A magazine well funnel adorns the bottom of the grip frame. It’s blended flawlessly to the frame bevel and is also almost exactly the same width as the grip panels, so overall it looks and feels very much like an integral piece of the gun.
Getting into the details on parts fit now, the slide-to-frame fit on this Discretion is perfect. By perfect I do mean perfect. Each of the five sides of the slide rails flawlessly match each of the five sides of the frame rails and they’re all as flat as a laboratory-grade straight edge.
Whether the slide is locked back or barely placed onto the rails during assembly, it does not wiggle. Grabbing slide with one hand and frame with the other, eyes closed, you could easily mistake them for one solid piece of steel. Unless, of course, you pull the slide to the rear, in which case it slides on those rails like oiled glass.
Machining and extremely black, extremely durable duty finish are flawless everywhere.
Bushing-barrel fit, bushing-slide fit, barrel lugs-slide lugs fit, grip safety- and beavertail-frame fit, etc. are all top notch. Again, I’d say they’re exactly at the sweet spot. They’re right where the over-tight, custom-made 1911 is after it’s broken in with 500 or 1,000 rounds and first begins to run reliably.
On The Range
The day my Discretion arrived I took it straight to the indoor range. I loaded up both 10-round magazines with cheap reloads, sent the target out to 25 feet (8.33 yards), and chewed through those rounds rapid-fire. Really, I was looking only for basic function, curious if it would run right out of the box.
Run it did, and I couldn’t believe how small the group was considering how fast I was firing. Match grade barrel and incredibly precise fit make the Discretion mechanically accurate to the extreme, but there are three main things that make the Discretion so dang shootable in practice…
- The sights are crisp, clean, highly visible, and were dead-on.
- 9mm 1911s are smooth. Oh so smooth. And the Discretion is the best example I’ve shot. The recoil spring is so soft I can easily rack the slide by pulling on the rear sight with my pinky finger. Recoil while firing is about as light as it gets in 9mm, and man does this thing shoot flat. Muzzle rise is so minimal that the front sight seems to just stay still.
- The trigger is fantastic. It breaks at 4 lbs but feels more like 3. It has no creep, no overtravel, and a short reset. Heck, it’s a lot like clicking the button on a computer mouse. How short can a 1911 trigger actually be from on-the-sear to fully rearwards to reset again? Check this out:
A trigger that short and crisp makes it easy to run the gun faster than my skill level should allow. Of course, a gun that shoots so very soft and flat makes it easier to keep up and keep the rapidly-appearing holes on target.
As you can see — the blue line and the highlighted data — there’s 0.052″ of take-up to the trigger shoe. I wish it didn’t have to be there but it’s inherent to the 1911 design and most shooters praise it as a first stage that prepares the shooter for proper fundamentals on the break. As seen in the graph, the Discretion’s take-up is very smooth and is quite consistent at about 1.5 lbs. After that you’re up against the sear until it breaks at 4 lbs. The TriggerScan detects ~0.028″ of creep, but I’m not able to feel it here. The break is absolutely crisp and the weight drops precipitously back down to the take-up weight before immediately hitting the overtravel wall.
The TriggerScan graph also shows — the red line — a short reset distance, meaning most of the take-up does not have to be repeated between shots. Were the Discretion’s trigger the 14th contestant in the AR-15 Drop-In Trigger Roundup, it would have tied for 1st on short reset, placed 2nd for short overtravel (and much closer to 1st than to 3rd), and placed 4th for least creep. It’s a hell of a trigger.
Resting the Discretion on a sandbag and shooting 5-shot groups at 15 yards — my right eye isn’t good enough for group size shooting at much longer distances with pistol sights — I was surprised at how accurate the pistol is with a huge range of ammunition types and bullet weights. Federal HST in 147 grain flavor turned in great groups:
But then again, so did everything else:
I wasn’t happy with that Blazer group at top left, so I shot it again:
Yep, it was my fault. The Discretion also grouped 92.5 grain solid copper +P rounds right in line with the rest of the 115, 124, and 147 grain fodder I put through it. I wish I had a Ransom Rest, as I’m fairly confident the mechanical accuracy of this pistol would be stunning to behold.
It was just as accurate for me with my Liberty Mystic X on the end. It was quiet, too. Discreet, even. 1911s tend to make pretty good suppressor hosts, and considering subsonic 9mm generally suppresses better than .45 ACP, the Discretion makes a superb one.
Surprising even me, the Discretion ran flawlessly right out of the box. And I’m someone who holds Dan Wesson in relative esteem precisely for making tightly-fitted 1911s that function reliably out of the box. Still, I was surprised because the fit is just as tight and great as it is on the .45 guns but the recoil spring is so soft in comparison. I figured it would eject just fine, but might have trouble going into battery until some sort of “break-in” period was complete.
That wasn’t the case. Through 500 rounds the Discretion ran with complete reliability whether suppressed or not, whether shooting round nose, flat nose, or hollow points. Well…except for three fairly severe stoppages, the blame for which can be shared between gun and ammo.
You see, the Discretion’s stainless steel, match-grade barrel has a match-grade chamber. It’s tight. It’s flawlessly machined and nicely polished, but it’s snug. While I ran six brands of factory ammo through the gun without a hitch, I managed to get three of Freedom Munition’s 115 grain reloads jammed about halfway into the chamber so hard that it was physically impossible to unlock the slide by hand (ramming the front sight into the edge of a steel bench worked great, though, as did a rubber mallet to the rear sight). In all cases it was the slide’s normal, forwards motion that stripped the round out of the magazine and crammed it into the chamber, sticking it fast.
Now, the ammo does share some of the blame. Measuring with my calipers, the rounds that seized up the gun were at the extreme fat end of the SAAMI case diameter spec range. Every factory new round I checked — fully 10 different brands — was meaningfully narrower and fell freely into the Discretion’s chamber. However, according to my caliper these trouble-causing reloads were not actually out of spec. Additionally, they all plunked right into a GLOCK’s chamber (yes, so does a hot dog), Ruger American Pistol’s chamber, Beretta Nano’s chamber, and REX Zero 1 S’ chamber (the pistols I had handy at that moment).
While I couldn’t find a factory-loaded round that didn’t gravity feed into the Discretion’s chamber, it’s definitely fair to say that it’s cut tight. If I were to use this gun for defensive purposes, I’d fill it with a quality, new ammo brand that I trust. Heck, I’d plunk each round into the chamber before loading it into the magazine just to be 100% sure.
If you haven’t shot a 9mm 1911, you should put it on your to-do list. If you haven’t held and shot a Dan Wesson, add that to the list, too. With the Discretion, Dan Wesson has taken a notoriously smooth-shooting category of gun to the next level. I’m addicted to racking the slide with the Matterhorn-shaped (no, for real) rear sight, using only my index finger or the edge of my hand. The gun is just So. Dang. Smooth.
Our Fearless Leader™ suggests nothing is perfect and that we’re always able to point out a flaw, a nitpick, or an “I’d change” in a product. The Discretion leaves me grasping at straws here. I suppose the match chamber is a double-edged sword, taking some credit for accuracy that exceeds my shooting ability but also meaning it won’t chamber muddy, out-of-spec rounds like a GLOCK might. As I sit here at my desk, slowly cycling the slide and enjoying the feel and sound of it, I don’t much care. I know it’ll chew clean through 500 rounds of factory ammo right out of the box without a hitch — even if most of those are shot suppressed — and be an absolute joy to shoot that entire time, while putting up groups as tight as the shooter’s skill level is capable of.
Specifications (Dan Wesson Discretion):
Caliber: 9x19mm (also available in .45 ACP)
Action: Single Action Only, hammer-fired, semi-automatic
Trigger Pull Weight: 4 lbs
Barrel Length: 5.75″
Overall Length: 9.5″
Width: 1.5″ at widest point (at thumb safety)
Weight: 41.25 oz (2 lbs, 9.25 oz)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Few shooters could ever exceed the mechanical accuracy of this pistol, but with great sights, soft recoil, and a stellar trigger, the Discretion will help most shooters shoot their best.
Ergonomics: * * * *
Compared to other 1911s, it’s as good as it gets without entering the territory of seriously oversized controls.
Reliability: * * * *
Minus a star for a tight, match chamber. If I were taking this thing into battle I’d open it up a couple thousandths. But I’m not, so I won’t. I’ll stick with the exceptional accuracy.
Customize This: * * * * *
The sky high sights, threaded barrel, and accessory rail do reduce the number of holster options a bit, but being a 1911 there are still plenty to choose from. Other than that, it’s nearly impossible to beat the size of the aftermarket available for a 1911 with a threaded barrel and Pic rail. Then again, the Discretion already has a magwell, tritium-illuminated suppressor sights, threaded barrel, railed frame, slide cuts, cool hammer, great controls, fantastic trigger, and nice grips. What more could you want?
Concealed Carry: * * *
Average as full-size 1911s go. Aluminum or titanium frame and a bob tail would bump it up in the rating, but it wouldn’t be the same gun. A double-stack frame would knock it down. So…about average.
Overall: * * * * *
It’ll put a dent in your “Discretionary” income for sure, but it’ll actually be a lot smaller than a comparable gun from most of Dan Wesson’s peers. The Discretion is suppressor-ready, cool looking, accurate, beautifully made, and oh-so-dang-smooth.