Dan Wesson Vigil CCO 9mm

Vigilanti Semper: Always Vigilant...
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Vigilanti Semper: Always Vigilant. The Dan Wesson Vigil CCO (Concealed Carry Officers)
is ready right out of the box for serious social engagement.

It’s difficult to imagine the name of a gun being more appropriate to the gun in question. “Vigil” — “… a period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep, especially to keep watch.” The classy way the Dan Wesson Vigil CCO (Concealed Carry Officers) keeps you company, virtually effortlessly, dutifully standing watch with you, is a sort of modest chat with you about the name. While “Devastator” or “Annihilator” may exude a certain flamboyance — if not style — the quiet authority of the Vigil’s platform speaks louder than any click-bait moniker might.

Since their introduction of the 1911 by Dan Wesson in 2000, they’ve justifiably earned the reputation of offering the quality of highly refined custom guns — and often more — at about two thirds the price. Consequently, when the Dan Wesson company became available in 2005, CZ snapped them up to build a foundation using the iconic revolver maker’s name — and to continue to hone the art of their 1911.

The path from ground-breaking revolver designs to sending high-quality 1911s out the factory door is a trail full of surprises — and accidents of fate.

In case you forget to remain alert, the slide provides a clear reminder of the mission on the left side.
Textured stocks and 25 LPI checkering on the front strap give positive control.

Lineage

Dan B. Wesson II was the great grandson of famed D.B. Wesson, co-founder of, yes, Smith & Wesson. From 1938 to 1963, Dan worked for S&W and was in charge of quality control. When S&W was bought by Bangor Punta (a low-point, indeed), Dan left and founded the Dan Wesson firearms company. Launching his own line of upscale DA revolvers to compete with the S&W and Colts of the era, he pulled the lever on the slot machine of business. Indeed, when I was a reserve on the Chula Vista PD in the middle 1970s and the revolver was king, other cops stared if you carried a Dan Wesson. Ask me how I know.

Dan Wesson’s first revolver was designed by gunmaker Karl Lewis. Karl had a very successful career at Browning and High Standard, and had also designed the Colt Trooper revolver (which cosmetically resembled the first DW revolvers at some level), and even the Army’s break-open 40mm Grenade launcher.

Karl had evidently also invented a changeable barrel system for revolvers Dan Wesson put to good use.

As happens, the business had ups and downs but established itself as being great innovators when it came to revolvers, developing large bore models and more. Dan Wesson died in 1978, and the company struggled to keep afloat. In the middle 1990s, it was sold and moved to Norwich, NY, where it resides today. Under new ownership then, the 1911 models began to be developed in 2000, and revolver production was brought back. When Dan Wesson sold in 2005 to CZ, suddenly the small company had the backing of the largest manufacturer of guns in the world behind them. Since acquiring the DW brand, CZ has invested in the company and today’s revolvers and 1911s showcase what solid design and stringent quality control can deliver.

The CCO Concept

Around 1975, the Rock Island Arsenal (military) made a compact 1911, calling it the “General Officer’s Model Pistol.” It was very limited in run and made specifically to be issued to general officers of the Army and Air Force. The pistol was not available to the civilian sector, but I recall them being shown in the firearms press and we all wanted one badly. It was a bit like today’s Officer’s ACP size 1911 — only nobody could have one.

A bit later Detonics introduced their Combat Master, essentially rewriting the book on compact 1911s. And, you could actually buy one. This sort of started a run on various chopped and downsized 1911s and was also about when the famous Star PD was imported. The aluminum-framed, short-slide 1911-style .45 ACP rocked the industry and even Jeff Cooper approved.

Around 1985, Colt developed the “Colt Officer’s ACP” and in ’86 introduced a lightweight version. I bought one of the very first and after Terry Tussey customized it, I carry it to this day. At about 24 oz., it’s a tad lighter than the Vigil (at 29.5 oz.) but has a shorter slide. This trend though had a downside — it was hard to get these short slides to run 100 percent and it often took the administrations of someone like Tussey Custom to make them work right.

At some point, an enlightened brainiac decided to mate a “Commander” slide to an “Officer’s” frame. Talk about a bit of magic. Suddenly, the longer slide at 4.25″ donated some much needed reliability to the package, while still celebrating the tidy concealability of the Officer’s frame. It wasn’t long before many jumped on the bandwagon. Some were done well and some missed the train entirely.

Perfectionism

Dan Wesson built a reputation for being a perfectionist and, like Sir Henry Royce of Rolls-Royce fame, strove for perfection in everything he did at DW. He devoted himself to constantly improving the revolver designs. I can attest in-line changes constantly occurred since even revolvers from the same era I’ve worked on often display small “improvements” in design, operability and even style. This “call for perfection” still exists in the Dan Wesson brand and is forcefully endorsed by the CZ home company.

In the case of the Vigil CCO — our test gun is 9mm, but a .45 ACP is available — this quality sparkles through even at the modest MSRP price of $1,298. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed this gun should cost in the neighborhood of $2,400 or more. The DW 1911 brand is, honestly, that good.

After honing the 1911 design to meet DW standards, they are now exploring the boundaries of engineering, materials and design. In the case of the Vigil COO the mating of the forged stainless slide (black Nitride coated), stainless barrel and forged aluminum alloy frame (black hard-anodized) makes a package spanning the chasm between sub-compact and full-size. If a handgun can be “just right” — you’re looking at one now.

The rear of the Vigil CCO is all business: wide beavertail safety, polished skeletonized hammer and tactical rear sight stout enough to poleaxe a water buffalo!

The stainless match-grade barrel has a reverse crown, while the front sight offers a Tritium insert for all-night efficiency.

Plenteous Features

Like any “custom” auto, the Vigil is chock full of high quality specialty parts. The barrel, a match-grade one, has a reverse crown and a fully supported feed ramp — important even for a 9mm. Sights are a fixed front Tritium and all-black, serrated rear. This gun is accurate enough to take advantage of the excellent sights, too. The trigger is single action, of course, of medium length, with a serrated face and is a crisp 3 lb. 11 oz. in this gun. I honestly thought it was less, it’s so good.

It has the standard 1911 furniture of a thumb safety (left side), de riguer extended beavertail grip safety and — praise be — is a “Series 70”-style gun. With no firing pin safety, I suspect it contributes neatly to helping to accomplish the marvelous trigger break. It comes with two 8-round magazines of excellent quality, having witness holes so you can leer at the number of rounds you have remaining and either feel smug — or concerned — as situations dictate.

The grips are a business-like polished custom Cocobolo having a unique application of texture in just the right areas to enhance your purchase. They are attractive and functional — something about the “always striving to improve things” idea I suspect.

When you work the slide on the Vigil — it’s easy in 9mm — you have the feeling of handling a well-fitted custom 1911 costing much, much more. The trigger is crisp, the action reliable and the controls all snick and click as designed. Just as importantly, when you move the safety once, or press the trigger, when you do it again later they feel the same. With many factory guns, and even some custom builds, a “3.5”-lb. trigger falls there now and again — then 4.2, 5.3, 2.8, etc. at other presses. A thumb safety may be sure and clicky once, then mushy, gritty and disappointing other times. It’s the small things — which are really big things in the long run. And, it’s the long run that bodes well for the Vigil.

The skeletonized hammer reduces weight while the tactical rear sight has a simple notch
and is contoured and stout enough for one-hand emergency cocking.

The overtravel-adjustable skeletonized trigger came crisp from the box and broke just over 3 lbs.
By the way, are we the only ones thinking it looks like a stylized widemouthed skull?

Shooting

I used the test sample for a short “First Look” video we did on the FMG Publications YouTube channel. It was the very first time I had fired the gun and knew it needed more attention as it was pleasant and accurate, simply exuding quality. Benching it, I found even with my aging eyes, good quality ammo like SIG, Black Hills, Hornady, Federal, etc. were remarkably consistent, with nothing going over 2" at 25 honest yards. As a matter of fact, most hovered in the “1.5" or better” range. Had I been able to fit my “grip scope mount” on it (alas, it’s made for a full-sized frame), I’m betting big bucks this gun would easily shoot into 1" with many loads.

The Vigil ran like the proverbial top, the mags were easy to load, recoil was mild, I could run the slide effortlessly and the 29-oz. weight was “just enough.” It kept me on target but was light enough to be delightful to carry. My 100-yard metal torso gong rang repeatedly shooting off-hand, and even my 80-yard 10" rounds clanged regularly. This is simply a terrific gun, for an honest price.

The Rundown

In the “you gets what you pays for” category the Dan Wesson Vigil CCO delivers more than you bargained for. Isn’t it always a delight when you get more than you were promised? If you’re looking to retire your .45 ACP “something” for an accurate, softer shooting, easier-on-the-body home defender and weekend pal, you may have found it. If there’s a local action-shooting match, a fun couple of hours shooting steel, some trigger control practice and maybe a companion for a trip to town in your future, the Vigil will watch over things.

I promise.

www.danwessonfirearms.com

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