Classic Gunfights

A Short Storm


February 25, 1881

Charley Storms has been playing faro since last night...and losing. As an Arizona morning dawns, a broke and drunk Storms takes out his frustration on the other patrons of Tombstone’s Oriental Saloon. Storms turns to a faro dealer, making a move to slap the “insignificant little fellow, whom,” Bat Masterson says, “[Storms] could slap in the face without expecting a return.”

Read more:

Billy’s Backyard Breakout Billy the Kid vs Peppin’s Posse

July 19, 1878

Fire is licking at the last room—Susan McSween’s kitchen. In this final refuge, her husband, Alexander, sits with his head in his hands. His 12 defenders are crowded into this crumbling, tiny space, where the walls are too hot to touch, and the air is heavy with smoke. The men are blackened, tired, thirsty and desperate, but they have decided to wait until dark before attempting to escape.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

Dust-Up in Delta

Classic-Gunfights_McCarty-Gang_W-Ray-SimpsonSeptember 7, 1893

Not many folks are out and about on this stifling hot Thursday morning in Delta, Colorado.

At 10:15 a.m., fifteen minutes after the Farmers and Merchants Bank opened, Bill McCarty and son Fred are conducting business inside—with guns in hand.

Read more:

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).

Read more:

Blood on the Tracks

frank-still-shot-deadMarch 20, 1882

Two days after assassins kill Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp has spent his 34th birthday attending to the details of shipping his younger brother’s remains home to California.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

Jar Head!

CG_Joaquin-Murrieta_head-in-jarJuly 25, 1853

Saddling 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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:


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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

True Westerners

Rick Wallner

Rick Wallner

The best book on Bent’s Fort is David Lavender’s Bent’s Fort , although Mark Lee G...

Justice for Jack

Justice for Jack

Pioneer Jack Swilling should be remembered for his many contributions to Arizona...

Liberty, Not Death

Liberty, Not Death

Children soothed their thirst by scraping their fingernails on barrack windows t...

MAY 2015

True West Magazine Issue May 2015
Buy This Back Issue: May 2015

JUNE 2015

True West Magazine Issue June 2015
Buy This Back Issue: June 2015

JULY 2015

True West Magazine Issue July 2015
Buy This Back Issue: July 2015


True West Magazine Issue August 2015
Buy This Back Issue: August 2015


True West Magazine Issue September 2015
Buy This Back Issue: September 2015

True West Site Guide


True West captures the spirit of the American West with authenticity, personality and humor by linking our history to our present. Whether you call it the Wild West, the Old West or the Far West, America's frontier history comes to life in True West, the world's oldest, continuously published Western Americana magazine.

Western movie fans, re-enactors, history buffs and road warriors, we got your history covered: outlaw, cowboy, Indian, lawman, gunfighter, fur trapper, miner, prospector, gambler, soldier, entertainer and pioneer. Check out these True Westerners now!

Product of the Month

The Illustrated Life and Times of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

"Your book is fascinating, coupling your powerful illustrations [and] tracking...from birth to Tombstone to the legend [Wyatt] had become;...even Wyatt would approve." --By Hugh O'Brian, of the TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

"Hands down the definitive books on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday." --By Allen Barra, New York Newsday