The rifle on The Rifleman was the biggest error on the show

Lucas McCain just might have been a time traveler.

Hollywood gunsmith James Sydney Stembridge was old enough to remember the Wild West. Following the Spanish-American War, the East Coast native headed west to California. Sometime in the 1910s in Los Angeles, he met pioneering filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, who asked Stembridge for help in making a movie.

DeMille was relatively new to the industry — but then again, the industry was just as new. In 1914, DeMille released his first movie, The Squaw Man. Well, it was not only his first movie, it was the first-ever feature-film considered to be shot in Hollywood. Naturally, Hollywood being Hollywood, it was the first movie to ever be remade. DeMille shot a remake of The Squaw Man in 1918. Yes, just four years later.

It is likely on this production that Stembridge and DeMille first collaborated. The two quickly founded Stembridge Gun Rentals to supply prop guns to the movie industry. 

For the rest of the 20th century, Stembridge Gun Rentals became the major prop arms supplier in Hollywood. The company was responsible for everything from Han Solo's pistol to Tony Montana's "little friend" to Arnold's shotgun in Terminator 2. You know, the one he flips around to cock.

Speaking of which, Stembridge was also responsible for perhaps the most iconic prop gun in TV Western history — Lucas McCain's rifle. After all, the show was called The Rifleman.

As demonstrated every episode in the opening credits, McCain could quickly fire his custom rifle — and give it a little flip in his right hand, thanks to the large loop on the lever. 

The Rifleman production used three prop guns. Two of them were Winchester Model 1892s. The third was "stunt rifle" of sorts, a Gárate y Anitúa "El Tigre," a Spanish knock-off of the 1892. That one could be used to batter things, toss on the ground, etc. The Winchesters were more precious.

But that "1892" was no mere model number — it was the year that Winchester first manufactured the rifle.

So there's one big problem. The Rifleman takes place in the 1880s. Need proof? In the episode "The Wyoming Story," we see a plaque created by Lucas and Mark McCain at their home. The date reads "1881."

How did Lucas get his rifle a decade early? We'll never know.

Also, Chuck Connors was left-handed. Hollywood!

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wm4t 8 months ago
Lucus Mccain wears Wrangle jeans, but they didn't come out until 1947!
Chuck 20 months ago
I read somewhere that the rifle fires only twelve shots but they had the sound track altered to 13. The reason was the producer thought the cadence sounded better with the 13th shot.
Anyone 28 months ago
For goodness sake, it's a TV show. Watch it, enjoy it. Next, you'll be asking why the characters don't go to the toilet. Oh yeah, some bozos already asked that.
SidewonderJerry 29 months ago
The big flaw I see is why didn't the rifle fire while doing the spin cock?
I get the set screw moving the trigger. However, if the set screw was in place all the time the rifle would fire during the spin cock. If it wasn't in place all the time then you'd have to set it after doing the spin cock; which wouldn't be something you'd have time to do in a gun fight.
7591tony 46 months ago
I watch because I remember watching with my Dad in the early 60's and I watch now every day it is on. Brings back the good days. Plus there is no profanity, so my grand kids can watch with me!
janetejwash 50 months ago
The most endearing thing about this program is the relationship between Mark and his Dad. 'The Wyoming Story', which I watched for the first time, yesterday (Sat.), had a blockbuster ending; when those two came together again after a two-month separation. Wow!
Msmonk08 janetejwash 39 months ago
That was my favorite also.....I love the relationship they had, the single dad role, and when he told Mark the story of Job!!!!!
SRN janetejwash 13 months ago
I love the early episode where a self-styled "prophet" (played by George MacGredy [sp?]) is out to kill Mark because Lucas was part of a posse that captured his own outlaw son, who was subsequently hanged.
At the end, seeing that Mark is a God-fearing boy, saves his life by shooting a rattlesnake before he could bite the boy. Then, the old man died from a fatal coronary.
I love the scene where Lucas embraced his son after seeing that the boy was alive.

I also love the episode called "The Vision", where Mark--suffering from typhoid fever--hallucinated that he met his dead mother in an idyllic setting.
Lucas was sick with fear that his son might die, and actually wept!
BTW, this was Johnny Crawford's favorite episode.
Diana 50 months ago
The nit-picky details mean nothing to me. They aren't why I watched the show. It was the bond between Lucas and Mark and the things happening in their lives that still keep me glued to the show, no matter how many repeats I'e watched over the years!
Ed 52 months ago
An 1892 Winchester in the 1880's West is nothing rare in these old western shows. He likely would have had an 1873, but those were even in the days of The Rifleman harder to find. But viewers are asked to suspend disbelief and enjoy the show. After all, the western rig holsters seen in all TV westerns never existed in the late 19th century. They are a product entirely invented for TV. People just wore belt holsters, or tucked their pistols in their coat pockets or trousers. There was never a quick draw contest in the Old West. People went into a shootout just like they do now, with their guns already out and ready.
Greg 52 months ago
Oh no you mean we can't depend on westerns to be historicly acurate. Like the fact all the Natives were on reservations long before settlement of new territories. The west was won with registered guns belonging to the U.S. Army.
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