GREAT WESTERN ARMS COMPANY
Location: Los Angeles, California
Popularity of western television programs in early 1950s, spawned a renewed interest in guns that were seen in almost every episode, primarily the Single Action Army revolver. At about the same time that Bill Ruger was designing his company's first single-action, Single Six, a group of investors in the Los Angeles area, were preparing to launch Great Western Arms Company. Among this group was Dan Reeves, owner of the Los Angeles Rams professional football team, and several other prominent area businessmen.&break;Hy Hunter's American Weapons Corp. in Burbank was chosen by the partners to be the exclusive distributor. He aggressively marketed the Frontier Six Shooter and many shooters and collectors erroneously believe, to this day, that he was the owner of the Great Western Arms.&break;Ruger's .22 LR Single Six hit the market in 1953 and by spring of 1954, Great Western unveiled a faithful copy of the Colt Single Action Army, chambered in several centerfire calibers, including .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Atomic, .44 special, .44-40, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt and .22 Long Rifle. This was the first of many Colt SAA clones. (.357 Atomic was a propriety cartridge that never got off the ground, a .357 with a slightly lengthened case. It apparently was never commercially loaded.) Standard single-action was known as Frontier Model and was made in the same barrel lengths as the original: 4.750", 5.500" and 7.500", plus a 12" Buntline Model. Grips were faux stag, with optional real stag, walnut, ivory and other materials on the handful of presentation grade engraved models. Some of the high-grade models were made for prominent political leaders and celebrities, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Wayne and Elvis Presley. In addition to Frontier Model, Great Western offered several other single-action variations that are listed below, as well as a copy of Remington Double Derringer in .38 S&W or .38 Special.&break;The company went through several ownership changes and had a tough time competing with Ruger and later Colt, which resurrected the original SAA in 1956. In 1959, the name and assets of the company were purchased by EMF (Early and Modern Firearms Co.) and in 1964 Great Western products was discontinued. The name was resurrected in 2003, when EMF imported a series of single-action revolvers, known as Great Western II 1873 SA, until about 2009. See separate listing below for these models.&break;From a collectors perspective, interest in Great Western guns has been steadily on the increase and at the time of this writing, a dedicated following has rallied and put forth a lot of research, a book, articles and web sites. Along with other short lived modern manufacturers, Great Western Arms Co. is being afforded the same status as some obscure pre-Victorian makers now enjoy.&break;The editor would like to thank John Dougan for his contribution to the Great Western Arms section of Standard Catalog of Firearms.
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