The Rifleman was a Western television program that ran from 1958–1963 on ABC, a production of Four Star Television. The program starred former athlete Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, a widower, Union veteran of the Civil War and a homesteader. McCain and his son Mark (singer Johnny Crawford) lived on a ranch outside the fictitious town of North Fork in the New Mexico Territory.
The pilot episode was telecast on CBS on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. Regulars on the program included Marshal Micah Torrance (Paul Fix) (R. G. Armstrong was the original marshall for two episodes, the 1st and the 4th), Sweeney the bartender (Bill Quinn), and a half-dozen other denizens of North Fork (Hope Summers, Joan Taylor, Patricia Blair, John Harmon, and Harlan Warde were regulars).
The show was created and initially developed by a young Sam Peckinpah, who would go on to become the last legendary director of classic Western movies (The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country, etc.). Peckinpah, who wrote and directed many of the best episodes from the first season, based many of the characters and situations on real-life scenarios from his childhood growing up on a ranch.
Westerns were popular when The Rifleman premiered, as producers struggled to find gimmicks to distinguish one show from another. The Rifleman's gimmick was a modified Winchester rifle with a trigger mechanism allowing for rapid-fire shots. Connors demonstrated its rapid-fire action during the opening credits as McCain dispatched an unseen bad guy on North Fork's main street.
The various episodes of The Rifleman promote fair play toward one's opponents, neighborliness, equal rights, and the need to use violence in a highly controlled manner ("A man doesn't run from a fight, Mark," McCain tells his son, "But that doesn't mean you go looking to run to one!").
The Rifleman 50th Anniversary Tribute Video
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The Rifleman Episode Guide List.