Gun Test: Dan Wesson 715 Revolver
The Wesson revolver returns after a 10-year hiatus
Among modern gunmakers, Dan Wesson is a particularly revered figure. In the late 1960s, he broke off from the family business—that business being Smith & Wesson—to start his own gun company.
The cornerstone achievement of Dan Wesson Arms was the Model 12, a switch-barrel revolver that acquired a devoted fan base among wheel-gun aficionados. The Model 12 morphed into the Model 15, and eventually a Model 715 was offered—the “7” indicating that stainless steel rather than regular blued steel was being used for the frame and barrel shroud.
The company struggled financially, however, going bankrupt and changing ownership. Then about 10 years ago, after being purchased by CZ-USA, Wesson Firearms (as it is now known) ceased revolver production, focusing instead on making 1911-style semi-autos.
But a gun company with “Wesson” in its name that doesn’t make revolvers is like a pizzeria that doesn’t offer pepperoni—it just ain’t right. Well, thanks to some substantial upgrades at its manufacturing facility in Norwich, N.Y., Wesson Firearms is back in the revolver game with an updated Model 715, which is chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum, has switch-barrel capability, and is—you guessed it—made of stainless steel.
One hallmark of Wesson revolvers was the craftsmanship that went into them, and this new Model 715 carries on that tradition. Attractive Design
The frame and barrel shroud are beautifully polished, and the fine details within the revolver’s construction reveal themselves upon close inspection. Take, for instance, the way the adjustable rear target-style sight is recessed into the frame so that it sits flush rather than protruding above the frame. Or the tasteful way the supports for the raised rib on the barrel shroud have been shaped. Even the lettering on the barrel and frame is done in an attractive font.
One small design departure from the older 715s are the slight angles machined along the length of the barrel shroud, which do a nice job of breaking up the otherwise boxy lines of the gun.
Along the top of the shroud, the steel has been given a matte finish in order to reduce glare, which might affect the shooter’s sight picture. The blade on the front sight of my test model was solid black, the most useful all-around style. But the 715 can be ordered with sights in different colors or with fiber-optic inserts. If you want to shoot with a scope, Wesson offers a base that attaches to the frame.
The revolver’s most distinctive feature is its switch-barrel capability. The system consists of three parts. There’s the barrel that screws into the frame, the shroud that slides over it, and the nut that joins the two. When tightened, the nut seats against a shoulder in the shroud, effectively stretching the barrel between the muzzle and where it screws into the frame. This adds stiffness to the barrel and helps the revolver’s accuracy.
The 715 comes with a .006-inch feeler gauge that is used to establish the proper gap between the cylinder and the barrel so that the shooter knows exactly how far to screw the barrel into the frame. Other than the feeler gauge, swapping the barrels on the 715 requires no special tools and can be accomplished in a couple of minutes.
At the moment, Wesson Firearms is shipping the 715 with a 6-inch barrel, but it plans to add 2 ½-, 4-, and 8-inch barrels in 2016. These will be sold individually and also as part of a Pistol Pack, which consists of the revolver and three barrel lengths.
So the gun is pretty, and it’s easy to change barrels on it, but how does it shoot? The trigger on mine was smooth and even while shooting it double-action. I had no problem stacking the trigger and keeping the sights aligned as I transitioned between targets, which allowed for fast, accurate fire. The 6-inch barrel hits a sweet spot for a .357, generating good projectile velocity in a balanced package that handles recoil well.
Shot in single-action mode, the trigger broke at 5 pounds 2 ounces, which is a bit heavy for fine target work but excellent for all-around shooting chores, including hunting. I didn’t have any fancy target ammunition available during the evaluation, but using middle-of-the-road .38 and .357 loads, the 715 delivered 2 ½ inch 5-shot groups at 25 yards, which isn’t too shabby.
Mechanically, the gun is rock solid. All moving components are tight and precise, and betray no unwanted wiggle or slop, both with the hammer down and when cocked.
The 715 holsters and carries easily—empty, it weighs just under 3 pounds—and would make a great trail gun. The contoured rubber grip conformed nicely to my hands and is shaped in such a way that it works well when a shooter is wearing medium-weight gloves. I could see using the 715 while trudging through the snow following a pack of hounds hot on the heels of a cougar.
The 715’s $1,168 price tag puts it in the premium category, but that’s a fair price for what is, by any measure, a premium gun. I expect to see a whole new fan base of Dan Wesson shooters crop up in the coming years.
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Weight: 2 lb. 15 oz.
Trigger pull: 5 lb. 2 oz.
Barrel length: 16 in.
Accuracy: 2.441 in.
Smallest group: 2.017 in.
Barrel length: 6 in.