Most firearms enthusiasts are more or less familiar with Great Western Arms Co., an enterprise initially organized in Los Angeles through the efforts of Hy Hunter and established by three partners; Dr. Hassam, a prominent surgeon, Dan Reeves, owner of the L.A. Rams, and Dan Fortmann. Bill Wilson, a former production engineer at North American Aviation, served as president.
Wilson established his shop in a tin covered building on Minor Street in Southgate, CA and staffed it with a small group of employees, some taken from Weatherby. As time went by, as many as fifty workers were busy producing guns.
Hy Hunter's American Weapons Corp. in Burbank was chosen by the partners to be the exclusive distributor. Hunter so aggressively marketed the Frontier Six Shooter that his name became synonymous with Great Western and many believed that he was the owner of the company.
With Bob Green as financial officer and Bill Hensley as plant superintendent, machining of parts to manufacture exact copies of the original Colt Model P began in early 1954. Fitting, de-burring, polishing, finishing and assembly began slowly in the spring, with initial production and sales generated by notoriety of the proprietary .357 Atomic cartridge.
Great Western Arms Co. operated for approximately ten years, during which time they were reorganized by at least five different owners. Even though the company was well funded with $250,000 initially, it was never stable, lacking in manufacturing expertise and management skills. But the employees made up for it with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to accommodate their customers.
Appearing in early Great Western brochures and catalogues were spokesmen John Wayne and Audie Murphy. Exhibition shooters Dee Woolem and Sam Toole represented the company with their fast draw talents.
The Great Western revolver line-up offered a well-rounded variety of models with sub-variants. A good selection of barrel lengths, finishes, decoration and calibers were available. They offered interchangeable auxiliary cylinders and a variety of other special and innovative accessories.
The author would like to thank Mr. John Dougan for providing information and values for this section.
Previous manufacturer located in Los Angeles, CA circa 1954-1964.