The Rifleman
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Colt Single Action Revolver
This is the weapon use in the Sidewinder by Grid Maule played by Billy Hughes Jr.

If you watch Westerns on TV, whether movies or television shows, one thing is certain – you will see both the good and bad guys shooting at each other with revolvers. The model of revolver you will see them using most of the time is the Colt Single Action revolver. Some people refer to it as the Colt SA (“single action”) and others call it the Colt SAA (“single action army”).  It was often called the Colt Peacemaker, though this was not an official trademarked name. (Sort of generic like “Kleenex” or “Jell-O”; other guns were also said to have been called ‘Peacemakers’.) This design was introduced in 1873 originally with a barrel length of 7½ inches but later became available in 5½ and 4¾ inch barrels, as well as some others. It immediately became extremely popular and remained so for quite a few years after. With some breaks in production, Colt has been producing their SA revolvers now for well over 130 years.

Here are some screen captures from the Rifleman episode entitled “Sidewinder” in which a young boy comes gunning for Lucas McCain and also tries to involve Mark McCain in an apparent duel. The main character, Gridley Maule, had a pair of revolvers, apparently a matched set; here are some detail shots as accurately as can be gotten from rather dark-exposed old black and white television film:

Mark McCain picks up the revolver that was tossed to himnotice the way the gun’s grip curves up and then forward at the top, then runs into a bit of a hump. Also notice that running up the back of the gun’s grip is apparently a bright strip, likely brass.

Here is that same revolver a bit later, tucked into the gunbelt of Gridley Maule (played by Billy Hughes Jr.). Look closely at the gun and you can see the cylinder (that thing which rotates and holds the bullets) and the gun barrel are very dark, while the frame of the gun (the part that holds the cylinder and has the trigger and hammer mounted on it) is a lighter silver-y color. These circumstances indicate that the gun very probably has a blued barrel and cylinder, and a colored case hardened frame, both of which would have been authentic for what was available back in the “Rifleman” era. Also, the gun appears to have wooden grips as they are too shiny and not dark enough to be the black rubber grips which some Colt SA’s had, and the brass strap is also visible running up the back of the grip again.

Here’s Gridley Maule reloading his gun and you can see that its barrel length is 4¾”. How? See the thing right mounted next to the barrel (to its left, in the picture) that is almost as long? That is the ejector. On Colt SA-type guns, if the ejector is nearly as long as the barrel,  then the barrel is 4¾” long; if the barrel is somewhat longer than the ejector, then it’s a 5½”; and if the barrel is considerably longer it’s a 7½” barrel. Even longer barrels were available as well but are much less common than these three sizes.

Look at this view of the underside of a Colt SA replica and compare it to the underside of the one Gridley Maule is holding above. Note the resemblance and relationship between the barrel, the ejector, and the lever (that half-moon thing that works the ejector). Also note the similarity in the area between the trigger guard and the frame where the barrel and ejector are mounted. The different angles of the photos make the barrel length appear somewhat different but it is the same in both photos – 4¾ inches. And again, the color of the underside of the gun frame appears to be lighter colored than the gun barrel. (However, the example immediately below does not have the brass strap on the back of the grip, which would also show up as brass in the trigger guard.)

This gun is actually not a Colt but one of the numerous very accurate reproductions available today. (The real Colts are quite expensive.) Between different barrel lengths, different grips, blued vs. color case hardened vs. nickel plated, there are many variations on these guns. Based on the shape of the grip, the brass strap up the back of the grip, the color difference between the gun frame and the cylinder and barrel, and the length of the barrel compared to the ejector as seen in the Rifleman screen captures, the gun below is a very close copy to the ones used in this episode of Rifleman – and countless other Western TV shows and movies. Very likely the guns used in the television program would have been rather well used and the grips not so shiny as these, but this is about the closest possible view to what they looked like ‘in person’.



Have you see the episode #158 The Sidewinder?  An excellent episode!  Rooster & I agreed that it should have had a stronger ending.  So rooster agreed to do an alternate ending for The McCain Ranch.  What a great ending!
Check out roosters The Sidewinder the alternate ending ~Thanks rooster!

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