The Rifleman's Rifle
The concept of The Rifleman Television show revolves around the unique weapon wielded by the title character Lucas McCain, and his proficiency with it. Customized by James S. Stembridge, Lucas McCain’s modified 1892 Winchester SRC in .44-.40 caliber features a large rounded ring that allowed him to cock it by twirling the rifle 360 degrees. While presumably, this wouldn’t be any faster than the conventional cocking method, the technique itself was probably a good psychological weapon, as the move may be likened to a samurai brandishing his sword with lightning speed. This may startle (or puzzle) an adversary and cause him to drop his guard momentarily.
The Rifleman’s rifle appeared in basically two different style levers. The style changed during the series to a more flattened lever instead of the large circular loop. This modified lever enabled Lucas McCain to lever the rifle in two unique fashions. He could spin dramatically in front of him and swing it by his side as seen often in the show.
The 92 Carbine used on the show was a top eject rifle, meaning the top is completely open when the lever is cocked forward and the empty shells are ejected straight up in the air when the lever is pulled towards you. When Chuck Connors spun the rifle by his side or up in front of him, the rifle cartridges would have fallen to the ground when he had it upside down. So they had a rifle with a special plunger built inside that would hold a bullet in place for this trick. The ammunition used in the show was custom made 5 in 1 movie blanks. These blanks were made in ¼ loads, ½ loads, and full load volume charges.
Another feature of the rifle was a screw pin attached to the large loop lever which was positioned so as to trip the trigger when the ring was slammed home, thus allowing Lucas to rapid-fire the rifle, similarly to a semi-automatic pistol. The trigger trip screw pin was also used in two configurations. Sometimes Chuck had the screw head turned inside close to the trigger. Most of the times he had it on the outside of the trigger guard with a lock nut on the outside to further secure its position. In some of the episodes the screw was taken out completely when rapid fire action was not needed. When properly adjusted, this screw “squeezed” the trigger when the lever was fully closed. I may also add that it is important that the breech bolt on the rifle is fully closed at the precise time that the pin screw trips the trigger. The timing of the rifle action being in sync with the trigger trip is very critical to perform the rapid-firing of a Rifleman’s rifle. In other words the set screw installed through the trigger guard part of the lever must be installed and be adjusted to strike the trip of the trigger at exactly the right time-provided of course, that the action is adjusted properly to work under this kind of triggering. So configured, the lever action carbine functioned as a “slip hammer” gun, as there was no need to squeeze the trigger to fire the shot. Accordingly, Chuck Connors, as Lucas McCain could rapid fire the modified Winchester 92 S.R.C. as fast as he was able to manipulate the big loop lever. The athletic Chuck Connors practiced until he was a master at rapid-fire with either hand with his unique fast firing Rifleman’s rifle. Of course Chuck could also back the screw a few turns out of the trigger guard and the special rifle functioned normally. If one attempts to operate a lever action rifle at maximum speed without this rapid-fire modification, there’s a danger of serious injury should the trigger finger get in the way of the tip of the trigger as the lever is slammed shut. According to gun coach Rod Redwing, Chuck Connors practiced until he could rapid-fire his Rifleman’s rifle without the device.
Since Chuck Connors was truly ambidextrous he handled the rifle left handed and right handed with the same ease. I custom build as well as use them and it takes practice to handle it with the look of ease of Lucas McCain. A beginner would have to be careful spin cocking the rifle because you can hit yourself in the face or chest as you are learning the Rifleman's tricks. It's just pure fun to me. I call it rifle therapy.
MORE RIFLE PICTURES HERE
Mike's rifle pictures:
Lever style 1
Lever style 2