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Old TV Series Westerns

Updated on November 17, 2009

Lucas McCain and Josh Randall, popular Western characters on TV in the late 1950's and early 1960's

"The Rifleman" starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain with his custom large loop lever Winchester Model 1892 chambered for the black powder .44-40 cartridge with his son, Mark.
"The Rifleman" starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain with his custom large loop lever Winchester Model 1892 chambered for the black powder .44-40 cartridge with his son, Mark.
"Wanted Dead or Alive" starring Steve McQueen as Josh Randall, bounty hunter with his cut down Mare's Leg Winchester Model 1892.
"Wanted Dead or Alive" starring Steve McQueen as Josh Randall, bounty hunter with his cut down Mare's Leg Winchester Model 1892.

Justice, Honor and American Values...TV Westerns

Check out two of my favorite TV Westerns that I grew up with as a young boy in 50's and 60's. My very favorite weekly TV series Western was the "Rifleman".

"The Rifleman" starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain. The Rifleman was a single dad, who along with his son Mark, lived on their ranch in New Mexico of the 1890's. I can remember watching this TV series just about every week with my Dad from the time I was five years of age. My Dad really liked the show, so of course, I did, too. Lucas McCain's rifle was an 1892 Winchester in caliber .44-40 modified with a large loop cocking lever that when cocked and then locked, chambered and fired the round all at once, so the trigger never had to be touched or pressed on this gun. On the show, Lucas McCain's gun was at least as fast as any modern semi-auto firearm. What a cool gun.

The Rifleman dispensed "Western Justice" to the bad guys as he always beat them to the draw when they were drawing their much smaller 1873 Colt single action revolvers which were no match against the lightning speed of Lucas McCain's single handed and ambidextrous use of his custom lever action Winchester 1892, which by the way, held 11 rounds of the black powder .44-40 rounds in the tubular magazine below the barrel. But...TV being what TV is, mostly make believe, Lucas McCain was always depicted shooting way more than 11 rounds out of his famous gun before ever having to reload. In fact, sometimes it seemed that his Winchester rifle held more rounds than a Thompson submachinegun equipped with a 50 round drum magazine. But...that's Hollywood for you.

Today, this genre of then considered "Family Friendly" TV show would not be considered appropriate for young children as too many people got shot by Lucas McCain and others. In 2009, our Politically Correct TV networks still have weekly TV shows where plenty of people still get shot with firearms, but now only the police and government approved types have the sanctioned authority to have and use guns. All of the other characters on most of the 21st century shoot 'em up cop shows who also have guns, are the criminals. They are always depicted as nefarious ones who can't have legal access to firearms as only the government authorities(the so-called good guys)should have the guns. That's one of the main reasons on why most American adults and young children today are generally against citizen ownership of guns. On television today, only the proper government authorities should have guns, all others who have guns or illegal guns as they are now called are criminals. In the Old West, regular citizens, family people, good people, law abiding people such as Lucas McCain had guns. But...nowadays, ordinary law abiding citizens can't be trusted with firearms, if you are a politically correct thinking person of the 21st century.

Everyone says we have come a long way since the days of the Old West, but when one thinks about it, we are so much more trusting of government authority now. Back over 100 years ago,and even in the 1950's and 1960's, American citizens had much less trust in their government authorities and our government acted accordingly as the government feared the people and not the other way around as it is today in America. So, have we progressed? It's good to remember that German and Soviet citizens also trusted their governments without question and look what that did for them.

To get a glimpse of that time in our TV history, give a watch to these YouTube videos of "The Rifleman" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" to see how it used to be as this was mainstream TV when I was growing up.

"The Rifleman" Theme and Opening

"The Rifleman" only used his gun for hunting animals, not men...Excuse Me?

"Wanted Dead or Alive"

There was another very similar TV Western series that ran about the same time as the Rifleman, this CBS weekly Western was called, "Wanted Dead or Alive" starring Steve McQueen as Josh Randall, an Old West bounty hunter who also carried a Model 1892 Winchester. His Winchester was cut down to a wearable holster size with a very short barrel and cut down stock. The gun Josh Randall carried was and is still known as a "Mare's Leg" as it kicked severely. In this weekly series, which was not as popular as the "Rifleman", Josh Randall, the Bounty Hunter had a good heart, but only for the honest folks.

He dispensed extremely powerful instant justice with his Mare's Leg Winchester. His gun, at least in the series, was depicted as chambered for the even more powerful, .45-70, the Old West black powder buffalo hunter cartridge as can be seen on Josh Randall's cartridge loops on his holster belt. In actuality, Steve McQueen's Mare's Leg and all Mare's Leg Winchesters were never chambered for the extremely powerful buffalo cartridge, the .45-70. Steve McQueen wanted the extremely large .45-70 rounds on his gun belt in the TV series as these very big cartridges looked so much more impressive than the smaller .44-40 cartridges.

"Wanted Dead or Alive" opening and closing credits


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      7 years ago

      Hello Bob,

      I too remember the TV series "How The West Was Won" starring James Arness(A native Minnesotan, WWII veteran along with his brother Peter Graves of the TV series "Mission Impossible".) You may be able to watch some episodes for free online. But if you want all the episodes from all of the 3 seasons, check out this website to purchase the DVDs:

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      7 years ago

      Wish I could get a copy of how the west was won starring James Arness. Have been looking for a long time.

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      John Ashley 

      8 years ago

      I truly enjoy all the old tv westerns and wish they could be back on some local stations to watch.


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