The great Wild West era started in the 1860s and went on for thirty years. In pop culture, tv show and movies are still being made about this time in our country’s history today, although the trend peaked in the 1950s and 60s. You may remember such famous old shows, like Bonanza, Bret Maverick, and The Lone Ranger. There are also new classics in the western genre such as Deadwood, Justified, or Longmire.
Some of the most exciting parts of these shows were the firearms or weapons the heroes used to nab the bad guys. Sometimes the guns weren’t exactly replicas of actual weapons, but were embellished alternatives that they called “gimmick guns.” Let’s look at some of the best gimmick guns used back in the day from three famous western TV shows.
Six-Guns and Rifles for Shootouts and Saloon Brawls
Gimmick guns became popular due to the fact that so many of these shows were being made. It was a competition to get viewership. That’s why guns outfitted with extra bells and whistles become common.
Many of them came from Hollywood Paramount Studios in the “Gun Room” made by prop master Ed Stembridge.
Quick draw gun instructors were hired to get the actors ready to use these blank firing guns. The profession became highly valued in the entertainment industry. Even today, experts are kept on call for big budget action flicks. As you can imagine, Hollywood actors aren’t typically known to spend their spare time at the range.
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was one of the most popular titles in this genre. The double-holstered rig with two Colts used by the main character became just as iconic as the character itself. But the best gimmick gun of the show was an extended Colt revolver with a 12-inch barrel called the “Buntline Special.” They had to create a special holster for it since it was so hard to quick draw.
In The Rifleman, the actor who played Lucas McCain used a rifle, of course. It was the Winchester Model 92 with a 20-inch barrel that he could spin-cock and swing like a professional gun slinger.
Wanted: Dead or Alive
Steve McQueen played Josh Randell, a bounty hunter who always got his felon. The gun shop was able to modify a rifle with a shorter barrel so that there was kickback on both ends of the six-inch barrel. They dubbed the gun “Mare’s Leg” and had to customize it with a loop so that McQueen could fire with one hand. The muzzle blast was so loud that they had to go with using half-blanks in this powerful gun.