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