Josh Randall Winchester Old West Gun True West MagazineWas Josh Randall’s Wanted: Dead or Alive ”Mare’s Leg” Winchester based on a real Old West gun?

Glen Banse
Brick Township, New Jersey

“Mare’s Leg” was conceived by the show’s writers and by Producer John Robinson, but the firearm as portrayed didn’t exist—it had to be created for CBS’s Wanted: Dead or Alive.

Winchester did make the Model 1892 carried by Steve McQueen’s character, Josh Randall, but it was transformed by Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard, a recluse gunsmith living in the California desert.

Howard shortened the barrel to nine inches and removed most of the butt-stock. Of the three guns made for the series, two of them featured octagonal barrels instead of a round one. The levers were made smaller on all three.

Firearms aficionados usually cringe when they see Steve McQueen’s Josh Randall, from CBS’s Wanted: Dead or Alive, wearing “Mare’s Leg” and that ridiculous .45-70 cartridge belt.
— Courtesy CBS —

“Realistically one of the dumbest weapons ever made,” says Jim Dunham, fast gun handler and director at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. “Sure, it looked cool, but by cutting it down you lost accuracy and bullet capacity, yet you needed two hands to fire it and could not brace it against your shoulder. In fact, it combined the worst parts of a pistol and a rifle.”

For dramatic effect, the producers filled Josh Randall’s bullet loops with .45-70 cartridges, even though the Winchester Model 1892 was never chambered in that caliber and was principally sold in .44-40.

Firearms aficionados usually cringe when they see “Mare’s Leg.”

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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