The Return of the Colt New Frontier Single Action Sixgun


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 24th, 2011


YouTube Video





Click pictures for a larger version.


Colt's superb New Frontier sixgun.





Grips are plain-grained oiled walnut, as on the original New Frontiers.



Current production 44 Special (bottom) compared to Jeff's Third-Generation 45 Colt (top).





Excellent adjustable sights.



The Elliason rear sight on this new Colt (top right and center) are much better than the rear sight on the older New Frontier (top left and bottom).











Several months ago, we reported that Colt was planning to reintroduce its New Frontier revolver. Back at the 2011 Shot Show in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to fire a few rounds through a pre-production gun. The return of Colt’s finest single action sixgun has been long-anticipated, and the New Frontier is finally back into production!

I recently received a New Frontier for review, and was expecting the sixgun to be every bit as good as the original, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I will state from the outset that this New Frontier is the finest New Frontier revolver that I have ever handled. Some of the later production guns back around the early nineteen-eighties were not up to the expected Colt quality, but this latest New Frontier is a well-fitted, beautifully-finished sixgun.

I have owned a few New Frontier revolvers over the years, and currently have a seven and one-half inch 45 Colt version. It is a very good sixgun, well-polished, but this new Colt has a better, deeper bluing and brighter case colors. The new New Frontier also has a much better rear sight than does my older sixgun, using a new version of the excellent Elliason rear sight. The Elliason makes for a much clearer, sharper sight picture compared to the one on my older Colt, and was the best choice for a rear sight on the newer gun.

The new Colt that I have here wears a five and one-half inch barrel, and is chambered for the 44 Special cartridge. The 44 Special is one of my all-time favorite cartridges, and I am glad that the New frontier is so chambered. The 44 Special is a “balanced’ cartridge, for lack of a better term. It has plenty of power for most tasks, but not excessive muzzle blast nor too much recoil. It is a workhorse, getting the job done without too much fanfare. Lots of folks fail to see the need for the old 44 Special, with the 44 magnum available, and to folks who lean that way, there is no need to try to explain it, but many shooters still appreciate that fine old cartridge for what it is.

The New Frontier revolver was introduced by Colt in 1961, and was a very special sixgun. Colt flat-topped the frame to install a fully-adjustable rear sight. To match up with the rear, the front sight was a long ramp, beautifully and gracefully perched atop the barrel. The combo made for a sight picture that was much-improved over the traditional Single Action Army (SAA) sights. With its deep bluing on the barrel, trigger guard, cylinder, and grip frame, contrasting nicely with the case-hardened frame, the New frontier was the classiest, most elegant and useful single action that Colt had ever produced. The New Frontier production was stopped in 1974, but resumed again in 1978 with the production of the Third Generation single action Colt revolvers. The New Frontier ceased production again around 1982, with a very few trickling out of the factory for the next year or two. My only complaint about the New Frontiers, and this applies to every one that I have ever seen, is that the wood used for the grips do not belong on such a beautiful sixgun. The New Frontiers have always been shipped with some of the plainest walnut that I have ever seen, and they wear a dull finish that looks almost like no finish at all. I have seen prettier wood on a Chinese shipping crate than I have seen on most New Frontier sixguns. Thankfully, grips are easily replaced, and is one way to really dress up a handgun. The New Frontier of days past really cried out for a set of grips that do justice to the exquisite beauty of that sixgun. The newest New Frontier is faithful to the original in that regard, and Colt has fitted mine with a set that equals the beauty of those fitted to the original guns. However, they fit the sixgun very well, and feel good in the hand, but this Colt needs new shoes, and will be fitted with a set as soon as possible. As stated, it is a great way to really personalize a sixgun. I just have to decide between some fancy-figured walnut, or maybe some beautiful, lightly-barked stag.

Specifications for the New Frontier are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Linear measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the ratchet nor the cylinder bushing. Height includes the sights, with the rear set at its intermediate adjustment.

Overall Length 11 Inches
Overall Height 5.2 Inches
Weight Unloaded 38.4 Ounces
Barrel Length 5.5 Inches
Cylinder Length 1.609 Inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.652 Inches
Chamber Throats 0.429 Inch
Barrel/Cylinder Gap 0.004 Inch
Trigger Pull 2 Pounds, 13 Ounces
Capacity 6 Rounds

This Colt is really built well, as have been all Colt single action revolvers that I have seen in the past recent years. The new SAA sixguns that I have fired and examined recently are as good as any that Colt has ever produced, including the highly-acclaimed First Generation guns. This New Frontier is no different. The timing is perfect. The barrel/cylinder gap is set just right at four one-thousandths (.004) inch. The trigger pull is close to perfect, releasing crisply at around two and three-quarters pounds. Thumbing back that big hammer, it makes that magnificent four-click sound, with the “clicks” timed just right, and the bolt rising into the lead of the cylinder notches. Beautiful.

While the capacity listed in the chart above is six rounds, and the Colt does have six chambers, traditionally, and for safety reasons, the hammer should always rest on an empty chamber, as this Colt has the classic SAA lockwork. If dropped, the hammer could be impacted, causing a cartridge in the chamber below the hammer to discharge. For that reason, Colts and replicas have been carried with an empty chamber under the hammer for generations. The proper loading procedure is to bring the hammer to half-cock and open the loading gate. Load one cartridge, then skip the next chamber. Load the next four chambers, bring the hammer to full cock, and lower the hammer over the empty chamber.

For accuracy testing, I placed the Colt into my Ransom Rest and set the target at twenty-five yards. I have good jacketed bullets available, but in the 44 Special, I prefer a 250 grain cast lead Keith semi-wadcutter bullet at between 1000 and 1150 feet-per-second (fps) to do everything that I want a 44 Special to do, which is plinking, long-range target shooting, and medium game hunting. The Buffalo Bore 255 grain Keith load leaves the barrel of this New Frontier at over 1125 feet-per-second, and exhibited very good accuracy. One of my favorite Keith handloads performed as well, as did a jacketed hollowpoint handload. The Colt grouped every group of every load under two inches at twenty-five yards. With the 250 grain class of bullets pushed to between 1100 and 1150 fps, the New Frontier was shooting about four inches high for me at twenty-five yards, as delivered. With a fixed-sight revolver, a taller front sight would need to be installed, but with the excellent Elliason rear sight on this Colt, I just cranked it down to its lowest setting, matching point of impact to the sights, without having to change the load or weld on a new front sight. While the Single Action Army seems to get all the glory, the New Frontier is a better choice for those wanting a very versatile hunting and target shooting sixgun, and I am glad that Colt is bringing it back.

However, as of the date of this writing, the New Frontier has just started shipping, so you might have to wait a bit, but start pestering your local gun dealer now. The New Frontier is available in 45 Colt, 44 Special, and 357 magnum chamberings. This newest rendering of the New Frontier is as good as any that Colt has ever produced, and I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates a fine sixgun.

2011 marks the 175th Anniversary of Colt Firearms, and the New Frontier is so-marked on top of its barrel. 175 years is a long time for any manufacturer to stay afloat, especially in today’s global manufacturing way of doing business. Unlike many products, the Colt has not been cheapened. It is still made of steel and walnut, and still made in Hartford, Connecticut. The New Frontier wears no plastic, nor does it wear an import stamp. The single action Colt is as American as the Stars and Stripes, and the New Frontier is the apex of the Colt Single Action Army design.

Check out the Colt New Frontier sixgun online at

For the location of a Colt dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at

To order the New Frontier online, go to

To order Buffalo Bore ammunition, go to

Jeff Quinn

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.






The New Frontier wears a beautiful Royal Blue and Case-Hardened finish.





Chamber throats are sized for a snug fit with this 0.4295" bullet.



Accuracy was excellent with both factory loads and handloads.