"The Rifleman"

Old Guns

Part of the East Family archive is a collection of old photos that tell the stories of the East Family, cattle ranching and ranch life. Many of the photos include guns that were used for hunting, protection, and were part of everyday life. Like many families, these old guns must have been extremely important, as they were saved and kept in working order for almost 100 years. Two from the collection stand out.

Winchester 1892

An early photo from our archives shows a young T. T. East, seated in a bentwood chair with a rifle by his side. This photo is undated, but Mr. East must have been in his early twenties, making the photo almost 100 years old. The gun by his side, a Winchester model 1892, was the iconic rifle of the West. A Winchester 1892 is the type of gun that John Wayne used in dozens of films; and it was the gun-of-choice for Chuck Connors in “The Riflemen.” Between 1892 and 1941, there were over one million Model 1892s produced.

In the East Family archive, we have two Model 1892s. The one that matches the photo is a 44 Winchester Centerfire with a King Ranch “Running W” burned into the left side of stock. According to the serial number, it was produced in 1915. It is well-worn, but still serviceable.

Another Model 1892, manufactured in 1914, was probably more heavily used by T. T. East. It bears the “Diamond-Bar” brand; and the muzzle has been shortened by 6 inches – making it more maneuverable as a saddle rifle. This gun is chambered for 25-20 cartridges. The scarred condition of this 1914 gun is evidence that Mr. East used it as his everyday saddle rifle during his early years as a cow man in South Texas. There are 3 heavily-carved notches on the stock.

Mannlicher–Schönauer Model 1903

Alice Hattie “Lica” East was a favorite subject for photos taken by her mother, Alice Kleberg East. In this photo, a young Lica is seen with a nice 10-point deer, her signature pigtails, and a pair of custom boots. The gun, an Austrian-made Mannlicher-Schönauer Model 1903, was a unique sporting rifle. Originally produced for the Greek army, the Model 1903 was imported to the US for use as a big game rifle. In this photo, Lica appears to be in her late teens, which would equate to the late 1930s. This rifle remains in the East Family gun collection – along with several old boxes of Kleenbore 6.5x54 cartridges. It must have been one of the family’s treasures.

These guns – cared for, and prized over the years – remind us that the East Family held precious those things that represented their way of life.