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I’ve heard the story countless times and when you look it up it’s attributed to a Native American story. If so, the story goes like this, an old Indian grandfather was talking to a young grandson and giving him instructions about being a man and living a noble life. He tells the young man that everyone has two wolves inside of them, a good wolf and an evil wolf. These two wolves will fight continuously all his life. At this point, the young man asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?” At that point, the grandfather smiles and says, “The one you feed.”
When I was thinking about an article the idea of writing about a handgun jumped into my brain. Then the question popped up, which handgun? I have several as most people do, and all have a specific purpose, and that specific purpose can be as simple as making a lot of noise and blowing up milk jugs full of water. But going back to the story at the beginning which one do I feed the most? Hands down it has to be the old Colt New Frontier .22 that I purchased used, and I believe the year was 1974. If that is true, the gun is over 47 years old. But I shoot the revolver more than all my other handguns combined. It has lost a great deal of its bluing, and because I broke the original grip frame it has a newer lower frame and if I had a dollar for every .22 round, I put through it I would have been able to retire at 55 rather than waiting for 65. The New Frontier and I both look a little worn out or broken dependent upon how I feel that particular day! The other thing which we have in common is a great many stories.
I was running a small trap line in the bottoms not far from home. You know a three or four 330 conibears for beavers and maybe eight raccoons and perhaps a dozen 110 body grippers for muskrats. I ran the line using my Yamaha 500 Enduro and I had a small pack for trap setting gear and the traps all rode in a milk carton plastic box which was bungeed down on the luggage rack. As I ran my lines, I was picking up a little fur here and there.
My final stop was a shallow ditch that ran into the barrow pits. I had made the set by poking a hole into the bank with lure packed into the back of the hole. When I set the trap there wasn’t enough water for a drowning set and it appeared the mud was deeper than the water. So, instead of a drowning set I put a drag on the end of the trap and stomped it down into the mud thinking the raccoon would be unable to dislodge the drag out of the mud. But in case it didn’t hold, this trap would be the first one I would check the next morning.
When I arrived at the set there was nothing to see except drag marks going up and over the bank. The raccoon had an idea of making an escape but had chosen poorly as to which path to take as I caught up with the big boar in a horse weed patch which the drag had gotten tangled up in. I circled around in front of the critter. Remember that space was a much-desired element on my motorcycle so there wasn’t any place to hang or strap down my .22 rifle. I simply raised my coat up over the New Frontier, unsnapped the holster and quickly dispatched the raccoon.
Less than a week later, I was checking my beaver sets at the north end of Rose Pond (before the state owned it) and each evening I would kick out a section of the beaver dam and in that section, I would place a foot hold trap with a weight wired in up a third of the chain so that if I caught a beaver as soon as he swam back out into the water he would drown. Almost every day the trap would be tripped and have a stick caught in the trap. The beaver had successfully patched the dam without getting caught. When I walked up to the dam one morning there was still water running over it. But instead of the chain going out into the water, it ran along the dam. I guessed that the trap had been sprung and that it was caught up on a log. But when I pulled the chain, I could feel it tugging like a catfish on a trotline. The beaver was caught but had gotten tangled up before it swam out into the deeper water. I let go of the chain, walked along the dam and waited for the beaver to surface. In a short time, I saw the beaver coming to the surface and once its nose appeared I put a .22 into the water and took the biggest beaver I have ever caught.
On the trap lines over the years, that old revolver has dispatched nearly anything you could imagine including foxes, a coyote, raccoons, possums, and even a skunk or two. And even now, whenever I go down to the farm, I toss the New Frontier in the vehicle. The farm is a great place to plink away without worrying about the neighbors because there aren’t any. The revolver has gone on countless campouts and fishing trips. I even use it for hunting small game when having a challenger is better than getting a limit. And almost more important is that despite its age and hard use, it’s still cool looking!
The Colt New Frontier came out in 1970 and was a replacement for the Frontier Scout which had come out earlier. The Scout’s frame had been black anodized alloy, while the Frontier is case hardened steel, although my case hardening is mostly too dull to see. Barrel lengths for the revolver were 4 3/8 (which I have), 6 and 7 1/2 inches. I think, and I may be wrong, but my New Frontier came with a .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cylinder. I lost that cylinder in the ‘93 flood although I do not miss it, as it really rang your ears in the short barrel. The grips on the revolver are black plastic with the Colt emblem at the top of the grip and an American Eagle emblem at the bottom. The New Frontier has a flat top frame and has fully adjustable sights, which if I miss, it’s not the revolver’s fault.
True to the western revolvers of long ago, the New Frontier should be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber as a safety precaution. The New Frontiers were produced until 1977. In 1982, a new version of the New Frontiers was produced which were equipped with a cross bolt safety. These models were only produced for a couple of years.