6 Modern Mare’s Legs & 1887s

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive helped propel Steve McQueen to stardom along with his iconic Mare’s Leg, a bastardized weapon that was part pistol and part rifle. Through the magic of Hollywood, a Winchester Model 1892 was transformed into the Mare’s Leg by chopping down its barrel and stock and adding a large loop lever, which allowed Josh Randal, McQueen’s character, to spin the shortened rifle around his hand. The rifle has a unique look, but the really odd part was McQueen’s gun cartridge belt held .45-70 cartridges. We all know the ’92 was never been chambered in .45-70. But details like that never stopped Hollywood.

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A few manufacturers, like Henry Repeating Arms, have developed their own interpretation of the Mare’s Leg. Some hold close to the design from the TV series while others latched onto the concept, providing their own rendition. The Mare’s Leg from Henry Repeating Arms—available in .45 Colt, .44 Mag and .357 Mag—is based off of the company’s proprietary Big Boy lever-action rifle. Reflecting the same quality in other Henry rifles, the action is super smooth to operate, just like the Big Boy rifles.

I tested the .357 Mag Henry Mare’s Leg, which arrived with a bright, sharp-looking brass receiver, barrel band and buttplate while the rest of the rifle is blued steel. The stock—really a pistol grip—and forend are made from nicely figured American walnut and are well fitted to the metal. The receiver is solid brass, with the ejection port on the right side. On the left side is a saddle ring. Like the Big Boy rifle, the Mare’s Leg features a transfer bar safety mechanism that allows it to fire only when the hammer is completely to the rear, the trigger is fully pressed and the loop lever is fully rearward. This allows the rifle to be safely carried with a round in the chamber. There is no half-cock position for the hammer like on some other lever actions.

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The heavy, 12.9-inch, octagonal barrel is equipped with Marbles sights—a brass bead up front and a semi-buckhorn rear that is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The Mare’s Leg also uses a tubular magazine similar to those found on Henry’s rimfire rifles. An inner brass magazine tube is nested inside a steel outer tube. Rotate the brass tube to unlock it from the outer steel tube and withdraw it until the loading port is open. The user loads the rifle by dropping cartridges into the loading port rim first. Then push the inner tube back into the steel tube and twist it to lock the tubes. The process is fast and easy but a bit non-traditional for a centerfire lever-action rifle. This magazine tube allows the pistol to be unloaded easily without having to cycle the rounds through the action.

Range Workout

The Henry Mare’s Leg weighs 5.79 pounds unloaded, which made shooting .38 Special loads nearly recoil free and .357 Mag loads quite tolerable even when firing one-handed at the range. Because of its weight, I found that the best way to fire the rifle was with the butt planted against my hip. I could work the action quickly and walk my rounds into a target fairly easily.

I used a bunch of different types of ammunition and was surprised that I could shoot 1-inch groups at 25 yards with 158-grain .38 Special loads using a rest. When loading for bear with .357 Mag ammunition, I was still able to achieve good results, averaging slightly over 1.5-inch groups. For such a unique-looking and operating rifle, I thought the accuracy was excellent.

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Out of the box, the Henry Mare’s Leg shot to the point of aim. The real fun with this gun is letting loose from the hip on steel and cardboard targets at 15 yards. I quickly created a pile of brass on the ground because of all the excitement. It helps that the Henry Mare’s Leg is attractive and the action is smooth. For more, visit henryrifles.com or call 201-858-4400.

For More Information

Chiappa Firearms

Henry Repeating Arms Company
henryrifles.com; 201-858-4400

rossiusa.com; 800-948-8029

Taylor’s & Co., Inc.
taylorsfirearms.com; 540-722-2017

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This article originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.

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