The Best Dan Wesson Part 1
Authentic 6-inch .357 Magnum CO2 Model
By Dennis Adler
Although Dan Wesson is now part of CZ-USA, there was a time in the mid 20th century when the company was, what some pundits considered, the renegade division of Smith & Wesson. At the time when Daniel B. Wesson II left the company co-founded by his great grandfather, Smith & Wesson was in its third year of ownership by U.S. conglomerate Bangor-Punta (a former Fortune 500 company primarily known in the sport boat industry), which had purchased S&W from the Wesson family in 1965. Three years later, Dan Wesson decided to start his own firearms manufacturing company under his own name, but using a revolutionary pistol patented by arms designer Karl Lewis (formerly with Browning and High Standard). The new handgun, first known as the Model 12 and improved to the better known Model 15, (and later Model 15-2) featured interchangeable barrels. This was to become the hallmark of the Dan Wesson revolvers, a trait still carried on to this day. The original Dan Wesson line, however, had an uphill sales battle, which was compounded by Dan Wesson’s death in 1978. Going through a succession of owners, including a brief period by the Wesson family, in 1996 the company was purchased by New York International Corp. and CEO Bob Serva. In 2005 a revitalized Dan Wesson (under the company name Wesson Firearms) was sold to CZ-USA, which maintains a special Dan Wesson division, including the famous Model 715.
The original Dan Wesson design was not only distinctive for its interchangeable barrels but for a different type of cylinder latch mounted to the cylinder crane, rather than on the frame behind the cylinder (like S&W). Lewis said his design gave the gun greater strength, which in fact it did. The interchangeable barrel mounting method also gave the guns exceptional accuracy, making them popular with competitive shooters and handgun hunters. The Model 15-2 and 715 (which was the stainless steel version) along with other designs, including a line of Model 1911 semi-autos, has kept the company in the spotlight for decades, though no more so than today under the CZ-USA banner, where the Model 715 is still manufactured in the famous Pistol Pack with three barrels.
On air with the Model 715
The CO2 powered Dan Wesson Model 715 from ASG (which has the brand name licensing rights) is offered in several versions, but only two in the original Model 715 configuration with the correct crane-mounted cylinder latch and a 6-inch barrel. This is the pellet cartridge firing model with a rifled barrel designed for greater accuracy. It also has a very distinctive, high polish gun metal grey finish and correct Hogue rubber combat style grips for a solid hold. (There is also a nickel finished BB cartridge version with a smoothbore barrel).
The full length vent rib barrel shroud on the Model 715 (again like the .357 Magnum version) is engraved with the Dan Wesson signature on the left side and .357 Magnum and the Dan Wesson signature on the right. It is a handsome looking gun that is not overdone with graphics, but rather looks more like the high end cartridge revolver it is based upon. I really like this model more than any of the other Dan Wesson revolvers, even the 2-1/2 inch barrel length snub nose tested last year.
The pistol has a good quality windage and elevation adjustable rear sight and an easily acquired serrated ramped front that is dovetailed in and pinned. From almost any angle this looks like the actual Model 715 except when you catch a glimpse of the well hidden rear safety, which is mounted on the right side just above the grips. It’s as subtle as a manual safety can possibly be.
Another feature that really makes this a great target pistol is the barrel shroud, which is drilled and tapped for mounting an optics rail, making this an ideal 4.5mm pellet firing target gun; just as the 6-inch Dan Wesson Model 15-2 and Model 715 became in the late 20th century. The ASG Dan Wesson pellet model certainly lives up to the gun’s legacy as a target pistol. Just how well, we will find out Thursday in Part 2.