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Ben Cartwright's Winchester Model 1873

Ben Cartwright's Winchester Model 1873

The second-longest-running Western television series ever aired was "Bonanza," the epic saga of the Cartwright family, set on the Ponderosa Ranch against the rugged backdrop of California's Sierra Nevadas shortly after the Civil War. Correspondingly, Colt Single Action Army revolvers and Winchester rifles were frequently seen onscreen. Unlike many other Western dramas, however, the Cartwrights of "Bonanza" did not spend each episode armed to the teeth fighting off outlaws, rustlers or other marauders at the drop of a hat. The series ran from 1959 to 1973, totaling 430 episodes in its 14 seasons.

To arm family patriarch Ben Cartwright, played by Lorne Greene, a special Winchester Model 1873 carbine was crafted. With nickel-plated barrel and receiver, the lever-action's stock also bore a large "C" for Cartwright set off by nickel metal accents. Chambered in .44-40, this carbine could take the most popular centerfire ammunition available for either rifle or handgun in the West and, more importantly, functioned well with 5-in-1 blanks. This cinematic Winchester is part of "Guns West!" the featured exhibit currently in the William B. Ruger Changing Gallery for the remainder of 2009.

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