Almost as soon as motion pictures were invented, they featured stories about adventures in the Wild West. For decades Westerns dominated Hollywood, from the singing-cowboy movies starring Gene Autry, to the sprawling epics featuring John Wayne. None were quite as exciting as those featuring a thrilling showdown in the middle of town, a gunfight outside of a saloon, or a lawman getting the drop on a gang of outlaws. It was the fast-drawing heroes that captured fans’ hearts, and their skill with their side iron was only outmatched by their code of honor.
Though the fervor around Western movies and TV shows hasn’t returned to its former heights, it’s never completely gone away, because the romanticism and danger of the frontier will always be revered as uniquely American. You wouldn’t want to run into these fast-talking, fast-drawing gunsels at high noon!
10 Seth Bullock
A lawman turned mercantile entrepreneur, Seth Bullock was one of the principal players in the hit HBO Western masterpiece Deadwood, desirous to avoid conflict whenever possible but always able to finish a fight. Though his reserved demeanor often meant he was underestimated, when he strapped on his six-shooters he intended to use them.
When the infamous gunsel Wild Bill Hickok came to Deadwood to play cards, his reputation preceded him, and he sought the acquaintance of Bullock to mitigate a few disputes in the camp from young guns looking to make a name for themselves. When the time came for the two former lawmen to draw their irons, Bullock fired with such celerity that many in the camp swore he was Hickok’s superior.
9 Doc Holliday
For a man whose quickdraw was only overshadowed by his theatrical persona, Doc Holliday will always be remembered as a gentleman gunfighter who favored silk waistcoats, snappy one-liners, and pearl-handled firearms. Holliday’s weapon of choice was a .38 Colt Lightning double-action revolver, and he was deadly with it.
Though actor Val Kilmer depicted Holliday in the final months of his life in Tombstone, the notorious gambler had already been defying the odds by living with a Tuberculosis diagnosis for 12 years. Not only did he gun down Johnny Ringo, historically one of the fastest draws in the West, but he died in bed, something few gunslingers could claim at the time.
8 Raylan Givens
A popular character from the pages of acclaimed Western author Elmore Leonard, Raylan Givens was the no-nonsense, tough-talking US Marshal on the popular modern-Western series Justified, based on the novels Pronto and Riding The Gap. Givens was renowned for not only his expert marksmanship, but his quick draw ability with a pistol.
Givens carried a SIG Sauer P226 when he outdrew Tommy Bucks, who used the allegedly superior (and faster drawing) Glock 19. He would eventually upgrade to a .45 Glock (shown to be a 9mm Glock 17 on the series) but preferred to carry his customized Cold Officers ACP .45 handgun on most assignments.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) has been hailed as one of the greatest Westerns ever made, thanks in part to its charismatic cohort of gunslingers, one of which stood out for being a crack shot and a snappy dresser; Lee. An old friend of Chris Adams, Lee had lost his edge, and was hiding out on the border “waiting for the man and the gun” that was faster than him.
When he became one of seven men contracted by a small Mexican village to curtail the pillaging of a nefarious caballero named Calvera, he was given the means to redeem his reputation. It was his quick-thinking and rapid-fire marksmanship that gunned down Calvera’s sentries in the final shootout, allowing captive villagers to go free.
The star of several Western television series (including playing Raylan Givens in a made-for-TV film based on Elmore Leonard’s famous character, not to be confused with the 1997 film starring James LeGros), Richard Boone was best known for playing Paladin in Have Gun – Will Travel, about a hired gun with a strong morale code and a conscience.
A graduate from the venerated West Point Academy, Paladin became a gun for hire in San Francisco, CA, where clients could expect to receive one of his famous chess piece-embossed business cards reading simply “Have gun – will travel”. He not only had the all-black wardrobe of Johnny Cash and the suave sophistication of James Bond, he carried a custom .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Cavalry Model revolver with a rifled barrel, with which he was an expert shot.
5 Wild Bill Hickok
Though it may have seemed a joyless life to be Wild Bill Hickok, apart from his wife for much of his life and pursued by every young gun wanting to make a name for himself, the gunfighter still managed to carve out one of the most impressive reputations for himself on the frontier.
In the film Wild Bill, legendary actor Jeff Bridges took on the role of the long-haired sharpshooter, who worked as a lawman before finally spending his final days in Deadwood, North Dakota. Devastatingly accurate with a sidearm, instead of diving for cover during his barroom shoot-outs, denizens eagerly lined up like an audience to watch him work. In the opening scenes alone he kills a dozen men, one for touching his hat.
Once a slave separated from his wife, Django was freed after assisting an eccentric German dentist (Christoph Waltz) bring down the notorious Brittle Brothers. Django Unchained chronicled their adventures as they hunted down the most notorious gunmen in the South, while tracking the man who bought Django’s true love.
The dentist helped cultivate Django’s quick draw and long-range skills with a revolver and rifle, effectively turning him into one of the most dangerous men in the West. When he finally caught up to Calvin Candie, the man who purchased and tortured his wife, he became a one-man army and laid waste to his plantation.
3 Lucas McCain
Amid the dozens of Western television series throughout the ’50s and ’60s, The Rifleman stood out thanks to its charming crack shot lead Lucas McCain, and famous Western actor guest stars like Lee Van Cleef. McCain was nicknamed “the rifleman” thanks to his dangerous proficiency with his trusty .44 Winchester. With the ring restructured so he could cock it just by giving the trigger a twirl, he could easily fire eight shots in five seconds.
The signature eight-shot opening to the series was possible thanks to the screw placed on the trigger guard, which meant that he needed only to re-cock his rifle to let him fire his eight shots without ever pulling the trigger itself. The series didn’t solely focus on McCain’s amazing marksmanship, however; the father-son bond that formed its foundation made it a family-friendly series despite its violence.
2 Dolores Abernathy
While the series Westworld has strayed from its roots, for the first two seasons the HBO series focused more on its Western components than hard science fiction. Dolores Abernathy was the oldest robotic host in the Westworld theme park, and once she became aware of her origins, her quest to free herself and her fellow hosts unlocked a myriad of abilities.
Her status as an AI gave her incredible strength, reflexes, and powers of regeneration. She’s outdrawn fellow hosts, visitors, and people in the real world, Not only was she a lightning-fast shot, but she could heal from any damage taken. She preferred to use a Colt Single Action Army revolver with a 7.5 inch barrel.
1 The Man With No Name
Arguably Clint Eastwood’s most famous role, The Man With No Name became the archetype for which many Western heroes were based. A solitudinous gunslinger who sought revenge on the man who left him for dead, Eastwood portrayed him in A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
The Man With No Name often took jobs as a hired gun, often outsmarting his clients before violence was even required. However when pressed, he could outdraw any opponent, which came to the forefront when, in The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly he outdrew Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes.
NEXT: 5 Western Books Better Than The Movies (& 5 That Are Surprisingly Worse)
Monkey Business: 10 Best Monkeys In Movie History, Ranked
About The Author