The legendary American Western TV series The Rifleman starred Chuck Connors as widowed rancher Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his young son, Mark McCain. They lived in a little town in the New Mexico Territory in the 187and 188that eerily attracts sharpshooters from all over.
For five seasons fans followed the show as McCain toted his rifle around the ranch in one of the most revered TV series of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Show creator Arnold Laven and developer Sam Peckinpah became legends in directing Westerns. The set and cast of The Rifleman was top notch, and the life lessons and character reveals that played out captivated its audience until the end.
When Chuck Connors was first offered the lead of Lucas McCain in the show, he turned down the part based on the low salary he was offered. The show’s producers immediately considered James Whitmore and John Anderson for the role, thinking they would accept their wage offer. But then they made an amazing discovery…
Connors had a box office hit in 1957 with Disney’s Old Yeller, in which he starred with charismatic child actors Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. When producers saw the chemistry between the actors on screen and that Connors could talk to a kid with such respect and understanding, they knew Connors was worth more money. They upped the ante and Connors accepted their revised offer.
The producer of The Rifleman, Arnold Laven, claimed in an interview that the famous rifle used on the show by Connors was the same weapon John Wayne used in the megahit Western Stagecoach. It was allegedly an 1892 .44-40 Winchester rifle. Connors fired 12 shots with the rifle in the memorable opening credits that ran before each weekly episode. Turns out, the gun was slightly out of place…
According to the show’s notes, sets and historical references, The Rifleman took place in the 1870s and 1880s. McCain carried a cool modified Winchester Model 1892 with a big ring lever, which allowed him to do that awesome cocking by spinning the gun in his hand. Unless he was also a time traveler, that gun hadn’t yet been made.
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