Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Dan Wesson ECO 9mm

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Todd Burgreen, American Handgunner

What is it about the 1911 which keeps it so adored and desired by so many shooters? Surely more modern designs featuring higher capacity and new materials can eclipse it?

Don’t bet on it. Don’t discount the 1911 design as only holding its position due whimsical nostalgia or other forms of emotional attachment. The business of a fighting handgun is too grim and serious to allow for emotion to sway so many. Yes, the 1911 has been superseded as a duty weapon in our military and police ranks, but take note elite units and personnel with a vote often revert to the 1911. Mr. Browning certainly got it right.

From my experience using various 1911 designs and modern double stack polymers, the 1911 points more naturally and provides better accuracy in general terms. Do I exclusively carry a 1911? No, in fact I probably don’t do so 50 percent of the time. However the practical advantage of higher capacity guns weighing less, being more simple and with proven track records of out-of-the box performance, only holds me so long before I’m tempted back by the 1911. No matter how much I think I’ve gotten past the siren song of the 1911, I’m lured back repeatedly — without regret.


Dan Wesson ECO is an Officer-sized 1911, which many consider the ultimate combination for concealed carry.


Dan Wesson ECO was evaluated with numerous ammunition types including Black Hills, Hornady, Federal and Winchester. The ECO performed flawlessly with all.


Trijicon tritium night sights compliment the DW ECO ability to perform in lowlight situations. The ECO sights have two different tritium colors; this shows attention to detail by allowing a user to better orientate the sights correctly in low light situations. The Match barrel’s integral feed ramp is also visible in the photo.


My latest case of 1911 “reversion syndrome” is centered on the Dan Wesson Elite Carry Officer (ECO). Interestingly, the ECO is offered in both .45 ACP and 9MM. The Dan Wesson ECO is a 1911 benefitting from nearly a century of refinement. While the association between the 9MM cartridge and the 1911 platform is not as natural as the .45 ACP, we should not let prejudices block us from exploring what it offers. The Dan Wesson ECO represents portability, reliability, controllability and lethality. These are poster child traits in a personal defense handgun.

The ECO is an Officer-sized 1911. The Officer-sized 1911 was created with ease of carry in mind, with the Dan Wesson ECO following this path exceptionally well. The ECO is an ideal candidate for concealed carry and as long as you do your part there’s little chance it will print under cover garment. Even the back of the ECO’s mainspring is reduced slightly to further accentuate concealability. The Match-grade 3.5″ barrel features an integral ramp and flared bull barrel profile negating the need for a bushing. This allows for the ECO to be slightly more compact and easier to disassemble.

The 3.5″ barrel is thought of by many as being the effective minimum for blending accurate shooting with concealment. The ECO measures a total of 7.25″ long and 5″ high. The ECO uses an anodized aluminum frame and mainspring housing for an unloaded weight of 25 ounces. The Dan Wesson 1911’s are “Made in the USA” at Dan Wesson’s Norwich, New York facility.

The ECO emerges out of the box with many features more associated with custom 1911’s. An undercut trigger guard is the first. On the smaller 1911 Officer frame, such as the ECO, this assists with a higher, vastly more comfortable grip. Further supporting this attention on ergonomics is the 25LPI stippling pattern found on the front strap and mainspring housing. Slim G10 grip panels further accentuates the grip experience.

The stainless steel slide and other parts are coated in Dan Wesson’s ceramic-based Duty-Coat finish providing great resistance to wear. The ECO’s recoil spring set up is rather unique for a 1911, too. Dan Wesson uses a solid, one piece guide rod and a flat recoil spring rated for 15,000 rounds in .45 ACP (let alone 9MM); not 500 rounds like most 1911 recoil systems. This recoil system also gives the benefit of smooth slide travel for easier operation and less felt recoil.

An Ed Brown Tactical Thumb Safety and high ride grip safety is used with the ECO. A textured slide stop and mag catch round out the DW ECO package. I think the Dan Wesson ECO is a damn fine looking handgun. “ECO” is tastefully inscribed on the black slide, with the G10 grips offsetting the dark frame and slide with a lighter color pattern.

Dan Wesson delivers the ECO with two 8-round capacity magazines. Kudos should be given to Dan Wesson supplying two magazines versus only one compared to some other 1911 manufacturers. Eight plus one rounds of 9MM represents good capacity for an Officer-sized 1911. Contrasting colored rear and front Trijicon tritium night sights are fitted to the ECO. The different color tritium sights aids in determining which sight is the rear and which is the front during blacked-out conditions. For daylight, a white ring on the forward post around the tritium vial aids in focusing the shooters eye on the front sight when working fast and up close. The rear sight allows for the front sight to be centered with space around it to better gauge an accurate shot at distance. The DW ECO represents an emerging trend emphasizing sights conducive to precise aiming at distance as well as close up rapid work.


Dan Wesson ECO disassembled to illustrate coned barrel making for deletion of a barrel bushing. The unique recoil spring found in the ECO smoothes-out recoil impulse as well as offering longer life typical of 1911 recoil springs.


The Dan Wesson ECO is not only aesthetically appealing, but very effective coming with two 8-round magazines from the factory.


A small sampling of the available holsters for use with the Dan Wesson ECO.


I used Black Hills, Hornady, Speer, Winchester and Federal 9MM ammunition with the ECO. Loads fired spanned 115-grains to 147-grains with hollow points and FMJ bullet profiles. The slim G10 grips found on the ECO pleasantly surprised me in giving a better feel to the Officer-sized 1911 frame compared to previous experience with other similar sized 1911’s. The DW G10 grips are designed in a way giving better handling due to the grips “swelling” in radius filling the hand better then blending in sveltely with the frame. The ECO’s ergonomics and handling characteristics are quickly appreciated and make you understand why the 1911 is a legend. I experienced no malfunctions with the Dan Wesson ECO while firing over 350 rounds during range visits to Echo Valley Training Center.

The Dan Wesson ECO was initially tested by verifying sight zero and then proceeding to fire several magazines rapidly at various steel man targets. This quickly shows if any reliability issues exist, and none showed up. The ECO is advertised as having a match grade barrel and the accuracy did not disappoint, regularly producing 2″-3″ groups at 25 yards. This rivals some full-size Match 1911’s and is a credit to DW fitting together a tight yet reliable handgun.


This photo right at the shot shows recoil was negligible with the 25 ounce Dan Wesson ECO 9MM, further supported by 1911 ergonomics allowing for fast accurate multiple shots on target.


The ECO 9MM is a 1911 of a different sort thanks to the chambering and nuanced tweaks performed by Dan Wesson.


Accuracy with the Dan Wesson ECO 9MM 1911 showed its match barrel, tight lock-up and attention to detail when assembled.


The ECO proved a solid performer with a variety of ammunition tested in terms of bullet weight and profile as well as premium personal defense and bulk types.


Flexibility is the key to effective carry practices, with Inside-the-Waistband (IWB), Yaqui slides, belt slide, side-of-back, and shoulder holsters all a part of a concealed carry practitioners repertoire. The ECO fits right in. Quality holsters, magazine carriers and gun belts are not to be underestimated in importance for effective carry. A Galco Royal Guard IWB and CDM Double Mag case was used primarily with the DW ECO. My thoughts were this is how I usually carry and how I should train with the Dan Wesson ECO. Other holsters from DeSantis, Comp-Tac Victory Gear and BlackHawk were also tried out on a more limited basis.

All are comfortable, but the Comp-Tac paddle holster is a viable option if weather and dress allows. The for me, the Comp-Tac paddle holster remains secure on the belt and the ECO is retained with a pressure point around the trigger guard. Its open top design allows quick access. Remember the defender is reacting to an attack and must overcome the reactionary curve. The paddle allows a user flexibility in putting on and taking off the holster without having to “undress.” That’s handy.

The short Officer’s-grip frame and relative light weight of the ECO makes recoil more of a factor versus a full size 1911, especially when chambered in .45 ACP. The ability to have an ECO in 9MM is an important consideration not to be taken lightly. Ego or preconceived notions should not be blindly adhered to in choosing a personal defense weapon.

The Dan Wesson ECO’s performance has revived my interest in the compact 1911 as a viable concealed carry handgun. The 9MM chambering came to be appreciated as well in the 1911 ECO. For me, the reduced size and weight of the ECO is beneficial for concealed carry compared to a full sized 1911. There are many other handguns available on the market, but in my opinion none exceed the capability of the naturally handling reliable 1911. The Dan Wesson 9MM ECO’s performance combined with 1911 nostalgia is difficult to resist when pondering a concealed carry handgun.


Magazine Capacity: 8 +1
Weight: 1.560 lbs
Overall Length: 7.25 inches
Barrel Length: 3.5 inches
Height: 5.0 inches
Sights: Fixed Night Sights
MSRP: $1623

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