The Rifleman's Rifle
The 1892 Winchester caliber .44-.40 carbine with a standard 20” barrel that was used on the set of The Rifleman appeared in basically two different style levers. The backwards round D style loop was used in the early episodes. Sometimes the rifle he used had a saddle ring.
The style changed to a more flattened lever instead of the large circle loop. This one had no saddle ring. The 8/32”set screw that was tapped through the trigger guard for the rapid fire action also came in different styles. Some were silver; others were black with a silver nut under the head of the screw. 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. In some of the episodes the screw was taken out completely when rapid fire action was not needed.
This rapid fire mechanism was designed originally just to keep Chucks finger from getting punctured by the trigger as he fired and cocked the rifle very fast. The role demanded that. To have a rifle modified in this way certainly presents a safety hazard since the gun will fire in a semiautomatic fashion as the lever is cocked if the screw is turned in to initiate the trigger. The Rifleman cocked the rifle in two unique fashions. He spin cocked it and swing cocked it. These two cocking methods enabled Chuck to cock the rifle using only one hand. The rife for the show was designed by the Stembridge Gunsmiths (no longer in existence). Ammunition used on the show was also made by Stembridge. They were five in one quarter load blanks. Most if not all the sound effects for the rifle shots were dubbed into the footage which is why the rifle sounded so different from the other gunshots on the show. The 1892 Winchester rifle holds eleven shots, although a twelfth shot was dubbed in to the famous opening scene of the show.
By the way, there are four different beginnings to the show. Another modification was needed since the 92 rifle is a top eject 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 the rifle was swing cocked down by Chuck Connors side 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 1892 Winchester rifle, a descendant of the Henry and 1866 "Yellow Boy" rifles were made from 1892 until 1941 and total production was in excess of one million pieces. Many variations and calibers were introduced over the course of the 50 years production, but the basic design was largely unaltered. Winchester made 27 different variations of their 1892 rifle. Like the earlier model 1873, the light and handy Model 1892 was chambered for what are thought of today as handgun power cartridges.
Since Chuck Connors was truly ambidextrous he handled the rifle left handed and right handed with the same ease. I have the rifle and it takes practice to handle it with the look of ease that Lucas McCain did. To shoot it with rapid fire succession it takes as much force to push the lever forward and eject the shells before pulling it back to fire. 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