Sequels (Page 2)
Replicas of famous Hollywood guns are available to shooters who want to imitate the Wild West.
By Rick Hacker
Unlike the originals, all of the replicas have 12-inch barrels, which translate into six-round-capacity magazines. Rather than being cut-down rifles, the replicas are factory-assembled as pistols, which make them legal in all but a few backward-thinking states, such as California, which share the antiquated Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division’s confusion of not knowing whether to classify this firearm as a rifle or handgun. Jim Buchanan of J.B. Custom was first out the gate with a Mare’s Leg replica and now offers two versions by Chiappa, a standard model ($1,295) and a takedown ($1,695), which features an octagon barrel, as seen in the latter episodes of the TV series. Although the rest of the replicas use round barrels as initially seen in “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” the show’s latter-style triangular lever appears on the Puma Bounty Hunter from Chiappa and Legacy Sports, which is available in .44-40 Win., .44 Mag. and .45 Colt ($1,212). Taylor’s & Co. announced its Boot Leg matte black version in .45 Colt, although prices were not yet available. The Rossi Ranch Hand ($536 to $655) is chambered for .357 Mag., .44 Mag. or .45 Colt, and sports a wider-looped lever reminiscent of the first guns seen on the series, although McQueen’s lever was slightly more rectangular in design.
In 1958 loop-levered Winchester 92s were at the forefront of TV westerns, because the same year and month McQueen starting stalking outlaws with his Mare’s Leg, Chuck Connors, as Lucas McCain, began dispensing justice in North Fork, New Mexico Territory. He used a modified, extra-wide-looped Winchester ’92 carbine that enabled the ex-baseball star to crank off 10 shots in fewer than 10 seconds during the opening sequence of “The Rifleman,” which remained on the air until 1963. The secret to Chuck’s rapid-fire prowess was a screw that protruded through the trigger guard and could be adjusted to trip the trigger every time the lever slammed home. Or it could be backed out so the carbine fired in normal fashion. Early in the series Connors added a nut to secure the screw so that it could not accidentally back out, as it did during his appearance on the Johnny Carson Show, resulting in him rapidly ejecting 10 unfired blanks from the carbine, which clattered onto the stage floor.
“Oh, did you want me to fire the gun?” Connors quipped to a bemused Carson. And at six-five, the ambidextrous Connors could shoot with either hand and spin-cock the carbine—one of two Winchesters and an El Tigre used on the show—with ease. Having known Connors and now owning one of the carbines that hung on his Tehachapi ranch house wall, a few years ago on “American Rifleman Television” I demonstrated the speed with which this gun could be fired, using blanks, like on “The Rifleman.” Shooting live ammunition in such a rapid-fire manner is extremely dangerous, as recoil will cause the muzzle to go wild.
It is for this reason that the limited-edition offering of a .44-40 Win. Chuck Connor's Commemorative 1892 Carbine by Legacy Sports a few years ago has a non-functioning set screw, which is strictly for appearance. The left side of the receiver and right side of the stock features Chuck’s etched signature, along with an inlaid silver medallion with Chuck’s portrait. Priced at $1,299 each, which includes a DVD of two “The Rifleman” episodes plus a black-and-white portrait of Connors and a certificate of authenticity signed by Jeff Connors, one of Chuck’s four sons, only 1,000 sequentially numbered commemoratives were produced, and a few may still be found on some dealers’ shelves.
Fans of NRA board member Tom Selleck’s “Quigley Down Under” might want to check out the tack-driving Davide Pedersoli-made Quigley replica (actually an 1874 Sharps with Hartford fore-end and an 1863 patch box) sold by Cabela’s ($1,999), Dixie Guns Works ($1,850), Taylor’s & Co ($2,492), and Cimarron Firearms ($2,204 to $2,588 in calibers from .45-70 Gov’t to .50-90). As a further tribute to Selleck, Cimarron also catalogues an Uberti casehardened Crossfire Trail 1876 carbine ($1,816) in .45-60 Win. and .45-75 Win. calibers.
In fact, Cimarron has the largest offerings of Hollywood western movie replicas, including its “Holy Smoker” ($945), a 4 3/4-inch-barreled single-action .45 Colt with gold cross grip inlays that duplicates the sixgun used by Russell Crowe in the remake of “3:10 To Yuma.” Then there is their Rooster Shooter, an “original finish” (antiqued) single-action with faint finger grooved faux “aged ivory” stocks that duplicates the well-worn Colt SAA John Wayne carried in some of his roles, including as Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit.” Available in .357 Mag., .44-40 Win. and .45 Colt and priced at $888, it is a bargain, considering Wayne’s actual sixgun sold for $95,000 at auction a few years ago.
Although Colt is not currently producing its third-generation Buntline Special, in 2010 it made a limited-edition Hugh O’Brian-Wyatt Earp Tribute Buntline cased set (in honor of the actor who played Wyatt Earp in the TV series) with a matching 4 3/4-inch Peacemaker. However, inspired by the 1993 film “Tombstone” starring Kurt Russell, Cimarron has brought out a 10-inch-barreled .45 Colt Wyatt Earp Buntline ($888), complete with sterling silver-inlaid grip presentation plaque, although the 10-inch version used in the movie sported a brass plaque engraved by craftsman John Ennis. Actually, there were three consecutively numbered Buntlines used in the movie, one of which is now owned by Kurt Russell, who played Wyatt Earp. Like the movie guns, Cimarron’s Buntline is made by Uberti (although the movie guns used Colt barrels).
However, as an unabashed fan of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name,” one of my favorite replicas is Cimarron’s MWNN ($599), which is basically an Uberti 1851 Navy converted to fire .38 Spl., just as the cap-and-ball movie guns were converted to fire blanks and—like Eastwood’s movie gun in “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”—is complete with rammer, which obviously serves no purpose. But for $842, you can get this highly accurate six-shooter with an optional inlaid silver rattlesnake grip, as used by Eastwood in this epic Italian western. An MWNN 5 1/2-inch or 4 3/4-inch barrel .45 single-action is also offered with silver rattlesnake grip for those who prefer the earlier gun Eastwood used in “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For A Few Dollars More.” Some might remember when Eastwood, as Rowdy Yates, took a similar gun from an outlaw he had dispatched in the TV series, “Rawhide,” which aired on CBS from 1959 until 1966.
Indeed, just as John Wayne never abandoned the loop lever carbine that launched his career, and Clint Eastwood resurrected the silver rattlesnake stocks at the beginning of his climb to stardom, today’s replica guns of the Hollywood westerns are, for many of us, today’s real shooting stars.