This story delves into the issue of famous gunfighters of the old west. Upon examination, I found that some of them I'd heard of but many more I hadn't. Of course, O'Neal's article did not examine all 249 that was part of an overall research program cited in the very first paragraph of the article.
"At what age did Westerners commence gunfighting careers? This statistic is available for 136 (55 percent) of the 249 gunmen examined. The average age for a first-timer in a shootout was 25. Of course, many individuals demonstrated early a willingness to take recourse in gunplay," says O'Neal.
- Cole Younger: 16 years of age he killed at man at 71 yards. (see a book reading below)
- Billy the Kid: 17 years old killed a man who slapped him at Fort Grant in Arizona.
- Jesse James: Killed a man in anger at the age of 17.
A Book Reading on Cole Younger
- Jim Miller: Suspected of killing his grandparents at the age of 8; was 17 when he was sentenced to life for killing his brother-in-law as he slept. "Miller was released on a technicality and soon became the West's premier assassin," says O'Neal.
- Henry Brown: Was 18 when he experienced his first gun play killing a man with three slugs.
- Seldon Lindsey: Killed a man at age 18, was acquitted, then went on to become a law enforcement officer.
- Jim Riley: After seeing someone he admired gunned down, killed all of the men involved in the incident.
- Ira Aten: At 18 fought a Texas Ranger.
- Bob Younger
- Charlie Bowdre
- Cherokee Bill Goldsby
- John Spradley
- Tiburcio Vasquez
- Henry Starr: This gunman was 19 when he earned his title after killing a peace officer.
- Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce O'Rourke: Was a gambler who killed another during a card game when the latter pulled a knife (hence the old saying, 'Don't take a knife to a gunfight.').
- Burt Alvord: Killed Six-Shooter Jim at the age of 19.
- Elfego Baca
- Bill Tilghman
- Cullen Baker
O'Neal included a number of photographs of well known and documented gunmen in the story, including the following:
- Tom Smith
- Doc Holliday
- Joe Lowe
- Bob Ford
- John Selman
- Jim Courtright
- Morgan Earp
- Bat Masterson
- Harvey Logan (Kid Curry)
- James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok
- Billy Brooks
- Pat Garrett
Be sure to see the HOT! section (look to the right) where you'll find documentaries and other videos on famous gunfighters of the old west. For the individual who would like to know more, the Old West magazine that this story came from is for sale in our shopping section.
If you find this story interesting, consider purchasing one of the following books or DVD's on famous gunslingers. Thank you for helping us keep the lights on.