Steve McQueen Rifle Review

One of the most popular Western television shows of the ‘60s was “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. These extremely famous half hour TV episodes had as main character a clever bounty hunter named Josh Randall, played by Steve McQueen. One of the most notorious details about this film was the fact that the hero carried with him a modified Winchester 1892. This 44-40 lever- action rifle even had a nickname- the “Mare’s leg”. This unique weapon had a barrel cut down to less than a foot long and a reduced stock so that Randall could carry it on his hip. Firearms enthusiasts were fascinated by the rugged look and effectiveness of this rifle, and even after more than 50 years it represents one of the most famous guns in the world.

Steve McQueen’s Rifle is the actor’s signature piece and it is a collectible item. Those with a true passion for firearms can’t even conceive having a guns collection without including this iconic model in their set. Furthermore, it is available in several versions. For instance, the well-known gun manufacturer Rossi has it in .45 Colt, .44 magnum and .38 special/.357 magnum.

No doubt about it, it is America’s favorite TV western “Fun Gun”. From 1958 to 1961, Steve McQueen has played the role of a bounty hunter named Josh Randall in the series “Wanted: Dear Or Alive”, bringing justice  to TV outlaws thanks to its loop-levered Model 92 that was personalized with a unique shortened stock and barrel so it could be holstered on the hip in an open-sided holster, like a revolver. McQueen found a very interesting nickname for his rifle- the “Mare’s Leg”. Why is that? He actually tried firing with this gun in real life, with live ammo and when he did this he found out that it kicked like a mule.

When TV Westerns were extremely popular, most of the studios filed down the mainsprings of Single Action Armies to help their actors use them faster and easier. Nowadays, the Wolff mainsprings are added to the gun to achieve the same results.

It goes without saying, the Steve McQueen’s riffle has never been manufactured before filming for “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. It was the figment of producer John Robinson’s imagination who wanted to create a nine-inch barrel and no sights gun fitted for a Western hero, a firearm that would get everyone’s attention.

The first fuss around this weapon came from the U.S. Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division which declared the Mare’s Leg illegal because it was neither a pistol nor a rifle. Then the studio had to spend about $11,000 in registration fees so that Mare’s Leg could follow its path towards success. This is also the story of how it became the most expensive gun in TV Western history. Another interesting thing about the rifle is that even though it was a .44-40, Steve McQueen used to carry .45-70 shells in his gun belt because the larger cartridge looked better on screen.

Nowadays, there are about four different manufacturers that sell the Mare’s Leg with 12-inch barrels and front and rear sights, instead of the nine-inch tubes that the original riffle had. These replications of the famous firearm carried by Steve McQueen in the movie are exquisite pieces, crafted flawlessly with a great care for both aesthetic and functional details.



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