Old West
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Which Fictional Wild West Gunslinger Would Win In A Free-For-All Shootout?

Updated November 7, 2019 4.5k votes 554 voters 6.7k views19 items

List RulesVote up the characters with the quickest draw.

Ah, the Wild West, where cowboys ruled and disputes were adjudicated with the pull of a trigger. Quick-drawing heroes, antiheroes, and psychopathic villains are a mainstay of the Western genre and appear in just about every film, TV show, or video game set in the Wild West. However, there are undoubtedly some that stand out among the horde of cattle rustlers and righteous, vengeance-seeking white knights. Here's a chance to see how they would hold up in a free-for-all fight in the streets of a backwater border town.

Could the cigar-chomping Man with No Name get the drop on the drunken US Marshal with the amazing name of Rooster Cogburn? Would Tombstone's Doc Holliday (a historical figure, admittedly, but a highly fictionalized one) be Raylan Givens's huckleberry in a quick draw? Would the space-faring Malcolm Reynolds come out on top in a tete-a-tete with the (again, highly fictionalized) Sundance Kid? Revisiting some of the greatest Western gunslingers of fiction - including their choice side arm, their greatest victories, and their biggest weaknesses - let's see which of these characters would wind up as the last man (or woman) standing in a dust-up.

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  • Photo: A Fistful Of Dollars / Unidis

    Weapon of Choice: Revolver (Colt Single Action Army model)

    Signature Victory: In A Fistful of Dollars, the Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) - also referred to as the Stranger - returns to town to face off against Ramon Rojo, the ruthless leader of a lawless crew. Secretly wearing a steel plate under his poncho, the Stranger taunts Ramon into firing at him, but the bullets just bounce off him until Ramon's side arm is empty. 

    The Stranger reveals the steel plate and then, with shocking speed, blasts the piece out of Ramon's hands and takes out all four of the henchmen standing around him. He then challenges Ramon to see who can reload their side arm first. The Stranger wins by a fraction of a second, putting an end to Ramon's frightening reign once and for all.

    Weaknesses: While he's undeniably a master of the quick draw, the Man With No Name doesn't always think his plans through. While the steel-plate-under-the-poncho is clever (and inspired the best scene in Back to the Future III), Ramon has a very accurate side arm, and could have just as easily fired at the Man's very unprotected face. This seems to be a running theme for the Man with No Name, and luck just carries him through.

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  • Weapon of Choice: Revolver (Colt Single Action Army Quickdraw model)

    Signature Victory: While it would be easy to turn to the showdown at the OK Corral as an example of Doc's (Val Kilmer) prowess, the whole fight is a messy affair. Holliday's true mastery of the side arm can be seen when he faces off against the frighteningly accurate Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) and ends him in a quick draw, despite suffering from late-stage tuberculosis.

    Weaknesses: Well, tuberculosis. Even before it ultimately ends him, Holliday has a propensity for fainting, general weakness, and fits of coughing—although, as Johnny Ringo learns, it doesn't slow his trigger finger.

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    William Munny ('Unforgiven')

    Weapon of Choice: Revolver (Smith & Wesson Schofield Model 3), shotgun (W. Richards 10 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun), rifle (Spencer 1860 Saddle Ring Carbine). Munny (Clint Eastwood) is an equal-opportunity pragmatist, using whatever's at hand to get the job done. He often ends up using pieces that once belonged to his friends: In the climactic showdown, he wields both Ned Logan's (Morgan Freeman) rifle and the Schofield Kid's (Jaimz Woolvett) revolver.

    Signature Victory: Arriving at the saloon in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, to avenge the slaying of his friend Ned Logan, Munny gets the drop on a posse assembled by Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman). As an amuse-bouche before the big event, he blows away the saloon owner, then zeroes in on Little Bill. A misfire in his second barrel hardly slows down Munny, who throws the useless piece at his enemies, pulls out his side arm, and dispatches the posse members in a matter of seconds. Grabbing Ned's old rifle (which Little Bill had acquired) before the dust has settled, Munny finishes off the now-wounded Little Bill with the immortal line, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." 

    Weaknesses: At this stage in his life, Munny - who had ostensibly been "reformed" by his late wife - is reluctant to get involved in extralegal matters, and his skills have obviously declined. Once his ire is aroused and he shakes off the rust, however, Munny's a stone-cold marksman, demonstrating neither fear nor remorse.

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  • 4

    Wyatt Earp ('Tombstone')

    Weapon of Choice: Revolver (Colt Buntline Special) and a double-barrel shotgun (Stevens 10 Gauge Side-by-Side)

    Signature Victory: While his name will always be synonymous with the showdown at the OK Corral, the greatest victory for Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) in Tombstone has to be when, after his long and bloody vendetta against the Cowboy crew, he goes toe-to-toe with the villainous "Curly Bill" Brocius (Powers Boothe) in a creek in Iron Springs, Arizona.

    In the film, Curly Bill and his men have Earp, Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) and their comrades pinned down on the banks of the river, until Earp is driven to the breaking point and walks out into the creek, braving the Cowboys' fire and repeating one simple declaration: "No." Curly Bill and his men fire several times and miss, as Earp just marches forward through the water. Finally, before Bill can bring up his side arm, Earp screams one final resounding "No!" and unloads both barrels right into Curly Bill's chest.

    Weaknesses: One thing is evident in his blind, insane attack on Curly Bill: Earp is no tactical mastermind. He simply decides to ignore the fact that he's being fired at, and somehow it works out. The same goes for his attack on the Cowboys at the OK Corral: Earp, his brothers, and Holliday just sort of show up without a plan, and end up having to blast their way out of a situation that they might have avoided in the first place. He's definitely a "fire first, don't bother asking any questions later" kind of lawman.

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