Series / The Rifleman

The Rifleman is an American live-action western that ran from 1958 to 1963.

The story is about Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) and his son, Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford). Mark's mother and Lucas' wife died of an illness when the medicine failed to reach her in time. Lucas enters a turkey shooting contest to buy a plot in North Fork, New Mexico, but throws the contest to a younger gunman (Dennis Hopper) when the man who runs the town threatens Mark's life. Lucas confronts the man who runs/owns most of the town, who killed the younger gunman's relative/guardian. In the saloon Lucas, with a bit of help from Hopper, kills the man and his henchmen. The judge in the town invites Lucas to stay, which he does and buys the ranch.

The show was created by Arnold Laven and ran on ABC. Among the show's more notable crewmembers was Sam Peckinpah, who wrote the Pilot and wrote and directed several other episodes.

The Rifleman is available completely and legally on Hulu. Oh, and if the "widower and son take over the running of a frontier settlement" premise sounds familiar but you could have sworn it took place in the Alpha Quadrant, it may be because Deep Space Nine was originally pitched as "The Rifleman IN SPACE!"

Tropes related to The Rifleman:

  • The Alcoholic: Micah Torrance, who gets a second chance from Lucas.
  • Alliterative Name: Mark McCain and Lucas' late wife Margaret.
  • Anachronism Stew: The rifle itself; The show takes place roughly from the late 1870's to about the 1880's. However the rifle is a modified 1893 Winchester. Maybe justified since Lucas made the rifle and it was perhaps an earlier Winchester such as an 1873 one and it simply resembled a later model.
  • Bandito: A whole band of them appears in "The Vaqueros".
  • Bears are Bad News: The mountain man in "Day of the Hunter" is done in by a bear he didn't see coming because he was so focused on getting McCain to duel him.
  • Blasting It Outof Their Hands: Lucas McCain frequently performs this trick when he doesn't want to kill the person or even persons he is facing off against. Typically, it is a fast hip shot blasting a pistol out of a persons hand leaving them clutching a seemingly unwounded hand in pain.
  • Blind Weaponmaster: Lucas for an episode where some gunpowder went off in front of him and temporarily blinded him. He still managed to use his rifle with amazing skill.
  • Daddy Issues: Lil, though she and her father do rebuild the relationship.
  • Easily Forgiven: Lucas gave lots of people second chances, but YMMV on how much they were deserved.
  • Evil Twin: Lucas has one who comes back for an episode.
  • Gun Twirling: Of the "twirl a lever-action gun to cock it" variety. Lucas' rifle was specially designed to allow this, and also could have a screw put through the lever so that it would hit the trigger every time he cycled the action.
  • Handicapped Badass: One episode involved a blind man who could tell who someone was by their footsteps. He even (unknowingly) attacked and got the upper-hand in a fight with Lucas.
    • Lucas himself became this for an episode where he was temporarily blinded. It helps that he was a badass before that happened.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Lucas is so devastated by his wife's death that he never remarries, and her memory is often brought up.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Samuel Clemens turns up in town in one episode. Mark can't stop squeeing. Union General Philip Sheridan also puts in an appearance.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lil.
  • Hunter Trapper: In the episode "Day of the Hunter", one of these tries to goad Lucas McCain into killing him in a showdown.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Lucas McCain frequently displays uncanny shooting ability with his rifle. He almost never misses and is as fast or faster then gunfighters with a pistol. He does most of his shooting from the hip with pin point accuracy. Other feats include shooting weapons out of opponents hands, not missing despite being blinded, and landing a shot with a improvised rifle made out of a bit of junk lumber for a stock and pistol.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: In the Title Sequence, it's preceded by a rapid firing of 12 shots and the announcer calling out, "The Rifleman!"
  • The Load: Mark McCain. Somewhat justified since he's just a kid, but still. A good 80% of the conflicts are directly caused or made worse by him. And he's useless.
  • Missing Mom: Mark's mother and Lucas' wife died due to disease leaving Lucas to care for his son alone. It comes up frequently in the various episodes whether from Lucas reminiscing, Mark asking a question, or another character bringing it up in someway.
  • The Neidermeyer: One episode had an Army Major was this to his troops and the civilians of North Fork. Fortunately, everyone in North Fork realized how insane his military command was, and his superiors got a message from Lucas McCain about his incompetence, recalling the Major back to headquarters. However, the Major spun the story, claiming that his superiors needed his command elsewhere, even leaving his Lieutenant with this message: "Lieutenant, remember, the key to command is a firm hand, discipline!"
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted with Mark, surprisingly for the day. He is 11 at the beginning of the series and 15 at the end, allowed to age naturally.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Numerous characters in the show, both good and bad, carry Colt Peacemakers.
  • Shirtless Scene: Lucas spends most of "The Vaqueros" without a shirt, and his hair all messed up. And it is awesome.
  • Spin-Off: Michael Ansara appears in two episodes as the Native American US Marshal, Sam Buckhart. Ansara's character later received his own show, Law of the Plainsman, which ran 1959-1960.
  • Stern Teacher: "The Schoolmaster" focuses on a strict new teacher who gets on Mark's bad side, and vice versa. Naturally he gets better as the episode goes along.
  • Suicide by Cop: In "Day of the Hunter", a Hunter Trapper tries to goad Lucas into killing him a duel.
  • Third-Person Person: Baranca, the Mexican gunslinger in the same-titled episode.
  • Unorthodox Reload: The "flip-cock method" became the show's gimmick.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mark is sometimes guilty of this, particularly when chatting with strangers about his father.
  • You Look Familiar: You constantly see the same actors coming back in different roles.