Classic Gunfights

Jar Head!

CG_Joaquin-Murrieta_head-in-jarSaddling up at 2 a.m.  Harry Love and his fellow California Rangers ride out of their rugged mountain camp and make their way to Cantua Creek in central California. They have been on the trail of Joaquin Murrieta for more than two months.

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Kit Carson’s Horseback Duel

Kit-Carson-vrs-Mathew-Brady-Duel_illiustration-by-Bob-Boze-BellAugust 1835

The large French-Canadian trapper Joseph Chouinard is roaring drunk and on a day-long rampage at the annual trapper’s rendezvous on the upper Green River in Wyoming.

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10 Face-to-Face, Stand-Up Gunfights

stand-up-gunfights_bob-boze-bellI’m a member of the Historical Arms Society of Tucson, and our group is curious if the movies are correct about how many stand-up gunfights took place on the frontier. Our consensus is we don’t think they happened much at all in the Old West.

-Kevin Mulkins of Tucson, Arizona

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Cooke’s Canyon Ambush

Cookes-Canyon-gunfightAugust 27, 1861

The Ake-Wadsworth wagon train, en route from Tucson, Arizona, to Texas, leaves the abandoned Mimbres River Stage Station at first light, heading east toward Cooke’s Canyon in southwestern New Mexico.

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The Fountain Murders

cg-fountain-shooter-chalkhill-fountainFebruary 1, 1896

Albert Jennings Fountain is agitated. It’s cold and windy, and his young son is coming down with a cold. Fountain is anxious to get the eight year old home to his mother, but his discomfort has more to do with three suspicious horseback riders who have been tailing him for some time.

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Wild Bill’s Last Fight

Wild-Bill-Kickcock-and-CoeOctober 5, 1871

The summer cattle season is all but over, and Marshal Wild Bill Hickok has kept the peace in Abilene, Kansas—not an easy job. The last marshal, legendary Thomas J. Smith, was killed in the line of duty.

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Shoot-out at Stinking Springs

classic-gunfights-pat-garrett_charlie-bowdre_manuelaDecember 23, 1880

Riding at midnight through deep snow, Sheriff-elect Pat Garrett leads a 13-man posse eastward out of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. After questioning several people in Fort Sumner and ascertaining the Kid’s dress (“especially his hat,” which is said to be a Mexican sugarloaf with a green hatband), Garrett decides he won’t take any chances.

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A Dangerous and Bloody Citizen

classic-gunfights-jack-slade-charlie-russellMarch 10, 1864

Jack Slade, once the heroic peacekeeper of the Central Overland stagecoach line, is drunk and in an ugly mood on the main street of Virginia City, Montana. He fires his pistols at anything that fancies him.

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geronimo-vrs-tucson-arizonaOctober 5, 1881

An outbreak from the Apache Reservation in San Carlos sends fear and shock waves throughout southeastern Arizona as warriors led by Geronimo, Juh and Naiche spread terror and death.

Tombstone citizens form an impromptu company to head them off. The group includes Sheriff John Behan, Marshal Virgil Earp, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Mayor John Clum, Billy Breakenridge and George Parsons.

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A Shot In The Dark


July 14, 1881

At about nine p.m. Sheriff Pat Garrett and two deputies, John Poe and Tom “Kip” McKinney, ensconce themselves within a peach orchard on the northern boundary of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. A full moon looms above.

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Death by Shakespeare

bob-dutch-martin_outlaw-old-mexicoNovember 22, 1880

Attacking during the night, four rustlers run off 22 head of stock from the Turner and Lindeman ranch near San Simon, Arizona.

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The Blast at Steins Pass

CG_Black-Jack-KetchemDecember 7, 1897

Two cowboys, Dave Atkins and Ed Cullen, step inside the Steins Pass train depot in southwestern New Mexico a few minutes past 6 p.m. and make small talk with Charles and Daisey St. John. Then the cowboys pull pistols and rob them.

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Son of a Gunfighter

bob-boze-bell_cozad-gunfight_-Bee-Hive-General-StoreOctober 14, 1882

John J. Cozad is negotiating a trade in the Bee Hive General Store, which is run by his mother-in-law, Julia A. Gatewood, who sits behind the counter. John and a local, Henry Drew, sit in chairs in front of the counter, bartering with her.

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Dalton Debacle

F-CGF_Dalton-gang_illustration_by-Bob-Boze-BellOctober 5, 1892

Five mounted men ride into Coffeyville, Kansas, from the west. It is around 9:30 a.m., and the streets are already filled with farmers and businesspeople.

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The Final Camel Charge

classic-gunfights-bob-boze-bell-samuel-bishop-on-seidApril 7, 1859

After months on the trail from California’s Fort Tejon, Samuel Bishop and 23 volunteers mount 20 camels and a couple mules at one in the morning, taking off from Paiute Spring in Nevada for the Colorado River.

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The Gang Slayer

CGF_Captain-Jonathan-DavisDecember 19, 1854

Three American prospectors are traversing a miner’s trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains (see map below).

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Blazing Bastards

Bizbee-five-tombstone-classic-gunfights-bob-boze-bellDecember 8, 1883

On a cold December night, five cowboys wearing heavy coats and masks ride up the gulch, past the Copper Queen smelter, and dismount at the east end of Preston’s Lumberyard in Bisbee, Arizona Territory.

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A Bloody Barbed-Wire Battle

cf_p-c-baird_john-calvin-butlerJuly 29, 1884

Corporal Phillip Cuney Baird of the Texas Rangers is ready to catch some fence cutters.

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Left for Dead

bob-boze-bell-Classic-gunfights_yginio_salazar_mcsweenJuly 19, 1878

As a raging fire engulfs another room, Alexander McSween and his men move into the kitchen, the last standing room of his adobe home in Lincoln, New Mexico.

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Battle of the Plaza

Bat-Masterson_Peacock-Updegraff-gunfightApril 16, 1881

Traveling mostly by rail, Bat Masterson has just covered 1,100 miles to come to the aid of his estranged brother Jim. Bat was just in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, with Wyatt Earp when he received word of threats against his brother’s life.

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Doc Hits Bottom (But Not Much Else)

classic-gunfights-doc-holliday-illustration-bob-boze-bellAugust 19, 1884

Broke, sick and usually drunk, Doc Holliday hits rock bottom in Leadville, Colorado. Today, a fellow gambler, Billy Allen, is demanding Doc repay a $5 loan by noon, “or else.”

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