July 31, 2012
[caption id="attachment_5992" align="aligncenter" width="615" caption="The Cimarron Fire Arms 1892 El Dorado is an exact copy of the loop-levered rifle John Wayne carried in some of his westerns."][/caption]
Believe it or not, loop-levered Winchesters were never part of the Old West. Rather, it was Hollywood that made them popular. The first loop-levered Winchester appeared in the 1939 film "Stagecoach," starring John Wayne, and director John Ford wanted his star's entrance in this epic Western to be dramatic.
"I want you to spin that rifle like a pistol," Ford told his rising young star. Wayne and stuntman Yakima Canutt came up with a rounded lever that enabled Wayne to spin-cock the Model 1892 saddle-ring Trapper — one of two used in the movie.
But Wayne discovered the lever was prone to bending during action scenes. Thus, by the 1950s it had evolved into an oval-shaped lever, seen in movies such as El Dorado, in which the Duke twirls it once. While not as adept for spinning, it became one of Wayne's trademarks.
This video montage of the popular series "The Rifleman" which aired from 1958-1963 shows Chuck Connors spinning his 20-inch barreled carbine several times
The loop-levered Model 92 gained greater popularity with Chuck Connors in "The Rifleman," a half-hour TV series that ran from 1958 to 1963. Using a much wider loop than Wayne's, the 6'5" Connors could spin his 20-inch barreled carbine with ease. Additionally, a trip screw could be set to fire the carbine each time the lever closed, enabling Chuck to crank off multiple shots less than a second apart. Steve McQueen, in "Wanted Dead or Alive," also favored a loop lever on his chopped Winchester 92 Mare's Leg.
But aside from some commemoratives, few gun companies got on the loop-levered bandwagon until recently. Today, firms such as Cimarron, Chiappa and even Winchester all produce variations of loop-levered guns. Considering that in June 2007 one of the originals used in "Stagecoach" was sold by Little John's Auctions for $113,000, these modern versions are bargains.