Old West/Gunfighter Groups
An outgrowth of the Civil War, the gunfighter-era also spawned a number of outlaws. The term "gunfighter" itself referred to those men in the American Old West who had gained a reputation as being dangerous with a gun. With men who had become accustomed to violence and often having lost their lands or fortunes, being quick with a gun was often an easy transition.
The occupations of these gunfighters ranged from lawmen, to cowboys, ranchers, gamblers, farmers, teamsters, bounty hunters, and outlaws. During these violent days, most of the shootings occurred in Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Missouri, and Colorado.
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, of those gunman who used their skills on the side of the law, they would persistently live longer lives than those that lived a life of crime.
Most gunfights are portrayed in films or books as having two men square off, waiting for one to make the first move. This was rarely the case. Often, a gunfight was spur-of-the-moment, with one drawing his pistol, and the other reacting. Often it would develop into a shootout where both men bolted for cover. Other times, one or both were drunk and missed several normally easy shots. Many times the shootout was little more than one taking advantage of the other's looking away at an opportune moment. Regardless of popular folklore, the men who held noteworthy reputations as a gunfighter were not anxious to match up against another gunman with the same reputation. On the contrary, in cases where two men held a similar reputation, both reputable gunmen would avoid confrontation with one another whenever possible. They rarely took undue risks, and usually weighed their options before confronting another well-known gunman. This respect for one another is why most famous gunfights were rarely two or more well-known gunmen matched up against one another, but rather one notable gunman against a lesser known opponent or opponents.
Generally, two well-known gunmen coming into contact with one another would result in either the two keeping a distance but being social, or avoiding one another altogether. In cases where one well-known gunman was a lawman, and another was merely in town, the one that was visiting would avoid problems. He avoided confrontation with the gunman serving lawman.
How famous gunfighters died is as varied as each man. Many well-known gunfighters were so feared by the public because of their reputation that when they were killed, they died as a result of ambush rather than going down in a "blaze of glory". Others died secluded deaths either from old age or illness.
The Old West
In many ways, the "Old West" is a time period many modern folk wish to return to, a time of values, hard work and a simpler way of life. There are many groups who do these impressions and we'll soon have links to them! If you are interested in Old West reenacting, come back real soon and we'll have the goods.
Indian Old West Reenacting
There's a lot of folks who are into this and many do it to honor their ancestors. I'd sure like to showcase any groups that do this--one can never go wrong in my book, by honoring your ancestors.
Coming soon, some good links for Old West and Gunfighter Groups!