We would all be lucky to have a reputation as stellar as Dan Wesson revolvers do. Unfortunately, hope as gun owners did, DW didn’t manufacture any for many years. Except for only a few special runs, newly-manufactured Dan Wesson revolvers have been as rare as a unicorn since about 1998. And, I believe, altogether non-existent since about 2005. Thankfully CZ-USA, which has owned DW for a decade now, has decided to expand its product line and get back into the wheel gun game. The first revolver out of the gate is. . .
…the 715, a stainless steel six gun chambered for .357 Magnum.
Dan Wesson revolvers were always unique in that their barrels were easily swappable without the services of a gunsmith. One frame could suit multiple uses, snubby to 10″ compensated hunting barrel with rail. The first question on many folks’ minds will be whether or not these new guns perform the same trick. Opening up the case answers that question:
Not only can the new 715 change out newly-made shoes (or hats, or whatever part the barrel equates to), but it will accept your entire collection of old DW barrels. It comes with the tools necessary to do the swap correctly — a barrel nut wrench and a shim, which you use like a spark plug gap gauge to set the proper space between forcing cone and cylinder.
Proper gappage, incidentally, looks like this:
Part of the Dan Wesson revolver’s solid reputation was superb accuracy. In addition to the normal things like tight tolerances and precise machining, this unique barrel system is supposed to lead to improved accuracy as well. The barrel is “tensioned” by the shroud — torquing that nut down pulls the barrel forwards, keeping it under tension and really locking it solid.
Cylinder alignment is important as well and, once again, in addition to the usual features like tight locking mechanisms and precisely fit parts, Dan Wesson adds some unique touches. The cylinder release latch is on the frame in front of the cylinder, rather than behind it. They claim that allows for a tighter lockup. Plus, that location keeps it out of the way of your thumb while shooting.
The detent is less like a little ball bearing and more like a stainless steel slab of a locking block.
Machining is crisp and flawless everywhere.
Roll marks on good ol’ #28 here…
Clean casting and machining isn’t the end of the story, as the trigger is pretty nice from a functional perspective as well. The double action pull starts with a bit of take-up, and then it’s an extremely smooth and consistent 12.75 lbs. of pull all the way to the break. A set screw is located at the top, rear of the trigger guard allowing for tuning out overtravel. It was set just right from the factory.
As you can see in the photo above, in single action mode there isn’t much room for the trigger to move rearwards. It doesn’t need it. There is no take-up whatsoever and no perceptible creep. Pull with 4.5 lbs. of pressure and you’re rewarded with a clean, crisp break and the absolute bare minimum of overtravel. While it measured 4.5 lbs. on my trigger pull gauge, I would have guessed less, it’s so crisp and creep-free.
A transfer bar safety is employed to ensure that the hammer can’t contact the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. This allows for safe, hammer-down carry with all six rounds loaded.
The standard front sight is a serrated black blade. It’s very easily swapped out for dozens of alternatives in varying heights, colors, fiber optics, etc. While it looks to be pinned in place in the photo below, it actually uses a dovetail on the rear of the sight blade to index over that pin, and is retained via a set screw in the front of the shroud (see muzzle photo above). A hex wrench for this is included in the case.
The large, target style rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. It is a nice slab of black steel.
A black rear sight like that is my preference, but I like the front to be visible with either a nice dot or a fiber optic. I’m not exactly old, but the black/black combo isn’t my best friend. Regardless, I was clanging my steel FBI Q target from 50 yards offhand with boring reliability. My first six attempts at it are in the video above, and all six found steel.
I mention all of this because, while significantly above average, my 25-yard groups would have been tighter with a different front sight.
My guess is that the blob of three holes would have been a blob of five holes, but I didn’t have the kit necessary to mount a scope or a laser to the 715 so I couldn’t really take my eyeball’s fudge factor out of the equation.
On The Range
Just a few days before I got my hands on the 715 here, I was shooting my late step grandfather’s S&W .38 Spl. Airweight. Newton probably would have guessed as much, but size and weight really do make a difference in felt recoil and controllability.
The 715, weighing in at 2 lbs., 14.8 oz., with a decent amount of that owing to the slab-sided barrel shroud, is a pussycat to shoot. Standard .357 Magnum loads felt like 9mm and, compared to the brutal little Airweight, shooting standard pressure .38 Spl. felt like an airsoft gun. They made some noise, but hardly moved the revolver.
The 715 was smooth, comfortable, and exceedingly accurate. Despite my issues with the black/black sights, I didn’t do a lot of missing with this thing. The excellent trigger and soft recoil made it easy to stay on target whether shooting single action or double action, two hands or one. The quality and attention paid to machining, fit, and finish are all apparent from behind the gun. Every aspect of its operation is smooth and easy, yet tight and solid at the same time.
Although much of the heyday of Dan Wesson revolvers was before my time — at least in terms of purchasing my own firearms — I’ve always had my eye on them based on little more than reputation, looks, and those swappable barrels. Over the last decade I spent many an hour trolling GunBroker looking for a Dan Wesson boxed set; revolver + a few barrels.
I’m happy to see that the 2015 revolvers are likely to continue DW’s good name. If the owner’s manual is anything to go by, the new line may not be limited to the 715 in .357/.38, either (and this is only the “small frame” manual):
Specifications: Dan Wesson 715
Caliber: .357 Magnum, .38 Special
Capacity: 6 rounds
Barrel Length: 6″
Overall Length: 11.65″ (As measured. The stat is not on the CZ-USA website yet.)
Height: 5.75″ (as measured)
Width At Cylinder: 1.49″ (as measured)
Weight: 46.8 oz (as measured)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Definitely more capable than I am. A solid choice for handgun hunting or home defense.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
I’m guessing the grip is made for Dan Wesson by Hogue. It’s nice.
Reliability: * * * * *
I didn’t exactly roll it in mud or drop it off my roof, but the 715 exudes quality, smoothness, and solidity. It ran flawlessly right out of the box.
Trigger: * * * *
This is a truly top-notch trigger, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some room for improvement. It’s definitely tuned for overtravel, but it isn’t a custom revolver where everything is stoned and polished and the springs are tuned for light action, etc. The healthy hammer spring, though, should guarantee reliable ignition for hunting and defensive use no matter the primer.
Customization: * * * * *
Hard to find better in a revolver. Swapping grips is a given, but the 715 allows for easy barrel swaps and easy sight changes as well.
Overall: * * * * *
New boss, same as the old boss. In this case, that’s a good thing.