The following is a timeline of Great Western production history by serial.
GW1 – GW10. This range is 5 sets of cased pairs, exquisitely engraved by Carl Courts, commissioned for company owners and other people important to Great Western. GW 1 and 2 were said to be .45s made for Wilson (Blue Book, Dougan), but the authors here have doubts these revolvers were built. GW3 and 4 are .45s given to Fortmann. GW5 – 10 are .22 Flattop targets, whose recipients are unknown. It is extraordinarily doubtful these first 10 serialed guns were actually the first guns built at Great Western. These sets were probably built in 1955.
GW11. General production probably commences here or thereabouts. GW13 is a blue Frontier model, and is the earliest serialed standard production gun known to exist in a collection.
GW11 – GW375. Revolvers are all .45 Colt caliber
GW11 – GW4000. Most revolvers built in this range use the Arwood cast cylinder frame. Arwood also rendered parts for Ruger, and Bill Ruger directed that Arwood stop making parts for Great Western.
GW70 – GW75. A brief run of gold washed or gold plated revolvers is known here.
GW295 – GW369. Sheriffs model range as known
GW418. First .38 Special observed.
GW474. First .357 Atomic observed. The Atomic in some ways compelled use of the Christy firing pin system, so we see these here for the first time as well.
GW1055 – GW1075 a small run of 22’s here, perhaps a prototyping run.
GW1200. A run of more than 600 .22s starts here, as centerfires aren’t observed again until GW1882.
GW1882. First .44 Special observed.
GW4000. By now Great Western is using the FerroCast cylinder frame almost exclusively.
GW6750. Great Western ceases use of the heavy, dense Pointer Pup faux stag grip. They switch to a hollow backed, vacuum formed plastic faux stag grip.
GW8250 – For packaging, switch from the burgundy craft box to the brown leatherettte box is observed.
GW9000 – 14000. Matte black (Copper Sulfate) finish seen frequently in this range, and seldom after.
GW9000 – 15000. Flattop Targets seen regularly in this range, and somewhat seldom after.
GW11000. Great Western ceases use of the cyanide CCH finish, which had been standard. This move was compelled by either cost, pollution regulations, or dissatisfaction with the quality of the finish itself. Blue becomes standard finish.
GW11000 – 17500. A bone pack and furnace color case hardened finish is offered as a factory option here. These guns are not often encountered or perhaps noticed, but there are some extraordinary looking ones out there.
11500. There is an operational shakeup here, as Great Western’s creditors intercede to see that their loans / accounts receivable are secure. FerroCast ends up owning Great Western. Wilson leaves or is dismissed.
12267 or thereabouts – .44 Magnum is introduced.
12640 or thereabouts – Buntlines have been observed earlier, but they may have been one-offs. Probably a legitimate catalog offering here now. In the broader culture, Wyatt Earp is a hot topic again with a new Hugh O’Brien show on TV.
13470 – First ‘0’ prefix kit observed
16975 – 17025. Potential Deputy range, and perhaps the lot of 50 furnished to distributor Stoeger. 7 known here, 16978, 16993, 16998, 17011, 17019, 17022, 17024.
17200 or 17500. FerroCast idled the Miner St. shop in 1957, and the Survivor’s list project is suggestive of it happening in this range. 10 – 15 employees were retained, and they continued assembly of Great Westerns in a workshop at the FerroCast foundry in Venice, CA.
18750 – First Fast Draw models observed.
19275 – 19300. Potential Deputy range. 3 known, 19275, 19284, and 19285.
19340 – 19380. Within this range were 25 .45 Colts available at a Pasadena gun shop in the fall of 1958. A Disney prop wrangler bought the 25, and took them back to Disneyland and the studio for theatrical use. The 25 are stamped WDP on the trigger guard side flats.
GW19400. Production by E&M commences. Great Western’s distribution agreement with Stoeger was not profitable. FerroCast dissolved Great Western probably as a means to escape its contract with Stoeger. The parts inventory and some tooling was sold to E&M, who had been retailing Great Westerns for several years. E&M had Moore Machining of west LA continue assembly of the revolvers.
GW20000. Revolver 20000, done in gold, 3 cylinder .45, commissioned for E&M owner Ed Spinney, 1959.
GW20490 – GW20539. Markott .22 Hornet range, the ‘order of 50 Hornets’ delivered November 1960.
GW20600 – For packaging, switch from the brown leatherettte box to the blue craft box is observed.
GW20750. Enormous price pressures from German imports. Completing the guns becomes a money loser. E&M offers the kit polished and edge-mated, which is an improvement over the first version kit. Rigorous campaign to liquidate inventory in the summer of 1961.
GW21200 – For packaging, switch from the blue craft box to the white cardboard box is observed.
GW021226 – First .44-40 observed.
GW21250 – Now in the autumn of 1961, E&M expands effort to liquidate inventories. Kit is offered polished and blued, with merely the action unfitted / uninstalled. It’s possible these guns often don’t have a ‘0’ prefix.
GW21592 – First .22 magnum observed.
GW21750 – Build quality of original guns in contemporary collections is observed to be very iffy past this serial. Company is in genuine liquidation phase, with factory assembly very diminished.
GW22239 – Last ‘regular’ production Great Western known, a .44 Magnum.
H prefix, H1 to H50 (a guess), assembled post ‘Great Western Arms’ – The H prefix revolvers are those assembled and finished by Rey Varney and John McCormick from Don Moore’s parts inventory when he was disabled by a heart attack in 1961. The best guess is there are perhaps 50 of these. They are rollmarked “Hy Hunter Inc, Hollywood CA”, but made from Great Western parts and not Hunter’s source of German parts. revolver H20, a .357, is the only surviving example that resides within the advanced collector community.