TFB Review: Dan Wesson Specialist Optics Ready 1911

Matt E
by Matt E
TFB Review: Dan Wesson Specialist Optics Ready 1911

In the world of 1911s, tradition and quality are the topics most fans talk about when looking for a high-quality 1911. Last year, I reviewed the Dan Wesson Specialist stainless model chambered in 9mm. Recently Dan Wesson came out with a new optics-ready model for their Specialist with various plates for popular optics on the market. I ultimately decided to pick up an Optics Ready Specialist to see how it stacks up to other pistols currently available. Let’s take a closer look at the Dan Wesson Specialist Optics Ready 1911.

Dan Wesson @ TFB:


When Dan Wesson was designing the optics-ready variant of their Specialist model, they wanted a modular system with the ability to take various optics with the simple switch of an optics plate. From the factory, these plates allow users to either use the standard Novak-style rear sight that is installed on the standard cover or install a rear sight of their choice. Straight out of the box, the Optics Ready Specialist comes with a number of upgrades. One of the first upgrades I noticed when picking the Specialist up, is the 25 LPI checkering on the mainspring housing as well as the front of the frame.

With the upgraded checkering, the Specialist is secure in the shooter’s hand without feeling overly aggressive or tearing your hands up. Other upgrades like the old-style textured trigger, built-in magwell, skeletonized hammer, inverted rib, front serrations, and night sights are standard. Dan Wesson also incorporated a 1913 Picatinny rail into the frame of its Specialist to allow the users to attach any light or laser accessories they may want for home defense or even concealed carry. The Optics Ready Specialist is on sale now with an MSRP of $2,299.99.

Spec List

MSRP $2,299 Manufacturer Dan Wesson
Manufacturer Part # 01799Model SPECIALIST
Action Semi-automaticType 1911
Size Full SizeCaliber 45 ACP
Barrel Length 5″Color Black
Grips G10Capacity 8 Rounds
Hand Right HandSafety Ambidextrous
Sights Night SightsSubcategory Pistols – Metal Frame
Material Stainless SteelFinish Matte
Range Time

So far, I’ve put roughly 750 rounds through the Specialist OR through a number of range days over the last couple of months. One of the first things I can say I appreciated about this pistol was the silky smooth slide action and the checkering on the frame. The tight checkering on the frame gives a hefty amount of traction without being too aggressive. The VZ Grips offer additional traction in your hand while offering things like a magazine relief cut so it’s easy to do mag changes quickly. The optics cut does bring the 1911 platform into the 21st century and I can really appreciate being able to put something like an SRO or RMR on an old-school pistol to have a bit of old meets new.

This Specialist feels like its parts fitted to each other. The first few racks of the slide had that tight hand-fit feeling which impressed me for a gun of this price point. I decided to throw a Trijicon RMR as well as a SureFire X300 on it for my range testing. During my time shooting the Specialist, I kept thinking about how balanced the gun felt with a soft predictable recoil. Even being chambered in 45ACP, I found myself being able to shoot double or triple taps relatively easily with this handgun. The slightly enlarged magwell makes reloading faster if you have gloves on or work in low-light conditions. Let’s take a look at how the Specialist performed when it comes to reliability and the accuracy of the pistol.

Accuracy and Reliability

Over the 750 rounds sent through this Dan Wesson Specialist, I tested accuracy on two different range sessions to see how close the results would be. The first range session was a colder spring morning around 50 degrees with Federal American Eagle 230gr ammunition. At 25 yards from the bench, I was getting right around 1-1.5″ groups. For these, I would do 5 shot groups with the occasional flyer but the groups that had no flyers were closer to 1″ groups which is fairly impressive. The Specialist has a stainless steel match-grade barrel so I’m not super surprised but the second range session confirmed the group size as well. A lot of this has to be due to the clean crisp 4.5 lbs trigger with a very defined reset. It was incredibly predictable and really helped me keep the tight groups under slow steady fire.

For the majority of my testing, I used Federal American Eagle 230gr but also used some Remington 230gr ammo along with a box of Federal HST 185gr ammo which performed perfectly. Out of the 750 rounds total, I had no hiccups or malfunctions which you shouldn’t really get out of a pistol of this price. As I said earlier, the Specialist feels like it was fitted at the factory so I was curious to see if that meant any break-in period, but I am happy to report it was 100% reliable throughout my testing.

Old Meets New

Dan Wesson has always been a great value when it comes to quality for the price tag you’re paying. This is my third or fourth Dan Wesson I purchased but the first Optic Ready variant which has been rock solid. The plates fit snugly and are easy to change out making it easy to switch out optics if you wanted. The classic aesthetics of the 1911 platform are still very much prevalent in this gun. Sometimes they can go overboard on slide cuts and make the 1911 something it’s not supposed to be.

This old-school vibe with an optics cut as well as the checkering and modern grips really does give it the perfect balance of old-school and new technology in my personal opinion. I found myself grabbing this gun even when I was low on 45 ACP just to put a few rounds through it during relaxing range sessions. That’s not really common for me so the Specialist does feel different in that aspect.

Overall Thoughts

Out of all the 1911-style pistols I have bought in the last few years, I will be completely honest and say this Dan Wesson Specialist feels different with the modern upgrades and crisp trigger along with the classic looks. It isn’t the cheapest optics-ready 1911 model out there but it feels quality from a company that’s been fairly consistent with offering quality products. I’m not disappointed with this gun in any sense and if you’re looking for an optics-ready 1911 in the mid 2K price point, I would strongly encourage you guys to throw this onto the list of considerations.

Check Prices on Dan Wesson Specialist Optic Ready Pistols

Let me know what you guys think of the Dan Wesson Specialist Optics Ready model. Is it a relic from a past era or does it still have a valid position in someone’s safe? Sound off in the comments section below and let me know your thoughts. If you guys have questions about this handgun or firearms in general, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there and we will see you in the next one!

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Matt E
Matt E

I'm an avid shooter and love educating whether it's at my job or in the shooting community. I'm an average joe that really loves talking with other people about firearms and other passions.I'm active on Instagram on @fridgeoperator.

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3 of 6 comments
  • KsKLR KsKLR on Jul 22, 2023

    The 2011 really does need to be much more mainstream and every reputable 1911 manufacturer should have at least one 2011 design available. As much as I love the venerable 1911 I wouldn’t buy another. Blending the high capacity with the accuracy, shoot ability and trigger refinement of the two designs are just too good to ignore. And a accurate, reliable one with good fit and finish shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

    • Andrew Malik Andrew Malik on Jul 24, 2023

      @KsKLR I fully agree. The options should be there. But even though I can handle a 2011, the feel of a single stack 1911 will always be superior (for me).

      Full disclosure. I've a 4.25" Prodigy on my short list.

  • Matt Philbin Matt Philbin on Jul 23, 2023

    Can you comment on the sight height as it relates to using the RMR on the gun? I understand that different rear sights are available to fit into the optics plates, but I'm assuming the front sight is installed in a typical fashion. Is there a co-witness available with a specific optic with the factory-supplied sights?