Several months ago, we reported that Colt was
planning to reintroduce its New Frontier revolver. Back at the 2011
Shot Show in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to fire a few
rounds through a pre-production gun. The return of Colt’s
finest single action sixgun has been long-anticipated, and the
New Frontier is finally back into production!
I recently received a New Frontier for
review, and was expecting the sixgun to be every bit as good as
the original, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I will state
from the outset that this New Frontier is the finest New
Frontier revolver that I have ever handled. Some of the later
production guns back around the early nineteen-eighties were not
up to the expected Colt quality, but this latest New Frontier is
a well-fitted, beautifully-finished sixgun.
I have owned a few New Frontier revolvers
over the years, and currently have a seven and one-half inch 45
Colt version. It is a very good sixgun, well-polished, but this
new Colt has a better, deeper bluing and brighter case colors.
The new New Frontier also has a much better rear sight than does
my older sixgun, using a new version of the excellent Elliason
rear sight. The Elliason makes for a much clearer, sharper sight
picture compared to the one on my older Colt, and was the best
choice for a rear sight on the newer gun.
The new Colt that I have here wears a five
and one-half inch barrel, and is chambered for the 44 Special
cartridge. The 44 Special is one of my all-time favorite
cartridges, and I am glad that the New frontier is so chambered.
The 44 Special is a “balanced’ cartridge, for lack of a
better term. It has plenty of power for most tasks, but not
excessive muzzle blast nor too much recoil. It is a workhorse,
getting the job done without too much fanfare. Lots of folks
fail to see the need for the old 44 Special, with the 44 magnum
available, and to folks who lean that way, there is no need to
try to explain it, but many shooters still appreciate that fine
old cartridge for what it is.
The New Frontier revolver was introduced by
Colt in 1961, and was a very special sixgun. Colt flat-topped
the frame to install a fully-adjustable rear sight. To match up
with the rear, the front sight was a long ramp, beautifully and
gracefully perched atop the barrel. The combo made for a sight
picture that was much-improved over the traditional Single
Action Army (SAA) sights. With its deep bluing on the barrel,
trigger guard, cylinder, and grip frame, contrasting nicely with
the case-hardened frame, the New frontier was the classiest,
most elegant and useful single action that Colt had ever
produced. The New Frontier production was stopped in 1974, but
resumed again in 1978 with the production of the Third
Generation single action Colt revolvers. The New Frontier ceased
production again around 1982, with a very few trickling out of
the factory for the next year or two. My only complaint about
the New Frontiers, and this applies to every one that I have
ever seen, is that the wood used for the grips do not belong on
such a beautiful sixgun. The New Frontiers have always been
shipped with some of the plainest walnut that I have ever seen,
and they wear a dull finish that looks almost like no finish at
all. I have seen prettier wood on a Chinese shipping crate than
I have seen on most New Frontier sixguns. Thankfully, grips are
easily replaced, and is one way to really dress up a handgun.
The New Frontier of days past really cried out for a set of
grips that do justice to the exquisite beauty of that sixgun.
The newest New Frontier is faithful to the original in that
regard, and Colt has fitted mine with a set that equals the
beauty of those fitted to the original guns. However, they fit
the sixgun very well, and feel good in the hand, but this Colt
needs new shoes, and will be fitted with a set as soon as
possible. As stated, it is a great way to really personalize a
sixgun. I just have to decide between some fancy-figured walnut,
or maybe some beautiful, lightly-barked stag.
Specifications for the New Frontier are
listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger
pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Linear measurements are
listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the
ratchet nor the cylinder bushing. Height includes the sights,
with the rear set at its intermediate adjustment.
|2 Pounds, 13 Ounces
This Colt is really built well, as have been
all Colt single action revolvers that I have seen in the past
recent years. The new SAA sixguns that I have fired and examined
recently are as good as any that Colt has ever produced,
including the highly-acclaimed First Generation guns. This New
Frontier is no different. The timing is perfect. The
barrel/cylinder gap is set just right at four one-thousandths
(.004) inch. The trigger pull is close to perfect, releasing
crisply at around two and three-quarters pounds. Thumbing back
that big hammer, it makes that magnificent four-click sound,
with the “clicks” timed just right, and the bolt rising into
the lead of the cylinder notches. Beautiful.
While the capacity listed in the chart above
is six rounds, and the Colt does have six chambers,
traditionally, and for safety reasons, the hammer should always
rest on an empty chamber, as this Colt has the classic SAA
lockwork. If dropped, the hammer could be impacted, causing a
cartridge in the chamber below the hammer to discharge. For that
reason, Colts and replicas have been carried with an empty
chamber under the hammer for generations. The proper loading
procedure is to bring the hammer to half-cock and open the
loading gate. Load one cartridge, then skip the next chamber.
Load the next four chambers, bring the hammer to full cock, and
lower the hammer over the empty chamber.
For accuracy testing, I placed the Colt into
my Ransom Rest and set the target
at twenty-five yards. I have good jacketed bullets available,
but in the 44 Special, I prefer a 250 grain cast lead Keith
semi-wadcutter bullet at between 1000 and 1150 feet-per-second
(fps) to do everything that I want a 44 Special to do, which is
plinking, long-range target shooting, and medium game hunting.
The Buffalo Bore 255 grain Keith load leaves the barrel of this
New Frontier at over 1125 feet-per-second, and exhibited very
good accuracy. One of my favorite Keith handloads performed as
well, as did a jacketed hollowpoint handload. The Colt grouped
every group of every load under two inches at twenty-five yards.
With the 250 grain class of bullets pushed to between 1100 and
1150 fps, the New Frontier was shooting about four inches high
for me at twenty-five yards, as delivered. With a fixed-sight
revolver, a taller front sight would need to be installed, but
with the excellent Elliason rear sight on this Colt, I just
cranked it down to its lowest setting, matching point of impact
to the sights, without having to change the load or weld on a
new front sight. While the Single Action Army seems to get all
the glory, the New Frontier is a better choice for those wanting
a very versatile hunting and target shooting sixgun, and I am
glad that Colt is bringing it back.
However, as of the date of this writing, the
New Frontier has just started shipping, so you might have to
wait a bit, but start pestering your local gun dealer now. The
New Frontier is available in 45 Colt, 44 Special, and 357 magnum
chamberings. This newest rendering of the New Frontier is as
good as any that Colt has ever produced, and I highly recommend
it to anyone who appreciates a fine sixgun.
2011 marks the 175th Anniversary
of Colt Firearms, and the New Frontier is so-marked on top of
its barrel. 175 years is a long time for any manufacturer to
stay afloat, especially in today’s global manufacturing way of
doing business. Unlike many products, the Colt has not been
cheapened. It is still made of steel and walnut, and still made
in Hartford, Connecticut. The New Frontier wears no plastic, nor
does it wear an import stamp. The single action Colt is as
American as the Stars and Stripes, and the New Frontier is the
apex of the Colt Single Action Army design.
Check out the Colt New Frontier sixgun online
For the location of a Colt dealer near you,
click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.
To order the New Frontier online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.
To order Buffalo Bore ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com.
NOTE: All load data posted on this
web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor
GunBlast.com assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data.
The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under
conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the
potential user of this data. Always use data from respected loading
manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated
in the source manual.