Gunfighters of the Old West


The terms “gunfighter” or “gunslinger,” as they are most often called today, are actually more modern words utilized in films and literature of the 20th Century. During the days of the “real” Wild West, men who had gained a reputation as being dangerous with a gun were more commonly called gunmen, pistoleers, shootists, or bad men. That being said, Bat Masterson, a noted gunfighter himself, who later became a writer for the New York Morning Telegraph, sometimes referred to them as “gunfighters” but, more often, as “man killers.”

Though our Complete List of Old West Gunfighters provides the names of hundreds of gunmen, many might not term them true “gunfighters” in the widespread sense of the word today. No, they didn’t squarely face off with each other from a distance in a dusty street, like movies and television would like us to believe. In actuality, the “real” gunfights of the Old West were rarely that “civilized.” Many of the men listed on our Gunfighters pages fought in the Old West’s many range wars and feuds, which were far more common than the “stand-off” gunfight. Most of these were fought over land or water rights, some were political, and others were “old Hatfield-McCoy” style differences between families or lifestyles.

Of those that fit more easily into the perception of the “gunfighter,” rarely did they kill as many men in gunfights as most were given credit for. In many instances, their reputations developed from one particular instance, and as the rumors grew, so did their prowess with a gun. In other cases, their reputations were enhanced by self-promotion. Such was the case with Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok.

Other lesser-known shootists who saw just as much, if not more, action than their well-known counterparts were Ben Thompson, Tom Horn, Kid CurryTimothy Courtright, King Fisher, Scott Cooley, Clay Allison, and Dallas Stoudenmire, to name a few.

It was often difficult to identify the gunfighters, whose occupations ranged from lawmen to cowboys, ranchers, gamblers, farmers, teamsters, bounty hunters, and outlaws. In many cases, these violent men could move quickly from fighting on the side of the law to utilizing their talents in a life of crime.

Though about a third of the gunman died of “natural causes,” many died violently in gunfights, lynchings, or legal executions. The average age of death was about 35. However, those gunmen who used their skills on the side of the law would persistently live longer lives than those who lived a life of crime.

Most shootings occurred in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Missouri, and Colorado during these violent days.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

“Never run a bluff with a six-gun.”
Bat Masterson


Clay Allison at age 45

Clay Allison at age 45


Buckskin Frank Leslie

Buckskin Frank Leslie



Jim Miller, infamous killer

Jim Miller, infamous killer



Index and Summaries of Old West Gunfighters

Gunfights of the Old West


Clay Allison – Colfax County Bad Boy

Hugh Anderson – Texas Cowboy Gunfighter

William Anderson – Wichita, Kansas Gunman

John Barclay Armstrong – Texas Lawman

Charles Askins – Gunfighter Legend

Ira Aten – Texas Ranger and Cowboy

Elfego Baca & The “Frisco War”

Cullen Montgomery Baker – A Very Bad Man

Bud Ballew – Gunfighter & Lawman of Oklahoma

William “Billy” Brooks – Lawman & Horse Thief

Henry Newton Brown – Outlaw Marshal of Kansas

Charles “Charlie” Bryant – Trigger Finger Outlaw

Frank Canton – Cowboy, Outlaw, and Lawman

Emmanuel “Mannen” Clements, Sr. – A Bad Texas Hombre

Phil Coe – Gunfighter and Gambler

Chunk Colbert – New Mexico Bad Boy

Scott Cooley – Texas Ranger Turned Killer

Timothy Isaiah Courtright -Texas Lawman and Outlaw

Davy Crockett – Gunfighter & Outlaw

Pony Deal – Outlaw & Gunfighter of the Southwest

John Denson – A Bad Seed

James Dolan – Bad Boy of the Lincoln County War

Bill Earhart – Feuding in the Southwest

Virgil Earp – Upholding the Law of the West

Wyatt Earp – Frontier Lawman of the American West

John King Fisher – Texas Gunman, Outlaw, Lawman

John H. Good – Gunfighting Rancher

John Wesley Hardin & The Shootist Archetype

Jack Helm – Texas Lawman

Wild Bill Hickok & The Dead Man’s Hand

Pink Higgens – Texas Gunfighter

Doc Holliday – Deadly Doctor of the West

Tom Horn – Wyoming Killer for Hire

Benjamin Horrell – Texas Gunfighter

John “Turkey Creek Jack” Johnson – Riding With the Earps

Bill Jordan – Gunfighter Legend

Kitty Leroy – Lady Gambler & Gunfighter

“Buckskin Frank” Leslie – Another Tombstone Rowdy

Jim Levy – The Jewish Gunfighter

Lincoln County, New Mexico Regulators

“Big Steve” Long – Wyoming Gunman

Wild Bill Longley – A Dangerous Man in Dangerous Times

“Cock-Eyed” Frank Loving – Dueling Gunfighter

“Rowdy Joe” Lowe – Saloon Gunfighter

Frank MacNab – Killed in the Lincoln County War

Bat Masterson – King of the Gun Players

James “Jim” Masterson – Dodge City Marshal

Gunplay Maxwell – Utah Gunfighter & Outlaw

Daniel Boone May – Protecting the Deadwood Stage

Sherman McMasters – Outlaw or Lawman?

John Middleton – One of the Regulators

James Miller – Hired Killer of the Old West

Robert Olinger – Killer With a Badge

Bass Outlaw – Lawman, Gunfighter, & Texas Ranger

Ferd Patterson – Living and Dying by the Gun

Levi Richardson – Gunfighting in Dodge City

Barney Riggs – Infamous West Texas Gunfighter

Johnny Ringo – Tombstone Rowdy

Buckshot Roberts Last Stand

Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock- Cowboy Gunfighter

John Selman – Wicked Lawman and Vicious Outlaw

Luke Short – A Dandy Gunfighter

Texas John Slaughter – Taming Arizona

Six Shooter Bill Smith – Little Known Desperado

Whispering Smith’s Adventures

Pete Spence – Escaping the Wrath of the Earps

Frank C. Stillwell – Outlaw Cowboy Killer

Charlie Storms – A Failed Gunfighter

Dallas Stoudenmire – Taming El Paso, Texas

John “Jack” Hays Taylor- Fighting in the Sutton-Taylor Feud

Ben Thompson – Lawman and Gunman

Ben Thompson and Other Noted Gunmen by Bat Masterson

Texas Billy Thompson – Constant Trouble

Shootout at the Pembina Post Office

Triggerfingeritis – The Old West Gunman

John Wilson “Texas Jack” Vermillion

See our Lawmen & Gunfighters Photo Gallery HERE