Review: Dan Wesson Vigil

I have carried some variation of the 1911 for decades. Not an old Colt I have modified, or an inexpensive piece of iron mongery, but the dead level best 1911 I can afford. I don’t carry a 1911 because it is expected of me, or because of its legendary status, but because it performs best for me of any big bore handgun.

There is a great deal of revisionist history concerning the .45 ACP. A generation ago someone vomited up a hoax involving a secret test in which unknown persons shot drugged goats. Seriously, and lap dog fanboys ate it up. Well, some did. Then there were so called stopping power studies with bankrupt methodology, if the incidents stated occurred at all which I very seriously doubt. The .45 ACP is a better cartridge than the small bores. This is physics. The .45 ACP is chosen based on proven wound potential and personal experience and testing. The .45 ACP operates at low pressure and offers limited muzzle flash, usually the muzzle signature is just a few sparks. Accuracy can be excellent in the right firearm. 

The 1911 may be modified into a number of configurations and work well. A Commander size is common. The pistol illustrated is a CCO or Commanding Officer type. This is the Commander size slide with 4 ¼ inch barrel mated to the Officer’s Model frame. This makes for excellent handling and good concealment.

The Dan Wesson Vigil is a high quality pistol, but affordable compared to a number of high end 1911 handguns. This is an attractive handgun. The slide is finished in a dark black coating. The barrel and barrel bushing are stainless.

As you can see the pistol retains the original 1911 barrel bushing and locking lugs. The muzzle is nicely crowned. The pistol’s aluminum frame is anodized. The finish is even and properly applied.

Dan Wesson states there are no MIM parts in the Vigil, all to the good. The guide rod and recoil spring assembly are standard 1911, there is no full length guide rod. The purpose of the CCO type is to provide a pistol that is easily concealed by dint of the short Officer’s Model type grip frame but which offers good accuracy potential by maintaining a Commander size slide and barrel. Magazines are shorter but the modern magazines hold seven rounds of .45 ACP, the old standard.

The rear sight is dovetailed in place with striations on the face. The front post is also dovetailed in place. There is a self luminous tritium insert in the front sight. A white ring surrounds the tritium. This is a very fast set up to pick up when you are shooting fast and need to quickly acquire the target. The rear sight is the modern wedge type allowing racking the slide on a boot heel if needed. Among the best features is a checkered front strap. You really need this on a 1911. 25 lines per square inch seems ideal. The mainspring is also nicely checkered. The grips are attractive and provide a good balance of adhesion and abrasion. 

The safety is a speed safety type but not ambidextrous. The slide lock and magazine release are not extended, ideal for a carry gun. The beavertail grip safety is properly designed to lead the hand into the firing grip. The grip safety’s design is best for those of us that adopt the  thumbs forward grip. With some grip safety designs the hand forms a cup and the grip safety is released. That will not occur with the Dan Wesson grip safety type. The trigger action is smooth and consistent with minimal take up, no creep, and no backlash. Trigger compression is 4.5 pounds. This is ideal for a carry gun. 

Carrying the pistol is easy enough, the Vigil CCO is light and offers a flat profile. For carry under a light covering garment a strong side belt holster is all that is needed. For use inside the trouser an inside the waistband holster will allow the holster to be concealed beneath a pulled out sport shirt. That makes for excellent all around concealment. Among the best all around holsters in my holster trunk (no box or drawer would hold them!) I have a DeSantis Sky Cop crossdraw. This holster has been among the most useful and versatile holsters I have used. The crossdraw allows a seated user to make a sharp draw. You do not need a specialized driving holster when you have the Sky Cop.

Firing the pistol for combat ability I drew and fired at man sized targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards. Hit potential is excellent. The pistol is brilliantly fast on target. Control is good. Aim, fire, allow the trigger to reset as the pistol recoils, and take another shot. The cadence of fire is never set by how quickly you can pull the trigger, but by how quickly you are able to regain the sight picture.

The Vigil is properly sighted for the six o’clock hold. I fired a good mix of ball ammunition, primarily the Remington UMC 230 grain FMJ loading. This load burns clean, is affordable, and offers good accuracy potential. I would not hesitate to defend myself with 230 grain hardball. When hiking and carrying one of my 1911 handguns I often carry hardball as it will handle man or beast well. Recoil isn’t unpleasant. I may add a couple of Wilson Combat eight round Officer’s Model magazines at a later date. 

Bench rest accuracy is probably the least relevant test of a defensive handgun. Just the same, such testing is interesting. I fired the pistol by resting it in the MTM Caseguard K Zone rest. This rest is an easy set up for rifles and by removing the rear section of the K Zone rest you may use it as a handgun rest. I fired two five shot groups at 25 yards. The Remington 230 grain UMC load put five shots into 2.25 inches, the Remington 185 grain Golden Saber put five rounds into 1.9 inches. This dog will run! That is exceptional accuracy for a full size 1911 much less a CCO type. The Dan Wesson Vigil is a treasured carry gun I bet my life on. 

Last MSRP was $1249. 

Capacity7 Rounds
Frame MaterialForged Aluminum
Slide FinishBlack Duty Finish
Overall Length7.9 in
Barrel Length4.25 in
Width1.45 in
Weight29.5 oz
Trigger MechSingle Action
Front SightFixed Night Sight
Rear SightTactical Night Sight
SafetyAmbi thumb safety, grip safety
California CompliantNo