Cosmetics is actually only the beginning. Most Dan Wesson's can shoot right up their with the custom brand 1911's in terms of accuracy and it has been proven on several tests comparing them on 1911forum. In addition Dan Wesson actually sets all their triggers at 4.5 lbs and they break consistently clean with no creep. A typically Colt from my sample of over a dozen has so such guarantee.
Combine the mechanical accuracy of the Dan Wesson with a excellent trigger and someone who can actually shoot will in fact notice a difference. Because you cannot doesn't mean that another shooter will not.
In addition Dan Wesson uses tool steel parts for the fire control group, bar stock steel for the thumb safety and has no MIM parts. So quality of parts would also go to Dan Wesson.
I will say that the Wiley Clapp is probably the best carry 1911 that Colt has to offer and has a lot of features for the money.
I think you are missing the point of my statements. In 99% of peoples hands the mechanical accuracy of a particular gun is not going to make a real world difference. One should not give advice to someone buying their first 1911 as if they are in the 1% of shooters. Most people cannot shoot a 5" group at 50 yards which is what the poor Colt shot in Dave Severns 2010 shootout. Most people cannot hit a man sized target at 50 yards.
Here is a link to Dave's Shootout http://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=255555
Tests like Dave's are shot out of a ransom rest. How many people can get even close to the mechanical accuracy of any 1911 in a rest? Honestly ask yourself can you shoot sub 2" groups are 50 yards???? I know I cannot. I know that I have a hard time keeping shots on paper at 50 yards and when I look around the range at other peoples targets mine for the most part look better than most.
Since most people cannot maximize the mechanical accuracy inherent in the gun the mechanical accuracy of this 1911 vs that 1911 becomes less meaningful. Not irrelevant but less meaningful for 99% of us if we are being honest with ourselves. Again does it make sense to give advice to someone buying their first 1911 as if they are in that 1%. For the avg person and IMHO to this OP one has to ask is it worth 50% more? A Colt being $900 give or take and a Dan Wesson Valor being $1500+ depending on finish. The law of diminishing returns is really kicking in. It is up to each person to make that calculation. It is not something which can be stated as if it were objective truth.
Too many people think that higher price = better gun performance. This is not always the case. If higher price = better shooting gun the Ed Brown Kobra should have shot the tightest group right? In Severns test it did not but tests like his are too small a sample to draw universally meaningful conclusions.
I am in no way arguing that one should not pay for quality steel tool parts or that the overall fit and finish of a particular gun is not worth paying for. I certainly have and will continue to pay for it. I just think people give good advice, like buy a DW, that is too often not based in the practical reality. I own A Dan Wesson CBOB because I wanted one. I own a Les Baer TRS because I valued the work and craftsmanship that went into it not because it can shoot sub 2" groups out of a rest and my Colt 70 Repo couldn't.