Colt New Frontier and Peacemaker .22 Revolvers

By Chuck Hawks

Colt SAA
Illustration courtesy of Colt's Mfg. Co., Inc.

The Colt Peacemaker .22 and New Frontier .22 were introduced in 1970 to replace the earlier Frontier Scout .22, to which they are similar in many ways. They are also related to the centerfire Colt Single Action Army and SAA New Frontier.

One of the main criticisms of the Scout was its black anodized aluminum alloy frame. With the Peacemaker and New Frontier .22's, Colt addressed this and other complaints.

The .22 rimfire caliber Peacemaker and New Frontier were .22 LR or convertible .22 LR/.22 Magnum (WMR) single action six-shooters. Both are discontinued. They were built on approximately 7/8 scale, color case hardened steel frames, like the famous SAA. For easy identification, .22 LR cylinders were fluted, and the .22 WMR cylinders were not. Barrel lengths were 4 3/8 inches, 6 inches, and 7 1/2 inches. There were also Peacemaker and New Frontier Buntline .22 models with 9 1/2 inch barrels.

The Peacemaker .22 is the visual counter part of the regular Single Action Army (SAA). Its round top frame is similar in style to the SAA. The rear sight is a square groove machined into the top of the frame, and the front sight is a rounded blade. The barrel, cylinder, and ejector rod housing are blued steel, and the sides of the hammer are left in the "white." The top of the hammer spur is checkered. The one-piece grip frame is black anodized aluminum alloy. Grips are black plastic in the traditional Colt "American Eagle" pattern.

The New Frontier .22 is built on a flat top frame and looks like the larger SAA New Frontier. It is finished in the same manner as the Peacemaker .22. The sights are a great improvement over the Peacemaker, consisting of a fully adjustable target type rear sight and a serrated ramp front sight that is square in cross section.

The Peacemaker and New Frontier have coil main springs (rather than the SAA's flat spring), and a frame mounted firing pin. In other respects, however, they are traditional Colt single action revolvers and should be loaded and handled as such.

The hammer has the usual 1/4 ("safe"), 1/2 (loading), and full cock (ready to fire) positions. These guns are properly carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber. They should never be carried fully loaded with six cartridges, even with the hammer in the so-called "safe" (1/4 cock) position. A sharp blow on the hammer could break the sear or safety notch and allow the gun to fire. Nor should the cross-bolt safety provided on late production guns be relied upon. Get into the proper habits of safe operation with all traditional single action revolvers. (See my review "Colt Single Action Army and New Frontier Revolvers" for further operational details.)

The Peacemaker .22 and New Frontier .22's were produced continuously from 1970 until 1977. Production of the New Frontier .22 resumed in 1982 (4 5/8, 6, and 7 1/2 inch barrels only) and ran for several more years. These 2nd generation guns incorporated a superfluous cross-bolt safety that could be used to block the hammer. This was a response to the Age of Frivolous Litigation that had by then engulfed the firearms industry.

My New Frontier .22 is a first generation model (no cross-bolt safety, thank goodness). The finish is up to Colt's usual high standards. There is even some scroll "engraving" roll stamped into the bottom of the grip frame. It has a 4 3/8 inch barrel, weighs 29 1/2 ounces, and is 9 5/8 inches in overall length. The trigger breaks at about 3 pounds, with a clean release.

This revolver strongly prefers Winchester Super-X .22 LR ammunition; in .22 WMR it also prefers Winchester Super-X ammo. The adjustable sights are zeroed at 25 yards.

The following shooting was done from an outdoor 25 yard bench rest using Winchester Super-X ammunition. With the Long Rifle cylinder in place, five 5-shot groups averaged 1.33 inches. With the .22 Magnum cylinder, five 5-shot groups averaged 1.75 inches. I consider this to be pretty good shooting from a 4 3/8 inch barrel at 25 yards, delivering accuracy comparable to a Ruger Super Single Six.

The .22 New Frontier's excellent adjustable sights are a big asset. They make this handsome .22 a serious small game hunting revolver, especially with the 6 inch or 7 1/2 inch barrels. A New Frontier .22 Convertible with the shorter 4 3/8 inch barrel is an excellent trail, camp, or kit gun. It would be hard to argue with the assertion that the Colt Peacemaker and New Frontier .22's are the prettiest single action .22 revolvers around, with a polish and finish superior to the excellent Ruger Single Six.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.