The follow-on 445 SuperMag was at
first hobbled by the fact that brass wasn't readily available. Cases had
to be laborious made from 30-40 Krag brass. Even when commercial brass was
finally made available from Starline, many silhouette shooters found the
recoil and muzzle blast to be fairly objectionable. Never the less, the
445 has retained a small but fiercely loyal group of advocates that feel
that the cartridge can be properly loaded to comfortably shoot silhouettes
or pumped up to rival or even surpass the 454 when handgun hunting.
The last of the series, the 414, never
really had a chance to get off the ground. Learning a lesson from their
445 experience, the Gates family arranged for Starline to produce a large
run of 414 brass right from the very start. Like the other SuperMags, the
old Dan Wesson company would manufacture the new gun. Approximately 25
guns were produced when the company unfortunately went bankrupt and
suddenly closed its doors leaving the 414 in limbo and the Gates family
sitting on a large amount of brass with no gun to use for which to use it.
Those 25 guns have evidently become
collector pieces. Even to this day, I get around one call a month from
people asking me if I know where they can find a 414 Dan Wesson revolver.
Well now I can say yes. You can buy them from the new Dan Wesson company
where they are in regular production.
A couple of months ago, I arranged to
get a 414 test gun from the new Dan Wesson. When it came, I could
immediately see that this indeed was a new generation product. Fit,
finish, and general workmanship were absolutely superb. Now, many people
immediately ask me if the new DW guns are as good as Freedom Arm's
revolvers. The honest answer is no, but on the other hand they aren't that
far off either, and they don't cost as much.
My 414 is one of the new SRS-1 models.
SRS stands for Super Ram Silhouette. It's DW's top of the line model and
is optimized for silhouette shooting. The gun can be had in both stainless
steel and in blue. I was provided with the stainless.
The SRS features an under cut
partridge front sight covered with a very handsome slab-sided hood. The
letters "SRS-1" are engraved on the left side of the hood. The hood is
dovetailed on to the barrel shroud's top rib and is secured with a screw
that is accessible through a hole in the top. The partridge front sight
can also be removed by loosening a small set screw located on the front of
the shroud. A variety of other heights and styles of front sights are
available from DW and it is an easy matter to replace one with another.
The SRS rear sight is a Bomar with 18
clicks per revolution. As you would expect, the Bomar clicks were both
very crisp and positive. Even though the gun was equipped with an eight
inch barrel (necessary to meet IHMSA weight limits) the sight radius
between the front and rear units was 10 inches. This actually exceeds the
sight radius of a 10" Contender barrel by at least an inch or more. The
Bomar sight is standard on the SRS and is available as an option on other
Let me say a few words about Dan
Wesson's unique removable barrel/shroud combination. For those not
familiar with this system, it features a barrel that easily screws into
the frame and then is covered by a heavy steel shroud that is then secured
by a screw-on nut at the muzzle end of the barrel.
This system has three major
advantages. The first is that is allows you to easily adjust the barrel
cylinder gap. When I first received the gun, it had a standard factory
.006" gap. I immediately adjusted it down to approximately .001". By
reducing the barrel cylinder gap, I reduced the amount of propellant gases
being lost through the gap, and therefore increased efficiency and
By the way, the DW's cylinder was so
perfectly aligned with the barrel, that even with this tiny
barrel/cylinder separation, there was no interference problem at all. On
most other brands of revolvers, the face of the cylinder will wobble front
to rear and from side to side when the cylinder is rotated. This then
requires a larger, energy robbing barrel cylinder gap to insure that the
face of the cylinder doesn't bind against the rear of the barrel. Not a
problem with the DW.
I should also mention that the
cylinder lock up is the tightest of any double action revolver that I have
come across. The cylinder is secured three ways. First, by the beefy front
cylinder latch. Many double action revolvers have their locking latches
in the rear which does nothing to secure the front of the cylinder (the
part that needs the most support). It's also secured with a bolt whose
dimensions precisely match those of the cylinder notches to ensure an
exact fit. Additionally, the dimensions of the bolt and the bolt window
in the bottom of the frame are closely matched to insure there is no side
to side movement. Lastly, the cylinder is also held in place by the
mechanical hand that rotates the cylinder.
To check cylinder lock up, just pull
back the hammer on an empty revolver and pull the trigger without letting
the hammer fall. Then with your other hand, try to rotate the
cylinder. Most revolver cylinders will have noticeable side to side
movement when this test is performed. When this occurs, it means that a
cylinder's chambers aren't going to be perfectly aligned with the barrel's
forcing cone. Consequently, the bullet won't enter the barrel dead on, but
rather from one side or the other and accuracy will be reduced. The 414's
cylinder had only the most imperceptible degree of movement. It was almost
totally unnoticeable. This is quite an achievement for a double action
revolver since the basic design of this type of gun precludes the total
elimination of cylinder movement.
The second advantage of the DW barrel
system is that you can easily replace the barrel if it gets worn out.
Barrels do wear out and need replacing from time to time - yes, even on
revolvers. You could even say especially on revolvers since the breech end
of a revolver barrel suffers significantly more abuse than barrels on
closed breech firearms. On other revolvers, replacing a barrel is an
expensive, complex job that has to be accomplished at the factory. With
the DW, it's a five minute at home job.
particular gun, the original barrel was an optional laser treated type
that had a 1:18.75 twist, which is the industry standard for the 41
Mag. Accuracy was good but I felt it could be better, especially with
heavy bullets. I recommended that DW use a 1:14 twist instead. They
agreed and in time sent me a new barrel. It was then an easy matter to
mount the new tube. Accuracy did improve, and the 1:14 is now the standard
twist for the 414.
The 3rd advantage of the DW
barrel/shroud system is that it improves accuracy. When the barrel nut is
tightened at the muzzle, it pulls the barrel forward, away from the frame.
The barrel is now under tremendous tension. Because the barrel is in this
state of very significant torque-like tension, it's unable to whip and
vibrate to the same degree as it would otherwise when the gun is fired.
Less barrel vibration equals increased accuracy.
Another element of this system
is extremely important but tends to be overlooked i.e. the barrel is
secured at both it's ends versus just one end as is the case with all
other revolvers. To appreciate this system, just take a yardstick
and imagine that it's a gun barrel. Now hold it at one end and whip
it up and down. This illustrates how a gun barrel vibrates when it's
fired. Pretty easy to do isn't it?
Now hold the yardstick at both
ends and try it. It's almost impossible to make it move isn't it?
Now, while still holding it on both sides, pull the ends apart as
hard as you can and try to whip it up and down. Can't do it, can
you? This barrel system gives the DW a tremendous mechanical
advantage. In fact, a recent article in "Precision Shooting"
magazine discussed this same technique with a rifle. Groups improved
significantly when the rifle's barrel was put under tension.
The barrel shroud is
characterized by its very distinctive integrated ventilated
top rib and its five, two inch cutaway slots (two on each side
and one on the underside), which help bring down the DW's
weight to help it meet IHMSA weight requirements. The right
side of the shroud is laser engraved with the gun's chambering
and a very handsome reproduction of Mr. Dan Wesson's signature
inside a crown of laurel leaves, along with the words "Final
Issue", and the serial number of the gun. The serial number is
also engraved on the frame.
I also obtained an
additional shroud that was drilled and tapped to accept a
Burris scope mount. Drilling and tapping of the shroud is a
cataloged factory option. This allowed me to mount a set of
Burris's innovative Posi-Align scope rings and the new Burris
4X12 pistol scope (a superlative product) on the gun in
order to do the accuracy evaluation for this report and also
perhaps later in the year to do a little handgun hunting. I
should add that the Burris scope performed like a champion and
stood up to some fairly brutal loads without a hint of any