Dan Wesson’s Commander Classic Bobtail .45 ACP


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

April 28th, 2006




Click for video!

The 1911 style .45 auto pistol is one of the most popular pistols on the planet.  The reason is very simple; they work and work well. When someone speaks of a ".45 Auto", it is understood that they are referring to the 1911 style pistol as designed by John Browning, and first manufactured by Colt. It has been almost 100 years since the world was introduced to that weapon. It has stood the test of time very well. The .45 ACP has an excellent reputation as a man-stopper. It gets the job done without excessive noise, blast, or recoil. It is a very efficient cartridge. It and the 1911 are the perfect marriage of cartridge to pistol.

There was a time when getting a good, reliable .45 auto meant buying a Colt and then having a custom pistolsmith make it to work properly with hollowpoint ammunition. The good old 1911 was designed to work with military jacketed roundnose ammunition, commonly known as "hardball", and it usually took some tweaking to get the Colts to run properly with high performance hollowpoint ammo.

Those days are long gone. A shooter now has a seemingly endless variety of 1911 style pistols from which to choose, from several different manufacturers.  There has developed over the past few decades a large aftermarket parts and services community just to service the 1911 auto pistol. It has never been better.  Just about every 1911 that I have tried in the last few years works very well. Some better than others, but most are pretty good weapons.

I knew that Dan Wesson was now building 1911 auto pistols, but hadn’t really paid much attention to them. I was recently talking with a good friend of mine who works for a large gun distributor, when he suggested that I really should look closely at the Dan Wesson Bobtail. I trust his judgment, so I put in a call to CZ-USA, the distributor of the Dan Wesson line of pistols and revolvers. Soon I had here the subject of this review; a .45 ACP Commander Classic Bobtail.

The most obvious thing to distinguish the Bobtail from the plethora of other 1911 pistols on the market is the unique shape of the mainspring housing area at the bottom rear of the frame. It has been  chopped at an angle and rounded off to provide one of the best feeling pistol grips that I have ever held. Looking at it won’t do, you really must hold this weapon in your hand to appreciate the difference that it makes. I have seen pistols with similar treatment before from Ed Brown, who produces high-dollar 1911 pistols that are very well-built, but prohibitively expensive for many shooters.  However, Ed Brown also makes and sells very high quality parts for 1911 pistols, and sells them to other custom shops and through parts distributors. His parts are some of the best that you can buy, and are widely used on custom guns.

In building their 1911 Commander Classic Bobtail, Dan Wesson also uses Ed Brown parts for several of the components.  Most producers of 1911 pistols choose less expensive vendors to supply parts, and it shows that the folks at Dan Wesson are striving to build a superior product by using premium parts in their pistols.

Upon opening the hard plastic case I was immediately impressed by the obvious quality of this weapon. I have handled  hundreds of 1911 pistols over the last three decades, but I have never handled one that was built any tighter than this Bobtail.  There is absolutely no discernable play between the slide and frame, nor is there any between the barrel and slide. I was worried that it might be too tight. I have had a custom built 1911 for about twenty-five years, built by a master at his trade, and it has never been as tight as this Dan Wesson, and it took some breaking in to get it running reliably.

The high rise beavertail grip safety is from Ed Brown, and has their memory groove bump pad at the bottom to assure positive engagement.  It of course uses the Ed Brown Bobtail mainspring housing, giving the grip its unique feel. The four and one-quarter inch barrel has the word "match" printed upon it. Checking the chamber, it does appear to be cut to match specifications.  The magazine release is of the slightly extended type. The magazine well is slightly beveled for quicker mag changes, and the ejection port is lowered to assure positive case ejection without dinging the brass. The firing pin retainer, ejector, extractor, and barrel bushing are blued steel. All other visible metal parts are stainless.  The grip panels are checkered Cocobolo, and have a slight reddish tint.  Dan Wesson also specifies that Wolff springs are used throughout. The Bobtail has a Rowell-type hammer and a skeletonized aluminum trigger. The front strap of the grip frame is checkered at twenty lines per inch to assure a positive grip in all conditions. The thumb safety is extended, and is a right hand only unit. The sights are of the sloped Novak style, are dovetailed into the slide front and rear, and are adjustable for windage by loosening a set screw to drift the rear sight laterally. The good part is that the sights wear Trijicon tritium insets in the three-dot pattern for use in low-light conditions. This is a very important feature, and one that is ignored by most pistol makers. Most center fire pistols are designed for social work. They are carried by people to save their butt in the gravest of situations. The pistol is there to protect one’s life when danger is imminent, and it must be capable of being brought to bear on the problem at hand quickly and accurately. Many pistol manufacturers seem to think that the dregs of our society only work the day shift, when the opposite is much more likely. Thugs prefer the cover of darkness, and one is far more likely to need his sidearm for protection at night, or in a darkened parking garage. Still, most pistols are shipped and purchased everyday without night sights. Thankfully, the Commander Bobtail is equipped with a set of excellent night sights.

The Bobtail has also been slightly dehorned, with the sharp edges knocked off. Dan Wesson obviously uses great care in the machining of the forged slide and barrel, as the cuts are precisely done, with no rough tool marks present inside or out. This is a quality pistol.

Shooting the Commander Bobtail proved to be a real pleasure. The trigger pull is one of the best available on a 1911. It is match-grade, very crisp, and released perfectly at three and one-quarter pounds of pressure. Perfect. The gun handles very well, and the shape of the frame seems to do wonders for the controllability of the weapon. In the video, you can observe that the weapon is very controllable in rapid fire shooting full power military 230 grain hardball ammunition.  In addition to that load, I tested the Commander Bobtail with several other .45 ACP factory loads, along with my favorite 200 grain semi-wadcutter target handload. I also tried some Speer Gold Dot G.A.P. ammo, just to see if the shorter cased ammunition would function through the Bobtail, which it did perfectly. The Bobtail chamber is throated and the feed ramp well-polished. It would even feed empty cases from the magazine without a hitch. If a pistol will feed empties, it will feed anything. All ammo fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. Again, looking at the video, one can see the empty cases ejecting perfectly from the Bobtail. The chronograph results from the four and one-quarter inch barrel of the Bobtail are listed below.  Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Jacketed hollowpoint is abbreviated  JHP.

Load Velocity
Buffalo Bore 185-grain JHP 1098
Buffalo Bore 200-grain JHP 1014
Buffalo Bore 230-grain JHP 929.4
Cor-Bon 165-grain JHP 1268
Cor-Bon 200-grain JHP 1002
Cor-Bon 230-grain JHP 947.8
Cor-Bon 165-grain PowRBall 1130
Olin 230-grain Ball 730.1
Handload 200-grain SWC 849.7
Speer 185-grain Gold Dot G.A.P. 1011

The accuracy of the Dan Wesson Commander Bobtail was also impressive. It proved capable of keeping its shots in tight clusters at a range of twenty-five yards. This is a target grade handgun. Even more importantly, the Bobtail is a very capable combat weapon. Keeping rapid fire, offhand groups centered on a man-sized silhouette target was very easy.  This is the most controllable .45 auto that I have ever fired. Perhaps it is just that the grip works very well in my hand. It just feels so much better to me than a standard 1911 grip. The Bobtail grip also makes the weapon a bit more concealable under light clothing. And it doesn’t dig into the side of the person carrying the pistol. For concealment, I carried the Bobtail in both a Mernickle PS1 Paddle holster and a High Noon Need-For-Speed high rise belt holster. Both worked very well at concealing the Bobtail.

If you couldn’t tell already, I really like this Commander Classic Bobtail. It is perfect for ninety percent of those who want to carry a 1911 concealed for social work. For the other ten percent; those of us who are left-handed, it is lacking a thumb safety on our side.  That is easily corrected. I called Brownell’s to order an ambidextrous thumb safety. They have several in their catalog from which to choose, and I selected the Ed Brown Tactical model. When I called and gave Brownell’s the part number, they told me that they had 57 of them in stock. That is one thing that I dearly love about Brownell’s; they stock what they catalog. You don’t spend half a day hunting parts. One call to Brownell’s, and the part was shipped the same day. The Ed Brown safety requires a bit of fitting, but it is easily done. Looking at the new safety compared to the stock safety, you can see the area that needs to be filed down. I had mine done in about twenty minutes, filing a bit and trying it until I got it just right. Another four minutes slightly modifying the right grip panel, and the job was completed. If you don’t feel comfortable fitting one of these ambidextrous safeties, it is a simple job for a gunsmith, and should only cost a few bucks. Anyway, most shooters will not need an ambidextrous safety, but for left-handers, a quick call to Brownell’s will get you fixed up. The part number for the Ed Brown Tactical safety is: 087-245-893. At the time of this writing, the cost is just under $58 for the stainless model.

The Dan Wesson Commander Classic Bobtail is an exceptionally good 1911 pistol. The Bobtail makes a world of difference in the feel and controllability of the weapon, at least in my hand. You can also get a Bobtail 1911 pistol directly from Ed Brown for just under 2500 bucks. You can get this Dan Wesson for less than half of that, and in my opinion, have just as good of a pistol. The Commander Classic Bobtail currently has a suggested price of $1169.  It comes with a hard plastic case, two magazines, a bushing wrench, and instruction manual. It is a lot of custom grade gun for the money. It is American Made, and one fine handgun. I highly recommend it.

Check out the line of Dan Wesson pistols and revolvers online at:  www.cz-usa.com.

To order the Ed Brown ambidextrous thumb safety, call Brownell’s toll free at:  1-800-741-0015 or check out their extensive line of quality gun parts and accessories at:  www.brownells.com.

To find a Dan Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at:  www.lipseys.com.

For a closer look at the holsters shown here, go to:  www.mernickleholsters.com and www.highnoonholsters.com.

For high performance .45 ACP ammunition, go to:  www.buffalobore.com and www.cor-bon.com.

Jeff Quinn

To locate a dealer where you can buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Dan Wesson’s Commander Classic Bobtail .45 ACP.



The Commander Classic Bobtail .45 ACP comes with two magazines, plastic bushing wrench, hard plastic case and instruction manual.



"Three-dot" sights with Trijicon tritium inserts should be considered an essential feature of any pistol intended for defensive use.





















A serious pistol needs serious leather, such as Mernickle's PS1 paddle holster.



Another fine choice for concealed carry is High Noon's Need For Speed holster.



For Southpaws like the author, an ambidextrous safety, such as this Ed Brown unit available from Brownell's, is a quick and easy modification.



Some fitting in this area of the safety is required, but the fitting is an easy project for the home gunsmith.



Right grip panel must also be slightly modified for the ambidextrous safety.



The Dan Wesson Commander Classic Bobtail offers the best of all worlds: a match-accurate, 100% reliable combat pistol at an affordable price.