Mare's Leg

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“Mare’s Leg”
MareLeg.JPG
Rossi Ranch Hand
Type cut-down lever-action rifle
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard
Designed 1958
Produced 1958, 1993
Number built 3 (1958), ~2 (1993)
Specifications
Length ~2 feet[1]
Barrel length ~12 inches[1]

Cartridge 44-40 (actual)
45-70 (fictional)
.30 WCF (fictional; according to script dialogue in season one)
Action Lever-action
Feed system 6-round Tubular magazine

The Mare’s Leg (aka Mare’s Laig; both sometimes spelled without the apostrophe) was the name given to a customized shortened rifle by Steve McQueen’s character on the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958–1961). McQueen’s character was named Josh Randall, and the gun has also been referred to as a Winchester Randall, or a Randall Special.[2] "Mare's leg" is now a generic term for a Winchester Model 1892 (or modern derivative) with a shortened barrel and stock.[3]

History[edit]

The term "mare's leg" was introduced in 1957 in the TV series "Trackdown," where Steve McQueen first appeared as the "Bounty Hunter."[4] Steve McQueen and his "mare's leg" then appeared throughout the CBS TV series "Wanted Dead or Alive."[5]

The original Mare’s Leg was made by cutting down a .44-40 caliber Winchester Model 1892 rifle to a size that could be worn in a large leg holster and used with one hand. The barrel was cut down to a length of twelve (or possibly nine) inches,[1] and much of the butt-stock was removed. For filming three guns were actually made, each with an enlarged loop on the cocking lever. The first gun differed in the size of its lever enlargement, and the last gun had an octagonal barrel instead of a round one. The actual gun being used could sometimes change from shot to shot in a given scene. While the guns were chambered for the .44-40 round, McQueen wore more impressive looking .45-70 rounds in the loops of his gun belt. In season one, a doctor, after removing a bullet fired from the Mare's Leg from the back of a criminal, identified the removed bullet as a 30-30 round.[6]

As of the 1980s, one of the original guns was on display at the Fort Spaghetti Restaurant and Museum (999 Ball Road, Anaheim, California).[7]

Legal status[edit]

In the United States under the National Firearms Act, to make a pistol from a firearm originally made and sold as a rifle requires payment of a $200.00 tax, approval from the BATFE and federal registration.[8] However, a “lever action pistol” made and sold subject to BATFE regulations is treated as a pistol by federal law. While most states will allow the purchase of 'Mare's Leg', California and New York have banned this gun from being sold in their individual states. Rossi manufactures a .44 Magnum model which started as a pistol and hence was never a rifle to cut down, and can be purchased in California like any other pistol in the state.

Other appearances[edit]

The gun makes an appearance as the favorite weapon of key characters in a film sequel to the McQueen series, and later series, that use the weapon as a homage. The 1987 film Wanted: Dead or Alive starred Rutger Hauer as Nick Randall, the grandson of Josh Randall. Nick keeps his grandfather’s Mare’s Leg in a display case in his office.

Similar shortened rifles have appeared in:

Replicas[edit]

There have been a number of toys based on the Mare’s Leg, from small cap guns to larger detailed toys complete with a holster.

A number of companies have marketed functional reproductions of the Mare’s Leg, making them the same way as the original, by cutting down Winchester rifles. These reproductions also have the same legal restrictions as the original: a rifle may not have a barrel length less than 16 inches without obtaining a tax stamp from the ATF, in accordance with the National Firearms Act.[9]

Other companies have marketed reproductions originally made and sold as handguns. Because of the legal restrictions, non-functional prop-quality replicas have been produced by some of the same companies that make functional copies.

Carbine[edit]

Since before 2000, Eagle Squadron Productions has produced and sold an authentic 1892 Winchester Mare's Leg carbine. This is the only option of a commercial Mare's Legs for sale that used an authentic cut down of an original Winchester 1892 carbine in the correct caliber of .44-40.

Pistol[edit]

1892 Mares Leg Lever Action Pistol
Type Lever action pistol
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer Jim Buchanan
Designed 2005
Manufacturer J.B. Custom
Produced 2005—
Number built ~50
Specifications
Length 24 inches
Barrel length 12 inches

Cartridge .45 Colt,
.44-40 Winchester,
.38-40 Winchester,
.44 Magnum, or
.357 Magnum
Action Lever-action
Feed system 6-round Tubular magazine

In 2005, J.B. Custom began marketing a "1892 Mares Leg Lever Action Pistol". This weapon is a fully functional copy of Randall’s weapon, available in a number of calibers. Since they are newly manufactured as pistols and sold subject to handgun regulations, rather than cut down rifles, they avoid the aforementioned legal difficulties. Like the original weapon, the J.B. Custom version has a 12 inch barrel, and an overall length of 24 inches.[10]

The gun was available in .45 Colt, .44-40 Winchester, and .38-40 Winchester. Early promotional material specified a limited production run of 50 units based on the number of available 1892 actions that could be used legally. Later versions of the weapons use a slightly different action that while not exactly like the 1892 model, cycles more reliably, and is commercially available. This version is available in .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum.[10]

In 2008, Legacy Sports International introduced their version of the mare's leg, made by Chiappa in Italy, imported for Legacy, and sold under the brand name Puma. This Puma 92 pistol is named the Bounty Hunter. It is available in several calibers including; .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, and .44-40. With a 12 inch barrel, no shoulder stock, and a receiver that has never been built into a rifle, it is considered a pistol by the ATF.[10]

In 2010 Rossi Firearms began offering a Mare's leg under the name Ranch Hand. The Rossi version is chambered in .45 Colt, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, and .357 Magnum/.38 Special.[11] The Rossi Ranch Hand is manufactured by Taurus in Brazil.[12]

Henry Repeating Arms manufactures two versions of the Mare's Leg. The rimfire model has a blued receiver and barrel and chambers .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, and .22 Short. The centerfire model has a brass receiver and blued barrel and is available in .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Lachuk's detailed Guns Quarterly article states that the gun is 19 inches long with a nine-inch barrel. (Lachuk, John. “The Gun That Brings ’Em Back “Dead or Alive” Guns Quarterly, Volume Five. ©1961.) John Taffin, Senior Field Editor for Guns Magazine, describes the gun as having a 12-inch barrel, and being about two feet in overall length. Detailed replicas, available from multiple sources, have 12-inch barrels and overall lengths of 22–24 inches.
  2. ^ Chance, Norman (2011). Who Was Who on TV (3 ed.). Xlibris Corporation. p. 1017. ISBN 978-1-4568-2454-9. 
  3. ^ "Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Records". Cancellation No. 92053336. USPTO. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bounty Hunter Special". History. Eagle Squadron Productions. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Correspondence". American Rifleman (2): 22. February 2011. 
  6. ^ Mueller, Jim (2001). "Blasters From The Past". American Cowboy (Active Interest Media, Inc.) 7 (6): 59–62. ISSN 1079-3690. 
  7. ^ Wilson, R.L. (1992). "Arming the Fictional West". The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventures in the American West. Random House. ISBN 978-0-7858-1892-2. 
  8. ^ Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. "NFA Handbook, Chapter 4: Taxes Imposed By The NFA" ATF Online. (June 21, 2007)
  9. ^ Bounty Hunter Special (A Class 3, Mare’s Leg reproduction)
  10. ^ a b c Taffin, John (2006). Gun Digest Book of the .44. Gun Digest Books. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-89689-416-7. 
  11. ^ Ranch Hand product page at Rossi USA
  12. ^ Rackley, Paul (2010). "Rossi and Taurus Unite Legacies:When Taurus bought the rights to Rossi, their legacies united and opened the future for both.". American Rifleman (NRA). Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  13. ^ Mare's Leg Lever Action Pistol at Henry Repeating Arms