The Rifleman
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Hollywood’s Oldest Living Actor

If ever there was a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for props or inanimate objects featured in films or television, the Winchester rifle would have to get top billing.   Dorothy’s red slippers or Indiana Jones whip couldn’t hold a candle to the number of appearances the Winchester rifle has appeared on the silver screen.   Many times the rifle will be a extra, or background prop but sometimes the rifle will be as much of the movie as the stars that appear with it.   Case in point, the movie “Winchester 73”.   The rifle takes on an identity jus as much as the characters themselves.   I know this my seem a little strange to the normal movie and television buff but to a “Gun Nut”, no a “Gun enthusiast” this is certainly normal.   I corrected myself when I said “Gun Nut”, because I consider a gun nut to be someone who would ever consider taking a Winchester Rifle with a live round in it and twirling it, to chamber a round, simply a “GUN NUT”.   No a “Gun Enthusiast” is some one who counts the number of rounds shot out of a six gun, or wonder how a movie set in the 1870’s could have 1892 Winchester rifle in it.   One word Hollywood.   I recently watched what is considered one of the first if, not the first real moving picture “The Great Train Robbery” and there it was, the Winchester Rifle.

The combination of John Browning’s ingenious designs, and Oliver Winchester’s marketing abilities, made the Winchester rifles one of the most popular inventions of it’s time.   Often said to be the “Gun That Tamed the West” it also helped develop the film industry in Hollywood.   To a gun enthusiast, every movie and television show is studied watched, re-watched, slowed down and critiqued until ever scene that my have a blooper relating to exacting specifications of the guns being used is approved.   Often I will lose interest in a movie such as “Open Range” with Kevin Costner when I see him shoot sixteen or so shots out of a pair of six shot revolvers.   Once, being the gun enthusiast that I am I woke my seventeen year old son out a dead sleep at 1 am. to ask him, what is wrong with this scene in “The Comancheros”?   He answered me correctly and told me not to ever do that again.   He too is a gun enthusiast.                                 

I build the most authentic Rifleman's Rifle Levers on the market. (but not really on the market)   I have built all three levers that was used in the series.   I know everyone says that there was only two, but if you go to episode Gun Shy you will see one style.  


Then go to episode Miss Bertie you will see that there was in fact two later style levers.

 This picture is from The Sharpshooter

Along with the early round lever, that makes three.    

I have spent many years studying all I can about the rifles, of this series.  Most of my time watching the episodes was paying close attention to the changes and subtle differences in each episode, or scene.   For instance the story goes that the later levers were simply an accident. Chuck had a difficult temper, and in one scene the rifle kept malfunctioning, because it is difficult to shoot a very light weight blanks through a gun that is designed to fire a 200 grain bullet in the action.   In anger he threw the gun and thus was formed one of the later levers.   I am not sure which but if I was guessing it would be the more square lever, shown in the episode "Mrs. Bertie".   Later I believe the other gun was modified in an unorthodox fashion, of simply putting the lever in a vise and trying to duplicate as close as possible.   If any one has worked with metal much, they will tell you every piece of metal has soft and more tempered portions, therefore the other lever didn't come out the same.   I truly believe the "Square" lever rifle appeared in more episodes, but I would have to do more research.  

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