Interchangeable handgun barrels and grip frames are really nothing new. Decades before SIG SAUER launched the P250/P320, Dan Wesson sold eponymous revolvers that could morph from a medium-frame snubnose to a vent-rib metallic silhouette cannon with the turn of a few strategically-placed screws and bushings. Sadly, these fine revolvers have been out of production for several years . . .
As a budding young shooter in the early 1980s, Dan Wesson handguns were the epitome of cool. Before The Age Of Glocks, Dan Wesson ‘Pistol Packs’ like this one were everything you could ask for in accurate, reliable firepower. Remember: this was just before the dawn of the ‘Wondernine,’ when most 9mm semi-automatics were hopelessly unreliable by today’s standards, and even the best of them often choked on the few 9mm hollowpoints of the day. In 1982, if you wanted a sturdy handgun that reliably fired hollowpoints, you wanted a revolver.
The Dan Wesson Model 15-2 .357 Magnum was introduced in 1975, and is perhaps the ‘Classic’ Dan Wesson revolver. Its rugged frame could swap barrel lengths and grip styles at will, and the gun built an excellent reputation for accuracy and reliability. Later Dan Wesson designs got larger and larger to accomodate more and more powerful and exotic revolver cartridges like the .357 Maximum and .445 Supermag, but the Model 15-2 was everything that a Dan Wesson sixgun should be. Dan Wesson himself died in 1978, but the Model 15-2 remained in some form of production until 2008.
In the 1980s, manufacturers started to develop semiautos which could function reliably with improved hollowpoint ammunition and police departments transitioned to these designs through the rest of the 1980s just as the crack cocaine crime wave crested. Tens of thousands of LEOs traded in their used Colt Troopers, Ruger Security-Sixes, and S&W 686s for Glocks and Berettas and 5906s, and and the bottom fell out of the medium-frame revolver market. Why spend north of $500 for a Dan Wesson, when you could pick up a used Security-Six for less than $200?
The Dan Wesson company went through a reorganization in 1983, and production moved to a new Massachusetts facility in 1992. The brand was sold entirely in 1996, and production was moved to New York. The first New York Dan Wesson revolvers shipped the next year, and in 1999 the first Dan Wesson 1911 hit the market.
The 1911 proved to be the death of the Dan Wesson revolver. CZ purchased what was left of the Dan Wesson enterprise in 2005, and fans hoped that CZ would revive production of the revolver line. But this would not be the case. CZ scaled down revolver production until 2008, and finally stopped altogether.
TTAG’s own Tim McNabb cornered CZ two years ago and asked them: “Is Dan Wesson Coming Back?” CZ’s answer was a cautious but unambiguous ‘yes.’
Hearts quickened, and fans even noticed that a Dan Wesson revolver was listed in the CZ-USA catalog from 2012. A few promising production guns were released, but the 2012 production run must have been vanishingly small. Revolvers are no longer listed in the catalog or on the CZ-USA website; they’re only referred to in the historical past tense.
So, after two years, where are the Model 15-2s, and why do we hear the sound of crickets chirping? If you’re not going to bring Dan Wesson revolvers back, just say so. Dan Wesson might make nice 1911s, but 1911s are about as unique as ARs these days so don’t expect me to get too excited about another one.