‘The Rifleman’: The Jeans Lucas McCain Wore Didn’t Exist in the 1880s

The Rifleman is a TV show that first aired in the late fifties, but in recent years, it has found a whole new audience of fans. Starring some hugely talented character actors, The Rifleman was steeped in Western lore, and full of drama. It also dealt with a variety of issues that fans could relate to, and was one of the few shows on television to feature a leading character who had serious flaws. In spite of the amount of love and attention that went into the show, there were occasional blunders — and one major goof from the costume department is evidence that no series is perfectly historically accurate. 

(L-R) Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as Mark McCain
(L-R) Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as Mark McCain | Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

What is ‘The Rifleman’ about?

In 1958, The Rifleman premiered on television. The show focused on a character named Lucas McCain, a widower who was a veteran of the Civil War. In the wake of his wife’s untimely death, McCain makes the move from Oklahoma to New Mexico Territory, where he buys a ranch and sets about raising his young son all on his own. McCain is far from perfect, and the show deals with many instances where he has to eat his words — still, his love for his son overcomes all, and at heart, McCain is a good and decent man.

The show’s title referred to McCain’s habit of always carrying his Winchester rifle. A crack shot, McCain is often called upon to save the day in many dangerous situations. In the role of Lucas McCain was a popular character actor, who rose to fame due to his work on the series.

Who starred in ‘The Rifleman’?

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Chuck Connors had appeared in a handful of movies and television shows prior to getting cast in The Rifleman, including some romantic comedies and historical dramas, but it was the Western series that really was the standout of his acting career. Connors was a professional baseball player for several decades prior to turning his attention to acting — and ultimately, The Rifleman cemented his status as a star in the TV and movie business. He continued to act after the show went off the air, although he was never able to top the success of The Rifleman

In addition to Connors, The Rifleman featured young actor Johnny Crawford as McCain’s son Mark. Crawford, an established child actor, received critical acclaim for his work in the series and was a core element of many of the show’s most dramatic storylines. Following his work on The Rifleman, Crawford went on to become a recording artist and a bandleader — but many fans know him best for his work in the iconic Western series

What costume goof was made in ‘The Rifleman’?

Although The Rifleman received critical praise for the writing, acting, and story development, there were occasional bloopers. As reported by IMDb, eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot a big discrepancy when it came to Lucas McCain’s pants. Reportedly, in a number of the show’s episodes, McCain can be seen wearing Wrangler jeans — easily identifiable by the large “W” on the back pockets and the rivets. While Wranglers are associated with Western culture and heritage, it didn’t exactly make sense for McCain to be wearing them, since The Rifleman was set in the 1880s and Wranglers weren’t created until 1947.

Ultimately, The Rifleman went off the air in 1963. But the influence that the show had on the world of television cannot be overstated, and to this day, many fans consider it to be one of the best shows from the golden age of television.