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Old West Outlaws and Lawmen: The Deadliest Gunslingers of Their Time

Old West outlaws and lawmen are renowned during their time for their expertise in using a gun. The cowboy era in the 19th century abounds with colorful and exciting stories of legendary gunslingers who earned fame (or infamy) for their shooting skills. Whether they used it to hold up banks or uphold the law, the skill of these famous gunslingers were highly regarded.


James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok


James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was born in Illinois on May 27, 1837. From early childhood, Bill was a dead shot with a pistol and earned a reputation as a marksman growing up. Before serving as a lawman in Kansas, he worked as a stagecoach driver. During the Civil War, he served (some claimed as a spy) for the Union Army.

A quick-draw duel with David Tutt in public earned Hickock the celebrity status. His favorite weapons were a pair of silver-plated 1851 Colt pistols which he can quickly draw in reverse “cavalry” style. After being discharged in the Army, Hickok joined and, like Annie Oakley, became a favorite attraction at Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.

While playing poker in a Deadwood saloon in what is today South Dakota, Hickok was treacherously shot from behind and killed by Jack McCall, a down-on-his-luck gambler.

At the time of his death, Hickock held a two-pair of black aces and black eights – what is known today as Dead Man’s Hand.


Marshal Stoudenmire


Dallas Stoudenmire joined the Confederate army when he was 15 years old but was discharged when found to be underage. He joined again and was able to see action in the Civil War. For more than three years after that, Stoudenmire served as a Texas Ranger. He was an expert marksman and carried a reputation of having a dangerously short fuse when under the influence of liquor.

El Paso, Texas saw a sudden drop in crime rate when Stoudenmire became marshal in April 1881. In what is famously known as the “Four Dead In Five Seconds” shootout, Stoudenmire shot and killed three men with his two .44 caliber Colt revolvers. The marshal earned a hero status but also gained a lot of enemies. On September 18, 1882, at the age of 36, Stoudenmire was shot and killed in a gunfight that stemmed from a feud with the Manning brothers.


William “Wild Bill” Longley


If there were psychopaths among Old West outlaws, then “Wild Bill” Longley would surely be one of them. He had an unpredictable behavior and a terribly vile temper that made him kill at a drop of a hat. A television show dubbed him as a two-gun fast draw expert.

At a young age, Longley’s mind was conditioned to believe that it was alright to kill “sassy Negroes.” When he was 17, he did just that. Growing up in a farm in Lee County, Texas, Longley trained to be an expert shooter. His weapon of choice are a pair of Dance .44 caliber revolvers, but had a shotgun for backup. Before he was hanged, Longley confessed to killing 8 people, far less than the 32 that he once claimed.


Dan Bogan


Dan Bogan was one of the less-mentioned of Old West outlaws. He was born in Alabama in 1860, but grew up and worked as a cowboy in Texas. His hot temper branded him the reputation as a mischief-maker. By 1886, it is believed that Bogan had killed three men. He also figured in the fatal shooting of Constable and ex-Texas Ranger Charles S. Gunn. Bogan was wounded in the shoulder and eventually captured, but managed to escape during a severe snowstorm.

Fear of dying from his infected wounds forced Bogan to surrender to lawmen. In October 1987, he bolted from prison and vanished like a ghost. Rumors have it that he may have escaped to South America, specifically to Argentina.


John Wesley Hardin


Hardin_Old West outlawsAs a teenager, John Wesley Hardin, named after the founder of the Methodist faith, greatly admired “Wild Bill” Hickok’s reputation as a gunslinger. Besides firing a six-shooter with incredible accuracy at lightning-fast speed, Hardin can also hit a target while mounted on a galloping horse. Unfortunately, he used these skills for evil purposes. At the young age of 14, Hardin shot and killed his first victim in 1868.

It was reported that there were over 30 notches on his gun, signifying the number of men he dispatched in his lifetime.


James “Killin’ Jim” Miller


James “Killin’ Jim” Miller’s life of crime began when he blasted his sister’s husband with a shotgun. A legal technicality enabled him to evade a life sentence for the crime. Miller’s next victim is lawman Joe Townsend, also with a shotgun attack. After much traveling, “Killin’ Jim” became a saloon owner, and afterwards a Pecos lawman.

After a stint with the Texas Rangers, Miller became a professional gun-for-hire. He was reportedly responsible for the death of 51 men, with 12 of them killed in shootouts. For his murder of ex-Deputy US Marshal Allen “Gus” Bobbitt, Miller was lynched by an angry mob.

“Let ‘er rip” was reputedly his last words.


Billy the Kid


Old West outlaws No one knows exactly what his true name was (some believe it was Henry McCarty or William H. Bonney) or where he came from, but Billy the Kid’s claim to fame was his excellent skill in gun-handling. There were unclear information that he hailed from a New York Irish community in 1859, and lived with his mother in New Mexico in 1873.

One of the most well-known of Old West outlaws, Billy the Kid was reported to have shot and killed as many as 26 men, mostly with what is believed to be his favorite firearm, the .44 caliber Colt Peacemaker. On July 14, 1881 at the age of 21, Billy the Kid’s trail of violence and deadly exploits came to an end when he met his death at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett.






  1. History is first taught to us in school. Of course teachers compare each student against another evaluation lowers self esteem etc. HistoryBuffs love learn about the past maybe so not to repeat it ? The wild west guys some may of knew each other if you analyze facts? Look at Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild bill Hickok, Doc Holliday ,Bat Masterson,Wyatt Earp among other Outlaws – Cowboys. They all lived in Illinois at one time or another? They all had same occupations? They all had the same vices – addictions – interests in brothels women? Cody help Bat ,Bat knew Earp, Bat knew Holliday, Cody knew Hickok and the list goes on and on? Now did Masterson come from Canada or Illinois /Missouri but he did live in Illinois ? The Masterson family :1870 US Census in St. Clair County, Illinois.,.1900 United States Federal Census Record William Masterson, birthplace of Missouri, Ebook :On a farm near Fairfield, Illinois, November 24, 1853, a boy wasborn, the second child of seven to be reared by Thomas Mastersonand his wife, Katherine McGurk Masterson. Masterson got message to go to Nebraska to save Billy Thompson from Lynching and Cody help them get out of Nebraska and think Cody born LeClaire Iowa along mississippi river not far from either way Monmouth iL (earps) or Chicago (near troy il ) Wild Bill Hickok. All their occupations : drover, wagon master, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor. Heck even Wyatt Earp knew actors in Los Angeles and Johnwayne brought him coffee as he was interested in Earps tales of the Wild west?

    • Thank you for your very interesting insights and knowledge of the famous gunslingers.

      • Ned is the man, the myth, and the legend. He is the real MVP.

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