Steve McQueen helped create the memorable Mare's Leg gun in ''Wanted: Dead or Alive''

The firearm helped distinguish this show from the rest.

Wanted: Dead or Alive debuted in 1958 to an audience that was absolutely primed for the show's arrival. '58 was arguably The Year of the Western, with seven of TV's top 10 most popular programs falling in the horse opera category. Of the seven, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel and The Rifleman took the top four slots in the ratings. The field was not only crowded but also competitive.  

With such a saturated market, how would this new show stand out from the crowd? For starters, it cast Steve McQueen as its lead. The actor wasn't yet the legend that he would be, but already there was an undeniable talent and cool. But what could McQueen and the show's producers do to make Wanted: Dead or Alive stand out from the pack? 

Western wardrobes and set design offered little as far as personalization and customizability go. There weren't too many things in the show's look that could be molded to make it unique. Still, McQueen sought to find one special symbol to represent what made Wanted: Dead or Alive different and worthwhile. So, he worked with metal fabricator Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard to create a new gun, the ultimate cowboy accessory.

Now, anybody who visited an American mall in the 2000s might recognize the name "Von Dutch" from its place emblazoned on trucker caps and T-shirts galore. This was the clothing line that Howard's daughters founded after he died in the '90s. Howard was an artist and pinstriper, and his trademarked logo eventually adorned clothes worn by some of the most famous people of the 21st century, like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher, and Madonna. 

But back in the '50s, Kenny Howard was a part of the Kustom Kulture art movement, which grew from tailoring and modifying motorcycles and their adornment. So, Howard was the perfect artist to collaborate with McQueen to make this special gun that would look different from the one on any other Western.

Dwight Jon Zimmerman's The Life of Steve McQueen features a passage in which McQueen discusses creating the firearm:

"We took a Model 92 Winchester lever-action rifle and turned it into a belt gun by sawing off most of the barrel and fitting it with a special stock. This gave us the power and accuracy of a rifle with the mobility and easy handling of a revolver. And it looked fierce!" 

Every other Western used either Colt Peacemaker pistols or Winchester rifles, but with the "Mare's Leg", Steve McQueen and Wanted: Dead or Alive stood out from the competition.

Watch Wanted Dead or Alive on MeTV!

Saturdays at 4:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

6 Comments

WhiteRook 10 days ago
The bullets on steve's cartridge belt do not fit his Winchester model 92?? They look like shells for a nitro express.
Zip 18 days ago
And you can now buy that weapon. I've always wanted one.
Another thing I want from WDOA is Steve McQueen's sheepskin winter coat he wore on the show. I have found similar coats but none that come close enough to Josh Randall's coat for my tastes.
cperrynaples 19 days ago
To most WDOA fans, it is well known that one bad guy tracked McQueen's character BECAUSE of that gun! Yes, it was an unique weapon!
PS not the only special Western accessory! On Hotel De Paree, Earl Holliman had reflective discs on his hat that could blind sharpshooters long enough so that he could shoot first!
Runeshaper 21 days ago
Steve McQueen = The King of Cool, and the Mare's Leg only added to that coolness (-:
BrittReid Runeshaper 21 days ago
In 44-40 caliber. Lt. Bullitt super cool.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?