Few can deny the timeless lines of a classic 1911. Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers screw up Old Slabsides by treating all that real estate like billboards. Not Dan Wesson. The Valor, like most of the DW line, is one of the cleanest looking pistols out there and is a true testament to exceptional quality materials, workmanship, and finish. You can spend a heck of a lot more on a custom 1911, but a gun like the Valor makes that additional money a lot harder to justify . . .
While our G.I.s allegedly used to select an ideal fighting forty-five by giving ’em a shake and choosing the one that rattled the most — loose fit suggesting reliability, especially when dirty — that isn’t really what most buyers are looking for these days. A high quality 1911 is expected to be precisely fit. A truly top-of-the-line 1911 will see almost every last part hand-fitted, often locking up tighter than a bank vault — no play whatsoever, parts fit gaps measured in ten thousandths of an inch, and sometimes slides that you can’t even get out of battery without pressing the muzzle down on a hard surface. Break-in periods of 500++ rounds before they’ll begin to run properly are often par for the course.
The primary goal of this sort of fit is accuracy (and aesthetics), but you pay for it. Literally pay in dollars, as hand-fitting takes many hours of skilled labor and/or the newest, best CNC or EDM machines cost a fortune. You also pay with those lengthy break-in periods and pistols that can’t be disassembled without tools or even racked without mechanical assistance. Oh, and backlogs can be measured in years from the time you place your order.
Now, somewhere between box-of-rocks loose and space station airlock tight must be a happy medium; a gun that’s essentially like a full-on custom after it has fired a few thousand rounds, which is when many say they begin to hit their stride. My apologies for the long intro, but I think this is precisely the niche that Dan Wesson has nailed.
Through the use of modern CNC equipment, tooling, and processes which DW began implementing in 2000, the company is able to maintain extremely precise tolerances. When dimensions are spot-on, less hand fitting is required to achieve the precision demanded by the high-end 1911 market. Considering the absolute top quality materials and parts that comprise a DW 1911, the lower MSRP ($1,701 for the stainless Valor) compared to most of the 1911 custom shops is likely due in large part to this savings on man-hours.
Just to be clear, every single piece on the Valor is hand-fitted, polished, and blended. Rather than purposely making oversized parts and filing them down, though, I believe DW comes much closer to the mark in the first place, finding time savings there.
Unlike many custom shops, it’s my opinion that Dan Wesson chooses more appropriate clearances. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m not the biggest fan of being forced to finish the fitting process on my $3,000+ pistol by shooting 500, 1,000, 1,500 or more $0.50 rounds of .45 ACP through it — often with frustrating reliability issues and painfully stiff moving parts — just to get a reliable handgun. This may not be the general perception, but if the slide needs to cycle a thousand times before the necessary minimum clearances are worn in, then I think it was too tight coming from the factory.
I’d prefer to receive a pistol that already has the proper minimum clearances to function, and this is where Dan Wesson lives. To be clear, they’re still tight guns.
Slide-to-frame fit on my Valor leaves absolutely no wiggle room that I can feel, up-and-down or side-to-side, whether in battery or with the slide locked back. Despite this, it cycles smooth as glass and as easily as the recoil spring allows.
Please note that this Valor is a “BLEM” version, so designated for a slight mistake with the ejector pin hole. Well within proper spec for most companies, DW is obviously extremely picky and checks out every pistol very closely, and a non-blem may have nicer ejector fit than my example. Honestly, if it hadn’t shipped with a QA diagram circling and describing the blemish, I would have never found it, probably assuming they accidently put a perfect gun in a “BLEM”-labeled case.
Bushing fit is more precise than I’m capable of seeing or measuring. No light is visible between bushing and barrel, and I’m apparently not skilled enough with a caliper to reliably measure whatever tolerance is here (e.g. if the bushing ID is 0.00x” larger than the barrel OD).
Bushing-to-slide fit is also extremely precise, without being ridiculous. I feel like it’s just barely tighter than I’m capable of turning by hand, and the Valor does ship with a polymer bushing wrench in the box. There is zero play between bushing and slide.
Barrel lockup is the same story. When in battery it proves to be the rare pistol that gives no play at all in the barrel-to-slide fit. Wiggling a dowel in the muzzle or pressing on the barrel hood in various ways does nothing. Bank vault, while at the same time absolutely not being that custom piece that literally requires you to place the muzzle on a hard surface and push down on the grip to break it free. Again, I consider this ideal — as tight as I’m capable of detecting without requiring $500 in ammo to fire fit.
Parts fit is excellent. In this category not everything is blended as perfectly as on some custom guns, but the Valor still leaves very little to be desired. Gaps are consistent and very tight, with no misalignment of things like the grip safety and mainspring housing and pins fitting perfectly in pin holes. The largest parts fit gap anywhere on the gun is probably on either side of the grip safety.
Another possible source of the low-for-this-level-of-quality MSRP is the fact that Dan Wesson doesn’t manufacture every part on its 1911s. Grip safeties, mainspring housings, slide stops, barrel bushings, grips, sights, and springs typically come from a combination of other companies such as Ed Brown, EGW, Grieder, Wolff, VZ, Heine, etc. All of these parts are carefully sourced and are best-of-breed and, again, they are all hand-fit. I’ve heard that Jarvis makes DW’s barrels but I’m not sure if that’s the case or if DW makes or partially makes (i.e., everything but the rifling) them in-house. You may be happy to know that there are precisely zero MIM parts in a Dan Wesson.
Whoever makes the slide stop, I do appreciate the bevel. It helps idiots like me avoid the dreaded “idiot mark.”
The parts that DW makes come from bar stock tool steel. That would include the sear, hammer, disconnector, thumb safety, mag release, and maybe the GI style guide rod but I’m not sure on that one.
Slide and frame are forged stainless steel, machined by Dan Wesson and then hand-lapped for that smooth, precise fit.
The frame sports very clean, 25 LPI checkering front and back and an undercut trigger guard.
The magazine well has some more-or-less standard beveling on the sides and back.
The Valor is a “Series 70” style 1911, meaning it has no firing pin block. Safeties include the grip safety and thumb safety. Plus a half cock notch if you consider that a safety. While the Valor is not an ambidextrous gun, its tactical-railed brother, the Specialist, sports an ambi safety (in addition to some other features like a flared mag well).
Circling back to the beginning of the review, one of the things I love about Dan Wesson’s 1911s is how incredibly clean they are. The Valor has classic looks with no front cocking serrations or accessory rail and combines that with a slide and frame devoid of superfluous markings, logos or adornments.
The Valor is available in matte stainless or, like this one, Dan Wesson’s black Duty finish. Apparently a form of ferritic nitrocarburizing, it’s flawless and uniform and tough as nails and black. Really black. The blackness. Granted, I really don’t know what I’m doing behind a camera, but trying to photograph the Valor was more frustrating than usual. The only other pistol that gave me such a hard time was my Springfield Professional, which was an older Nowlin-barreled example with the black hole of black finishes (a couple of collectors told me it was different from the current Black T finish). Auto focus doesn’t even work reliably on the black parts of these guns.
Awesome as it is, the Duty Black is a ~$300 option so it doesn’t exactly come cheap.
Like a few other pistols in the DW line, the Valor wears a set of Heinie LEDGE Straight Eight Night Sights. The front post has a white outline around the green tritium vial and the serrated rear sight has an amber colored tritium dot. These are defensive/tactical sights, with the rear sight employing a flat front to allow for single-handed racking of the slide along with a wide notch to facilitate rapid front sight acquisition.
The trigger on this Valor breaks at 4.25 lbs every time. There’s a couple millimeters of slack (there’s no pretravel adjustment) before a dead stop against the sear. At this point it’s rock-solid — zero creep — until you get to 4.25 lbs of pull and you’re rewarded with a crisp, clean break. A set screw in the trigger face adjusts for overtravel, and I didn’t have to tinker with mine. It felt perfect out of the box and stopped solidly with no extra travel.
I’ve pulled a decent number of exceptional triggers, including custom 1911 triggers, and this one is right up near the top. For a production gun, it’s spectacular.
Two Metalform mags were in my case, although I understand that DW uses Checkmate mags as well. Stainless steel including the follower. 8-round flavor.
Function has been flawless for me and the 8th round goes in without too terribly much trouble. However, when fully loaded there isn’t much additional room for the follower to go farther down. With the slide forward, I was not able to lock a mag with 8 rounds in it in place (the bottom of the slide has to push the top round down, and it just can’t go down far enough). Basically, despite having 8-round mags, my Valor was a 7+1 affair. Zero issues with 7 rounds in the mag and, with the slide locked back, fully loaded mags snick into place smoothly.
While quick to acquire, the sights aren’t ideal for ultimate precision. The rear notch is just too wide for me to align exactly the same every time. At least that’s how I felt. Five-shot accuracy groups from a sandbag at 15 yards looked pretty good, though.
On The Range
The white target ring around the front tritium dot is a nice touch, and I found it easy to pick up. Again, the wide rear notch makes finding the front sight fast and this all works very well for shooting steel on the range. I even drilled my FBI Q target from 50 yards offhand a few times. I think I’d be even more accurate with a narrower rear notch, but I obviously wasn’t suffering here.
Certainly, the stellar trigger is a big help. It’s so clean and consistent with a nice reset and short overall travel that doing my part and pressing it smoothly was second nature.
Control wasn’t an issue with that great 25-LPI checkering. It’s sharp and precise but feels good in the hand. A definite contrast from my Springfield Pro, which had razor sharp 20-LPI checkering ostensibly designed for use by gloved operators. Yes, it was grippy as hell but it was also downright painful for extended range sessions. On my first day out with the Valor I put 200 rounds through it and felt great. Grippy, controllable, and comfortable. If .45 cost less I could shoot the thing from dawn to dusk.
It isn’t entirely fair of me to say that no Dan Wesson is going to require a break-in period, as there will be instances when that’s necessary and your gun will likely ship with cleaning and break-in suggestions in the owner’s manual. DW suggests firing 300-500 rounds with regular field stripping, cleaning, and re-oiling before one of their 1911s should be considered “competition/combat ready.”
When my brand new pistol arrived I field stripped it, oiled it, and then went shooting. Reliability has been completely flawless through hundreds of rounds and it has yet to come apart again for cleaning. A couple boxes of factory loads from American Eagle, Magtech, and Tula (yes, steel cased) and a whole bunch of reloads and the pistol is getting dirty but has fed, fired, and ejected every single round.
The thumb safety is an excellent size and shape for me and has a very positive detent. Not difficult, but a really nice “snick” on and off.
Dan Wesson’s Valor is a sweet shooter. It’s a blast on the range. It’s smooth, reliable, consistent, tight, accurate. It’s what should result when you use top quality materials and parts and fit them together with skill and care. Interested to see how it stacks up to some of the big names in premium 1911s? Check out this shootout done by Dave Severns, comparing detailed build quality, clearances, accuracy, and more.
The fact that you can buy this pistol off the shelf and get [at least] the quality of a custom gun that can easily cost twice as much and take over a year to build is practically mind blowing. I really liked my Springfield Pro a heck of a lot. It’s a dream gun for many 1911 enthusiasts and it’s awesome. But I like the Valor more. I think it’s a better gun for less money. It also actually functions properly right out of the box.
Specifications: Dan Wesson Valor
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5.00″
Overall Length: 8.75″
Weight: 38 oz
Sights: Heinie Ledge Straight Eight Night Sights
Grips: VZ Slimline G-10
Weight: 38 oz
MSRP: $2,012 in Duty Black, $1,701 in Matte Stainless
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Ergonomics: * * * *
About as good as a 1911 gets. The beavertail, curved thumb safety, slightly extended mag release, and checkering all work great for me.
Reliability: * * * * *
Works out of the box and the parts quality will keep it ticking for a long, long time to come.
Trigger: * * * * *
Customization: * * * * 1/2
It’s a traditional 1911, so you’ve got that going for you. I’ll knock off half a star since there’s no accessory rail on it. If you need to adorn the front of your pistol, check out the DW Specialist.
Overall: * * * * *
I’d consider a fully custom 1911 for the ability to truly have it made just for me. You know, spec out exactly what I want for checkering and slide serrations and trigger, hammer, slide profile, etc etc. Short of that, there may be brands with more caché and much higher price tags, but I’m not sure anyone does a better 1911.
Good thing you can shoot, Jeremy. Otherwise, you’d be shopping for a new windshield!
If I put a bullet through the car I’d probably be shopping for a new wife, also haha
Excellent, detailed review, with good pix, too. I’m not much of a 1911 guy, but your fine write-up along with the combo of features, fit, and price of this model has got me hankerin’ for another slab-sided paperweight.
Well done! You made a die-hard Glock guy want (another) dang 1911, after deliberately divesting myself of the last of my boat anchors over 5 years ago.
Just remember: along with great power, comes great responsibility…
Excellent review. Makes me want one. Can you get one with a Duty Black slide and a Matt Stainless frame?
DW will take custom orders…I had planned on a custom Valor next year actually.
It isn’t a factory option, but you might be able to talk them into it as a custom order as mentioned above. Otherwise, I suppose you’d have to order a stainless one and then send the slide out somewhere for coating. Severns’ Hard Hat would be a comparable option.
I talked to Severn’s about doing just that and he quoted me a cheaper price and a faster delivery than DW custom. DW wanted 1800. and said January.
Nice! Link to a photo when you get it 🙂
I have a very hard time believing that his sample ran that way from the box, mine fused itself together in just eight rounds despite the liberal application of the worthless oil the factory shipped it off with! Unfortunately I had ignored the growing chorus of complaints about these guns and their serious galling issues, a phenomenon most other companies mastered decades ago! Mine was a Heritage, and I have heard of many examples of that particular pistols fusing itself due to galling.
I’d never donate another dime to this incarnation of DW….
When I first cycled the slide on my new Heritage Dan Weson, one spot on slide had some binding. So I applied the light oil supplied by Dan Wessn and racked slide 100 times or so and then a cleaning. More of the light oil and another three or four cycles of racking slide and cleaning. Prior to shooting, used a liberal application of a heavy synthetic oil and shot 50 rounds of the least expensive 45 FMJ I could find. Then cleaned and oiled for the next group of 50 rounds. Hand held using sand bag on a bench rest from 25 yds, the Heritage 45 acp shot one five shot group of 1.38″. For the first100 rounds fired, there were no failures to feed or failures to eject. I was very pleased — the Heritage model easily shoots on par with my 9mm CZ Tactical Sports Checkmate. Since this is my first 45 acp, I can only say I enjoyed shooting the gun and it performed very well for me. From my perspective, the only drawback is that the trigger does have a bit of pretravel. Once at the set point, the trigger breaks very cleanly — nearly as cleanly as my Morini “pellet gun” with an electric trigger and on par with a Jewel trigger on my bench rest gun. In short, appears to me to be a very well done firearm and certainly would please anyone who wants an splendid American made production gun.
Can we get some more tree stump photos? Those are great. Forget the Israeli super models…
…can’t tell if sarcastic 😉 . You’ll have to take what you can get here, as photographing this thing was a total PITA haha.
The photos are great. Have you tried other magazines in it to see if the 7+1 problem is unique to the gun or the mags it came with?
It’s the mags. The issue is that the 8th round barely fits in and the follower has no more room to go downwards so it simply cannot compress against the bottom of the slide. I highly doubt any 7-round mag on the market would have this issue and I’m sure most other 8- and 10-round mags would work fine. That said, I didn’t test with other mags. My safe has been devoid of 1911s for almost two years, since I cleared out a Springfield collection (Professional, MC Operator, LW Champion Operator, EMP), and I no longer have any other 1911 mags.
Why did you clear out the SAs?
No specific reason, really. I guess mostly because I didn’t have much use for them. Only the Professional was collectible, and the market was hot so I sold it. I didn’t carry or compete with the others and .45 is expensive so I sold them. I basically made the decision to clear out all of my 1911s except for a WWII Union Switch & Signal that was issued to my grandfather, and replace all of them with a single, really high-quality one at some point down the road.
Okay if y’all are actually serious about wanting to see more photos it just so happens that there are a couple that weren’t used in the review. They can all be seen and downloaded on Box HERE.
How much did you pay for it?
~$1,795 is a low but findable “street price” on the black Valor, and ~$1,459 on the stainless version. Specialists are a sort of weird deal right now as they’re actually less than Valors, which is a mistake since they’re the same gun with more features. Apparently DW/CZ is fixing this mistake in the very near future and bumping the price of the Specialist. So… if anyone is on the fence about a Specialist, now’s a good time because you can expect it to cost a couple hundred more bucks very soon. My local gun range and shop, Sharp Shooting, actually just got a whole ton of DWs in stock, including Valors and Specialists, and they do ship. GrabAGun has ’em in stock, KYGunCo has some, etc. No shortage of options if you don’t happen to find one local to you.
Naw, I’m not in the market. I just bought a Springfield Armory MC Operator that I’m currently loving, aside from the sight set up.
Shakespeare would have changed his quote from ‘discretion’ to “the slicked-down slide is the better part of Valor”.
But you had me at big-a_ _ beaver tail. My 1911’s gotta have one.
Too expensive; didn’t read.
Fantastic well written review, and also . . . you can shoot, which helps too.
Full disclosure: I have two DWs. I love them both. I had a problem with my RZ-10 and DW more than took care of it (and me) in an extremely timely and courteous manner.
That said, I’ve never encountered a Wilson, Nighthawk, Ed Brown, or one-man-custom-shop 1911 that fit the description of
“…slides that you can’t even get out of battery without pressing the muzzle down on a hard surface. Break-in periods of 500++ rounds before they’ll begin to run properly are often par for the course.”
Kimbers? Yes. They’re the “custom gun at a production gun price” where corners are cut in order to produce a tightly-fitted gun at a (much-too-high-for-the-quality) lower price.
I’ve heard of similar issues with Les Baer, but lacking 1st-hand experience I will refrain from commenting further.
I’ve seen Baers like that and the few Springfield Pros that I’ve handled new were like that. My Pro actually did run pretty reliably right from the start, but it was stupid tight and a smack to the muzzle was the easiest [non-shooting] way to get it out of battery. I’ve shot an Ed Brown and a Wilson but they had many rounds through them already. Not sure if I’ve played with a Nighthawk. They’re certainly good looking. These are well-known names but there are dozens of other folks in the game and this level of tightness is accepted by many collectors/enthusiasts. Not as an issue at all, mind you, but basically as the opposite — a desirable sign of quality and a promise that fire-fitting is going to result in the utmost perfection with perfect clearances not achievable unless they’re fire-fit. I’m not against that concept, per se, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I think the Valor demonstrates this. Just look at that Severns shootout (and he sells many brands), which gives the slide/frame fitment and trigger quality wins to the Valor, which also wins out in accuracy.
EDIT: I was looking for a link to direct “Springfield Professional” to in the review, and found this review of one by Hickok45. He actually has to do the muzzle trick on camera.
I have a Kimber Custom, TLE/RL. I bought it for $800. It showed me that a 1911 could be reliable, if you are willing to pay the price. It has been flawless, I couldn’t say that about my Springfield Champion or the Rock Island 1911’s that I had owned in the past.
I just prefer the look, the feel of an all steel weapon, the history, the accuracy and with the right manufacturer, the reliability, of a 1911.
It is completely worth it to save up for a weapon like a Dan Wesson.
I appreciate the lack of forward cheese graters on the slide, a solution in search of a problem. Is it just me or is there a burr around 6 to 8 o’clock on the edge of the rear sight insert hole? Seems visible on two photos. Other than that, me want.
Good eye. Yeah, it’s there. I haven’t had a reason to use it myself, but from what I’ve heard Dan Wesson’s customer service is absolutely exemplary. If this were something that bothered the gun’s owner, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they swapped the sight out gratis.
You had me at Dan Wesson. You lost me at $2012.
Aye…$2,000 for a handgun is OUTRAGEOUS! It’s like paying over a $1K for an AK, just silly.
The beauty of a 1911 and/or an AK is the design…simple, reliable machines that have stood the test of time.
I’d normally be with both of you in this area, but have you looked at the general price of handguns recently? In the land of $650+ Glocks, $600-$800 Ruger entry-level revolvers, and $900-$1100 S&W standard wheelguns, this really isn’t that far out of whack, given the features, IMO. The days of decent-quality new $400 centerfire handguns (and $300 AKs) seems to be long gone.
I’ve had a Dan Wesson Guardian .45ACP for a few years and love mine as well. The Guardian is an alloy frame, commander size, bobtail pistol. I bought mine for ~$1400 new locally. It’s my “pretty gun” and I can feel it’s craftsmanship and quality. It is gorgeous. I too chose a Dan Wesson in part because if their super clean aesthetics. No billboards, no front cocking serrations. It’s also never had a malfunction, even when running my reloads. The Duty treatment coating is very durable…I’ve used mine in a kydex holster in a few IDPA matches and practices and it’s got no holster wear yet.
A few things I don’t like about it:
– If I had to do it again, I’d go with the V-Bob, which is basically the same gun, but with a steel frame, rather than aluminum. I don’t carry the pistol, so for range purposes the increased weight would help with lower recoil and faster followup shots.
– The ejection port is not enlarged at the front, so rounds loaded to the longer end of spec can get hung up in the ejection port when the nose of the bullet doesn’t clear the front of the port. I’ve loaded my rounds slightly shorter (but still in spec) to remedy this.
I have seen a number of reports over on the 1911 Dan Wesson forum of people with stainless models having their new pistol’s slide freeze up on them in the first few rounds, requiring a trip back to DW. By all accounts the customer service has been excellent, but that would be annoying to deal with.
Happens to many tight stainless guns…if they are run without enough lube. I also check for obvious burrs and the like, but my stainless DW has run without issue for nearly 1000 rounds. Keep it wet…
Stainless-on-stainless can be particularly prone to problems with galling in certain instances (pressure/heat/specific alloys/imperfect heat treating/insufficient lubrication/etc). Aside from the look, it’s one reason I specifically wanted the Duty Black treatment. I think DW does things right and has only very rare issues with this (and takes care of its customers very quickly), but if I manufactured 1911s myself I’m not sure I’d do both a stainless slide and a stainless frame without treating one or both in some manner.
I have a couple Kimbers, but am far from a 1911 expert. My question is on the mags. I just hate those that protrude from the grip, such as these. Is that something where all 1911s can use all 1911 mags (of correct capacity, of course), so I could just use the flush mags I am using now, or does this gun have to have such designed mags? BTW, Nice gun, nice test! Thanks.
Any 1911 mag made for a full-size grip (not shorter mags made for compact versions) will work in this pistol. In some cases, flared magwells will basically require extended base pads but the Valor is a traditional 1911 and any mag will work, including flat-metal-bottomed 7-round jobs.
if you ever have to forcibly strip out a magazine, you’ll appreciate the (slightly, to be sure) oversize pad versus the flat flush-fit one.
Sweet review of a sweet .45. I thought your photography was excellent, also. I could see owning a Dan Wesson or Wilson Combat (or perhaps the civvie version of the USMC .45) if’n I sold my condo. Otherwise, I’m “stuck” with my Sig 227.
I am an old 1911 fan from way back. I currently own 2 of them. Both will shoot a 2 inch group at 25 yards and both have been 100% reliable since the day they were purchased new with all types of ammo. AND both were purchased for less than 500 bucks brand new.
Admittedly it’s a nice looking pistol in the review and a well written review to boot. But paying more than 500 bucks for a 1911 is dumb!
$500 isn’t what it used to be. Don’t worry, it’s not that guns cost more. Your money is just worth less.
FYI I’ve purchased a couple of cars for $500 and they treated me very well 😉 . There are 1911s for under $500 also, even in 2014, but they aren’t as nice as a Dan Wesson. They just aren’t, and you can feel it. 100% functional or not, they just lack smoothness and refinement and all of the aesthetics that come with clean lines and small gaps and flawless machining, etc. For that matter, there’s also plenty of middle ground between a $500 1911 and a $1,500 1911. No shortage of options. In this case, DW is commonly compared to the likes of Nighthawk, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Springfield Pro, etc etc and, in this crowd, is a hell of a value.
If I had lottery winnings burning a hole in my deep pockets, I’d own a Dan Wesson Titan.
Nice review. Great Gun! I own two Valor’s one stainless and one duty coated. They are outstanding guns.
You said that you own a Springfield Professional. I was very interested in that gun. But when I decided it was crazy to order the gun and then change the grips, mainspring housing, sights, safety, and trigger just to have the “Professional” name I ordered an Ed Brown exactly the way I wanted it. While waiting for the Brown I purchased my first Valor the stainless version.
The Valor was very close to exactly what I was looking for. No front cocking serrations, a ledge rear sight, single side safety. I replaced the trigger with a short trigger and the mainspring housing with an arched housing and I had what was coming from Ed Brown. After 3+ years of owning both the custom Brown and the stainless Valor I have no favorite. I have thousands of rounds through both pistols and I hold both in equal regard.
A few months ago I got the itch to pick up another 1911 and based on my prior experience I couldn’t see why I needed to spend more than the cost of a Dan Wesson Valor so I picked up a Duty Coat Valor. Another Great Gun!
The Valor is an outstanding gun at an excellent price!
From the photos it looks like another boating accident waiting to happen.
Hahaha. I was actually SCUBA diving under the dock a couple of weeks ago to find some sunglasses and deck chairs that had gone overboard. No firearms, thankfully. Although I did drop my GoPro in and had to do a second dive just to find it haha. I brought a CZ P-07 and Walther PPQ .22 down with me to shoot on camera at ~35-feet down, but knocked the camera off my head clearing my goggles. Wasted trip (well, recovered a pair of glasses and two deck chairs). Oh well, next time 😉
I want one. Pleasepleasepleaaaaaase.
Strange that the magazines gave you issues, my SIG Scorpion also arrived with two Checkmate 8 round magazines. Never had an issue with either one in the SIG or my Kimber Classic (although the Kimber is a bit tight)
The mags in the photo are not the same as my Checkmates, mine have only the numbered witness holes without the .45 ACP logo although the witness holes are swapped from the photo with 2,4,6 and 8 at the rear of the mag.
Yeah, Checkmate makes a lot of magazines, including “OEM” (white labeled) ones for various manufacturers that you cannot purchase directly from CM or find included with any other firearms. I’m honestly not sure if this was a random fluke or if it’s something expected from the mags that come with DW pistols or just in a certain date range of pistols or what the case may be.
EDIT: my Valor shipped with Metalform brand magazines.
Those mags you see are Metalform Mags. Dan Wesson uses mostly checkmate mags with the Teflon coated followers and hybrid feed lips. Right now they ship with either brand mags. How do I know? I am a Dan Wesson Fan Guy! I own more than I’ll say, and a “few” are Valors. I Love them! That Black “Duty Treatment” Is a “Treatment”, NOT a coating. It’s virtually scratch proof! The Treatment turns the Stainless Steel Black and hardens it.
As far as I know, no other gun maker uses it. Dave Severns hard Hat Treatment is supposed to be as tough. I am sure it is. Dave knows his 1911’s!
You CAN buy The Black Full Size Valors for around $1800.00. Just look around.
One thing is sure, these guns are Awesome!
Thank you! I didn’t recognize that logo and it didn’t match what I knew of Checkmate, but everything I knew in the past and then checked recently said DW used Checkmate. Clearly you’re exactly correct and these are Metalform. I’ll make the correction in the review.
No Problem Jeremy. I have to tell you, you won’t have that 8 round issue loading with a closed slide with Checkmate Mags that Dan Wesson ships with. They ship with Either one. Depends on what they are shipping with at the time.The Metalforms feed superbly! But then, so do the Checkmates! The round top follower on the Metalforms is why you have that issue. The Checkmates have a Flat, Black Teflon Coated Follower that has a dimple in it. They work Flawlessly in every full size 1911 I own.
Jeremy, you said “Whoever makes the slide stop, I do appreciate the bevel. It helps idiots like me avoid the dreaded “idiot mark.”
I can tell you who makes it: Greider Precision
I believe DW uses both EGW and Greider for slide stops. I was told the 10mm’s use Greider and the others EGW but I’m not sure it’s actually that cut-and-dry and it may be a similar case to the magazines like you mentioned above (using them interchangeably). The trigger may be Greider also. It’s hard to say and I’m not a 1911 parts expert so I can’t tell just by looking at them.
The Valors use Greider Slide Stops.
Dan Wesson uses EGW Barrel Bushings, and The slide stops vary by model.
I have Full & Bobtail Valors, they all have Greider Slide Stops
My CBOB has an EGW Slide stop. The triggers are all Greider as far as I can tell
Dan Wesson spares no expense on Quality!
Just a great, very detailed and thorough review… excellent job!!
However, it’s nothing that a DW Valor owner already doesn’t know.
Have several 1911s and my SS Valor is by far the BEST that I own
(re: accuracy, fit and finish)! For me, it’s in that “Never to Sell” catagory!
Thanks for the review.
I love Dan Wesson. I have a couple, but mine have a big round things in the middle that holds 6 rounds. This post got me to check out the Dan Wesson website and low and behold, the revolvers are back!!!!! So far only the .357, but maybe they will bring back the .22LR.
They aren’t shipping yet but I’m hoping to get my hands on one as soon as possible! I have four revolvers in the safe but it has been a really long time since I’ve played with a new one, and the DW looks like a good candidate to end that wait.
Nice review of what looks like a great gun. Irritating; though, when you make up your own definitions
LOL. You’re 100% correct.
I am looking for a custom steel frame standard length 45 and now this one has my interest given the review/comments. I have an Ed Brown Kobra Carry which is easily my favorite handgun and I was pretty much planning on buying another EB. I thought the DW was maybe a half click under Ed Brown in quality but now starting to wonder given the price. Does anyone know the turnaround time on a custom order.
I talked to their custom shop about back in early September about a SS Valor w/ Duty treated slide, they quoted about 90 days.
One of the most beautiful firearms i have seen.
Very Accurate & Well Made too!
As an Owner of more than one of these Beauties, I Promise you, if you Love 1911’s, you’ll Adore a Dan Wesson Valor! I prefer the Black,”Duty Treated” Models, but the Stainless (Satin Finish) are Beautiful Guns too! That Duty Treatment makes these virtually Scratch Proof! And Very Nice Looking too! Dan Wesson 1911’s have every bit the quality In My Opinion as the “Custom” Guys like Ed Brown, Les Bear, etc. for at least $1000.00 less money in most cases. And they back up their guns with a 5 year warranty ( Not that you’re likely to need it!)
Help me out here, guys.
Why should one pick a DW Valor over a Para Elite with similar features (including the hard finish), and costs hundreds less?
Over the last 30 years or so I have been looking for the ideal 1911. I have owned many, and each one came closer to perfection. ALL of them required some customization.
My current favorite is a pre series II Kimber Compact Stainless. There were some minor teething issues with mags, and I changed out the sights, mainspring housing, grips and thumb safety. This thing is pretty close now.
Since any off-the-shelf 1911 might require similar work, it seems a premium factory pistol with most of the desired features might be the best platform to build upon.
Springfield, Para and DW look like contenders. Not so sure about the newer Kimbers.
I have owned three Colts, kept the Combat Commander. It’s ugly but it works. It is by far the loosest 1911 I have ever owned
In retrospect, I should have also kept the S. 70 Gold Cup…
Speakingly simply: The para will not be as nice as the DW.
I picked one of these up, based on this review. Ordered the Specialist magwell from CZ USA, some standard VZ grips, I run it in competition. I needed a backup, so I ordered a Smith & Wesson E series, it has many of the same features, but they’re all executed to a much lower level. It’s a great gun in it’s own right, but nowhere near the gun the Valor is. I got the same grips, sites, similar mag well and going down the list:
Slide to frame fit – the Smith is much looser.
Trigger – The trigger pull is much heavier (just north of 6 lbs), came with some grittiness, but that’s smoothed out.
Checkering – The front strap on the grip is checkered on the Smith, but not as nicely as the DWV. The Smith is more like 15 LPI as opposed to 20 LPI on the valor.
Fire controls – The manual thumb safety feels sturdier and “snicks” into place with authority comparatively to the “squishy” operation of the smith.
Slide stop – the operable surface of the slide stop on the Valor is a little easier to manipulate. The Smith takes apart and goes back together easier.
Accuracy – I’m not a good enough shot to tell a difference, both make .45″ holes where I want them to be more or less.
The sculpting of the grip in general is a little more svelte. My caliper measure the difference as only being approx .005-.01 different, but the DWV feels better in hand however they did it differently.
Reliability: Valor has 1 FTE in over 1k rounds during breakin (first 50 rds). Smith has 1 failure to return to battery when fired with factory lube, admittedly nowhere near the use of the Valor.
I have a lot more pride of ownership in the Valor than I do the smith. I spend time practicing with the Smith, then pick up the Valor, it’s like turning on a switch and I immediately perform at a higher percentage of my potential, not just on trigger manipulation, but transitions and reloads as well. Could be 100% psychological, but there it is. To put my E series on the same plane as my Valor, I’d need to get the $180 Cylinder and Slide trigger/action upgrade kit, and then the slide to frame fit wouldn’t be the same.
If I buy another 1911, I’m not going to go cheaper than a Dan Wesson, they’re already expensive, may as well spring for the heirloom quality one.
Thanks, Dave, that’s great feedback!
I handled the Para Elite Commander at my LGS. It seemed to be a good value at the sale price of $800.00. But did I really need another 1911?
Some time later, after Remington killed off Para, I found this pistol at a major distributor for $500.00.
That answered my question- I grabbed it and I’m glad I did.
It has been a solid performer from day one. Though some parts are MIM, features are well integrated. Machine work and finish are excellent for the price (a few dollars more than some of the recent imports), and certainly superior to my early SA 1911-A1.
The money I saved was spent on a sweet little CZ 527 carbine and a few other goodies.
Still, I reckon there may be a DW in the future.
Do I really need another 1911?
I brought mine to the range. Was really looking forward to firing it. Exceptional fit and finish, no light bleeding through the upper/lower receivers fantastic, glistening beautiful stainless bonding job. Lubed it well per the instructions – twice, cleaned it once.
Loaded and cycled the action, no issue. After the first shot the second round needed help, as did all of the rounds up to 29. On the 30th round the action locked the round between the firing pin housing and the chamber, I had to get two other folks and we got the round out but the action was still jammed. We took my brass lock and tapped on the barrel lightly and the pistol snapped shut (luckily with the round safely ejected); what happened next is why I am infuriated beyond all reproach.
The action is stuck shut, completely. The three of us tried as much as we could to free it. I was able to take the buffer cover and spring out to look down the barrel. It appears the locking pin n the yoke of the barrel either came loose or is somehow otherwise bound-up. I’m a former US Amy armorer but no longer have the tools (left by mistake in my garage in Germany) after the divorce – bummer. This could happen to anybody not a bad mark on Dan Wesson.
Brought it to the shop where I bought it after contacting Dan Wesson and getting an RMA, I do not have an FFL to send it myself.
Of the rounds fired I can say at fifteen yards most all of the 29 were in or touching the center three rings – when I get it back I aim to get all 50 rounds in the box in the center-ring.
I will keep you all posted.
Um, not buffer cover, “plug,” and breech not firing pin housing. My bad… forgot to edit.
Came back from manufacturer in ten days total time from the shop where I purchased it back to my residence via FedEx Express (not FedEx Ground).
Oiled so much I couldn’t keep my hands on it. Ran into two more people who had like issues, exact same problem. The pistols would lock up and their rails “burred.” Both kept theirs but when I walked out with a Les Baer today, they wish they had swapped theirs out too.
I had no faith in the product after the slide completely locked. The pistol itself did not have a mark on it or inside as much as I could tell but I cannot faithfully rely on the firearm thus I have the Baer.
I sincerely hope others have better luck as those shots I did fire were very close to where I was pointing from 25 yards away. It will be a wonderful carry firearm for somebody else – I will fire the LB tomorrow.
You can usually pick up a Ed Brown Kobra, or Ed Brown Special forces for about $1,700 to $2,300. With the lower mark being used. And the higher price like new, or Brand new. That’s much better then a BLEM DW for $1,799!
With this being said, I would get a Ed Brown 100%. All parts built in house . Hand fitted 100% too. Most reliable 1911 out of the box. It just RUNS! Tight fit, with no reliability problems. With a attention to detail being the best in the business.
Ed Brown builds every part, and shoots the hell out of each gun to test them for reliability before they leave the factory.
~$1,770 is the street price for a non-BLEM Valor, ~$1470 for the Stainless.
Yep, I think I found the 1911 I’m gonna save for. I used to shoot glocks a lot, then moved on to revolvers, but since i got my first 1911 (Norinco 1911A1…hey, for 200 bucks it’s a great gun) I want another, “better” one. this is the first one I like and may be able to afford. just a traditional, well built 1911.
I bought a new Dan Wesson specialist 45acp stainless a few weeks ago. Excellent pistol. I shoot it better then my Sig p226 9mm. When I first got it I field stripped it and removed grips to remove excess oil from the factory. I noticed a few light scratches on the frame that were concealed by the grips. Then I accidentally scratched the frame when I reassembled it. I called DW customer service and explained my situation. They immediately emailed me a pre paid fed ex label and asked me to ship them the gun. They rebeadblasted the entire pistol and had it back to me in less then 2 weeks! I can’t tell you how happy I am with the purchase and Dan Wesson customer service.
I bought a new Coonan 357 after reading many positive reviews online and I thought this was a no-brainer. I originally wanted a Dan Wesson 1911 but was lured in by the 357 in a semi auto factor. The Coonan had a terrible barrel from the factory (discolored with waves in the steel and rough as sand paper near the muzzle), and the frame was peening shards of steel from the inside of the slide after only firing 150 rounds.
I wanted to keep the Coonan so they replaced the barrel but to no avail. Coonan customer service said this was normal wear and not to worry. This was not acceptable for $1700 gun in my opinion so I took it to my local gun shop to sell or trade.
I traded it for a used Dan Wesson specialist with the duty black finish. This gun was carried and had a few small marks but still looked almost brand new. The Dan Wesson Specialist is an awesome weapon. The slide to frame to barrel fit is tight and the action is smooth as glass. On my first range trip the specialist shot 48 out of 50 rounds through a 1.75 inch hole offhand at 25 yards. This Dan Wesson is so dam accurate and fun to shoot that I ran through all my stocked up 45 ammo in 3 range trips. I call the specialist my “cheater gun” because it makes shooting almost too easy. The only other gun that I have the ability to shoot this well is a S&W 52-2 that is a semi auto .38 for competition.
The sights on the specialist were dead on and the previous owner replaced the trigger with a 10 8 performance flat trigger which I absolutely love. The trigger is awesome at just under 3 pounds. This is a great gun and I am so glad to finally get what I wanted. No regrets would buy another Dan Wesson if I could only afford one.
Seems like “Dan Wesson” is a code word for “add $1,000+ to the price”. Tell me what it adds to the weapon it is added to.
Impress me….$1,000+ worth
I have a new DW Specialist in 9mm with their black finish. it is a good pistol, for sure, EXCEPT for the finish they are so proud of. After 500 flawless rounds in the pistol, i cleaned it the same way I have cleaned my Wilson Combat CQB for the past 15 years (and the pistol still looks new) and the DW black finish came out streaked and flawed, like it had a clear finish coat of varnish or something. DW responds to my inquiry with offer to re finish the slide for $300. DW is like a new BMW with a two dollar paint job.
Well said !!! I agree just got the DW V-Bob and love it
I just bought an “as new” with all the accessories stainless Valor 10mm
from a local fellow for $1,350, and I’m quite happy about it.
I also have a Dan Wesson PM-10S stainless 10mm, that’s from the
first run of 1911 10mm’s they made; it’s an awesome piece.
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