Colt dropped the production of single-action revolvers at the beginning of World War II, so it could concentrate on the production of military arms. By about 1956, however, Colt decided that the time was right to resume manufacturing the Single Action Army with the idea that a target-sighted single-action wouldn’t be far behind.
The New Frontier was introduced in 1961, and the name “New Frontier” took advantage of the slogan made popular by President John F. Kennedy. From the outset, the Colt New Frontier was to single-actions what the Colt Python was to double-action revolvers, the Cadillac of handguns. The target-sighted single-action came with a smooth action, attractive finish, high-visibility adjustable sights, and smooth walnut stocks with the Colt logo in silver or gold.
Colt produced the first run of the New Frontier revolvers from 1962 until about 1974. Reintroduced in 1978, it was again dropped from the line in 1982. During those two runs, the New Frontier was chambered for .38 Spl., .357 Mag., .44 Spl., .44-40 Win. and .45 Colt. It was available in barrel configurations of 4 3/4, 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 inches.
Gunwriters such as Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton championed the Colt New Frontier and made a convincing argument for the value of adjustable sights on a single-action revolver. My own introduction to the New Frontier came with a photograph in one of Skelton’s articles. The picture showed a 4 3/4-inch, .44 Spl. New Frontier, complete with ivory stocks, lying on a silver serving tray. Skelton, by the way, was almost single-handedly responsible for convincing the various gun companies to keep producing the venerable and dependable .44 Spl. cartridge and the guns that chambered it.
In 2011, Colt once again announced that the New Frontier would be included in its catalog. I had the opportunity to shoot some prototypes at the 2011 SHOT Show and was duly impressed. But I have always preferred to test and write about production models of new guns so that I would be testing the same kind of gun that my readers would be buying. With the Colt New Frontier, that chance came early in 2012, when Colt's Mfg. shipped me a 4 3/4-inch barreled .45 Colt and a .44 Spl. with a 5 1/2-inch barrel. The .44 Spl. had a barrel marking that read, “175th Anniversary” along with the dates “1836” and “2011.”
My first positive impression of both guns was assured by the attractive color-case hardening on the frames. Without a doubt this is the best job that I have ever seen on a Colt revolver. The colors are vivid, deep, and let you know right from the beginning that you are holding a classy handgun. The barrel, cylinder, and grip frame all have a blue finish that is also quite attractive, being so dark it almost looks black.
The next thing that I check on single-actions is the fit of the backstrap and trigger guard to the frame. On Colts the backstrap and trigger guard are two separate pieces. In the past, it has not been uncommon to find guns with “proud” steel, that is, parts that did not mate flush with each other. One or the other edge would protrude, leaving a sharp place to gouge flesh out of the shooting hand. However, such was not the case on either one of my test guns.
The backstrap, trigger guard, and frame fit to each other about as well as anyone could expect. On a recent visit to the Colt factory I learned that a lot of hand fitting is still being done on all of the Colt single-actions. Although Colt uses the latest in computerized machinery, the final stages involve a good deal of hand filing so that the various parts will mate just right.
The front sight is a tall ramp type with horizontal serrations that help to cut glare just a bit. The rear sight is the well-known Elliason adjustable target sight that used to be found only on the Colt Gold Cup M1911. The Elliason has a reputation for being an extremely sturdy sight and yet, at the same time, capable of great accuracy.