US brand Dan Wesson is an iconic pistol manufacturer, famous for its idiosyncratic revolver design and its range of semi-automatic 1911-style handguns. Air-powered Dan Wesson replicas are naturally in high demand – and I recently picked up a version loosely styled on the Model 15 revolver that ASG are licensed to build. This BB pistol uses ‘ammo’ that’s reminiscent of the Brocock air cartridge system (BACS) used in their pistols before being effectively outlawed by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, 2003.
However, Brococks had a precharged air cartridge loaded into each chamber – a kind of mini PCP – but the system on ASG’s Dan Wesson’s replica is ‘inert’; its cartridge is used only to hold the round, which is fired out via a power system contained within the gun itself.
In the case of the ASG, that power system is a conventional CO2 capsule located in the grip and the six, brass cartridges that hold the BB within the cap are merely an innovative take on an airgun system that is otherwise pretty much standard for a gas-powered air pistol. In fact, ASG’s cartridge is really just a transfer port through which the CO2 travels!
Opening the cylinder requires a simple push of the catch on the left-hand side of the main frame – which, unusually, can be pulled backwards to act as a safety catch. It’s a clever design, and though not overly efficient, comes close to the satisfaction of loading a real revolver. For added fun, ASG supplies the pistol with a plastic speedloader, allowing you to simultaneously drop in six rounds in an instant. The cylinder also has an ejector rod to help push out your spent cartridges; it’s a little more authentic but works no better than simply inverting the gun and letting them fall out into your waiting palm, however.
ASG use aluminium alloy for the frame, which is lighter than steel, but heavy enough that the pistol doesn’t feel like a toy. My test model has a gunmetal finish, though silver- and gold-plated variants are available. The ambidextrous grips are moulded in ABS plastic, making them quite hard and resilient to knocks – although I also found them a little bit slippery in the hand. If this were my gun, I’d consider adding a roll-on rubber grip, or even a piece of bicycle inner tube to make it more tactile.
The barrel is a long, eight-inch (200mm) design that includes a ventilated shroud-cum-weight, and it’s attached via a pair of rolled steel pins in the top of the frame. By drifting these out, it’s possible to remove the barrel and replace it with a shorter version (this model also comes in 2.5-, 4- and 6-inch barrel lengths). The barrel itself actually floats inside the shroud, and is spring-loaded against the front face of the cylinder so that every time the cylinder rotates, the barrel moves from one recess in the cylinder face to the next. This makes for a good seal and ensures that the cylinder aligns perfectly with the barrel. However, the downside is that the cycling of each round feels a little ‘notchy’, as you’re overcoming the barrel alignment mechanism as well as the cocking mechanism.
Beneath the grip lies the recess for a CO2 capsule, along with a neatly-hidden butterfly piercing screw. Gassing up is a simple affair – simply drop in the fresh capsule, wind in the screw until you hear a hiss, replace the grip… and you’re good to go with enough CO2 to get in excess of 120 usable shots. My tests showed initial velocities were kissing 400fps, while by shot 120 they still zoomed out at a usable 350fps. As with all CO2 guns, you need to let the bulb return to the ambient temperature after rapid fire, of course – otherwise power output will substantially drop.
The trigger can be used in either single- or double-action mode. Single requires you to cock the hammer manually to index the next round before pressing the now-set trigger, while double is a case of pulling the trigger all the way to release the shot. Anyone who’s shot a revolver will know that double-action mode is much faster, but more difficult to achieve accuracy with.
The Dan Wesson’s barrel is smoothbore – especially chosen for its intended diet of steel BBs – but I managed groups of around 35mm at six yards. For a plinking gun, that’s about par for the course – and with around 1.75ft/lb, there’s plenty of power for both informal target shooting and fun-gunning at tin cans and the like.
In terms of aiming, the Dan Wesson comes with a rearsight that’s adjustable for height and side-to-side settings via slot-head screws. Overall, the sight picture is good and the foresight has a white dot painted on to assist target acquisition against dark backgrounds. Should you want to fit a pistol telly or red-dot sight, there’s a small Weaver-style rail supplied. To fit this, you’ll need to remove the rearsight with a screwdriver and punch out the rearmost rolled steel pin – and though the instructions suggest using the supplied hex key, I’d use a more appropriate punch. It needs some force to remove and could easily be lost without care. Once removed, the rail slides onto its dovetails and is pulled into position by its grub screws.
The overall appeal of ASG’s Dan Wesson pistol lies in its Dirty Harry looks, its feel and the realism of the loading and firing process – and I can see plenty of ex-Brocock fans really becoming quite enchanted by it. The fact that it shoots more than reasonably well is excellent news – and, of course, there aren’t many pistols that come with such an innovative and individual system these days. As an added bonus, you can pick up an ASG around the £140 mark.