John Wayne burst into stardom and audience’s hearts everywhere in “Stagecoach,” wielding the Winchester 1892 “Saddle Ring Carbine” with a large lever loop. Wayne’s rifle in the film proved to be iconic. But it had a second life in this classic western series.
The Winchester was the titular rifle in the Chuck Connors-led show “The Rifleman.”
That’s right both Wayne’s Ringo Kid and Lucas McCain wielded the same gun. In a 2006 Q&A with a fan, “The Rifleman” producer Arnold Laven confirmed that the rifle was the same weapon. A viewer had long expected it but could never confirm it as fact.
“Pete is quite right in assuming that the Stagecoach rifle and the was the same as the Rifleman’s,” Laven said. “As I recall when Chuck and I met with Stembridge he related it to the one used by John Wayne in Stagecoach. I’m not positive if he said that it was the exact one. Or one of several that may, or may have not been used during the filming of ‘Stagecoach.'”
The producer believed Wayne’s “Stagecoach” used more than one version of the Winchester. So there may actually be many rifles from that film.
“The property department, which is responsible for having the rifle on the set, always has one. Or more duplicates available in case the rifle malfunctions during a scene,” Laven continued. “So I believe, it is safe to say, that it is the same as the Stagecoach rifle…modified by inserting the screw in the trigger guard.”
John Wayne in ‘Stagecoach’
John Wayne became the de facto cowboy during his career. He managed to make a name for himself with his countless westerns, breaking to the front of the pack. But back when he filmed “Stagecoach,” Wayne was mostly an unknown quantity. He had been the leading man in several films. But none struck the box office equivalent of gold.
He had no guarantee he was going to make it in Hollywood any more than he did as a football player. But Wayne’s Ringo Kid proved to be the most remembered part of “Stagecoach.” Wayne was helped by the now-famous entrance his character has in the film. Flipping the rifle around, Wayne became a star.
And likewise, Wayne passing off the rifle to Chuck Connors helped make him a star. “The Rifleman” may not have lasted as long as some of the other westerns. But it’s still beloved by many.