atm-logoWho were the most dangerous gunmen in the Old West?

Kerry Creech
Lake City, Florida

I don’t doubt some deadly and dangerous gunfighters have been lost to history, but here are six men you wouldn’t want to mess with:

1. John Wesley Hardin killed his first man at age 15, and may have killed as many as 50. The “terror from Texas” usually ranks as the number one bad man on every historian’s list.

2. Killin’ Jim Miller, a lawman-turned-assassin who ambushed most of his victims, was related by marriage to Hardin. Miller claimed to have killed more than 50 men, although only about a dozen can be confirmed. A lynch mob rendered him a “suspended sentence” in 1909.

3. Bass Reeves, a deputy U.S. marshal in the Indian Territory for more than 30 years, estimated he had arrested 3,000 people and killed 14 men during that time. Anyone with that record had to be good. Not many outlaws trifled with him.

4. Dallas Stoudenmire had a deadly reputation in his day. He racked up 10 kills while helping to tame El Paso, Texas, one of the West’s most violent towns. He gained fame for his part in the 1881 gunfight dubbed “Four Dead in Five Seconds.”

5. John King Fisher, a Texas rancher, outlaw and lawman, had a knack for getting into fights in which he should have been the victim. Yet he walked away, leaving victims scattered all over the ground—an estimated 15 before he was assassinated in 1884.

6. John Calhoun Pinkney Higgins was a rugged Texan with a unique gunfighting style—he quick-fired a Winchester rifle, often shooting from the hip. His tactic worked; Higgins tallied at least four kills.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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