Connors had a box office hit in 1957 with Disney’s Old Yeller, in which he starred with charismatic child actors Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. When producers saw the chemistry between the actors on screen and that Connors could talk to a kid with such respect and understanding, they knew Connors was worth more money. They upped the ante and Connors accepted their revised offer.
The producer of The Rifleman, Arnold Laven, claimed in an interview that the famous rifle used on the show by Connors was the same weapon John Wayne used in the megahit Western Stagecoach. It was allegedly an 1892 .44-40 Winchester rifle. Connors fired 12 shots with the rifle in the memorable opening credits that ran before each weekly episode. Turns out, the gun was slightly out of place…
But Wait A Minute
According to the show’s notes, sets and historical references, The Rifleman took place in the 1870s and 1880s. McCain carried a cool modified Winchester Model 1892 with a big ring lever, which allowed him to do that awesome cocking by spinning the gun in his hand. Unless he was also a time traveler, that gun hadn’t yet been made.
Was it historical inaccuracies that led the show to go off the air? We’ll find out soon.