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Rifleman's Winchester - Known as the "gun that won the west," the Winchester rifle was the star of the western adventure THE RIFLEMAN/ABC/1958-63.

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain - THE RIFLEMAN

The "Rifleman" in the series was Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors), a tall, rugged widower raising his son, Mark (Johnny Crawford) on a ranch near North Fork, New Mexico in the late 1860s.

At the beginning of each episode Lucas, with rifle in hand, walked down the streets of North Fork, and quickly emptied the chambers of his rifle at an unidentified menace.

He then re-cocked his rifle and reloaded amidst the blaring TV theme music composed by Herschel Burke Gilbert. (According to "Guns and Ammo" 1995 edition, he actually only fired ten shots; the eleventh had to be dubbed to time out with the music.)

The Rifleman's weapon was "in actuality" an 1892 .44-40 Winchester carbine specially modified with a large loop and metal tab to turn his rifle into a rapid firing machine.

It was fitted with a large loop lever that enabled it to be spun and cocked in a dramatic fashion. The trigger guard incorporated a screw that tripped the trigger every time the lever was closed.

In the words of Chuck Connors "We decided to take the rifle; take off the regular lever and put this round lever on so I could get my hand through it."

McCain's proficiency with his rifle earned him a reputation and nickname of "The Rifleman" when he lived in the Nations. He reportedly could squeeze off a round of ammunition every three-tenth of a second and fire eight times in two-and-a-half seconds.

Lucas spent more time fighting criminals than ranching on the show, often helping Micah Torrance (Paul Fix), the aging town Marshal.

The Rifleman and his trusty Winchester resurfaced on the made-for-TV-movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (11/3/91) where Lucas McCain (in a cameo) saved gambler Brady Hawkes (Kenny Rogers) from a group of corrupt Mexican police officer.

Lucas McCain's Winchester
Lucas McCain's Winchester Rifle

TRIVIA NOTE: Reportedly, there were three carbines used in the show: a primary Winchester, another identical gun for backup, and a third version that was made from an El Tigre, a Spanish copy of the 1892 Winchester. There were also two other loop lever Winchester 92 carbines that were used by Chuck in later years during his personal appearances.

Chuck Connors owned and kept his famous rifle at his home ranch in Tahachipi, California. His guest house was modeled after Lucas McCain's house in North Folk, New Mexico.

Chuck Connors died of lung cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in November of 1992. The 71-year-old actor (and lifetime smoker) had previously been diagnosed with pneumonia three weeks earlier at his Tehachapi Mountain ranch near Bakersfield, California.

In his early career Connors played basketball for the Celtics from 1946-48 and first baseman briefly for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. His other TV credits included the western adventure BRANDED/NBC/1965-66 and the supernatural drama WEREWOLF/FOX/1987-88.

The original .44-40 rifle used on THE RIFLEMAN series was loaded with silver bullets and used on the WEREWOLF series to kill werewolves.

A toy replica of the legendary rifle was made by Hubley and a real version was created for $2,400 by Northfork Productions at 3206 W. Magnolia Blvd. Burbank, CA.

The Winchester rifle was prominently featured in the western film Winchester '73 (1950) starring James Stewart. John Wayne, as Marshal Rooster Cogburn, toted a large loop model '92 Winchester rifle in the climatic shootout scene in the western motion picture True Grit (1969).

The Winchester rifle is a modification of a breech-loading firearm ("The Henry Rifle") originally designed by Benjamin Tyler Henry that was improved and reintroduced as the Model 1866 (The first Wichester rifle - named for Oliver Winchester, tne owner of The Winchester Repeating Arms Company).

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