Dan Wesson Firearms
|Subsidiary of CZ-USA|
|Industry||Defense Products & Services|
|Founder||Daniel B. Wesson|
|Headquarters||Norwich, New York, United States|
|Products||Firearms and law enforcement goods|
Dan Wesson Firearms (DW), part of CZ-USA, is an American handgun manufacturer. The corporate headquarters is in Kansas City, Kansas, and the customer service and manufacturing plant is located in Norwich, New York. Dan Wesson Firearms is known for its revolver expertise and for some types of ammunition it has introduced over the years.
Daniel B. Wesson II (1916–1978) was the great-grandson of one of the founders of Smith & Wesson, where he worked from 1938 until 1963. He earned his degree in Material Science and Metallurgy and controlled the quality of his production strictly.
After the purchase of Smith & Wesson by the Bangor-Punta manufacturing concern, Daniel B. Wesson set out to open his own manufacturing operation in order to produce high quality, American made revolvers for service as well as competition use. Dan Wesson Arms was incorporated in 1968, with its headquarters and production located in a former school building in Monson, Massachussetts.
Wesson was aware of gunmaker Karl Lewis' modular designs which had been proposed during Lewis' tenure with Browning, and then further refined during a period spent with High Standard. Wesson signed a production agreement with Lewis, and began setting up the necessary machining and manufacturing equipment. Urging Lewis to prepare prototypes for display at major gun shows, Wesson began tirelessly promoting the company, while working to build a sales network as well as a positive perception of the fledgling company.
Despite the success of the various models of Dan Wesson revolver and the strong "cult like" following which they developed, the company experienced significant upheaval and ownership changes after Wesson's death in 1978. The original Monson facility and production equipment became outdated and dilapidated, and quality began to suffer in some cases, leading to reduced sales (in part due to a trend shifting to semiautomatic pistols for law enforcement and defensive carry) and bankruptcy filings. The corporation was initially moved to Palmer Massachusetts, and the name was changed to Dan Wesson Firearms. Continued low sales numbers led to yet another bankruptcy, after which Bob Serva purchased the corporation and its assets, moving the group to Norwich NY, where it is currently located.
Serva looked away from the faltering revolver market worldwide in order to focus on producing a series of high quality M1911A1-type pistols in various calibers. Popular demand led Serva to gradually reintroduce the production of some revolvers. Despite producing an increasingly-popular brand of 1911s and revolvers at competitive prices, the company faced further financial hardships, and in 2005 the company was purchased by the CZ Group's American branch
Dan Wesson revolvers
While the Dan Wesson version of the 1911 semiautomatic pistol has strong acceptance in the market, the Dan Wesson name will always be most strongly associated with the line of revolvers upon which it was founded, and which boasted a number of advanced features.
Karl R. Lewis invented the main, unique features of Dan Wesson Revolvers. The most obvious of these is the barrel design. While nearly all revolvers are made with a barrel attached to the frame, Lewis' idea was to house the barrel tube within a separate shroud, which places tension on the barrel from the ends. This increases accuracy by reducing the tendency of the barrel to stretch and whip as a bullet squeezes through, and by providing support for the muzzle.
This also makes it easy to remove and install barrels, which allows the user to change barrel lengths and shroud configurations within seconds. This became the primary reason for the success of the Dan Wesson revolver line, as standard revolver barrels must be installed by qualified gunsmiths.
The first interchangeable barrel pistol produced was the W12, or the Dan Wesson Model 12 which was chambered in .357 Magnum. The barrels and shrouds for this model were interchangeable and used an exposed nut on the muzzle end to secure the barrel and shroud. The shrouds on these early models had an elongated flange which mated with the front of the revolver's frame, and which helped to properly secure it. A custom tool and feeler gauge were supplied with each pistol, and a barrel change can be completed in about a minute. Later, this design was refined into the Model 15, which still used the flanged barrel assemblies, but which had the nut recessed inside the flange in order to give the pistol a more conventionally finished look. The tools for Models 12 and 15 are non-interchangeable.
By the late 1970s, further refinements to the model 15 had resulted in the Model 15-2, which is the most well known as well as the best selling Dan Wesson model. The 15-2 used a roll pin inserted into the frame as a centering dowel combined with a precisely drilled hole in each shroud assembly to facilitate proper shroud centering and alignment, thus eliminating the need for flanged barrel shrouds. Due to the difference in appearance, the flanged series are known as "Pork Chop" models. The 15-2 also introduced more barrel offerings, including lengths of 2.5, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 15 inches, venting, ribbed shrouds, shrouds with full underlugs, and plain solid shrouds. The pistols could be ordered as "Pistol Pacs" with 3 (initially) and later 4 (or more) barrel/shroud sets shipped inside a fiberglass briefcase with barrel changing tool and clearance gauges; however, most pistols were sold with only one barrel, with the buyers able to purchase other barrels later. All barrels and shrouds within a model series are compatible, thus a Model 15-2 frame from the 1970s may be equipped with a barrel from the 1990s and shroud made in 2016. The front sight, attached to the shroud, is easily and quickly changed.
The second primary feature which identifies the Dan Wesson at a distance is the placement of the cylinder release latch. Other revolvers place this latch on the frame, behind the cylinder. The Dan Wesson revolvers have the latch mounted on the cylinder crane, thus providing tighter tolerances for the critical relationship between cylinder and barrel than can be achieved with a latch placed inches away. However, this makes one-handed reloading more difficult, as the latch cannot be operated by the hand which holds the pistol stock.
The third feature which separates Dan Wesson revolvers from nearly all others is not so obvious, that being the use of a coil mainspring. Revolvers with flat mainsprings must have a metal framework to anchor one end, while the other contacts the hammer. This framework generally forms the primary shape of the handgrip, to which the stocks are attached, generally with a screw which clamps the two stocks to the framework. The Dan Wesson revolvers house the coil mainspring in a small extension of the pistol frame, and the stock attaches to this extension with a screw inserted vertically through the bottom of the stock. This permits a far wider amount of customization by stock makers -- any shape which will attach to the mainspring housing can be used. One popular stock shape has a very narrow base, which reduces "printing" (that is, the bulge and sharp edges from under clothing when the gun is carried concealed). Like the barrel and shroud, the stocks can also be swapped in a matter of seconds, and the factory-supplied tool used to change barrels includes the hex wrench which fits the stock bolt. One other advantage of this design is the elimination of several square inches of contact area between corrosive perspiration from the hand and metal parts of the revolver.
One other feature of most Dan Wesson revolvers is the placement of a tiny setscrew at the back of the trigger, a common feature in target pistols. The setscrew limits the trigger's travel, both reducing the effect of trigger movement on the bullet's path, and reducing the time of returning the trigger to zero position for rapid action.
These features, and the high level of accuracy which they provided, came at a significantly lower cost than comparable revolvers, such as the Colt Python to which the Dan Wesson was often compared. This led to strong sales of the 15-2 series among shooters. Law enforcement officers especially appreciated the ability to mount the 6-inch barrel and large "target" stock for uniformed duty, then in moments change to the "concealable" stock and 2.5- or 4-inch barrel when they went off-duty or for plainclothes use. By keeping the same frame and action with which they were familiar, the trigger pull and sight adjustments were exactly the same, no matter which barrel was in place. One other factor in law enforcement acceptance was the ability to use the same holsters and speedloaders which were used with the Smith & Wesson "K frame" revolvers then commonly issued by many police departments, allowing an officer to switch to the Dan Wesson while continuing to use current accessories and gunleather. It was also possible to modify the trigger to operate double-action only (in which the hammer would not be operated by the thumb), to satisfy the policies of the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies.
The success of the .357 models coincided with significant interest from hunters and silhouette shooters, and the Dan Wesson company worked to expand model offerings to .44 Magnum/Special, .32 H&R, .41 Magnum, .45 Long Colt, and later the Supermag cartridges and the 7460 model in .45 ACP/.460 Rowland/.45 Winchester Magnum.
The main, popular image of Dan Wesson has always been centered around revolvers. However, over the years the company has also developed and produced rifles, ammunition, and the highly-popular Dan Wesson M1911 ACP Pistol.
Concurrent with the development of the 1911 pistols, Dan Wesson Firearms has reduced the production of the revolvers to two offerings - a 445 Supermag revolver called the Alaskan Special (itself similar to the 7460) and the 715 series stainless revolver (a current version of the 15-2) in .357 Magnum. Despite the fact that CZ does not specialize or focus on revolvers, they have chosen to support the older model pistols with a variety of shroud and barrel offerings, replacement parts, and repair and refurbishment services.
|Timetable||Company name||Production place||State||CEO||Owner||Notes|
|1948–1968||D.B. Wesson Inc.||Monson||Massachusetts||D.B. Wesson||D.B. Wesson||tools&dies|
|1968–1971||Dan Wesson Arms Inc.||Monson||Massachusetts||D.B. Wesson||D.B. Wesson||much development|
|1971–1983||Dan Wesson Arms Inc.||Monson||Massachusetts||Seth and Carol Wesson||Wesson family|
|1983–1995||Wesson Firearms Co.||Palmer||Massachusetts||Wesson||Wesson|
|1996–2005||Wesson Firearms||Norwich||New York||Bob Serva||New York International Corp.||new plant|
|2005–present||Wesson Firearms||Norwich||New York||Alice Poluchová||CZ-USA|
DW patents concerning revolvers:
- U.S. Patent 5,225,615 -- Compensated barrel shroud 1993-07-06 Talbot; Arventos; Wesson Firearms Co., Inc. (Palmer, MA)
- U.S. Patent 5,305,678 -- Compensated barrel shroud 1993-04-26 Talbot; Arventos; Wesson, Seth; Wesson Firearms Co., Inc. (Palmer, MA)
- U.S. Patent 4,833,809 -- Firearm hammer construction 1989-05-30 Domian; MacWilliams; Dan Wesson Arms, Inc. (US)
- U.S. Patent 4,807,380 -- Firearm (Revolver locked breech mechanism) 1989-02-28 Domian, Robert E. (US) Dan Wesson Arms, Inc. (US)
- U.S. Patent 4,833,810 -- Firearm (Revolver interchangeable barrel)1989-05-30 Domian, Robert E. (US) Dan Wesson Arms, Inc. (US)
- U.S. Patent 4,058,050 -- Gun leveling device 1977-11-15 Brouthers, Paul E. Dan Wesson Arms, Inc.
- U.S. Patent 4,015,354 -- Gun sight 1977-04-05 Brouthers, Paul E. Dan Wesson Arms, Inc.
Lewis patents for revolvers:
- U.S. Patent 3,633,302 -- Cylinder Mechanism for Revolver-type Firearms 1972-06-11 Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,683,535 -- Handgun Grip Construction 1972-08-15 Lewis, Karl R. (US) Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,648,374 -- Adjustable Firearm Sight 1969-08-15 Lewis, Karl R. (US)Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,367,053 -- Firearm construction 1968-02-06 Lewis, Karl R. (US)Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,303,594 -- Firearm barrel, shroud, frame, and cylinder construction 1967-02-14 Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,237,336 -- Cylinder ratchet mechanism for revolver type firearms 1966-03-01 Lewis, Karl R. (US) Browning Industries, Inc.
- U.S. Patent 3,157,958 -- Hammer safety for fire arms 1964-11-24 Lewis, Karl R. (US) Browning Industries, Inc.
- U.S. Patent 3,701,213 -- Revolver Firing Mechanism...(SA/DA)1972-10-31 Lewis, Karl R. (US) Colt Industrial Operating Corp. (US)
- U.S. Patent 3,163,951 -- Firearm firing mechanism 1965-01-05 Lewis, Karl R. (US)
- U.S. Patent 2,927,390 -- Single and double action revolver firing mechanism 1960-03-08 Lewis, Karl R. (US)