Dan Wesson’s .45 ACP ECO is one of the best concealed-carry 1911s on today’s market. That’s a strong statement, but the ECO has the design features, quality construction and tactical enhancements to back it up.
The ECO impressed me from the moment I opened its polymer shipping case at the Florida Gun Exchange. The ECO is just the right size for concealed carry. Its 3.5-inch barrel gives it much better carry balance than most 3-inch-barreled 1911s. Short-barreled 1911s tend to be butt-heavy when loaded, and when you put a 3-inch-barreled gun in an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, you can feel it wanting to tilt to the rear. Not so with the ECO.
The Dan Wesson ECO’s aircraft-grade aluminum frame has a number of features that enhance its concealability and tactical utility. The aluminum mainspring housing is slightly rounded to help reduce the butt’s tendency to print through clothing. This slight curvature leaves much more gripping area for the shooter’s palm than some popular “bobtail” designs. A solid grip is further enhanced by 25-lpi checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing, and the use of checkered G10 grips. A slightly undercut triggerguard and a high-ride grip safety get the ECO’s Officer’s-length grip well down into the shooter’s hand to help minimize muzzle flip.
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Recoil reduction is accomplished through a well-engineered recoil system that uses a solid, full-length recoil spring guide rod and a single, flat recoil spring.
The factory rates the recoil spring to last a remarkable 15,000 rounds. With previous 1911s I was lucky to get a few hundred rounds through the gun before the springs weakened and compromised reliability.
The barrel’s one-stage, integral feed ramp is another well-thought-out feature. Most other aluminum-framed semi-autos have two-stage feed ramps. The first stage is machined out of the frame and the second is machined out of the barrel. A problem arises when sharp-edged hollow-point bullets hit the feed ramp’s aluminum first stage and create dings in the ramp that compromise reliability. An additional benefit of the one-stage ramp is that it provides much more support for the case head of a chambered cartridge. This makes case blowouts less likely. Even so, ammo loaded above SAAMI pressure levels should not be used in the ECO.
Other enhancements include “straight eight” sights with Trijicon tritium inserts. The front and rear sights are drift-adjustable for windage. The rear sight also has a cocking ledge that makes it possible to clear stoppages and operate the pistol with one hand. In the event of an injury, the ability to operate the slide with only one hand can be a true lifesaver. A Commander-style hammer, a long trigger with a trigger stop, an extended manual safety lever, a raised magazine release, a beveled magazine well, an extended ejector and a lowered/flared ejection port complete the features and make the ECO a highly refined tool for tactical shooting.
A gun can have all the custom features in the world, but a tactical pistol also has to be well-manufactured and well fitted if it is to save lives under conditions that Massad Ayoob calls “the gravest extreme.” The quality examination started with checking the function of the trigger, all safeties and the extractor tension. The trigger had about 0.25 inches of take-up and then broke cleanly at 4 pounds with just enough overtravel to ensure sear disengagement. All safeties functioned normally. In addition, the hammer would not drop from half-cock when the trigger was pressed and could not be pushed off half or full cock. The hammer also remained rock-steady when the thumb safety was disengaged after the trigger was pulled with the safety in the “on” position. The same was true with the grip safety. From these tests it was clear that trigger/hammer/sear engagement was first rate. Extractor tension was also very good. In short, the pistol’s controls operated well.
The Dan Wesson ECO was then examined for vertical, side-to-side, and back and forth play in the fit of the slide and barrel to the frame. There was none, so the gun was checked for external tool marks and poorly conformed surfaces or problems with the finish. The exterior of the gun showed only one sharp edge, which was on the front of the rear sight. There were no poorly conformed lines or tool marks anywhere else, however. I even examined the slide and frame under a high-intensity lamp just to make sure, and looking at the pistol as closely as I could, I couldn’t find a single hiccup. The Dan Wesson’s Duty finish was extremely well applied.
Examining the gun’s interior indicated that the match-grade barrel was properly conformed. Its bore was smooth and shiny, and the rifling was even and well spaced. The barrel link moved freely, and its pin was well seated. Locking lug recesses in the slide and frame were well made, and the slide and frame rails were straight and even. Finally, there were no tool marks or other defects inside the Dan Wesson ECO. This is truly a well-made pistol.
Live-fire tests involved shooting the gun for accuracy from a benchrest, testing for velocity and running shooting drills. Drills were conducted with and without Crimson Trace green Lasergrips. Ammunition for the bench tests included Black Hills’ 200-grain SWCs, CorBon’s 165-grain +P JHPs, Federal’s 230-grain Hydra-Shoks, Hornady’s 185-grain Critical Defense rounds, Remington’s 230-grain HTPs and Winchester’s 230-grain ball ammo. Additional reliability testing was done with Federal 230-grain +P HST, Winchester 230-grain PDX-1, Winchester 230-grain Ranger T and Remington 230-grain Ultimate Defense and Hornady 220-grain +P Critical Duty ammo.
Accuracy testing was performed at 7 yards because this pistol is primarily designed for close-range personal defense. Groups were well centered and averaged in the 1.5- to 2.6-inch range. There was no keyholing. The most accurate load was Federal’s Hydra-Shok, which had a best group of 0.98 inches. Full results are in the accompanying table.
Velocities with the short, 3.5-inch barrel were also very good, and extreme velocity spreads for jacketed bullets were in the 20- to 40-fps range. This is very good for a short-barreled gun. The fastest load was CorBon’s 165-grain +P JHP, which produced 1,027 fps.
Reliability was very good overall, with one exception. The ECO was not entirely compatible with +P loads that had wide hollow-point cavities. These loads would occasionally not feed the first round from the magazine. The one-stage feed ramp is a bit narrower than the two-stage ramps of “throated” 1911s, and the edge of the hollow point would occasionally hang up on the ramp. On the other hand, ball ammunition, semi-wadcutters, Hornady loads with FTX bullets and all of the 230-grain JHPs tested fed perfectly.
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Move-and-shoot drills were conducted at the Volusia County Gun & Hunt Club and the Flagler Gun Club. These exercises involved drawing from a custom Rusty Sherrick holster while moving. The drills were performed at 5, 10 and 15 yards. The ECO delivered fast, accurate hits to the target’s head and body from all distances. The Crimson Trace grips are helpful for large-handed shooters because they add girth to the grip. In addition, the laser’s green beam was twice as visible as a red laser in the bright Florida sunshine.
The Dan Wesson ECO is a lightweight, reliable and easy-to-conceal 1911 that’s well suited to both concealed carry and home defense.
For more information, visit http://www.cz-usa.com or call 800-955-4486.