The first time I picked up a Dan Wesson revolver, I looked at it and put it back down. To a man used to more traditional revolvers, I thought the bulbous barrel nut hanging off the muzzle was just plain ugly — although I admitted the concept was interesting: one gun that used multiple barrels in various lengths.
But in time the barrel nut became an integral part of the barrel shroud, and the system grew on me. The concept itself came from Daniel B. Wesson, great-grandson of Smith & Wesson co-founder D.B. Wesson. Daniel started the Dan Wesson Arms Company because he knew he could make something not only different from what was on the market then, but make it better.
Right from the start frames were made to magnum specifications. The action was timed and tuned to give a consistent trigger pull out of the box. Cylinders were made from aircraft-quality, heat-treated steel for durability with extra metal engineered for heavier chamber walls with the cylinder release mounted on the yoke or crane of the frame. The firing pin was installed in the frame, not on the hammer.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the gun was the barrel shrouds. In the beginning the shrouds were available in two-, four-, six- and eight-inch lengths. Later, hunters and target shooters could order 10-, 12- and 15-inch lengths. The shrouds came in standard, ventilated rib or heavy vent rib with full underlug variations.
Cartridge choices ranged from .22 rimfire to .32 H&R and .32-20 up to the magnums — including the thunderous .445 SuperMag. You could tailor the barrel/cylinder gap to the cartridge. You screwed in the barrel, then attached the shroud and the barrel nut and with the final adjustment, you inserted the supplied feeler gauge for a precise fit. All in less than a minute.
Interchangeable grips came in a variety of woods and designs in target, concealed carry and finger- groove models. Sight options included different front blades in different heights and several rear sight styles. Finally, for the complete sportsman, Dan Wesson offered the famed Pistol Pack with a variety of barrels, shrouds and tools to make it all happen.
While you hope Dan Wesson would've reaped the fruits of his labor, he passed away in 1978. The firm was eventually sold and today is part of CZ-USA, which is reintroducing the Dan Wesson Model 715 Pistol Pack .357 Magnum with four-, six- and eight-inch barrel lengths. Knowing Dan, I'm sure he would have approved of what's become of his distinctive handgun.