50 Famous Firearms You've Got to Own: Rick Hacker's Bucket List of Guns (2015)
COLT FRONTIER SCOUT .22
Although the Colt .22 Scout Buntline only has a 91⁄2-inch barrel, its smaller scale puts it in proportion to the 12-inch barrel of the larger .45 Colt Buntline. This gun is courtesy of American Gun Works (www.AmericanGunWorks.net)
Inspired by the popularity of TV westerns such as Gunsmoke and Maverick coupled with the burgeoning sport of fast draw, and no doubt spurred on by the success of Ruger’s Single Six, in 1957, Colt Industries brought out a .22-caliber version of its famed Single Action Army, which they had reintroduced two years earlier. This new, scaled-down sixgun was appropriately christened the Colt Frontier Scout.
Initially, the Scout was offered with a polished aluminum “duo-tone” frame that contrasted nicely with the rest of the blued gun, somewhat akin to the aluminum-framed Lightweight Single Six that Ruger had brought out in 1955. Also like the Ruger, the Scout featured a one-piece backstrap and trigger guard, which made production less costly than hand fitting a two-piece trigger guard and backstrap to the frame.
Actually, the Scout was machined to such close tolerances and so well finished, very little hand fitting was necessary. Each gun went through a five-man team of inspectors and assemblers. Moreover, according to the late Don Wilkerson in his excellent and now out-of-print book Scouts, Peacemakers and New Frontiers, the same machinery used for the top-of-the-line Colt Python was used to machine and polish the barrels of the Scout, which justifiably became known for its accuracy.
Initially, the Scout was fitted with black composition grips similar to those on the Model P, but walnut grips were offered as an extra-cost option a year later. Barrel length was 43⁄4 inches, but, due to its smaller size, this gave the little .22 the same look as its big brother with a 51⁄2-inch barrel, as the muzzle poked slightly past the ejector rod housing.
Even though the Frontier Scout resembled the Model P externally, internally it was a different gun. The post-war spring-loaded push pin that held the cylinder base pin was replaced by a lookalike screw, which required a screwdriver (included with each gun), for removal. The action was simplified by having only two screws—one for the hammer, the other for the bolt and trigger—instead of the Peacemaker’s three. Finally, the firing pin was inset into the frame, rather than allowed to protrude from the hammer.
Because ads announcing the new Colt Frontier Scout began appearing in 1956—almost a full year before the first guns were shipped from the factory, on November 27, 1957—demand had built. Priced at only $49.50 (later at $54.50, for walnut stocks), the Colt Scout proved immensely popular right out of the starting gate. Now owners of the full-sized SAA could have an economical seven-eighths scale version to shoot, and for those who couldn’t afford the $125 price of the big SAA, they could still buy a genuine Colt single-action for less than half the price. By the end of 1958, more than 36,500 Frontier Scouts had been shipped from the factory.
Frames of the .22 Scout went from aluminum to anodized black (shown) to case colored. The revolver was an attractively scaled-down version of the Colt Peacemaker.
To avoid confusion, the .22 L.R. and .22 Magnum cylinders were marked.
Later versions of the .22 Scout came with interchangeable .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum cylinders. This particular gun is also shown with a rare Colt-stamped .22 Scout holster.
In September 1958, an all-blued (actually a black anodized aluminum frame) Frontier Scout was added for $57.50, and, in November of that year, a Buntline Scout was introduced. Priced at $59.50, the Buntline’s 91⁄2-inch barrel gave it a profile that closely followed Colt’s full-sized 12-inch barreled version introduced a year earlier.
In 1959, a .22 Winchester Magnum chambering for both the Frontier Scout and Buntline Scout was offered, and it was only a matter of time—1964, actually—that dual cylinder Scouts were introduced. A dual cylinder Buntline Scout was added, in 1969. These guns were also offered in two-gun cased sets. Because the rifling differed for the .22 Magnum barrel (which would also stabilize a .22 Long Rifle bullet, but a barrel rifled for the .22 Long Rifle would not give acceptable accuracy with a .22 Magnum), factory assemblers had to know which barrel to fit onto a frame, especially if it was for a dual-caliber gun. Thus, .22 Magnum barrels featured a crowned muzzle, while .22 Long Rifle barrels were finished flat at the muzzles. In addition, .22 Long Rifle cylinders were recessed on the back, while the rear of .22 Magnum cylinders were flush.
Collectors tend to classify Frontier Scouts by the suffix letter designation of their serial numbers, with the “Q” series denoting the first two years of production, after which it was changed to an “F” series, as the “Q” looked too much like an ”O” and could be misconstrued as part of the numerical serial number. The “F” series lasted until 1971, when the lightweight-framed Frontier Scout was discontinued in favor of the “K” series, which denotes a heavier “Zamac” (zinc-aluminum) frame. The “K” series also introduced a nickel finish option.
A “P” series ran concurrently with the “F” series and lasted from 1962 until 1971. It was used for the Scout’s deeper “Midnight Blue” finish (actually an epoxy coating) on its Zamac frame, and the addition of composite “stag” stocks. There were also a few special-order nickel Scouts in the “P” series. The final Scouts were produced in the “G” Series, which featured a case hardened steel frame and ebony “eagle” rampant colt stocks. This was the closest the Frontier Scout came to duplicating the physical look of the Model P. Subsequently, the name was changed to the Peacemaker .22. Barrel lengths were 4.4 inches (approximating the 43⁄4-inch barrel “look” of the full-sized Colt), six inches, and a 71⁄2-inch Buntline. There was also a New Frontier Scout with adjustable sights, introduced in 1971. The “G” series was produced from 1970 to 1977, when production was temporarily halted due to manufacturing problems. After a four-year hiatus, the Peacemaker .22 and New Frontier Scout reappeared with a cross-bolt safety and the “G” series became the “GS.” In 1985, a fully blued version was offered.
The Frontier Scout also accounted for more than seventy different commemoratives, starting, in 1961, with the Pony Express Centennial Scout and the Kansas Statehood Scout, and ending, in 1984, with a “G”-framed Kit Carson New Frontier. Most of the commemoratives were produced on the “K” frame.
Production of the Frontier Scout in all its forms came to an end, in 1986. As far as consumer interest was concerned, a Star Wars mentality had taken over, and the Frontier Scout slowly rode off into the sunset. Today, it is a much sought-after .22 single-action, and, like the Old West itself, a reminder of days gone by.
This was one of the guns I always wanted as a kid, but, of course, could never afford and, consequently, never got. When I finally did get old enough and had saved enough, I bought a full-sized, used, first generation Single Action Army .45 instead. But now that I am older and, perhaps, wiser than I ever have been, this is definitely a gun I am adding to my bucket list.