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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Ed 18 days 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 18 days 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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