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(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Tom Kenny

About a year ago my wife started to ask me what I want for my birthday, but then corrected herself and asked me which gun I had already picked out for myself. I wasn’t really sure. I mean I knew that I wanted a Colt Python, but I also knew that we just had a second kid and didn’t really have Colt Python money.

I decided that just about any six-inch .357 revolver would probably do the trick so my beautiful wife and I spent the whole day going from gun store to gun store and pawn shop to pawn shop until I found the ideal poor man’s Python. What I found was a Dan Wesson Model 15 which, if my research is correct, was made in the early ’70s. I walked out of the pawn shop with it for under four bills. It shows it’s age a bit, but I just call those scratches and missing spots of bluing character marks.

Upon returning home I sat down to take a closer look at my favorite birthday present. The wood grip feels fantastic in my hand, the checkering is grippy enough to not slip around in a sweaty hand, but probably not grippy enough to rub my palm off. There’s a fantastic indent that fits my thumb like a glove. The cylinder locks up tight enough. Sights seemed okay, it has an adjustable rear sight matched up to a steel front sight with a piece of bright red plastic embedded in it for contrast.

The only thing that seemed off to me was the location of the cylinder release. It’s in front of the cylinder which is not something that I’m used to, however when I pushed down on it the cylinder came free which was encouraging. Dry firing it was a little slice of heaven. It has a long and heavy but incredibly smooth double action pull with just enough of a second stage that I could take the slack off before deliberately letting the hammer drop. In single action it was incredibly short and light with a satisfying break and no discernible over travel.

Out on the range this thing was a blast. On its first trip out it ate a hundred rounds each of .357 and .38. In between shooting and chuckling I found the only downside. It was a little awkward popping the cylinder out with a hand full of rounds as I had to use my support hand to work the cylinder release. That’s it. That’s the only thing that I can find wrong with this gun. A little awkward.

The weight of the large frame and steel construction absorb the .357 well enough and make the recoil of the .38 almost disappear. The trigger still refuses to disappoint me, the weight is well distributed and it points incredibly naturally.

As far as accuracy goes it’s a tack driver, in fact it somehow makes me a tack driver. My groups got tighter and tighter as the day went on until the sad moment when I looked down and realized I was all out of the appropriate ammo and had to begrudgingly shoot all the guns I had liked just the day before.

It has never once missed a range trip. How does this stack up against a Colt Python? I don’t know and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know as that info may cost me a couple grand, but I’m very happy with my Dan Wesson.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics: * * * *
It’s losing a star for the forward cylinder release. Without that it would be getting all five.

Accuracy: * * * * *
Wonderful.

Reliability: * * * * *
Never had a problem. To be fair it is a wheel gun.

Carry: * * 1/2
Should probably only be carried on Halloween while dressed up as a drunken, burnt out Nick Nolte circa 1987.

Overall: * * * * 1/2
I’d love to give it all five stars, but it still bothers me just the slightest bit that I can’t work the cylinder release with one hand. And I have to leave some room for the unlikely eventuality that I can talk my wife into letting me get a Python.

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42 Responses to Gun Review: Dan Wesson Model 15 Revolver

  1. My dad has had an old Dan Wesson pistol pack for as long as I can remember. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it without the 8″barrel on it though. Anyway, if the model 15 is anything similar to that, it’s gonna be a great gun for a very long time.

    • I have just come to the realization that the 15 is the more common pistol pack. Now I’m not sure which model his is actually is, but I do know it came with 2.25, 4, 6,and 8 inch barrels. Regardless, still a great revolver

      • 10, 12, and 15″ were the other barrel lengths.

        I love my Pistol Pac setup but as another poster mentioned, I hardly ever use it without the 8″ barrel mounted.

        The longer barrels sell for a pretty penny – a 15″ vented heavy went for over $1,000 on eBay earlier this week – about 75% of what I paid for my whole Pistol Pac a number of years ago (which included the original case, 4 barrels, 2 wood grips, extra front sights in yellow and white, and barrel change tool – everything but the patch and belt buckle).

        I’m sure it would be sweet to shoot with a 12 or 15″ just for the coolness factor but it’s awful hard to justify the prices they sell for…

        • I don’t remember him having a patch, but the rest of that does sound like the same package. And I’d be willing to guess those extended barrels must be extremely uncommon with that kinda price tag. Can only imagine how a 15″ one would throw off the balance

  2. This the 1st ever Dan Wesson revolver review that does not mention the interchangeable barrels.

    I have a 357 15-2 from the 80’s. I love it. It has the factory 4 inch barrel and I have a EWK Slab Side 2.5 inch with a green fiber optic site on it.

    • For what it’s worth I have run across a person who owned a second hand Model 15 that didn’t know much about the gun and was completely unaware that the barrels were user swappable. Always assumed it was forever stuck as an oddly proportioned snubnose. I doubt that’s the case but it is odd to see the most notable feature of the Dan Wesson omitted.

  3. If you buy a Python you’ll likely relegate it to the safe, because collectible. Your Wesson is going to bring you a lot more fun than an investment.

    • I totally agree. He will likely shoot this gun a lot, and enjoy it far more than he would a safe queen Python. I really enjoy my Security Six. Like this Dan Wesson, it is a gun I actually take out and shoot. Now that I reload .38 special, the ammo price isn’t too bad either.

      These older “duty revolver” type .357 handguns aren’t as popular today as they use to be, but they are still wonderful firearms.

  4. How in the heck does anyone machine the threads on the barrel with enough precision for the barrel to be extremely tight AND line up vertically to perfection (meaning the front blade sight is perfectly vertical when the barrel is screwed tight).

    I would imagine that the barrel would often be under-tight or over-tight (and at risk of stripping threads).

    The fact that Dan Wesson revolvers offer multiple interchangeable barrels that all line up (front blade sight being perfectly vertical) is mind-blowing to me.

    • It’s dead simple really. The barrels are threaded into the frame, then the shroud is installed over the top. The shroud has a locating pin for alignment. Then you just adjust the gap then lock it down with the lock nut which screws into the end of the shroud, tensioning the barrel. Replacement barrels are (or were) like $40 bucks. The shrouds however, can get pricey.

    • “How in the heck does anyone machine the threads on the barrel with enough precision for the barrel to be extremely tight AND line up vertically to perfection…”

      Dyspeptic described awhile back how gunsmiths make custom screws line up perfectly, and I imagine a similar technique would work for the barrel as well:

      (In this method, every screw is specific for each hole. You MUST keep track of where each screw goes)

      Machine a screw with a double-height head. Slot the top of the head.

      Now torque the screw to its *exact* inch or foot-pound torque.

      Now mark where the new slot needs to be. Machine off the top of the screw head to its needed height.

      Cut the new screw slot.

      When you torque the new screw to its exact torque, the slot will line up perfectly.

      I imagine Dan Wesson treated a barrel blank the same way, then finish machined the barrel ribs, etc, to line up perfectly vertical up-down when the barrel is torqued properly.

      Machinists can be ingenious clever bastards, don’t you think?

  5. It seems so strange that you closely examined the revolver only after purchasing it and taking it home. You mentioned: opening the cylinder, feeling the grip, checking lockup, and dry firing.

    I do all of those things at the gun store – before – buying the gun, especially with a used gun (most of my guns were bought used).

    Congrats on the great revolver! I know people love their Dan Wesson revolvers. The word on the street is that they are built very solidly (much like the Ruger revolvers).

    • “Dan Wesson revolvers. The word on the street is that they are built very solidly (much like the Ruger revolvers).”

      Have Dan Wesson 15 and have Ruger GP100 WC model 3″ barrel .357
      Gave the GP100 to my sister in law, kept the Dan Wesson. Have a number of Ruger pistols and revolvers. If I’m on a ranch with feral hogs, gray foxes and coyotes, carrying the Dan Wesson

  6. +1. The Dan Wesson’s of the 1970’s are seriously underrated. I’d love to find one in .41 magnum . . . .

    Has anyone handled the relaunched CZ versions? How do they compare to the original?

  7. Tom – We know you love this gun (and the Python). Do you have any thoughts on how the Dan Wesson compares to the S&W 686, Model 19, Ruger GP100 or Security Six revolvers? I’m thinking in terms of fit and finish, durability, accuracy, etc. I know the DW offers the interchangeable barrels.

    I know that all of these revolvers have their fan clubs. I don’t have much experience with most of them. I’ve got the Security Six, have shot a friend’s GP100, and have gun store fondled the Dan Wesson, but don’t have much knowledge of the category.

  8. I bought the Model 715 back in Dec 1983. I still have but I use is mostly for target shooting. It is a great weapon. Mine had a vented full log 6″ barrel and a 4″ barrel. The trigger pull in single action is about 3-3.5 lbs and the double action is about 8-9 lbs. The action is very smooth and feels lighter because the internal parts are coated in nickel and the trigger is wide and smooth. Dan Wesson is now owned by CZUSA, has made a new version of the 715 for several years now and sells barrels for it but the price has gun up quite a bit for this new revolver. The basic gun is about $1200.00 or more. I used to have a Python years ago and the trigger pulls were about the same in single action but since the Python had a narrow trigger is felt much heavier and more difficult to shoot in quick double action and had to install a wide trigger shoe to make it quicker in double action shooting. My Dan Wesson is comfortable and very accurate to shoot and since it is in SS, it still looks like new.

  9. I have one and the cylinder release is no big deal once you get used to it. Hold the gun in your left hand, work the release with your left thumb and push the cylinder open with the index and middle finger of your left hand. It holds the cylinder steady (and keeps it from spinning) and it is a snap to reload using a speed loader. Then push it back shut with your thumb, and you are ready to go. With a little practice, you will wonder why you liked the other style. It also seems to be a tighter locking mechanism that the s&w or colt style. Add to that the interchangeable barrels, and great accuracy. It was a sad day when they stopped making them.

  10. My first center fire handgun. I bought a new 6″ V Barrel Model 15 made in Monson MA for $250.00 in the mid 70’s. I later bought a snubby barrel.

    I still have it and shoot it on occasion. Far more accurate than I ever was.

    DW claimed the front latch added to the lockup strength.

    • According to an inflation calculator: http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

      That $250 in 1975 is equivalent to $1,118.25 in today’s dollars. That seems pretty close to the current price of the CZ version of the DW revolver. It is also considerably more than a GP100 or 686. It might well be worth it. I don’t know enough about revolvers to judge.

      Since the author of this article bought this revolver for less than $400 in today’s dollars, it sounds like he found a good deal.

      That is one of the reasons I love buying used guns.

      • Mine is a 15-2 so it was purchased in the late 70’s. My wife reminds me that she actually bought it, so technically it belongs to her.

    • My first centerfire handgun, too. No way I could have afforded one of the Colt snake guns in 1979. The barrel tensioning appealed to the young mechanical engineering student in me but it was the bluing that made me have to buy it. It’s still a wondrously beautiful and accurate machine. A 15-26 for less than $200 out the door at an Austin discount department store named Gibson’s. I put a Hogue grip on it about 20 years ago, as the factory wood grip got sweaty and a little slippery at the range in the Texas heat.

      A department store gun was not unusual for the times; my dad bought a few hunting rifles and his ammo at a liquor store in San Antonio. How times have changed.

  11. It’s a beaut and one I would most definitely pickup if seen (I don’t need it but put one in my hands and I’m like a kid in a candy store). BTW, CZ’s ownership of Dan Wesson has resulted in some quite expensive but fine revolvers.

  12. Have the 15 in mid eighties production, very accurate but trigger not even close to my same era smiths model 13 or model 66 even a later 681. As much as I like my Dan Wesson and my Rugers (never liked the Python trigger) the 1980 S&W are my most accurate in terms of actually using the model 13 and the 681 were my favorite EDC for years. 6 rounds of 125 gr 357 rounds cover a lot of social issues, and smiths were slightly faster to reload with speedloaders than the Dan.

    • “With all due respect to the guest reviewers, these reviews are very amateurish.”

      Every one of TTAG’s ‘professional’ reviewers got their start in TTAG by submitting their amateur reviews.

      Write up a review of a gun you have and submit it and dazzle us with your professionalism… 🙂

  13. I bought a 357 15-2 VH (ventilated, heavy) pistol pack when they came out in the early ’70s. I carried it deer hunting in PA with the 8 inch barrel mounted. I could have reached out and touched one if it had antlers. The western holster gave it a fun look. This was a very accurate and fun gun. I am speaking in past tense because I loaned it to my brother-in-law for Peace Office Training and I never saw the gun since. He has the gun and 4 inch barrel, and I got a divorce…

  14. I just got a gently used S&W Model 60 Pro AND a new ESEE 4HM for my birthday from my brothers, parents, and wife. Gun and Knife. Best birthday ever.

  15. My first 15-2 was the second revolver I bought, after the insanely bad Taurus Model 83 I had went back to Taurus the first time to be “fixed”. It never was. I bought the DW at a Las Vegas gunstore for a pretty cheap price. It wasn’t hitting the primers very hard, the previous owner had clipped the mainspring. Once I put a new one in, it was good to go and the DW small frames are my favorite revolvers with the S&W N frames being a close second. Mostly because they can be worked on with ease, and the mechanism inside is super simple compared to an SW. I have owned about a dozen of them over the last 40 years, selling them only because I needed cash. I’ve never had a real problem with one, even a couple that were seriously abused by a previous owner. I presently have a 15-2, a 715(Both in near mint condition), and a 44. Once you get used to the front latch, the one on a Smith seems “wrong”. There’s only one other .357 I want, and that’s an S&W 28, but I won’t sell my DW’s to get one.

  16. It’s tge best 357 magnum in tge world with interchangeable barrels and pinpoint accuracy. He’s tge great grandson if tge co-founder of sw. When they went stupid into other things like foreign markets and parts he carried tge legacy of the strong quality American steel revolver. His craft died with him. A lot if Smith and wessen owes their credit to Dan carrying on that quality. As for a colt python. It’s not near the gun quality regardless of their ridiculous bc we can price and this has t barrels I prefer the 6 inch. At 50 meters i murder with Hornaday critical defense 148grain. It’s more accurate than my Ruger Blackhawk. 44 or my redrawn 8 inch which us saying a lot. They are nail drivers. It’s a fine weapon.

  17. Dan, the front cylinder release is a PLUS not a minus. The front of the cylinder is where it meets the forcing cone and an accurate alignment here bring better accuracy. That is one of the reasons your Dan Wesson was so accurate.

    Cylinder releases at the back of the cylinder do not stop the cylinder from moving out of alignment on firing. This front release and the fact that the barrel was under tension by tightening the barrel nut against the barrel shroud were some of the reasons that the Dan Wesson won almost every silhouette competition.

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