This is a timeline that breaks Great Western’s short history down by its owner / operators. This narrative has citations in parentheses to refer to original research by other people or to interviews I conducted.
GWA 1954 – early 1956
Location: Miner St, LA
Owner: Dan Fortmann, Dan Reeves
Executive: Bill Wilson
Distributor: Hy Hunter
Production Span: GW1 – GW11500
Tenure notes: The company was formed by Bill Wilson, ostensibly with the enthusiastic encouragement of Hy Hunter and several people who frequented his shop in LA. Under Wilson’s leadership the company went from startup to full production. In addition to reasonably healthy sales through 1956, a great amount of time was spent fixing defective revolvers and ironing out technical incompetancies. Wilson hired Duane Kastrup, who was a young machining prodigy at Weatherby, to standardize the mills and tools. Duane Kastrup hired John McCormick, who managed the warranty service (Kastrup). There may have been 50 employees at Miner St (Dougan). Hy Hunter carried most responsibility to advertise and distribute the Great Western line.
GWA early 1956 – late 1958
Location: Washington Ave, Venice
Executive: George Morton, Pete Parsons
Distributor: Stoeger, E&M
Production Span: 11501 – GW 19400
Tenure notes: The generally accepted story goes, by 1956 Great Western was in arrears on its balance due to FerroCast for raw frame components, and had no hope of paying. To satisfy the debt, Fortmann et al relinquished their equity stakes, assets in lieu of payment, turning over the factory to FerroCast. Wilson either left or was dismissed at this time. Parsons was named executive by FerroCast President George Morton (Parsons). The firearms operation was right sized in a series of actions as Parsons sought to position the company for resale. The Hunter distributor relationship was terminated. The Miner factory was closed. A staff of about ten was retained, and assembly and finishing operations were moved in early 1957 to FerroCast space at the foundry in Venice. Frame machining was probably outsourced to Moore Engineering at this time. Stoeger did distribution, with orders generated by listings in its Shooters Bible publication. E&M was a smaller mail order house, but also emerged as a reliable retailer for the GW revolver. With the small production staff, about 100 guns a month were getting built, which left palpable unsatisfied demand (Herbert).
GWA late 1958 – end of 1961
Location: Vose St, North Hollywood (E&M mailorder and warehousing), Alameda St., LA (Moore machine shop)
Executive: Ed Spinney
Production Span: GW 19400 – GW21750
Tenure notes: FerroCast operated the business with seriousness, but had no intention to remain owners. There was some immediate motivation to dispose of GWA, as it’s presence on the corporate asset sheet complicated FerroCast’s ability to pursuit mergers and acquisitions in the steel industry (Parsons). Also, the distribution agreement with Stoeger was not profitable (numerous sources). FerroCast dissolved the GWA enterprise in late 1958, and sold the trademark and parts inventory to E&M. E&M continued assembly, but there was no longer a firearms company operating as ‘Great Western Arms’. Moore Engineering had for several years been sub contracted to spec machine the frame castings, and began providing the guns to E&M completely finished. Moore’s shop was probably on Alameda St. in west LA not very far from the original Miner St. factory.
GWA end of 1961 – 1963
Location: Vose St, North Hollywood. Whitnall Highway, North Hollywood (E&M mailorder and warehousing), Alameda St., LA (Moore machine shop)
Owner: Moore Engineering
Production Span: GW21750 – GW22250
Tenure notes: Hy Hunter started importing German replica single actions to the US in 1960. These eventually would become known as the ‘Hawes’ line. Robust and inexpensive, they were immediately popular. The Great Western’s higher price made it difficult to sell, and E&M started relying on Hunter’s German sixgun for its catalog. In 1961, E&M conducted several clearance campaigns in the Shotgun News as it moved to liquidate its Great Westerns and (I speculate) comply with volume terms made to sub-contractor Moore. Moore was additionally made free to use the trademark and sell as many as he might on his own. Moore Engineering shared industrial space at the Alameda St. address with the WJ Oliver Knife Co. This Oliver business presumably also had millwright and machining expertise, and is understood to have been collaborating with Moore on the firearms effort (Martin). Nonetheless, Moore had a heart attack and died in 1962 or 63, at which time all Great Western production ceased. It is said the last guns staged for build were purchased by Hy Hunter, and that he had them assembled and blued to sell in his store in Burbank (Dougan / Martin).