November 08, 2021
By James Tarr
If you don’t know, Dan Wesson, which is known for its 1911s, is part of CZ USA. The new Dan Wesson DWX pistol combines the legendary reliability and ergonomics of the CZ 75 with the trigger system of the 1911, which has what many people consider to be the best handgun trigger pull in the world. And the DWX is truly a combination of both designs; many parts on this handgun are interchangeable with both the standard CZ 75 and a 1911.
Currently, there are two models of the DWX: the standard DWX and the DWX Compact. All are made in the Dan Wesson facility in Norwich, New York. The full-size DWX has a five-inch barrel, is fed by CZ P-09 magazines and is offered in 9mm or .40 S&W. It is a big, all-steel gun, and with an unloaded weight of more than 43 ounces, it seems built to be a competition handgun.
The DWX Compact, on the other hand, has an aluminum frame and sports a four-inch barrel. It seems purpose-built for concealed carry. There are two versions of the Compact: one with a frame rail for mounting a light/laser and one without. I secured a railed sample of this pistol to test, as I am sure it’s bound to be the most popular of all the DWX offerings.
My digital scale put the weight of this pretty piece at just 27.8 ounces with an empty magazine in place—almost an ounce lighter than the official specs and nearly as light as some similar size polymer-frame 9mm pistols. The DWX Compact is offered only in 9mm. It is fed by CZ 75 Compact magazines and has a 15+1 capacity.
The slide has a unique profile, much more 1911 than CZ 75. Unlike the original 1911, this gun is built around the smaller 9mm cartridge, which means that while the 0.9-inch slide is the same width as a standard .45 ACP 1911, it is not as tall. Bore height off the hand is the same as a standard CZ 75, which means it is quite low. This is important because, all things being equal, the lower the bore height, the less muzzle rise while shooting.
A 1911’s slide rides outside the frame rails, and the barrel has both a bushing and a swinging link. With a CZ 75 the slide rides inside the frame, and the bushing-less barrel locks up with the breech without the use of a link. With the DWX, you get a combination of the two. The slide rides outside the rails like a 1911, but it uses a bushing-less barrel with a CZ 75 style lock-up. The fully ramped barrel is unique to the DWX.
The top of the slide is flat, with a serrated rib. The front sight is an AmeriGlo day/night model that features a bright lime-green circle around a tritium insert. The lime green is photoluminescent paint, which means if you go from a brightly lit area to a dim one or shine the beam of a flashlight on your front sight for a few seconds, the ring will glow brightly for a few minutes.
The fixed rear sight is a Henning Group Battlehook. This plain black sight has a serrated face and a U-shaped notch. It also has a vertical face so you can rack the pistol one-handed on any hard surface.
Slide-to-frame fit is nicely snug. The four-inch stainless steel barrel has an aggressive crown, and you’ll see “MATCH” on the side of the chamber. You see “match” marked on barrels these days quite often, but in many cases, the word has no real meaning.
In this case the “match” designation is no lie. The barrel, like the barrels on most Dan Wesson 1911s, appears to have undergone final hand-fitting. The barrel-to-slide fit is so snug that the slide won’t go all the way forward into battery if you gently ease the slide forward. This is the mark of a tightly fit gun. There is a full-length steel recoil spring guide rod, with a non-captured recoil spring.
Both the frame and the slide have a matte black anodized finish. The humpbacked frame doesn’t just vaguely resemble that of a CZ 75, it has the same external dimensions. If you don’t like the color or texture of the provided grips, CZ 75 Compact grips will fit.
The pistol is fed by standard CZ 75 Compact magazines, which means not only are they plentiful, but also are inexpensive. You can also find all sorts of CZ 75 accessories that will fit the DWX, from extended base pads to magazine wells.
The serial number on the right side of the frame above the grip isn’t actually on the frame. The aluminum grip module is attached to an internal aluminum chassis that has rails on which the slide rides. The chassis is the serialized part. While Dan Wesson currently doesn’t have any different pattern grip modules available—the company is running just as fast as it can simply keeping up with current demand—it could be a possibility down the road.
No bigger 1911 fan than Jeff Cooper wrote glowing things about the CZ 75, for two reasons: One, models with a manual safety can be carried cocked-and-locked; and two, the humpbacked grip is very ergonomic and has the same grip angle as the 1911.
Cooper did not have large hands, and unlike a lot of high-capacity “wonder-nines” of the Cold War era, the CZ 75 does not have a thick frame. With its thin grip panels you’ll find the DWX Compact grip as narrow as most modern polymer-framed 9mms. Further, the single-action trigger provides a much shorter reach than the double-action first shot of a traditional CZ 75.
The grip panels are aluminum, and both the frontstrap and mainspring housing sport a Ned Christiansen-style “frag” pattern that vaguely resembles the outside of a World War II-era fragmentation grenade.
The DWX is like the CZ 75 in that it doesn’t have a grip safety. The beavertail is a bit reduced in profile when compared to a modern 1911, presumably so it will be a little easier to conceal.
The magazine well is nicely beveled. Two 15-round magazines are supplied with the pistol. A quick clarifying word on the magazines. The CZ 75 Compact magazine works with both 9mm and .40 S&W CZs. Therefore, you’ll see “.40” marked on the left side of the magazine tube, with numbered index holes for that caliber. And on the right side, you’ll see “9mm” with index holes for that caliber.
Now let’s get to the truly 1911 part of this pistol: the trigger group. This isn’t just a “1911-style” trigger. The sear, disconnector, hammer assembly, firing pin, firing pin spring, sear spring and hammer spring are all Dan Wesson 1911 components. The trigger itself is a flat-faced, skeletonized 1911-style trigger with arms expanded to fit around the double-column magazine. The trigger bow itself is anodized red. This works well on the full-size DWX, as that gun comes with red grips, but I’m not so sure I like the color on this otherwise all-black gun. However, it does draw the eye, which I’m guessing is the point.
While there is no trigger pull spec listed on the website, my source at Dan Wesson told me they expect trigger pulls on the DWX Compact to run between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds. Trigger pull on my sample came in at a crisp 4.5 pounds, with just a bit of take-up and an extremely short reset.
The 1911 trigger group has been around for over a century. If you feel the need to tweak your trigger, as Dan Wesson notes on its website,
“...many standard 1911 parts enable gunsmiths and competitive shooters to tune the X just the way they like it.”
The 1911 trigger group means a 1911-style thumb safety. This is a single-sided safety, and while it is larger than those safeties found on original GI 1911s—I’ll call it a minimally extended safety—I still wish it was bigger, like the model on the full-size DWX. That said, the thumb safety had very positive clicks up and down, and my thumb never slipped off it, not even when shooting outdoors in December with hands halfway numb.
Modern 1911s have been hugely modified from the original GI guns to improve both ergonomics and reliability. The CZ 75 has seen a huge resurgence in recent years, mostly driven by competition shooters. The biggest drawback to the traditional CZ design has always been the long/heavy double-action trigger pull, but reliability has never been an issue. During testing of this pistol, I put a variety of ammo through it, both full metal jackets and hollowpoints of varying weights and profiles. Reliability was 100 percent.
The big lime green dot on the front sight was easy to track in rapid fire, as was the large front sight post itself. I like the sights Dan Wesson chose for this pistol, and I think they are a great choice for a gun meant for self-defense. At the range I spent time knocking down steel as well as perforating cardboard targets and found the pistol very controllable and fun to shoot.
While, stylistically, I don’t really care for the grenade-shaped texturing on the frame or grip panels, I have to admit it works just fine. The harder you grip the gun the more the texturing digs into your flesh. I thought the pistol pointed naturally, but that was completely expected considering both the 1911 and CZ 75 are ergonomic pistols and seem to point well for just about everyone.
I was curious to see how the DWX Compact would perform in speed drills compared to my Glock 19, the carry gun against which I judge all others. The G19 is just about the same size as the DWX Compact and has the same capacity. The Glock weighs a few ounces less, but it has a slightly lower bore, so on paper at least the two would be similar.
Shooting the two guns side by side, I wasn’t surprised to find the DWX had a bit less muzzle rise. Also, even with the same trigger pull weight, there is no comparison between a 1911 trigger pull and anything else, so I was able to shoot the DWX more quickly and more accurately. The recoil impulse back into my hand was a little bit sharper with the DWX Compact because of the metal frame versus the flexing polymer frame of the G19.
Curious, I then pitted the DWX Compact against the Glock 34 I’ve had on my hip for most of the last 15 years. This tweaked competition 9mm still weighs less than the Dan Wesson but has a longer sight radius. Muzzle rise between the two guns was identical, and with the crisper trigger pull of the DWX Compact, I was able to run it just as fast as I was the G34, a gun with which I am far more familiar.
After ten minutes behind the DWX Compact, I found that firing at a rate of three rounds per second I could easily keep all of my hits inside the center eight-inch circle of an IDPA target 12 yards away. This means to me that the DWX Compact is a killer of a carry gun, and the all-steel five-inch DWX, which weighs a full pound more, will be a literal lead faucet and likely to tear up the competition shooting circuit.
Dan Wesson has been working with holster makers, and by the time you read this, there should be offerings from Blade-Tech, Red Hill Tactical, Long’s Shadow Holsters, GX Products and Crossbreed, among others.
The DWX Compact is not an inexpensive pistol at $1,800, but it costs a lot less than Wilson Combat’s EDC X9—a compact 1911-style carry pistol with nearly identical specs. While I like trigger and the looks of the $2,900 Wilson better, I actually prefer the sights and grip frame of the DWX Compact.
I first laid hands on a working prototype of the DWX Compact in August 2019. It has taken Dan Wesson longer than it expected to get this pistol into production, but it is everything that prototype promised and, in fact, that you would hope for or expect from a pistol meant to provide the best features of two iconic and historic pistol designs.
Dan Wesson DWX 9mm Compact Pistol Specifications
- Type: single-action semiauto
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 15
- Barrel: 4.0 in. stainless steel
- OAL/Height/Width: 7.47/5.21/1.24 in.
- Weight: 27.8 oz.
- Construction: aluminum frame, steel slide
- Sights: AMERIGLO day/night front, Henning Group Battlehook rear
- Trigger pull: 4.5 lb. pull (measured)
- Safety: manual thumb
- Price: $1,799