.22 was the most common chambering for the Great Western Frontier single-action. From the serial number survey, we can extrapolate that about 35% of Great Western single actions are in .22. The .22s will chamber and fire the entire original .22 rimfire family: BB caps, CB caps, shorts, long, and long rifle.
Great Western built their .22 on the standard frame, rather than on the 7/8 frame like Ruger’s Single-Six or Colt’s Scout. The Great Western .22 is also all steel. A small bore and small chambers in a full size revolver makes for a bit of heft. The Great Western .22 often weighs about 48 ounces.
Rollmark: .22 CALIBER
Great Western does not seem to have built any .22s prior to approximately serial GW1200. This first thousand plus revolvers is all within 1954, the company’s first year. This might mean nothing at all, but Hy Hunter’s first catalog for the Frontier revolver didn’t actually have a listing for a standard .22. We can ponder that Great Western wasn’t going to offer a .22 Frontier, but was moved to when the success of Ruger’s Single Six became apparent, also in 1954.
.22s are almost as scarce at the end of the Great Western serial range. There are few standard rimfire .22s above GW20000, this being 1959 production and after. Inexpensive German .22 revolver imports had flooded the country by then, and sold from $29 – $49. Great Western’s full size steel .22 SAA was materially the same as its centerfire version, and could not be made price competitive with the alloy German models. Great Western essentially dropped the caliber from its lineup until company production ceased altogether in 1963.
Models / barrels: All models were made in .22 except the Sheriff. No Sheriff’s have been observed in .22, and I don’t expect to find any in the future. By far, Great Western 22s are most often found as the 5.5 inch barrel Frontier models.
Build / Construction: Note the following that is particular to the .22 .
- The Great Western’s firing pin assembly is installed in a different spot for the .22 (lower in the hammer channel). Conversion of a .22 Great Western to centerfire is made very complicated by the difference in firing pin locations.
- For the .22, the firing pin’s lower position in the hammer channel means it is lower on the other side as well, on the rear wall of the cylinder window. For the firing pin to work there, the recoil shield must be a different shape so as to not intrude into the cylinder’s ratchet space. Thus for the .22, the recoil shield piece is relieved, and a half circle, rather than a full circle shield as on the centerfire. When this half circle piece is not in proper alignment on a .22, it will bind the cylinder ratchet and the revolver can not be cocked.
- Original Great Western .22s will never be found with a Colt style hammer.