For some time, I have regarded the Commander-size 1911 handgun as the perfect carry gun for my needs. A Commander is simply a Government Model 1911 with a slide that is ¾-inch shorter and an aluminum frame in place of the larger handguns steel frame. This makes for a packable handgun with plenty of power. Among the hanguns leading this category is the Dan Wesson Guardian.
The Commander retains the low bore axis, straight to the rear trigger compression, and excellent features of the Government Model. After a few difficulties, fights for my life—including a fall from a porch of some four feet with 400 pounds of felons intertwined with me, car wrecks, and climbs in ancient artifacts of architecture—I find my back isn’t what it once was. Just the same, the 1911 does the intended job like no other, and I am not one to compromise.
The 1911 .45 is my handgun and the one that I will carry. There are modern choices using space age alloys that allow me to carry the 1911 in comfort. Recoil is greater with these lightweight handguns as there is seldom a free lunch, only tradeoffs. But thank God, I am not yet troubled by pain in the wrist and hands, and I am able to handle .45 ACP recoil in the hands.
The .45 ACP has a push—rather than a rap—in my perception, and the 1911s low bore axis and well shaped grip helps to an extent with recoil. If you carry a lightweight .45, prepare for a greater investment in time and ammunition to master the piece. With that in mind, I looked for the best combination of features, accuracy, and excellence of manufacture. The sky wasn’t the limit; the price must be reasonable for the quality. I have constantly upgraded my 1911s as better types became available. One of those types is the Dan Wesson Guardian.
The Guardian features a 4.25-inch barrel and a full-length grip frame. The shorter slide is much easier to conceal in an inside-the-waistband holster. A full-size grip allows fast handling. The sight radius is shorter than the 5-inch barrel Government Model, but excellent shooting may be done with the handgun by those who practice.
Shorter handguns require a bull barrel and dispense with the barrel bushing. I prefer the original type, and if we keep the barrel length at 4.25 inches, we may retain the barrel bushing. The handgun is superbly finished. The dark blue (practically black) finish is evenly applied and flawless.
There are no tool marks inside or out. The finish is nonreflective. The trigger features an over travel adjustment. Mine is sealed in place. The trigger breaks at a very clean 5.0 pounds with little take up and no trace of creep or over travel.
The pistol features a tight fit in the slide lock safety with a positive indent. This is the first thing I check on a 1911—before I press the trigger. If the fit is sloppy, the pistol isn’t considered for personal use. The ejection port is scalloped for more efficient unloading of a chambered round and for positive ejection.
The slide release is a re-design of the John Browning type and works well in speed loads. The steel hammer is skeletonized. The grip safety is the popular beavertail type. This type of safety lowers the bore axis slightly and aids in recoil control.
The speed bump aids those who have a problem addressing the grip safety. When you use the thumb-forward grip, there are times when the palm may be raised off the grip safety, and this safety addresses that concern. When depressed, the grip safety releases its hold on the trigger about half-way into the grip safety’s travel, properly operating and offering a degree of safety as it springs back into position and locks the trigger when released.
The fit of the barrel, barrel bushing, and locking lugs is custom grade, as it should be on this high-end pistol. The Guardian’s barrel features a reverse crown, a nice feature. A beneficial step is the dehorning and smoothing of all sharp edges. The pistol features low profile sights with tritium inserts. The Guardian pistol is simply ideal for concealed carry in every way.
The final advantage is the bobtail mainspring housing. This mainspring housing neatly chops away the square edge most likely to print on covering garments when the pistol is worn concealed. The bottom edge of the grip strap is radiused. This treatment balances the good handling of the arched mainspring housing or the ease with which a beavertail safety may be fitted to the flat mainspring housing. It is one of the best features of the Guardian.
The grips are well turned out with a smooth area that allows rapid adjustment of the grip while the checkered areas provide good adhesion. The front strap is tastefully checkered at 25 lines per square inch. This checkering does more to keep the grip steady than checkered grips and makes for ideal gripping surface.
In this type of handgun, you are paying for fit and close tolerances. This type of fitting ensures less eccentric wear as the pistol returns to battery in the same manner, time after time. The handgun is supplied with two magazines.
For this evaluation, I loaded a range bag with a good mix of ammunition. The Guardian was lubricated along the bearing surfaces, barrel hood, barrel bushing and cocking block. A big help was the Butler Creek single-column magazine loader. I have a loader for my high capacity handguns and the AR-15, and they are a real time saver.
As of this writing, I have fired just over 1,000 rounds in the Guardian over a period of less than six months. Results have been excellent. There have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. One of the reasons I favor the .45 ACP is that its wound potential is based more on diameter than velocity.
The .45 ACP operates at modest pressure. This limits wear on the handgun. Muzzle flash is limited. In training, one of the best choices for economical training is the Remington UMC 230-grain FMJ loading. This loading makes for affordable practice, but it is accurate enough for any chore.
To evaluate the pistol with hollow point defense ammunition, I used the Remington Ultimate Defense in 185-grain and 230-grain bullet weights and added the Fiocchi Extrema 200-grain XTP loading. All loads fed, chambered, fired, and ejected properly. All are controllable by those who practice. While all are good choices marksmanship and shot placement mean the most, but these are formidable loads. I have also fired a good quantity of handloads with WW 231 powder and hard cast 200-grain SWC bullets.
Firing off hand, first-shot hit probability is as good as a Government-length .45, and the Commander length 1911 is a bit faster to clear leather for the first shot hit. Control after the first shot isn’t as good as the heavier handguns. The pistol is controllable with the proper technique it simply takes more time to recover. The first shot is the most important in a personal defense situation. In competition, speed and control for a long string of shots is important.
The Dan Wesson Guardian is built to save your life. Firing for groups at 25 yards produced several two-inch five-shot groups. While this type of accuracy may not be needed in personal defense it just might be if you need to fire across a parking lot at a felon that is firing from behind cover or if you have an active shooter at longer range.
This dog will run. With a combination of reliability, power, accuracy, and fast handling, the Dan Wesson Guardian is a formidable carry gun.
Manufacturer Dan Wesson Firearms
Action type: Single action, locked breech
Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7- or 8-round magazine
Barrel length: 4.25 inches
Trigger pull: 5.0 lbs.
Length: 8 inches
Width: 1.4 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Weight: 28.0 ounces
For concealed carry, I have used the Jeffrey Custom Leather EZCarry. This holster features a strong, steel belt clip and is usually worn inside the waistband. The user has the option of wearing the holster between the belt and the trousers as well. This is a true custom grade holster that exhibits the finest workmanship and stitching.
There was a modest break in period. The pistol exhibits a brilliantly fast draw with this combination. Another holster I have found useful is an Avenger style from the same maker. This holster may be concealed under a light covering garment such as a vest.
The Avenger features a belt loop design that keeps the holster cinched in tight to the pants. When the weather allows this type of holster, it is a good choice with a less complicated draw than an IWB design.