The Rifleman

The Rifleman

Nobody on television ever worked a Winchester with as much agility and speed as Chuck Connors. For five years, viewers tuned in weekly to watch TV’s first single parent fight off an endless supply of bad guys, thanks to his trusty firearm, on the beloved ABC series, The Rifleman.

Connors played Lucas McCain, a rancher, widower and a former U.S. Cavalryman trying to raise his adolescent son Mark in the New Mexico town of North Fork. But no matter how much Lucas tried to teach Mark good values like honesty and integrity, the biggest lessons were always in his actions.

You see, North Fork was a kind of lawless town, and Marshal Micah Torrance just couldn’t hack it as a lawman. So when trouble came riding in (as it did in pretty much every episode), Lucas rode into battle with his trusty trick .44 Winchester rifle at his side.

With its dark tone and rifle-toting action, The Rifleman was an instant ratings smash upon its 1958 debut. Former professional baseball and basketball player Connors had been known primarily as a bad guy in his big screen roles, and that slight touch of menace made him a fascinating hero for the series.

But even the manliest man eventually finds himself needing a woman’s touch, and the producers of The Rifleman provided one with the introduction of Milly Scott in 1960. “Miss Milly” was the owner of a general store in North Fork, but she quickly became Lucas’ love interest. The rest of the cast included bartender Sweeney, storekeeper Hattie Denton, Doc Burrage, and hotelkeeper Lou Mallory, who arrived in the 1962 season.

The Rifleman‘s popularity dipped after its initial season, but it remained an ABC constant through 1963. Gunfighting action may have been the initial draw, but the show’s fans also had their heartstrings touched by Lucas’ ongoing father-son relationship with Mark, who grew into a fine young man over the course of the show’s five-season run.

After the show ended, The Rifleman earned legions of new fans through the miracle (and repetition) of syndication. Like earlier generations, many a kid was initially sucked in by the gun fights, but they also learned about fairness, integrity and the importance of family in between the flying bullets.

If you grew up watching this western with a conscience, we hope you take a moment or two to share your favorite memories of The Rifleman with all of us in our comments section below.

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