Behind-The-Scene Facts From One Of America’s Favorite Westerns: The Rifleman

In 1958, ABC aired what would become known as one of the greatest television Westerns of all time, The Rifleman. Set in a New Mexico Territory in the 1870s and 1880s, the series starred Chuck Connors as widower rancher Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his young son, Mark.

For five seasons, fans watched the father-and-son adventure, learning life lessons in the process. Keep reading; there’s more to The Rifleman than guns and good times; there are some behind-the-scenes secrets to learn!

The Show Almost Lost Its Lead Actor Before Filming Began

The Show Almost Lost Its Lead Actor Before Filming Began
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Originally, lead actor Chuck Connors turned down the role of Lucas McCain, saying that the salary he was offered was too low for his time. So, casting directors went to plans B and C, aka James Whitmore and John Anderson, thinking they’d accept the wage.

Unfortunately, they knew Connors was meant to play McCain, especially when they saw what happened when he was put on-screen with younger actors. The chemistry was undeniable.

Connors Is A Three-Time Pro Athlete

Connors Is A Three-Time Pro Athlete
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images
Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

When it comes to Chuck Connors, the tough-guy act he portrays on-screen as Lucas McCain is no joke. The actor is actually a three-time professional athlete, first starting with the Boston Celtics basketball team in 1946, their first-ever squad, then switching to baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers before finishing off with the Chicago Cubs in 1951.

Connors is credited as the first player to ever shatter a backboard! See, the tough-guy act is really not an act at all.

The Gunshot Sounds Were Distinct For A Reason

The Gunshot Sounds Were Distinct For A Reason
ABC
ABC

Fans of the show might remember the distinct gunshot sounds and how they were all different. That’s because a gunshot that didn’t come from McCain’s weapon but was actually edited into the show at a later time.

McCain’s iconic shotgun, however, was loaded with blanks. The two sounds were meant to help the audience differentiate between McCain’s shots and anyone else who happened to have a gun. Honestly, it makes McCain that much scarier!

One Of The First U.S. Shows To Air In The Soviet Union

One Of The First U.S. Shows To Air In The Soviet Union
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Oddly enough, former Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev loved The Rifleman so much that he made it the only United States television show allowed to air in the country. Even stranger, Brezhnev, and lead actor Chuck Connors became friends!

They met one another in 1973, during an event hosted by Richard Nixon at the White House. The two hit it off, becoming unlikely friends. Brezhnev even invited Connors to visit him on more than one occasion!

Connors’ Gun Was Used By Another Western Star

Connors Gun Was Used By Another Western Star
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

If there is one aspect of The Rifleman fans remember, it’s the shotgun Connors’ character Lucas McCain totes around. And while it might be infamous in the series, show creator Arnold Laven once claimed another famous Western star used the weapon in one of their projects.

According to Laven, actor John Wayne used the same 1892 .44-40 Winchester rifle in the megahit film Stagecoach. But there were a few modifications made for Rifleman.

The Winchester Model 1892 Got More Than One Modification

The Winchester Model 1892 Got More Than One Modification
ABC
ABC

Since Westerns were very popular during the time The Rifleman aired, showrunners wanted to set it apart. The question was, how? They decided a gun modification was in order. They took a Winchester Model 1892 rifle and added a large ring lever tapped for a set screw.

These particular modifications allowed Connors to cock the gun as it spun around in his hand, his signature move, while the screw allowed for rapid-fire. The latter is seen in the opening credits.

Chuck Connors Had Quite A Habit

Chuck Connors Had Quite A Habit
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While smoking wasn’t quite as taboo in the 1950s, people still tended to notice when someone lit 60 up in the span of a single day. Chuck Connors had quite a bad habit, even though his character is only seen smoking once on-screen.

It’s safe to assume that the actor took more than one or ten smoke breaks while filming for The Rifleman. Unfortunately, the habit caught up with him, and Connors suffered from lung cancer and pneumonia.

A Weapon Out Of Time

A Weapon Out Of Time
ABC
ABC

Even though Lucas McCain’s signature weapon doesn’t look out of place in the Western series, it is. While The Rifleman is said to be set in the 1870s and 1880s, the particular modified Winchester model used in the show wouldn’t be invented until 1892.

It looks as though McCain was doing more than being a single parent; he was busy time traveling and picking up a modified gun with a big ring lever!

Paul Fix Went “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

Paul Fix
ABC
ABC

Paul Fix might have played two characters on The Rifleman, but he was part of a cult classic way before he found himself on a wild west set. Fix was once part of the original Star Trek cast.

In the (second) pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Fix plays Dr. Mark Piper. After filming the one episode, Fix was replaced by actor DeForest Kelley and the former actor went on to replace one frontier for another!

Connors Acted Well With Younger Co-Stars

Connors Acted Well With Younger Co-Stars
ABC
ABC

In 1957, Chuck Connors made a splash at the box office with the Disney film Old Yeller. For anyone who watched, it was clear Connors had a unique way of connecting with his younger co-stars.

Considering Rifleman was going to be headed by a father-son duo, Connors was exactly what the casting directors were looking for. So, after being shut down by their original offer, they upped Connors’ offer. He accepted.

The Rifleman Pilot Was Originally Written For Something Else

The Rifleman Pilot Was Originally Written For Something Else
ABC
ABC

Before it became a series, famous Western writer and director Sam Peckinpah originally envisioned the pilot episode for something else, the popular Western series Gunsmoke. Obviously, it was turned down. So, Peckinpah began to develop a different character in a new project.

He tweaked his original script, changing the lead character from John to Lucas McCain and adding a young son into the mix. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Few Twists And A Couple OfTurns

The Rifleman Pilot Was Originally Written For Something Else
Richard C. Miller/Getty Images
Richard C. Miller/Getty Images

With the bones of The Rifleman series set, producer Adam Levan wanted to add a few twists and turns to the plot before filming. So, he made the character of McCain a widower. He is, in fact, one of the first single parent characters seen on television.

This fact has him ranked as the 30th “Greatest TV Dad” of all time. Of course, there were other changes, such as him having a dead shot with a rifle and not a typical sharpshooter.

McCain Had A Talent No One Really Talked About

McCain Had A Talent No One Really Talked About
ABC
ABC

One thing fans of The Rifleman noticed was Lucas McCain’s astounding 99.99 percent accuracy when fending off bad guys. But more than that, they noticed that he was able to do so using either one of his hands.

The fact that the character’s ambidextrous might never come up during the show or in any interviews, but fans are going to give credit where it’s due: having near-perfect aim using either hand is ridiculous!

The Series Is Based On The Writer’s Childhood

The Series Is Based On The Writer's Childhood
Express/Express/Getty Images
Express/Express/Getty Images

Although Arnold Levan created the series, The Rifleman is based on many events that occurred to show developer Sam Peckinpah during his childhood on a ranch. He insisted on violent realism and complex characters, refusing to sugarcoat any instances where the young boy, Mark, had to learn tough life lessons from his father.

Interestingly, this put him at odds with a few of the show’s producers, who didn’t think violence was going to sell. Obviously, they were wrong.

Johnny Crawford Was The Only Kid On Set

Johnny Crawford Was The Only Kid On Set
ABC
ABC

Johnny Crawford landed the role of Mark McCain when he was 12 years old. But he never thought being so young and surrounded by only adults was weird.

During an interview, Crawford said, “The only adjusting that was necessary really was getting to learn everybody’s name. I had a great time and really never thought about the fact that I was a kid. In fact, I wasn’t as young as I looked in those days and felt mature because I was working with adults all the time.”

A Rat Pack Member Made A Guest Appearance

A Rat Pack Member Made A Guest Appearance
ABC
ABC

One of the members of the famous Rat Pack appears in the episode “Two Ounces of Tin.” Sammy Davis Jr. plays the character Tip Corey, a deadeye with some pretty nifty quick draw skills who is wanted by the Marshall out of North Fork.

But that isn’t the only time Davis Jr appears in The Rifleman. He also plays the role of Wade Randall, a cowboy who claims he killed Red Morgan in “The Most Amazing Man.”

One Of The Most Violent Shows On TV

One Of The Most Violent Shows On TV
ABC
ABC

Next to The Untouchables, The Rifleman was considered to be one of the most violent television shows when it first aired in 1958. It makes sense since Lucas McCain pretty much created one of the first automatic weapons, allowing him to shoot down his enemies with rapid speed.

Not to mention the town Marshall was pretty much a happy hour addict, getting drinks forced upon him by North Fork’s enemies and having to bring in McCain to deal with them.

Crawford Went On To Have A Music Career

Crawford Went On To Have A Music Career
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After living in the proverbial spotlight since childhood, it was only a matter of time before Johnny Crawford went the music route, as many child actors do. So, he became a 1950s teen idol, releasing a few Top 40 singles.

Through the 1960s, Crawford had five Top 40 singles, with his most popular being “Cindy’s Birthday.” In 1962, the song reached the number eight spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

A Familiar Face Appears In The First Episode

A Familiar Face Appears In The First Episode
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the first episode of the Rifleman, “The Sharpshooter,” a young Dennis Hopper is seen playing none other than a sharpshooter. He comes back in a later episode, as well, playing a different character in “Three Legged Terror.”

While it’s easy to overlook the young actor since he wasn’t at the peak of his fame, Hopper did manage to climb the ladder of Hollywood. His notable work includes Easy Rider and Rebel Without a Cause.

Crawford Thought The Script Was Getting Stale

Crawford Thought The Script Was Getting Stale
ABC
ABC

Even though he was young at the time, Johnny Crawford could tell that the script was getting staler and staler as the seasons went on. During an interview, he said, “I felt, personally, that the show was getting a little stale and that the scripts were not as good as they had been.”

He continued, “The first season, I still think, was our best, and that was our best season in the ratings.”

Crawford Was Actually Sick While Filming “The Vision”

Crawford Was Actually Sick While Filming
ABC
ABC

As it turns out, Johnny Crawford wasn’t exactly acting while his young character was sick with fever during “The Vision.” Ironically, poor Crawford was actually suffering from a high fever, too!

According to Crawford, the social worker on-set pulled him away from filming until he got better. During an interview, he said, “I tried to keep it a secret from her, but I guess it became somewhat obvious…when she discovered or decided that I was really ill, was when they’re supposed to be packing me in ice.”

Sam Peckinpah Left For A Life In The Movies

Sam Peckinpah Left For A Life In The Movies
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Writer Sam Peckinpah grew up on a ranch, making a lot of people think he was very much qualified to construct enticing stories for The Rifleman. And he did, for the first season.

After the first season came to a close, though, Peckinpah opted to leave the show in favor of films. He went on to contribute to come popular movies, including Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Getaway, and Straw Dogs.

Stuntman Archie Butler Was “In The Show” More Than Any Actor

Archie Butler
ABC
ABC

Aside from the main cast, stuntman Archie Butler was in The Rifleman more than any other actor. While he wasn’t exactly a character, per se, he did stand-in for Paul Fix as a double.

Thought to be a calculated daredevil, Butler was on-hand whenever there was a risky stunt being performed on horseback or anywhere else. He was the perfect man for the job, as he had a vast background in rodeo.

Ground Breaking Character

Ground Breaking Character
ABC
ABC

At the time, Chuck Connors’ character of Lucas McCain was groundbreaking. He was one of the first actors to be portrayed as a single parent on television, a widower raising a son.

When asked about the character, Connors credits writer Sam Peckinpah for writing a realistic father-son relationship that people could relate to. Lucas McCain is now considered to be one of the best on-screen dads in the history of American television.

A Spin-Off Didn’t Do Too Well

A Spin-Off Didn't Do Too Well
ABC
ABC

While Lucas McCain is typically seen around his son, giving tough life lessons and working on their ranch doesn’t mean he doesn’t have older friends. One such friend was the plainsman, played by actor Michael Ansara.

The character is seen in a few episodes of The Rifleman and would up getting his own spin-off series in 1959 called Law of the Plainsman. Unfortunately, the show was a bit ahead of its time and didn’t get nearly the same reception as The Rifleman.

Johnny Crawford Has A Favorite Episode

Johnny Crawford Has A Favorite Episode
ABC
ABC

There is one particular episode of The Rifleman that stands above all others for Johnny Crawford, the episode “The Vision.” Crawford’s character Mark is sick during the episode, having visions of his mother in heaven and his father on earth.

During an interview, Crawford explained why he liked it so much, saying, “At the time I remember thinking that it was very imaginative and unusual. Also, at that time, one of my favorite shows was The Twilight Zone, so that was where my tastes were.”

Paul Fix Played More Than One Character

Paul Fix Played More Than One Character
ABC
ABC

Hollywood in the 1950s found itself short on men to play cowboy roles. Because of that, actors were seen playing multiple roles in shows, including The Rifleman. Actor Paul Fix can be seen in an uncredited role early in the series, playing a doctor in “The Sharpshooter.”

Later on, he gets “promoted” to the supporting role of Marshal Micah Torrance, the happy hour abusive authority in the small town of North Fork, New Mexico.

Over 500 Celebrities Guest-Starred On The Show

Over 500 Celebrities Guest-Starred On The Show
Richard C. Miller/Getty Images
Richard C. Miller/Getty Images

Like many shows, The Rifleman was no stranger to a constant stream of guest stars. Throughout its time, the series had no fewer than 500 celebrity guest stars! That’s a crazy number of people agreeing to appear for a few minutes in a single episode.

The show was just that popular. Some of the more notable guest stars were sportsmen Duke Snider and Don Drysdale, as well as actors Robert Vaughn, and John and Richard Anderson.

Historical Accuracy Of Small Pox

Historical Accuracy Of Small Pox
ABC
ABC

The Rifleman might be about a father and son, but Lucas’s wife, Mark’s mother, is mentioned a few times. One of the times she’s mentioned is actually how she died of smallpox in the 1870s. As it turns out, her dying of the epidemic is historically accurate.

While the disease was running rampant in the 18th century, it didn’t actually make its way to America until the latter part of the 19th century — the same time Lucas’s wife would have passed away.

Started As A Mouse And Now He’s Here

Started As A Mouse And Now He's Here
ABC
ABC

Before he became Mark McCain, Johnny Crawford was actually one of the original 24 Mouseketeers in The Mickey Mouse Club. Unfortunately, for the young actor, it was also the first show he was fired from!

After the first year as a mouse, Crawford was cut from the club because they changed the “membership” which was brought down to 12 years old. So, he went on to audition for other roles, ironically landing the part of Mark McCain when he was 12!

Mrs. Butterworth Was The Owner Of The General Store

Mrs. Butterworth Was The Owner Of The General Store
ABC
ABC

The owner of North Fork’s general store was Hattie Denton; a role played by actress Hope Summers. And while Summers didn’t have any breakthrough roles in film, she was quite the television actress.

She appeared on multiple popular programs, including M*A*S*H, Little House on the Prairie, Bewitched, and The Andy Griffith Show. But Summers is probably best known for something else entirely. She was the voice of the famous talking maple syrup bottle, Mrs. Butterworth!

Crawford Enlisted In The United States Army

Crawford Enlisted In The United States Army
ABC
ABC

In 1965, Johnny Crawford switched gears from the entertainment industry, enlisting in the United States Army. He spent two years with the Army, using his film experience and knowledge to help develop training videos for recruits.

By the time he was honorably discharged in 1967, Crawford had reached the rank of sergeant. After his time in the military, he went back to the entertainment industry. Ironically, one of his first jobs post-Army was as a soldier in an episode of Hawai’i Five-O.

Ongoing Themes Were Part Of The Show

Ongoing Themes Were Part Of The Show
ABC
ABC

One of the most prominent themes of The Rifleman is the life lessons Lucas McCain gives his son, with one of the reoccurring being forgiveness. This particular theme is shown a few times throughout the series.

In the episode “The Marshall,” Lucas shows forgiveness by giving a convict a job on his ranch, showing his son that even people who have done bad things in the past deserve a second chance at doing good.

The Opening Credits Were A Huge Part Of The Show

The Opening Credits Were A Huge Part Of The Show
ABC
ABC

While the show was iconic in and of itself, the opening credits were very memorable in their own unique way. Before the episode starts, the opening credits show Connors’s character Lucas McCain shooting off 12 shots in rapid succession.

Well, with a show called The Rifleman, it makes sense. It was a way to show the audience the character’s insane shooting abilities. The series soundtrack wound up adding a 13th shot to go along with the music.

Violent Or Religious?

Violent Or Religious?
ABC
ABC

While a lot of people thought The Rifleman was overly violent, others didn’t agree. Some fans note how the show was a series of life lessons, often including bible passages to support those lessons.

On TVParty.com, one fan wrote, “I disagree with it being the ‘most’ violent western. Most shows of that era contained quite a bit of violence. What seemed to make The Rifleman different was the fact that those who were killed truly deserved it, and frequently, episodes included a moral lesson – often quoting a biblical passage.”

Connors And Crawford Didn’t Have A Father-Son Relationship

Connors And Crawford Didn't Have A Father-Son Relationship
ABC
ABC

They might have a very close father-son bond on-screen, but Crawford once let it slip that off-screen, they were more like friends than anything. During an interview with AMC, Crawford was asked if he saw Connors as a father figure.

The actor said, “Not really. I had great respect for him, and I loved working with him, but he was very different off-screen. He was incorrigible, a practical joker. It was fun all the time, but he wasn’t a good influence on me aside from his acting.”

North Fork, New Mexico? Try North Fork, California

North Fork, New Mexico? Try North Fork, California
ABC
ABC

Interestingly, the frontier town Lucas and Mark McCain call home in The Rifleman, North Fork, is a real town, just not in New Mexico. The not-so-fictional town is located a bit further up north, in Northern California.

The showrunners wanted to shoot in New Mexico, making it more authentic to the setting. The actors, however, were skeptical about leaving Los Angeles. So, most of the filming was done in Hollywood.

Filming Locations Weren’t In New Mexico

Filming Locations Weren't In New Mexico
ABC
ABC

The Rifleman might be set in New Mexico, but a majority of the series was filmed in various locations around California. The scenes on the McCain ranch were filmed in locations such as Calabasas, Malibu Creek State Park, the former Corriganville Movie Ranch, as well as Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth.

One of the more interesting places, though, is the Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. Fans of the show even have access to the old Western structures.

Started At The Top And Slowly Dwindled Down

Started At The Top And Slowly Dwindled Down
ABC
ABC

When The Rifleman first aired in 1958, it was extremely popular. The first season was ranked the fourth most popular series on television, with 14,547,450 viewers tuning in to watch Lucas and Mark McCain.

Unfortunately, the popularity didn’t last, and the viewership steadily declined during the next four seasons. Eventually, The Rifleman dropped out of the Top 30. But people still hold a special place in their hearts for the wild west father-son duo.

Low Ratings And Aging Caused The Cancelation

Low Ratings And Aging Caused The Cancelation
ABC
ABC

The Rifleman was canceled in 1963, after five seasons. Unlike other shows, there wasn’t one singular reason for the show’s cancelation either. On top of the series low ratings, the network wasn’t too thrilled that actor Johnny Crawford was aging (as kids tend to do).

Apparently, Crawford wasn’t overly upset about the show ending, saying in interviews that after five years, he was getting antsy to work on a different project.

“Chuck” Was Almost “Lefty” Or “Stretch”

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Since childhood, Chuck Connors never liked his birth name, Kevin. So, as any child would do, he tried out a variety of different nicknames. While playing baseball for Seton Hall, he tried out the names “Lefty” and “Stretch.”

Thankfully, neither of them stuck. “Chuck” came about because he would yell to the pitcher, “Chuck it to me, baby, chuck it to me!” from his first base position. The name caught on, and the rest is history.

Production Was Ahead Of Its Time

Production Was Ahead Of Its Time
ABC
ABC

Having a director like Joseph H. Lewis paid off in a huge way. Before going to work on The Rifleman, Lewis directed the noir film Gun Crazy. When he hopped onto The Rifleman project, he brought his mystical-looking B-movie style to the show.

Pretty much, he introduced different lighting techniques that were not used in Westerns of the time. Lewis’s style brought the various shadows, and quirky camera angles the series is now known for.

Connors Credits His Fame To Baseball

Production Was Ahead Of Its Time
James Malick/Pinterest
James Malick/Pinterest

Before joining the world of Hollywood and the cast of The Rifleman, Chuck Connors was a professional baseball player. Interestingly, he credited the sport for his fame, fortune, and notoriety.

During an interview, Connors said, “I owe baseball all that I have and much of what I hope to have. Baseball made my entrance to the film industry immeasurably easier than I could have made it alone. To the greatest game in the world, I shall be eternally in debt.”

Another Lesson In Forgiveness

Another Lesson In Forgiveness
ABC
ABC

“The Marshall” is just one example of the ongoing series theme of forgiveness. Another instance is in an episode entitled “The Sheridan Story.” In the episode, a former Civil War soldier encounters the general who shot his arm off during the war.

The general, General Philip Sheridan, goes on to take care of all of the medical expenses the former soldier is faced with due to the damage he inflicted. Although it must’ve been difficult, the act is a show of apology.

McCain’s Love Interests Were Some Of The Biggest Female Stars Of The Time

McCain's Love Interests Were Some Of The Biggest Female Stars Of The Time
ABC
ABC

Even though Lucas McCain was a widower, the doesn’t mean he didn’t date throughout the five seasons of The Rifleman. In fact, he had quite a few love interests come and go! And those ladies were actually some of the biggest female stars of the time!

Ladies such as Julie Adams, Patricia Blair, Ellen Corby, Katherine Bard, Amanda Ames, and Patricia Barry made their way to the set of The Rifleman as Lucas McCain’s main squeeze.

A Fan Favorite Also Dropped Ratings

A Fan Favorite Also Dropped Ratings
ABC
ABC

For two seasons, The Rifleman was one of the most popular shows on television. Then Milly Scott came into the picture as Lucas McCain’s love interest. And while fans liked the character, they weren’t keen on how she was taking McCain away from his trusty rifle or son.

By the time season four rolled around, showrunners knew they needed to do something because ratings were dropping fast. So, they had McCain breakup with Milly.

Merchandise Was A Result Of The Show’s Popularity

Merchandise Helped The Shows Popularity
eBay
eBay

Since the first season of The Rifleman was such a hit, merchandise became a huge component of keeping the hype surrounding the show high and people interested. Merchandise such as lunchboxes, zippo lighters, apparel, coffee mugs, printed posters, and more were seen on multiple store shelves.

Today, people sell their merchandise for profit on sites such as eBay. Since the show was so popular in the ’50s and ’60s, some of the items run for a nice sum!

Milly Scott Was The One Who Could Have Won McCain’s Heart

Milly Scott Was The One Who Could Have Won McCain's Heart
ABC
ABC

While Lucas McCain had a few different love interests throughout the series, there was one lady who could have won him over: Milly Scott. Played by Joan Taylor, Milly was a jean-wearing shopkeeper, using her inheritance money to purchase a general store.

Of course, they never end up getting married. But that doesn’t mean fans of The Rifleman weren’t rooting for Milly the entire time. She was definitely one of the fan favorites.

Crawford Was Nominated For An Emmy

Crawford Was Nominated For An Emmy
ABC
ABC

At the young age of 13, Johnny Crawford was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) In A Dramatic Series for his role as the young and sensitive character of Mark McCain in The Rifleman. Just one more thing to put on his childhood resume!

Unfortunately, the young actor did not end up winning the award that year, losing to Dennis Weaver’s Chester in the Western drama Gunsmoke.

Chuck Was A Huge Influence On Young Johnny Crawford

Chuck Was A Huge Influence On Young Johnny Crawford
ABC
ABC

Even though they didn’t have a father and son relationship off-camera, Chuck Connors was still a huge influence on a young Johnny Crawford. While on-set, Connors acted as a mentor to Johnny, teaching him about acting and the industry.

During an interview, Johnny said, ” It was a good experience for me to spend time with Chuck and learn how he dealt with people. I learned a great deal from him about acting, and he was a tremendous influence on me. He was just my hero.”

The Remake Was Canceled Before The Pilot Was Filmed

The Remake Was Canceled Before The Pilot Was Filmed
Leon Bennett/WireImage
Leon Bennett/WireImage

CBS announced its plans to remake the iconic 1950s series in 2011, with Chris Columbus slated to be the executive producer. It was rumored the new series was going to star Willie Nelson as Lucas McCain and young Jacob Tremblay as Mark McCain.

It never happened. The remake was canceled a few months after it was announced, without a pilot episode to even show for their efforts. Needless to say, fans of the original were pretty upset.

A Gun For A Gun

A Gun For A Gun
ABC
ABC

After his time on The Rifleman, Johnny Crawford did a slew of other projects. When he was older, one of those projects was on the series The Big Valley. On the show, he played a sheriff. Interestingly, in one episode, his character makes quite a symbolic gesture.

He hands a rifle to an outlaw who is pretending to be another sheriff. It’s interesting because the gun Crawford hands the other actor looks very similar to his former on-screen dad’s 1892 .44-40 Winchester.

120 Villains Were “Shot” During The Show’s Five Seasons

120 Villains Were
ABC
ABC

The iconic 1892 .44-40 Winchester can be seen in some way, shape, or form in each episode of The Rifleman‘s five seasons. But that doesn’t mean it was shot in each episode. Lucas McCain actually preferred to settle things without the use of weapons.

But there are just some instances that can’t be settled with words. Throughout the series, McCain shoots and kills 120 villains! This particular character definitely favors his shotgun, rarely carrying a typical pistol.

Lucas McCain Was Almost Powerless Without His Winchester

Lucas McCain Was Almost Powerless Without His Winchester
ABC
ABC

Something fans of the show might have noticed is how Lucas McCain is practically powerless if he doesn’t have his hand Winchester by his side. Unable to get to his rifle in one episode, fans watched as McCain was beaten up and his ranch raided.

It wasn’t until he was able to get to his trusty Winchester that McCain was able to take on his opponents and get them off his property.

The Winchester Was The Un-Official Fan-Favorite Character

The Winchester Was The Un-Official Fan-Favorite Character
ABC
ABC

Fans loved McCain’s Winchester rifle. On TVparty.com, long-time fan Al Williamson wrote, “We used to love watching the show just to see him cock that rifle – you know, the looping underhand action Chuck Connors would use to load a round into the .44-.40 chamber.”

“My dad used to say that Connors was known to swing his baseball bat like that in the on-deck circle as a pro ballplayer. We also loved to hear the rifle being fired – it was like no other gun sound on TV.”

Every Theme Wasn’t Sunshine And Rainbows

Every Theme Wasn't Sunshine And Rainbows
ABC
ABC

While fans liked tuning into new episodes of The Rifleman for the action, relationships, and life lessons given by Lucas McCain, not all of the lessons were happy. One such theme is the cowardice of people.

In a few episodes, the townspeople can be seen as cowardly, unwilling to take on outsiders unless there was a group of them present. Well, that can also constitute as “safety in numbers,” so we’ll let it slide.

A Familiar Face

A Familiar Face
ABC
ABC

An actress who plays one of Lucas McCain’s love interests might look familiar to some people. Patricia Blair plays Lou Mallory in The Rifleman, but that’s not the show she’s best known for.

Blair is probably best known for her role as Rebecca Boone in the popular NBC series Daniel Boone. She also appeared in multiple series, including Perry Mason and The Bob Cummings Show, as well as films such as The Electric Horseman.

Bill Quinn Was More Than Just Sweeney The Bartender

Bill Quinn Was More Than Just Sweeney The Bartender
ABC
ABC

While Bill Quinn is known as Mr. Sweeny, the bartender in The Rifleman, he is so much more. The actor has appeared in over 150 roles during his seven-decade long career in the entertainment industry.

Starting off as a silent film star in the ’20s, Quinn ended his career on a high note — as part of the cast of the 1989 cult classic film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Joe Higgins Played Many Characters Before Landing A Reoccurring Role

Joe Higgins Played Many Characters Before Landing A Reoccurring Role
ABC
ABC

With the 1950s in short supply of actors wanting to play cowboys, one actor who played many different characters in The Rifleman was Joe Higgins. Eventually, he landed the reoccurring role of Nils Swenson, the blacksmith.

The character on the show wasn’t his last project, though. Higgins is also known for the famous Dukes of Hazzard line “Boy, you in a heap of trouble.” The line is still used today in many entertainment mediums.

The Show Lost Its Appeal, According To Crawford

The Show Lost Its Appeal, According To Crawford
Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images
Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images

By the end of its run, The Rifleman lost its fanfare. Actor Johnny Crawford chalks it up to people losing interest in him as well as Chuck Connors itching to do something different. During an interview, Crawford said, “It just lost its inspiration or something, and perhaps I had lost some appeal to others.”

He continued, “By then, Chuck [Connors] had gotten itchy to do something else, and he was offered his series called Arrest and Trial…”