|This is a nice historical photo of The Duke and founder and president of Great Western Arms Company, William R. Wilson. Mr. Wayne is being presented with a SERIOUS pair of engraved and inlaid revolvers from the company.
|Let’s start with a NEW condition classic nickel .45 Colt 4-3/4″ bbl with two-piece walnut grips.
|This is a lovely new condition .44 Special 4-3/4″ bbl, blue and case color, with the better looking plastic stag grips.
|Here’s a perfect nickel .22 LR with the typical “high” hammer. Most Great Westerns had a hammer which extended up, about 1/8″ above the frame. This specimen has the less attractive black color plastic stag grips. That higher (than Colt’s) hammer made for an easier fast draw out of an Ojala holster!
|A .45 Colt, blue, with case color, 5-1/2″ bbl, and a very scarce “low profile” hammer.
|Sorry about the dark illustration, but it shows clearly the most striking difference in the Great Western hammer that works with the floating firing pin. If you look closely in many ’50s and ’60s westerns, this is the giveaway that the “Colt” is a Great Western.
|Here we have a new-condition .44 Special, all blue, 5-1/2″ bbl, with the $8.00 (!!) optional genuine Colt hammer. Disassembly shows a rampant colt roll marked just above the hammer screw hole.
|Here is the Colt hammer in the .44 Spl. illustrated above. According to Colt SAA expert shooter, several times Fast Draw National Champion, and tuning gunsmith Jim Martin, who was there at the Great Western factory, many of the early Frontiers had genuine Colt bolts, triggers, and bolt springs. Jim also advises that Dwayne Kastrup (top SAA expert) was the head Great Western factory gunsmith.
|Let’s jump on the derringers and show a new-in-the-box .38 Special. By the way, the boxes for the Great Westerns are of the style of the pre-war Colt boxes and were made by the same firm.
|Here are two of the Hy Hunter nickel derringers made in Germany: a .22LR and a .22 Magnum.
|This “flat top” target, .22 LR pre-dated the Colt New Frontier by several years. It has a 7-1/2″ bbl, blue and case color, two-piece walnut grips, Bauman style front sight and Micro full adjustable rear sight. The target model was available in all standard calibers.
|Here is a rather scarce example. A 4-3/4″ barreled .22LR with blue and case color frame and standard “tenite” plastic stag grips.
|Here’s a rare(ish) model that Elmer Keith really liked! The DEPUTY that was available in the standard calibers—this is a .22LR-and the blue was as good as the S&W Bright Blue! It was sold only all blue, 4″ bbl and special frame with blended-in Micro rear sight and Bauman ramp front sight.
|Here is a closeup of the special hammer for the DEPUTY model that looks rather more like the Ruger hammer.
|Look closely… This is one of only a very few Great Westerns on record (a .22LR) that is stamped on the frame “Great Western” and, below, “Los Angeles.” An export requirement?
|The rears of MOST cylinders were marked with either a stamping or electric pencil—usually the last three or four serial number digits.
|Only 50 total (numbered in sequence) Great Westerns were made in .22 Hornet. This specimen came from an auction house, still in the cosmoline with all the original papers, and shows the frame turning maroon like many of the early Ruger Blackhawks.
|Here are the four components of the “floating firing pin assembly.” The new Colt Cowboy model uses almost identical parts.
|This is why so many people are under the impression that the Great Western Frontier revolvers and derringers were manufactured in Germany. An honest mistake by writer Garry James in an issue of Guns and Ammo. Other writers over the years have made the same mistake. The later guns offered by Hy Hunter, and later by Hawes, were indeed manufactured in Germany and were quite similar (floating firing pins) but used an alloy trigger guard and back strap, rather than steel. The .22 versions were ALL alloy with steel liners in the cylinders and barrel.
|An illustration from Hy Hunter’s Hand Guns of the World (Trend Books, 1956). Mr. Hunter lists the Great Western as his own. Yet another error that has caused firearms enthusiasts to assume that Hunter was the manufacturer. That’s why we’re here, folks!
|Check out these great late fifties prices! It would seem that the .22 Magnum might not have actually been offered, due to a lack of specimens, but beware! There are more than a few altered cylinders (to Magnum) and some spurious roll markings on barrels out there. Buyer, beware!
|An option sheet from the catalog. Gotta love those prices!
|Pointer Pup plastic stag grips were/are seen on many Hollywood Colts. They looked great in Technicolor! The “Pups” were also standard on about the first third of the Great Western revolvers. They are marked on the inside of the grips, POINTER PUP. The black painted grips (and some with PUP style coloring) from a generic manufacturer were used in the later production. All the production used the exact same stag pattern. NOTE: I have a pair of replacement Pointer Pup grips from a Colt double action revolver marked on the inside of one grip Pointer Pup and on the inside of the other grip:
|Here is the Fast Draw Model that has the distinctive brass backstap and trigger guard. Shades of later Italian SAAs! The actions are notably smooth and the model was availablein all calibers and barrel lengths. This is a .357 Atomic. .22 caliber blank firing (only) cylinders could be supplied to reduce the cost of the sport. This specimen has one of the optional style of plastic stag grips.
|There are more than a few spurious “fast draw models” out there. Be sure to check the frame serial number to the trigger guard and back strap numbers. They must match.
|This is the standard style of rear Micro Sight on the target models. The Deputy Model has the Colt Gold Cup style rear sight in the special Deputy frame.
|Here are two styles of front sights on the target models.
|This is the box that was used throughout the production run of the Great Westerns. It’s made in the same style as the late pre-war Colt boxes. The packing on the inside kept the revolver in place. Most of the boxes you see have the packing long since tossed.
|Standard end-label for the boxes.
|The kit guns were supplied with this box.
|Here is a late Buntline Model with 12-1/2” barrel in a VERY scarce original wood display case. Caliber is .45 Colt as most were. Catalogs listed 12” and 12-1/2” barrels. Very SCARCE Great Western model.
|I really dislike the overused term RARE in firearms collecting, but here is a rare 3-1/2” barrel Sheriffs Model. As with Colt, it has a special frame with the ejector housing area milled off. It would appear that the Sheriff (or so-called Store Keeper) model fell only in the GW300s range. They, like other early first year production models, have no caliber marking on the barrel and no manufacturers marking on the top of the barrel! But they do have serial numbers in all the usual places. Catalogs list only .45 Colt caliber. Like other first year revolvers, it has a Colt hammer.
|People always ask when Great Western really started up production. Okay, here’s a way to kinda tell. This is the revolver illustrated in the first catalog being presented to the Governor of California by company owner William Wilson. The back-strap inscription reads “Presented to Goodwin J. Knight, Governor of California”; second line “From the People of Panorama City”; third line “May 27, 1954.” It is serial number GW93, which has to be the first week or so of production. It is caliber .45 Colt, but no caliber or makers roll marking on the barrel. It has serial numbers in all the usual places. It has the usual Colt hammer. Can we imagine that May of ’54 was about the start? Why didn’t Great Western have caliber roll stamps and MAKERS roll stamps ready in the very beginning?? Beats me.
|Don’t believe the old story that all kit guns are poorly assembled, timed, and finished. Some probably are, but here are a pair of .45s that are really gems. The top revolver is all bright blue with the original late stag grips. The bottom revolver has a really stunning case finish on the frame and hammer, and bright blue elsewhere. It also has a pair of nice wood grips with sterling wire inlays and genuine turquoise stones. From a gunsmith in New Mexico who knew his stuff! Don’t forget that the kit guns have serial numbers that begin with O. You did read the history section, didn’t you?