The DWCA SuperMag Roundtable

Recently six DWCA Members participated in a “Virtual Roundtable” discussion about the famous Dan Wesson SuperMag Revolvers. The unique Dan Wesson Revolver design was the perfect platform for the development of the powerful, flat shooting Super Magnum cartridges. Dan Wesson SuperMags are among the most actively collected modern revolvers.

What does the term “SuperMag” mean?

[Mike] Elgin Gates wanted a more powerful cartridge in common calibers for Metallic Silhouette competition.  He accomplished this by lengthening the common magnum cartridges from 1.29 inches to 1.60

[Dean] The old .38 Special case was lengthened to 1.29″ by Smith & Wesson back in 1935, to become the more powerful .357 Magnum. The same process was used by Elgin Gates in the mid 1970’s to invent an even more powerful round for handgun silhouette competition. He lengthened the .357 Magnum case to 1.60″, and for lack of a better term, called it a Super Magnum, which was later shortened to SuperMag by Dan Wesson.

How were the SuperMag cartridges developed?

[Grant] They were developed by Elgin Gates for the International Handgun Metallic Shooting Association (IHMSA). They needed to be able to retain enough bullet velocity at 200 meters, to knock down steel rams used in the sport. The first one Mr. Gates brought to the table was named the .357 Maximum…based on a .357 Magnum case, it was lengthened by 1.60 to allow more powder.  Dan Wesson’s gun specifically designed for this cartridge was named the “SuperMag”.

[Dean] Elgin Gates, one of the early competitors and founder of the IHMSA, had many ideas for new cartridges for the new handgun game. One of them centered on the .357 Magnum. He reasoned that by lengthening the case even further, he could increase the velocity of those 170-180 grain bullets to make the round more reliable on the rams. By heli-arc welding sections of .357 Magnum cases together, he was able to come up with a lengthened case to use for testing.

What role did Dan Wesson revolvers play in the development of Supermag cartridges?

[Dean] Dan Wesson played a huge role in the development of the SuperMag. When Elgin Gates designed the .357 SuperMag cartridge, Dan Wesson was the first revolver manufacturer to agree to build a new revolver with a frame window large enough, and cylinder long enough, to accommodate the full 1.610” case length.

[Jody] Dan Wesson was the first (and only) firearms company to produce double-action revolvers in SuperMag calibers.

[Larry] At the time of SuperMag development Dan Wesson was the dominant revolver for IHMSA. With its proven strong design, superior accuracy and adjustable barrel it was a natural choice.

[Phil] They were the only regular production factory that was willing to work with Elgin Gates on putting these chamberings into regular production

What are the common Dan Wesson Supermag models, and in what calibers?

[Grant] Model 40/740(.357SM), 375(.375SM), 414/7414(.41SM) & 445/7445(.44SM.) The”7” denotes stainless. The 375 model was the only one not available in stainless.

[Dean] The .414 SuperMag is the rarest of all. Only 25 were built before the Palmer factory shut down in 1995. Again, they were 8” barrels with slotted shrouds, and all are stainless. Continue reading “The DWCA SuperMag Roundtable”

Handgun Silhouette Basics

What is silhouette? And why is it so much fun to shoot? I’ve talked with quite a few shooters who don’t really know much about handgun silhouette competition. Most of them have never even seen a silhouette range, and are unaware of just how much enjoyment it is to shoot steel. In it’s basic form, it is an organized plinking event, and all of us know how much fun it is shooting at targets that react when hit. Here’s what shooting silhouettes is all about.

IHMSA, the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association,  is the main governing body for this sport, and it’s sole purpose is to promote knocking down metallic targets with handguns. The game originated in Mexico, where guests at local ranches got together to shoot rifles at live animals tethered at varying distances  to provide food for the afternoon’s feast. The sport eventually evolved into the current crop of steel targets shaped like game animals, specifically chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams, from 200 meters out to 500 meters, shot offhand. Some owners of large caliber handguns, particularly Lee Jurras and the Club de AutoMag, got together in the mid 70’s and decided to try shooting these targets at shorter distances out to 200 meters, something a little more fun than shooting at paper with these big magnums. Since this is a revolver forum, we‘ll leave the rifles out.

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The Dan Wesson Firearms Story

1968 was an historic year in modern American firearms development, with the founding of Dan Wesson Arms. This fledgling firearms manufacturer was a collaboration of Daniel B. Wesson, the great-grandson of D.B. Wesson, co-founder of Smith and Wesson, and Karl Lewis, formerly of Browning and Colt firearms. The founders of Dan Wesson Arms were committed to the development and production of a modern revolver, modular in design with interchangeable barrels, grips, and sights. The Dan Wesson revolver design is extremely strong and durable, and noted for consistent pinpoint accuracy. The history of Dan Wesson Firearms reflects the epitome of American entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and firearms development.

Although Dan Wesson Arms is known for revolvers (and later 1911 semi-auto pistols) the first firearms to bear the Dan Wesson name were a series of shotguns and air rifles imported by Dan Wesson in 1969, manufactured by firearms giant Brno Works of Czechoslovakia. The first Dan Wesson revolver premiered in 1969 at the NSGA show in Houston.  The first production revolvers shipped in August 1970, and were known as the Model (or W) 11 (fixed sight) and Model/W 12 (adjustable sight), retailing for $110. The Model 11/12 series featured an external barrel nut, “porkchop” style shrouds, and large, crudely manufactured sights, but included the revolutionary interchangeable barrel/shroud design. Production quickly moved to the Dan Wesson owned facility in a converted schoolhouse in Monson, MA. Dan Wesson Firearms capitalized on the unique interchangeable barrel design by offering Pistol Packs, packaged in a fitted case with a variety of barrel/shrouds and grips.

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What Makes Dan Wesson Revolvers Unique?

Dan Wesson revolvers are considered to be the most adaptable and accurate production revolvers ever made for several reasons:

BARREL INTERCHANGEABILITY: Dan Wesson revolvers were designed and manufactured to allow for easy interchange of barrel length and shroud type. Barrels and shrouds were manufactured in lengths from 2” to 15”, in various shroud configurations including Vent Rib and Heavy underlug. Barrels and shrouds are easily changed via a special “barrel nut” that is unscrewed, allowing the shroud to slide off, after which the barrel is unscrewed from the frame. A new barrel is then screwed into the frame, a new shroud slides over the barrel, and the barrel nut is tightened into place. The entire barrel/shroud interchange process takes 1-2 minutes, and is accomplished with the use of a special Barrel Wrench, supplied with each revolver.

ACCURACY: The Dan Wesson barrel/shroud design is inherently very accurate. In effect, the barrel is tensioned equally at the muzzle and frame, and free floats in the shroud. The barrel is less affected by heat expansion, and is essentially secured between two points (similar to a fine stringed musical instrument) rather than just one point, at the frame. This tensioned design keeps the muzzle more rigidly aligned with the frame/cylinder, resulting in more consistent accuracy. The cylinder latch on a Dan Wesson revolver is located on the cylinder crane, at the front of the cylinder. This allows the cylinder to be more precisely aligned with the barrel than is possible with the more common practice of locking the cylinder into the frame at the rear of the cylinder. Dan Wesson revolvers consistently have a very smooth action, with a light, crisp trigger break in both single and double action.

Continue reading “What Makes Dan Wesson Revolvers Unique?”

DWCA Mission Statement

The Dan Wesson Collectors Association (DWCA) has been formed by collectors of Dan Wesson firearms. We collect and shoot classic Dan Wesson firearms, and we are committed to our Guiding Principles:

  • To celebrate the history and legacy of Dan Wesson firearms
  • To collect and preserve factual information about Dan Wesson firearms
  • To serve as a resource for fellow collectors and shooters of Dan Wesson firearms
  • To promote the shooting sports in general, and to preserve our Right To Keep and Bear Arms

The classic Dan Wesson firearms are no longer manufactured, and we embrace our mission to preserve the heritage of this innovative and adaptable firearm. We are pleased to have you join us in preserving an irreplaceable chapter in American Firearms History.