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TV trivia and facts sections Fun Facts Home TV Westerns

Wanted Dead or Alive Facts and Trivia

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Wanted: Dead or Alive is an American Western television show starring Steve McQueen that ran for three seasons from 1958 to 1961. The series was a spin-off of Trackdown (1957-59), a western TV series featuring Robert Culp as a Texas Ranger.


Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) is a bounty hunter with a relatively soft heart. He often donates his earnings to the needy, and will help his prisoners if they have been wrongly accused.

Randall carries a shortened Winchester 1892 Model carbine, called the "Mare's Leg," in a holster patterned after "gunslinger" rigs then popular in movies and television. (This 1892 gun is anachronistic since Josh Randall is referred to in many episodes as a Confederate States of America Army veteran.)


Writers included Samuel A. Peeples and Charles Beaumont. Filmed in black and white, this half-hour adult western featured taut performances, especially by comparative newcomer McQueen, who made quite an impression on critics, viewers, and film producers with his intense portrayal of the grim "anti-hero" bounty hunter. The series was produced by Four Star Productions and filmed at the Selznick Studios.

Guest stars included Noah Beery, Jr., James Best, Edgar Buchanan, Anthony Caruso, James Coburn, Russ Conway, Dennis Cross (as the Indian Charley Two Hawks), John Dehner, William Fawcett, Eduard Franz, Don Gordon, Dabbs Greer, Virginia Gregg, Ron Hayes, DeForest Kelley, Michael Landon, Warren Oates, Bing Russell, William Schallert, Everett Sloane, Fay Spain, Gloria Talbott, Vaughn Taylor, Harry Townes, and Robert J. Wilke, Rhys Williams.


The original opening titles features a black screen with ominous music with the flash and sound of the weapon as McQueen's character advanced to the front of the screen between the shots.

The first season theme song was written and conducted by Bill Loose. It was replaced by a new theme titled "Wanted". This theme was used until the end of the series and was written and conducted by Herschel Burke Gilbert.

 1987 film sequel

The series was followed by a 1987 movie sequel, Wanted: Dead or Alive, in which Rutger Hauer played Nick Randall, Josh Randall's grandson.

DVD releases

On June 7, 2005, New Line Home Video released Season One of Wanted: Dead or Alive on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. In 2007, BCI Eclipse acquired the distribution rights to the series and released the final two seasons on DVD. Season 2 was released on July 17, 2007 and Season 3 on October 16, 2007.

The Mare’s Leg The Weapon of Josh Randall

The Mare’s Leg (aka Mare’s Laig; both sometimes spelled without the apostrophe) was the name given to a customized shortened rifle 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.

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 down to a length of twelve (or possibly nine) inches, and much of the butt-stock was removed. For filming three guns were actually made, each with an enlarged loop on the cocking lever. The first gun differed in the size of its lever enlargement, and the last gun had an octagonal barrel instead of a round one. The actual gun being used could sometimes change from shot to shot in 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 the United States, under the National Firearms Act, to cut any weapon originally built as a rifle to a barrel length less than 16 inches one must pay a $200 tax and obtain approval from the BATFE. However, such a permit is not required to make an exact copy from scratch as a “lever action pistol”.

As of the 1980s, one of the original guns was on display at the Fort Spaghetti Restaurant and Museum (999 Ball Road, Anaheim, California). Another one was bought by French singer/songwriter Gilbert Bécaud.

The gun makes an appearance as the favorite weapon of key characters in a film sequel to the McQueen series, and later series, that use the weapon as an homage.

* Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987 film) starred 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.
* The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993–1994 television series) starred Julius Carry as Mare’s Leg wielding Lord Bowler.
* The Magnificent Seven (1998–2000 television series) featured Eric Close as Mare’s Leg wielding Vic Tanner, reminiscent of McQueen's character Vin in the original film.
* Firefly (2002 television series) and Serenity (2005 film) starred Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne, who used the same Mare’s Leg prop created for Brisco County, Jr..

Similar shortened rifles have appeared in:

* Once Upon a Time in the West (1968 film) used by Woody Strode in a cameo, when sent to kill Charles Bronson's character "Harmonica".


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.

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 without obtaining a tax stamp from the ATF, in accordance with the National Firearms Act.

Because of the legal problems, non-functional prop-quality replicas have also been produced by the same companies that make functional copies.


Since 2005, J.B. Custom has been marketing a 1892 Mares Leg Lever Action Pistol. This weapon is a fully functional copy of Randall’s weapon, available in a number of calibers. Since they are newly manufactured pistols, rather than cut down rifles, they avoid the aforementioned legal difficulties. Just like the original weapon, the J.B. Custom version has a 12 inch barrel, and an overall length of two feet.

The gun 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.

Currently produced weapons use a slightly different action that while not exactly like the 1892 model, cycles more reliably, and is commercially available. This version is also available in .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum.

In 2008, Legacy Sports International introduced a pistol Mare's Leg in several calibers as a stock product.