Custom Ranch Hand .45 Colt

Rossi’s Ranch Hand enters the Mare’s Leg market with a…

Rossi’s Ranch Hand enters the Mare’s Leg market with a stylish version of the original Wanted: Dead Or Alive lever-action pistol in .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt calibers.

Steve McQueen’s iconic Wanted: Dead Or Alive Mare’s Leg has to be one of the most intriguing guns ever to come out of a Hollywood prop department. Most of the guns toted by celluloid heroes of the fictionally portrayed Old West tended to be Colt Peacemakers, with an occasional derringer tossed in, but John Wayne and Chuck Connors bucked the trend with their ringlever Winchesters; instantly cementing a place for those 92s forever in the minds of the classic lever-action fans who watched them on big screen or small. It was refreshing to see them used for something besides a herd of hombres pouring hot lead into the cabin our intrepid leading man was barricaded in, or sniping a lone rider off his horse from half a mile out in a high mountain pass ambush. Whereas previously the Winchester had been mostly a dastardly bad guy gun, those two men rehabilitated it to official good-guy status. Taking it even further, when McQueen began the role of Josh Randall that made him a star, he took that cut-down Model 92 in its custom spring-clip holster rig along with him, and certain grey-bearded old fogies today still argue that the real star of Wanted: Dead Or Alive was made of wood and steel, not flesh and bone.

Over the years since Wanted left the air in 1961, hardcore fans of the concept with enough motivation, moxie, and moolah to plod through the legal process have paid for replicas of Josh Randall’s Mare’s Leg to be built based on original Winchester and imported 92 variations. It was not exactly a common occurrence though, entailing government forms, fingerprint cards, a $200 tax stamp fee, and several months of waiting for approval by return mail—plus the cost of the initial gun in full-length form and then finding a gunsmith who could do the bobjob. Unsurprisingly, alternative trails to reach the same general destination were pursued, which eventually resulted in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ approval to manufacture and sell Mare’s Leg configurations using frames that had never been used in a rifle or carbine. The key point that made a cutback levergun into a federal case was that it fell under the National Firearms Act of 1934, prohibiting possession of machineguns and sawed-off shotguns and rifles without passing through the necessary governmental process. Since a brand new frame can go either way, designating and building one for handgun use from the start removes it from NFA status and opens it up for the public at large to buy and possess with no more paperwork than with any other handgun. And, no need to spend hundreds more on a custom gunsmith. (Desire, however, is another matter.) This was very much a “Hmmmm….” moment for many who’d given up on the idea of ever owning an actual cartridge-firing Mare’s Leg because of the process and costs involved.

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Wing safety and sights removed, forend wood barrel shortened to just under 9 inches.

Credit for tossing big logs on a small fire has to go to J. B. Custom for his Mare’s Leg, beginning in 2005 and more recently Legacy Sports with their 2009 introduction of the Italian Chiappa-made Bounty Hunter, but both of those are fairly pricey guns. Still, people are buzzing and people are buying—so Rossi decided that since they’d been manufacturing Model 92 variations in Brazil for decades anyway, they might as well hitch their wagon to the mare early on in the race. In 2010, they announced the new Ranch Hand in .38 Special/.357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt; each with a suggested retail price of $536, less than half of what the other two companies charge for their models. As it comes, it’s a shooter, and if you want a bit more authenticity, it can be the basis for a great custom project.

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