Dan Wesson Specialist vs. S&W PC 1911


Today was a beautiful day in the greater Dallas area. Temps are coming down to the 70’s, and my oldest son and I decided to hit the local range.  He took his Savage Rascal .22, which by the way is a great first rifle (I’ll write a review on it later).  I decided to let the new kid to my collection, the Dan Wesson Specialist, stretch it’s legs against the current heavyweight champion of my stable:  the S&W PC1911.

I won’t go through the details of each pistol, as I have already discussed both in previous posts. However, I will provide a summary: the S&W won the day. But, keep in mind the Dan Wesson is new to me and I’m still getting used to its feel. Also, the DW’S trigger breaks around 4.25 lbs whereas the S&W came with a factory break that has lightened up to 2.5 lbs. That doesn’t sound like much difference, but when punching paper it’s kind of a big deal. See the targets below; I shot one group with my own SWC hand loads through each pistol, went through one group’s worth of some inexpensive stuff I found at Wal-Mart, and then hit the handloads again. Finally, just to see what would happen, I ran eight through the Specialist off the bench.

Bottom line, the Specialist shows potential but I intend to lighten the pull weight slightly and see what happens. The same change in my old Sig 1911 (that I have since sold) made it come alive and run with my S&W.  

In other news, the DW only failed to feed on the 2nd shot; every other round chambered, fired, and ejected as it should.  This includes both factory ball ammo and my SWC “light” handloads.  

Here’s the targets, side by side.  S&W PC1911 is on the left, DW Specialist is on the right:


Note: I have no idea what happened to me on this group with the DW.  I just fell apart for some reason, as even cheap “Perfecta” brand ammo shouldn’t shoot this poorly.

Here’s eight rounds off the bench at 50 ft.  While the entire gruop isn’t impressive in total size, seven of the shots were in a 1.25″ space.  That shows me the gun can run, I just need to get comfortable with it.

The range was having a competition to coincide with the timing of the Texas State Fair.  For $5, you could purchase a target and fire 10 shots from 7 yards.  If all shots were in the X ring, you got one box of ammo half off.  If you got them all in the 9 and 10 ring, you got a free range pass.  Needless to say, the PC1911 and I got a box of ammo at half off. 

I decided to take my Glock 22 along as well and just put 10 shots downrage from 50 ft, just for the heck of it.  Of course, the Glock isn’t a target gun and isn’t even one of my favorites.  But, it never gets any love so I figured I’d take it out today.


Here’s a pic of my big guy shooting his Rascal at the range today. All in all, a great outing!


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A “Special” Specialist

Welcome to my first blog post in well over a year.  Since my last post, I’ve changed jobs and moved half-way across the country… now calling the Lone Star State home.  Needless to say, it’s been very busy and blogging has taken a back seat.  However, this weekend I’ve found something to write home about (as the expression goes).

As many of you know, I hold the 1911 platform in high regard.  While it’s well over 100 years old at this point, I find its balance, action, and characteristics to be ideal for what I want in a range gun.  Admittedly, I’ve become a little more discriminating in terms of what I look for in a 1911.  Tight bushing fit, no movement in the barrel hood, tight but smooth slide to frame fit, and a crisp trigger at or below 4 lbs. is pretty much mandatory for me at this point.  For a couple years I’ve read people wax poetic about Dan Wesson 1911s and I finally made the plunge with a brand new Dan Wesson Specialist.

Dan Wesson used to make revolvers with interchangable barrels, but that Dan Wesson is no more.  Instead, what exists today is a Dan Wesson that is a subsidiary of CZ USA.  Dan Wesson 1911s are known for having very precise tolearnces and excellent tool steel parts.  While the product line starts with the “plane Jane” Heritage around $1,100 and runs up to the popular Valor around $1,500, all Dan Wesson 1911s use the same quality parts and receive the same level of fit and finish.  They have, in many circles, been compared favorably with Ed Brown pistols (which is no small thing).  There is a well-known ‘smith who pitted a number of 1911s against one another in multiple Ransom rest tests, and the Valor ran just as well (and in some cases better) than products from Ed Brown, Les Baer, and the Springfield Custom Shop.  While that’s not an exhaustive respresentation of 1911 peformance, having a pist0l that can be had brand new for under $1,500 with all tool steel parts that will run with the “big dogs” is quite impressive.

Back to the Specialist.  It is a full size 1911 with a Clark style rib on the slide, ball cuts in the front, fixed “straight eight” style ledge sights (with tritium inserts), VZ G10 grips, an Ed Brown style magwell (it might even be a Ed Brown part), ambidextrous thumb safety, and yes… a rail.  Some 1911 purists abhor the rail, calling it an unnecessary pimple on the otherwise clean lines of John Moses Browning’s most well-known design.  However, find one “modern” designed handgun in today’s world without a rail.  Tough, eh?  Well, may reasoning for a rail isn’t for mounting a taser/laser/radar/sonar capable device, but more because I like the slightly different balance and weight the rail provides.  Silly, but true.  Anyway, I’ve had the Specialist down to the individual parts as I replaced the standard trigger with a Greider short solid trigger (something I do with all my 1911s), and I can tell you this pistol is quality.  The frame and slide mate together with absolutely no movement between the two, but they glide together as smooth as glass.  The small parts are all very well finsihed, high quality tool steel.  The trigger break is crisp and clean with no creep, set right above 4 lbs.  There is absolutely no movement in the barrel hood, and the frame/bushing/barrel fit is tight… but not ridiculously so.  I’ve heard Dan Wesson pistols described as being fit “just right,” and based on this example I believe it.  In fact, besides changing the trigger I don’t know that there is much more I’ll do with this pistol.

I haven’t had this to the range yet, but will post updates once I do.  Based on my initial observations, this is better finished and higher quality than my S&W PC1911, and that’s saying something.  Will this translate into down range performance?  We shall see… stay tuned!

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Springfield XD-40… With Upgrades!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am a big fan of my Springfield XD-40.  While there is no one unique feature of this pistol that stands out among the overcrowded market of polymer striker-fired handguns, the combination of a “just right” grip and a trigger that has a constant pull from initial pressure to break works very well for me.  Truth be told, this is one of my most accurate handguns.  When I need to shoot well, this one makes my short list.  However, from the factory it did not come with night sights so it hasn’t occupied space in my bedroom safe for quite some time.  That has changed.

I looked at a number of various night sight units on the market and finally purchased a set of Truglo Brite-Site TFOs for my XD.  These are unique as they combine fiber optic rods in both the front and rear units with tritium dots in both as well.  In daylight, the three dots glow like any fiber optic sight… which is very brightly.  In pure darkness, they glow like any tritium night sight.  While the instructions said to only install these with a sight pusher (and with the aid of a professional ‘smith), I used a hammer, bench vise, brass punch, 2×4 scrap, and old t-shirt to put these on myself.  While it took about 15 minutes, I got the job done and no damage came to the pistol or sights.  And, my blue pen cleared up any brass marks on the sight (a trick I learned by watching a Dawson Precision video online… they use the blue pen when installing sights on 1911s).  Anyway, I was able to take this to the “range” (i.e. my farm) a few weeks ago and the sights were dead-on.  Needless to say, I was very pleased and, after getting this home, took the Streamlight TLR-3 off my Glock 22, loaded up a magazine of Winchester Ranger LE rounds, and put the XD in my bedroom safe.  Sorry Glock 22, but you’re relegated to “main safe” storage now.

I’ve posted some pics below of the XD-40 with the new sights, along with the TLR-3 light.  The TLR-3 is extremely bright, easy to use, and seems very durable.  Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty.  The pic below that shows the light on is taken in a dark hallway, pointing to a wall 25 feet away.  This light is bright… very bright.

So, my XD-40 is now what I would consider completely outfitted. While I don’t get into naming my guns, I can’t help but a parallel between this gun and a hammer, as they both do the same thing:  hit exactly what they are aimed at, hit it hard, and hit it consistently every time.




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Range Report: TZ-75 and Springfield Loaded 9mm

It’s always a great day when I get to go shooting, and it’s even more fun when I’m taking “new” firearms.  New, I say in quotes, because I took two pistols I purchased used but have not yet shot until today.  They are both 9mms… a Tanfoglio/F.I.E. TZ-75 and a Springfield Loaded 9mm.

First off, let’s start with the TZ-75.  The TZ-75 was manufactured in Italy by Tanfoglio and imported into the U.S. by F.I.E. as a copy of the famed CZ-75.  My specific TZ-75 was likely made in early 90’s (note:  mine is a Series 88, easily identified due to its frame mounted safety).  I recently sold an excellent condition CZ-75b and many accessories, and just picked up this TZ-75 online for the bargain basement price of $265.  Wait… why would I sell the “genuine article” to get the knock-off?  Well, here’s why:  I used to own this same knock-off in the form of the EAA Witness (which is the same gun as the TZ-75, as they were both made by Tanfoglio on literally the same production lines).  Having owned both, I preferred the feel of the Witness and it’s smoother trigger.  The CZ-75’s grip wasn’t as comfortable to me, and my specific CZ-‘s trigger pull was always a constant source of annoyance to me.  The CZ had a long trigger reach and, at the end of the pull, had a gritty feeling that would throw me off.  The TZ-75 feels, at least to me, to have a slightly shorter reach to the trigger… likely due to its more aggressive “dished out” grip backstrap.   Anyway, I originally sold the Witness because I could never get it to shoot point of aim but was never really happy with the actual CZ either.  Would the TZ-75 be any better????  More on that in a bit.

The next pistol I brought was a Springfield Loaded 9mm Target.  It was purchased with funds from the sale of an STI Spartan 9mm.  This specific Springfield was produced in 2004 and has a great trigger and well finished components.  It cost considerably more than the TZ-75, coming in at a price of around $850 used.  But, good 1911s always command a premium price.

I brought both pistols to an indoor range today and shot targets at 10 yards and 50 ft (but mostly 10 yards).  Before I show the targets, keep in mind that this is my first outing with both pistols so I wasn’t shooting as accurately as I probably can with either.  And, in the case of the Springfield, I know accuracy will improve once I lighten the pull weight a bit and replace the stock trigger with a short Greider model (I shoot 1911s better with short triggers).  Anyway, here’s some quick observations on both pistols:

Springfield Loaded 9mm:  very well finished and smooth.  Trigger pull and length aren’t optimal for me, but that is an easy change.  Shoots well and the adjustable sights are very nice, but honestly I did not shoot as well with this as I had expected or hoped.  No malfunctions or failures to feed or eject, and I used three different Metalform 9-round magazines.  Being a full size 1911 9mm, recoil was almost nothing. Looking forward to modifying the trigger and seeing what it will do.  All in all, it did what you would expect a Springfield 1911 to do:  shoot accurately and dependably.

F.I.E. TZ-75:  this was a very pleasant surprise.  For $255, you can’t always expect much but it arrived to me in excellent condition without a single scratch or scuff; it looks almost like new.  And, this pistol shot exactly to point of aim and was more accurate than I expected.  Meaning, I shot better with it than I expected.  The trigger on this is much nicer than on my CZ-75b. In fact, the TZ-‘s trigger has more of a short, smooth “roll-off” feeling at the end of the pull vs. the CZ’s grittier cam-action feel.  The TZ never failed to feed or eject, and recoil is very subdued in this due to the heavy steel frame.  Also, when shooting, it has an interesting feel that makes it easy to get into rhythm.  Some pistols have this and some don’t; it’s hard to explain.  I think I’m going to like this pistol a lot and it’s a keeper.  In fact, I’m already looking for new grips and another magazine.

Here’s some samples from today’s shooting.  Not great shooting, but decent enough.  The first target (set of four 5-shot groups) is for the TZ; the second target is the Springfield.

In summary, both pistols functioned perfectly and were fun to shoot.  The TZ-75 exceeded my expectations, and the Springfield left me wondering if it will match what my STI did in terms of accuracy.  However,  realistically knowing that it’s not yet set up for how I like a 1911, I’m guessing I’ll see improvement once I have it configured the way I prefer.  Regardless, they are both great pistols but the TZ-75 is an absolute steal!

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1911 9mm: Springfield Loaded Target

A couple years ago, I thought I didn’t need any more handguns (ha ha, what a fool I was).  On a forum I frequent, I posed a question:  What Should I Get?  Essentially, I was looking for input from other forum members as to what was “missing” from my collection, because from where I sat I couldn’t see anything else that I could own.  After listing all the handguns I owned at the time, I hit “post” and awaited the responses.  Gun people being gun people, we love to spend other people’s money and the suggestions rolled in.  They all had merit, yet none of them were compelling enough to raise an eyebrow.  Then, it came.  Someone suggested a 1911… but in 9mm.  Well, I certainly didn’t own one of those, and the idea of match-grade tight groups in a soft shooting, classic design got me thinking.  Ultimately, those thoughts manifested themselves into an STI Spartan in 9mm.

The STI Spartan is a great pistol for someone on a budget and fit the bill nicely.  On paper, it was in fact my most accurate 9mm and I figured I would have it forever.  Then I heard about Springfield Armory making their Range Officer in 9mm, and the Spartan went on the “for sale” boards.  Quickly, I had an offer to purchase and ended up with close to $600 in my pocket.

The market being what it is, the prices on Range Officers started increasing.  By, like, $100.  Not happy with this, I expanded my search into other models and came across what appeared to be a lightly used Springfield Loaded Target 9mm in Stainless Steel.  Since my ultimate idea was to have a stainless or hard chrome finished 1911 9mm with adjustable sights and front strap checkering, the Loaded, while more expensive than the Range Officer, already came in stainless and therefore saved around $200 in what would eventually be the cost of hard chroming the R.O.  This particular Loaded came with five magazines as well.  After a call to check the serial number with Springfield Armory, I found out the gun was made in March 2004.  So, with my newly expanded options in front of me, I placed a bid.  And, I won.

Fast forward a week.  The Loaded, as of today, is in my possession.  Here are my initial observations:

  • This particular gun came with five magazines, a hard case, allen wrenches for the guide rod, and keys for the internal mainspring lock.  It did not come with the holster and mag carrier package like Loadeds do today and, frankly, I don’t care.
  • The pistol looks great.  There is a tiny, tiny bit of nick marks on the right front slide serrations, but not enough to really notice.  Other than that, the surface looks great.  The traces of an “idiot mark” are present beneath the slide stop, but it’s hard to find a 1911 that doesn’t have a trace of some mark there already.  And, it’s faint.
  • This pistol is smooth.  I can’t quite describe it, but it’s the smoothest feeling 1911 I own… and that’s saying something.  It isn’t quite as tight as my others from a slide to frame fit perspective, but that’s okay.  Slide to frame fit is highly overrated in terms of producing accuracy.  And, like I said, it’s smoother than any of my other 1911s in terms of slide movement.
  • The controls are all crisp and, well, I can’t quite describe it but they feel like quality.  The ambidexterous thumb safety snaps on and off with a nice clack.  My S&W PC1911 didn’t do that, but this Loaded does.  I can quite put into words what it is about this pistol, but it just feels solid.  Parts feel well finished, smooth, and seem to move with precision.
  • The ad for this pistol said “fantastic” trigger.  Yeah, sure, I thought.  I know triggers and I’ll be the judge of that.  Well, folks, it is fantastic.  Like “let me squeeze this with my eyes closed and try to find some hint of creep or grit.  Hmmm… nope, can’t feel anything like that.  Let me try again.  Nope, just a clean break.”  The only way I can describe the break is “surgical.”  That’s not an adjective that is really applicable to a trigger, but it breaks as clean as my Kimber Series 1 and my S&W PC1911, and those are the two best triggers I own (outside of my S&W revolvers).  The weight is at a perfect “just below” 4 lbs. as well.  “What???? I don’t need to bend a sear spring????”  I guess not, at least unless I want to take it down just a wee bit to 3.5 lbs.
  • Bushing fit is tight. Not overly so, as I can easily remove the bushing with my fingers, but it’s tight enough that I can’t feel any play in the barrel.
  • There is no overhang between the rear of the slide and the frame.  Almost all of the Range Officers I have seen have this, and it looks sloppy. While the extractor is slightly proud of the slide, I can live with that.
  • I do NOT like the two-piece guide rod.  Why would you complicate disassembly like this?  I’ll keep it for now, but it’s a PITA and creates unnecessary steps in disassembly if you ask me.

I have never owned a Springfield 1911 before, and I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get the “better” Range Officer at first.  But, as long as this pistol shoots as well as it feels, I have a feeling I’ll not give another thought to the Range Officer with this Loaded in my hands.  This is my first Springfield 1911 and already I am impressed with the fit and finish of this pistol. Stay tuned for a range report coming soon!

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“New” Old 9mm: Tanfoglio TZ-75

Cheap isn’t always good, and good isn’t always cheap.  About 15 years ago, I purchased a new EAA Witness 9mm in “Wonder finish.”  My recollection is the pistol felt great in hand and was a solid shooter.  And, I recall that I paid only around $300 for it new in box.  However, I never could get the sights regulated and ended up selling it even after installing an adjustable rear unit.  Ever since then, I’ve wondered if I might have given up on the Witness before giving it a real chance.  I even blogged about it at the location below:


Well, cruising Gunbroker is often a dangerous experience.  Filled with potential wallet-emptying purchases, I can always find a “great deal” waiting to be had.  Recently, I started thinking about that Witness again and started sniffing around to see what it might take to give that gun another chance at life in my collection.

Prior to 2005, European American Armory (EAA) imported two sizes of the Tanfoglio-manufactured Witness:  a “small frame” in 9mm and .40, and a “large frame” in calibers such as .45 and 10mm.  However, in a move likeliy meant to simplify parts and logistics, in 2005 EAA started using only the large frame for all calibers.  While that’s great for .45 and 10mm, it meant that smaller calibers would have to occupy a platform bigger, heavier, and bulkier than required.  It also meant that the small frame Witness, never an exceedingly popular handgun in the first place, would become harder and harder to find.  As of 2014, they can still be found, but not in the quantity possible just a few years ago.

In addition to the EAA Witness, Tanfoglio produced a number of other very similar  pistols that were essentially the same as the gun, just under different names.  One of these was the TZ-75.  Imported by FIE, the TZ-75 evolved into the Witness after FIE went out of business and EAA acquired the rights to import and market pistols in the U.S.

This past week, I had just finished purchasing another handgun and did a search for “Witness” on Gunbroker.  Not satisfied with what I found, I expanded my search to the TZ-75 and found what appears to be a clean, lightly used specimen going for not much money at all.  I put in a bid and ultimately won the pistol in the opening picture of this post.  This particular pistol is a 9mm TZ-75 Series 88.  Prior to the Series 88, the TZ pistols had slide mounted decocker safeties and very squared trigger guards.  The Series 88 incorporated changes that ultimately made their way into the Witness pistols as well, including a frame mounted manual safety, more rounded trigger guards,  and some changes to the frame dimensions and overall design.

I don’t have possession of the TZ-75 yet, and will not have it for another week or so.  However, I’m anxious to see this and more anxious to get it out to the range to see what it can do.  Consider this the Witness’ 2nd chance at life in my collection.

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Why The 1911

I enjoy firearms; they are my hobby.  And, out of all firearms, I enjoy handguns the most.  They present the most challenging aspect of shooting (in my opinion) and can be utilized in short indoor ranges or vast outdoor expanses.  A handgun is also a very personal weapon, easily customized to the user and often times carried close to their person.  I own a number of handguns in a variety of actions.  Out of all of them, I have come to appreciate the 1911 above all.

Why the 1911?  I mean, it’s not new… it’s called “1911” for a reason.  It’s big, heavy, and doesn’t hold a lot of rounds.  A magazine holding eight .45 ACP cartridges is standard and, even in 9mm configuration, 9 – 10 rounds is about all you get.  It’s also known for being finicky, with a barrel bushing that must be fit “just right”, feed path that requires just the right angle and polish to work correctly, and an extractor that often needs adjusting.  Finally, the 1911 isn’t cheap.  A “cheap” 1911 runs close to $500, and many consider $800 to be the entry point for a decent model.  Heck, even some $1,200 versions get derided for having MIM parts and mediocre finishing.  The 1911’s detractors say it only survives due to a legion of fanatic “fanboys” who refuse to let it go despite dozens of superior designs on the market.  In fact, on paper there may be no compelling argument to picking a 1911 over a Glock or other similar design.  But, not everything can be quantified on paper.

When you pick up a 1911, the first thing you notice is the weight.  What’s seen as a negative by many is also an advantage.  It’s not a light pistol, which means it’s great for soaking up recoil.  Also, with a 5″ barrel and all steel construction, it’s much more “front heavy” than many more modern designs.  If you’re a target shooter, a little front weight is a good thing as it helps balance a pistol and keep it steady in the hand.  The 1911 also has a grip angle that works surprisingly well for a large number of people.  And, speaking of grip, being a single stack means that it’s easy for people with virtually any size hand to use.  Moving just in front of the grip, you’ll find a trigger that is truly unique.  Cruise the case at your local big box store and the 1911 is likely the only pistol you’ll find with a trigger that moves straight back without a pivot motion.  That translates into a smooth, linear movement that is easy to control.  When it comes to triggers, a well tuned 1911 will have a crisp break that rivals that of a single action revolver.  The “cocked and locked” safety on the 1911 is also a large selling point, allowing the user to keep the pistol in a status where it can be instantly deployed into action with a trigger that’s as crisp and clean on the first shot as every other that follows.

Finally, one of the things about the 1911 that is virtually unchallenged in the handgun world is the amount of customization that’s possible.  It’s nothing for a user to change out grip panels to their personal preference.  Mainspring housings can be easily replaced as well.  As for triggers, a fairly handy person can fit a trigger in 30 minutes.  Pull weight is easily adjusted by bending the sear spring legs, and the entire handgun and can be torn down to its smallest parts and reassembled in less time than an average episode of CSI.  Parts, configurations, factory options, and gunsmiths specializing in this pistols are nearly limitless.  Open up the Brownell’s catalog and/or do a quick online search and you’ll see for yourself.

The fact that the 1911 balances exceptionally well in the hand, provides a comfortable grip, is capable of having a superb trigger, and shoots (on average) more accurately for me than any other semi-auto platform makes it one of my favorite platforms.

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