Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lil' Dan Revolver

It's no secret that I am a fan of the Dan Wesson line of Revolvers, see:

Dan Wesson has been in and out of business several times. (They are currently a wholly owned subsidiary of CZ-USA) The reason is, that despite an excellent product, DW was plagued by bad business decisions, or perhaps charitably what could be called "right decisions at the wrong time".

In the 80's, when the hot item was high capacity 9mm self-loading pistols, Dan Wesson concentrated on marketing .357 revolvers.

In the 90's when state after state was adding right to carry CCW laws, Dan Wesson concentrated on marketing extra-large framed revolvers for Silhouette shooting. (and stopped making small carry revolvers)

In the 00's, when companies such as Smith and Wesson were busy introducing new large framed revolvers, DW decided to enter the very crowded 1911 market.

Now the DW .357 Revolvers are very good revolvers. At roughly midway between a Smith K and L frame they are as robust as an L frame, and handle almost as well as a K frame. Their tensioned barrel means they can outshoot almost any Smith product, and their modular nature makes them far more versatile.

The .445 Supermag (a lengthened .44 magnum) was introduced as metallic silhouette shooting was loosing it's popularity. It's actually far to powerful for silhouette, .44 mag and .357 Maximum are sufficient to the task. It's an incredible hunting cartridge though, with greater penetration, ballistic coefficient, and retained energy than the .454 Casul.

The DW 1911 series is frankly very good, but lets face it, it's a pretty crowded field right now. ( I still want a Dan Wesson 10mm Bobtail Commander though)

All of these products were simply cursed by being introduced or marketed at the wrong time.

In my opinion though, their greatest business failing was when they discontinued their snub offering, again, ironically, just as states were passing pro carry legislation.

The Dan Wesson Model 38P was a 5 shot snub nosed revolver, essentially the same size as a Smith and Wesson J frame. As with standard DW nomenclature a 7 in front of the model number indicates a Stainless Steel gun. (Smith uses a 6 for this purpose, obviously 7 is one better than 6)

Now, on a Smith, you look under the crane to determine the model number, on a Dan Wesson, you need to look in the catalog, as the model number is nowhere on the firearm itself. As a result, the 38P/738P earned a variety of nicknames and was generally (and affectionately) referred to as the "Little Dan" or "Lil' Dan" revolver.

The lil' Dan is actually a fairly rare little piece. I have only ever seen one example in the flesh, and seen a total of two ever offered for sale. Because of it's rarity, I know a good number of folks who actually doubt its existence.

Values tend to be fairly low, both because the Dan Wesson name is not that well known, and because the primary buyer for such a piece would be someone who already owns a Dan Wesson revolver, and wants a matching CCW, (identical controls and all that)

I can say for certain however that the lil' Dan does in point of fact exist, and offer the following as photographic evidence. In the first picture one can see the forward mounted cylinder lock that DW was known for. The second image, though somewhat out of focus, shows the nut for the removable barrel and shroud that the Dan Wesson is famous for.





Anonymous said...


Well, they say that all legends have some basis in fact. So that's what the little rascal looks like. Thanks for the link. I worry a bit about our incoming president; but perhaps he will not be able to do much damage - people are pretty wary. Sorry your guy didn't win; but part of the nature of the democratic process, is that you can't always predict what will happen.

Of course, we are constantly being told that this is a representative republic, rather than a true democracy; but sometimes it seems to have the worst features of a true democracy, mixed with the worst features of an oligarchy. Grumble, grumble. It seems that, in thousands of years of recorded history, whatever safeguards and types of organization are put in place, by decent clever men to make a good government, unprincipled scoundrels always find a way to defeat them. No nation, no matter how organized, seems able to survive the baser elements of its own population, which always seem able to bring themselves into power. Oh well, maybe the next great nation to rise will find a better way, and last a bit longer.

Your blog site, says you are a physicist. Good for you! One of my favorite books, in my early teens, was One Two Three Infinity, by George Gamow, and it sort of started me off on a lifelong interest. I got distracted, and ended up getting into computers, along with nearly everyone else in the seventies/eighties. Still, it is fascinating stuff, and during childhood, I always though I would grow up to be a "scientist", by which I pretty much meant a physicist.

I am almost afraid to tell you; but I put together a little section on nuclear physics at The links at the top of the page lead to some pages about how I think nuclear physics works, while those further down link to pages about nuclear sites I have visited. Fascinating stuff! I hope to get out to Arco Idaho this year, and perhaps visit the Nautilus. You will doubtless find many holes and mistakes; but the pages are written as well as my present knowledge of physics permits. I am actually boning up right now, on calculus, and attempting to learn topology, so that I can catch up with what has been going on in physics.

What started this off, was two things. First, my rekindled interest in nuclear physics, growing from some visits over the last couple of years, to various nuclear sites; second is a book, called, The Trouble With Physics, by Lee Smolin. The basic theme of the book seems to be that no real breakthroughs have occurred in physics for the last thirty years or so. Certainly, work has been done, and research continues to generate volumes of data; but he laments that there have been no new intuitive leaps, new theories, or new understandings.

He is not a believer in String Theory, and seems to consider it a sort of a desperate effort to come up with something new. One of the misfortunes of the Twentieth Century, to his way of thinking, is the loss of the old time intuitive, visionary physicists, and their replacement with the methodical, logical types of today. The visionaries are great at conceptualizing; but are not necessarily so good at a methodical follow through. I recall reading that Einstein would sometimes need help with the mathematics that his theories generated. So to this way of thinking, both types are needed; but today, one type predominates.

Sadly, I too am not up to the math of following many of the arguments for (or against) string theory, so can not say for certain, if I buy into the idea or not. I suppose, until I bring myself up to par, I will just have to satisfy myself with the idea of waves, particles, and fields. Oh well.


Mark said...

NOVA had a 6 part special on string theory a while back that was actually fairly approachable. But at this point I think that string theory is as much philosophy as physics.

In the past 30 years or so the real advancements in physics have all been in solid state, i.e. at the border between materials science and physics. Nanoscience is real (though terribly overhyped). We know a lot more about electron transport in meterials for example, and can make solid state devices that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

The big things are still as much a mystery as ever though.

No one can explain gravity, or consolidate relativity with quantum mechanics, or tell me where the magnetic monopoles are hiding.

Anonymous said...

I am a current owner of this piece of equipment and was drawn to it by the +P in the name. I have been trying to find an larger grip for it and extra barrels. Mine only came with the single barrel and that tiny grip. It's great for a CCW but is a real beast to fire due to the small grip; my hands are so big I have to rest the bottom of the grip on my pinky. If you have any suggestions where I can start looking I would appreciate it. Any information you may have can be e-mailed to And I would be more than happy to send you some good quality 360 photos you could use for your data base.

Anonymous said...

I have a little dan for sale As new in box with all accessories. May have had 12 rounds through it and cleaned and put away. Bought new nad have receipt