Dan Wesson 2-1/2 inch Snub Nose Revolver Part 1
Airing out the smallest of the DW CO2 Models
By Dennis Adler
Although more than 200 years have passed since the first handgun was designed for concealment, the idea has always remained the same: place the greatest possible firepower in the smallest possible size—something fit to be hidden in a trouser pocket, vest, coat, or discretely carried in a belt holster. For cartridge firing revolvers, the first significant pocket gun was the six-shot S&W Model No. 2, chambered in .32 rimfire. The Model No. 2 brought into reality the idea of a small revolver in a modest but effective caliber, a six-shot capacity and relative ease of loading and reloading. And if that sounds like many of today’s concealed carry guns, it is no coincidence. Snub Nose revolvers were the gun of choice for police detectives for more than 50 years, and many still carry them as back up guns. Small, easy to handle revolvers have earned their place in history for more than a century, and Dan Wesson owns a piece of that history, too.
A little “snubby” history
The first cartridge firing snub nose revolvers were Colts. In 1882 the Hartford, Connecticut, armsmaker introduced the 2-1/2 inch barrel length Peacemaker. It was followed by other short barrel Single Actions with 3 and 3-1/2 inch barrels and in 1877 by the first double action/single action snub nose, the Colt .38 caliber Lightning. In the 20th century Colt’s introduced a new 2-inch barrel length Police Positive Special in 1926. This year would have marked the 90th anniversary of the gun destined to become the Detective Special in 1928. The .38 caliber Detective Special remained in production for 68 years, from the classic pre-war issue 1927 model to slightly modified post WWII second, third and fourth issues beginning in 1947. The Detective Special was discontinued in 1995 but remains an iconic symbol of the Colt double action revolver, and while small in size, it chambered six rounds, instead of the usual five, making it one of the true all time best concealed carry handguns. There were other famous snub nose models as well, including the Colt Diamondback .38 Special with the 2-1/2 inch barrel, and the S&W Chief’s Special (Model 36). To remake any of those guns today as a CO2 model would be challenging to say the least, but there was one other that not only fits the bill, it fits a CO2 mechanism, the Dan Wesson Model 715 with 2-1/2 inch barrel!
Dan Wesson was established in 1968 by the great-grandson of S&W co-founder Daniel B. Wesson. D.B. Wesson II was raised in his family’s business and worked for S&W from 1928 until 1963 when ownership of the company changed hands. Five years later he started his own company. The Dan Wesson revolver introduced an innovative concept invented by arms designer Karl Lewis, interchangeable barrels.
The Dan Wesson line was only modestly successful, and when D.B. Wesson II passed away in 1978 the company began a continuing decline into multiple bankruptcies, until it was finally saved in the late 1990s. It thrives today as part of CZ-USA, which purchased the company in 2005 and maintains a Dan Wesson division.
The Dan Wesson design has always marched to the beat of a different drummer than its famous S&W forbearer, most notably by the design of the cylinder latch, which was mounted on the cylinder crane, rather than on the frame behind the cylinder. The design was to give the gun greater strength, which it did. The design is still used today in the latest Model 715 revolvers.
The CO2 powered Dan Wesson Model 715 with 2-1/2 inch barrel does not use that cylinder latch design but rather the contemporary S&W latch on the frame. (There is also a 6-inch barrel length Dan Wesson Model 715 with the correct cylinder latch mechanism, which will be reviewed later this month).
Being a “fan” of snub nose revolvers both of the Old West and mid 20th century variety, this pellet cartridge loading version of the 2-1/2 inch barrel Dan Wesson Model 715 is as close as you can get, at present, to a 2-1/2 inch Colt Python or Diamondback, and it is a legitimate Dan Wesson-licensed revolver with the Dan Wesson signature on the barrel.
In Part 2, we’ll run the CO2 model and see what this 2-1/2 inch wheelgun can deliver.