Mare's Leg

The Mare's Leg is the name given to a customized shortened rifle used 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. Mare's Leg is now a generic term for a Winchester Model 1892 (or modern derivative) with a shortened barrel and stock.[2]

Mare's Leg
Rossi Ranch Hand
Typecut-down lever-action rifle
Place of origin United States
Production history
DesignerKenny "Von Dutch" Howard
Produced1958, 1993
No. built3 (1958), ~2 (1993)
Length~2 ft (61 cm)[1]
Barrel length~12 in (30 cm)[1]

Cartridge.44-40 (actual)
.45-70 (fictional)
.30 WCF (fictional; according to script dialogue in season one)
.44 Magnum (actual)
.38 Special/.357 Magnum (actual)
.22 Long Rifle (actual)
Feed system6-round Tubular magazine

Prop gunEdit

The term "mare's leg" was introduced in 1957 in the TV series Trackdown, where Steve McQueen first appeared as a bounty hunter.[3] Steve McQueen and his Mare's Leg went on to star in the CBS TV series Wanted Dead or Alive.[4]

Designed by Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard, an experienced artist and gunsmith,[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 to a length of nine inches,[1] and much of the butt-stock was removed. The original Mare's Leg did not have sights. McQueen was involved in the final design, suggesting the duck-bill hammer and enlarged lever loop, and initiating a redesign of the custom holster.[1] The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was not consulted before the program aired and producers had to pay taxes totaling $1,100 in connection with the National Firearms Act of 1934.[1]

During filming three guns were made, each with an enlarged loop on the cocking lever. After filming started, the size of the levers was made smaller on all 3 guns. The second and third guns bore octagonal barrels instead of a round one. In a continuity oversight, a gun sometimes changed partway through 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 now closed Spaghetti Station Restaurant and Museum (999 Ball Road, Anaheim, California).[7] Another is in the Autry National Center of the American West.[8] In 1964, french singer Gilbert Bécaud auctioned off one of the Winchester Mare's Leg used by Josh Randall. This auction took place in Paris in the presence of actor Steve McQueen, and the money raised was donated to the French Movement for Children's Villages (a association renamed in 2013 "Action Enfance").[9]

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.

Other appearancesEdit

In the 1987 film Wanted: Dead or Alive, a sequel to the series starring 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:

Manufactured replicasEdit

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 (41 cm) without obtaining a tax stamp from the ATF, in accordance with the National Firearms Act.[12]

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.


Since before 2000, Eagle Squadron Productions has produced and sold an authentic 1892 Winchester Mare's Leg carbine. It uses a Winchester 1892 carbine in the correct caliber of .44-40, and is based on one of the original prop guns. They also produce replica gun belt and a non-firing replica carbine.[13]


Puma Bounty Hunter
Puma Bounty Hunter pistol and holster
TypeLever action handgun
Place of originItaly
Production history
ManufacturerChiappa Firearms
Length24 in (61 cm)
Barrel length12 in (30 cm)

Feed system6-round tubular magazine

In 2005, J.B. Custom began marketing a "1892 Mares Leg Lever Action Pistol". This pistol 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 legal difficulties. Like the original weapon, the J.B. Custom version has a 12-inch (30 cm) barrel, and an overall length of 24 inches (61 cm).[14]

The pistol 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.[14]

In 2008, Legacy Sports International introduced their version of the Mare's Leg, made by Chiappa Firearms, in Italy, imported[where?] 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 (30 cm) barrel, no shoulder stock, and a receiver that has never been built into a rifle, it is considered a pistol by the ATF.[14]

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.[15] The Rossi Ranch Hand is manufactured by Taurus in Brazil.[16][17]

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.[18] Recently Henry Repeating Arms has added another rimfire version chambered in 22 WMR aka 22 Magnum.


A full-length 30 in. barrel Winchester M1887 lever action shotgun (top) in comparison to its shortened 18 in. barrel "Mare's Leg" variant (bottom).

Italian firms, such as Chiappa Firearms, manufacture modern reproductions of the Winchester Model 1887 series shotguns. The shotguns appeared on the Australian and the European firearms markets in late 2008. Chiappa's replicas are offered with barrels ranging from 28 to 18.5 inches. They also offer a model with a rifled barrel and two models with pistol grips.[19]

The Model 1887 Mare's Leg was prominently used by the title character in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the guns used in the film was modified with a pistol grip and an oversized loop on the trigger guard, allowing the character to fire and cycle the action with a one hand reverse spin.[19] This in turn has popularised the gun's portrayal in various pop culture, mostly in shooter video games, where they mimic the cycling and reloading actions from the movie.

Legal statusEdit

In the United States under the National Firearms Act, to make a short barreled rifle from a firearm originally made and sold as a rifle requires payment of $200 for a tax stamp, approval from the BATFE and federal registration.[20] However, a "lever action pistol" made and sold subject to BATFE regulations is treated as a pistol by federal law. While most states allow the purchase of Mare's Leg lever action pistols, New York State has banned this gun from being sold there. They are also not approved for sale in Massachusetts. It is hard to get in California since it is not on the CA Roster of Approved Handguns (California Penal Code § 32015) and therefore cannot be sold or transferred to a civilian unless the gun is already privately owned within the state, having been previously imported under one of the narrow exemptions to the handgun roster.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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, 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. ^ "Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Records". Cancellation No. 92053336. USPTO. Retrieved 13 July 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Bounty Hunter Special". History. Eagle Squadron Productions. Retrieved 13 July 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Correspondence". American Rifleman (2): 22. February 2011.
  5. ^ Adler, Dennis (19 April 2016). "Chiappa 1892 Von Dutch Mare's Leg". Guns of the Old West.
  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. ^ Steve McQueen's Carbine Archived 2015-12-25 at the Wayback Machine Autry National Center
  9. ^ « Gilbert Bécaud a acheté le fusil de Josh Randall », L’Écho républicain de la Beauce et du Perche, 17 September 1964.
  10. ^ a b c Johnson, Michael K. (23 January 2014). Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos: Conceptions of the African American West. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-61703-928-7.
  11. ^ Patrick, Brian Anse (28 May 2014). Zombology: Zombies and the Decline of the West (and Guns). Arktos. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-1-907166-91-4.
  12. ^ Bounty Hunter Special (A Class 3, Mare's Leg reproduction)
  13. ^ Bounty Hunter Special 2006 Eagle Squadron Productions
  14. ^ a b c Taffin, John (2006). Gun Digest Book of the .44. Gun Digest Books. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-89689-416-7. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Ranch Hand product page at Rossi USA
  16. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Mike Searson (5 Sept 2018), Breach Bang Clear,
  18. ^ "Mare's Leg Lever Action Pistol". Henry Repeating Arms.
  19. ^ a b Sadowski, Robert A. (27 October 2015). Gun Trader's Guide to Shotguns: A Comprehensive, Fully Illustrated Reference for Modern Shotguns with Current Market Values. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-1-63450-965-7.
  20. ^ "NFA Handbook, Chapter 4: Taxes Imposed by the NFA". Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (June 21, 2007).
  21. ^

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