Retired Gunfighter

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(Redirected from Retired Gunslinger)

I was good. I was real good. I was so good that once a day someone would ride into town to make me prove it. And every day I'd start my drinking a few minutes earlier. Until one morning, a guy who asked me to prove it turned out to be 16 years old. I left him there on his face, right there in front of the saloon. I left him there bleeding to death with my bullet in him.
The Twilight Zone TOS, "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"

A version of Retired Badass common in the Western genre. This fellow used to be The Gunslinger, but has decided to settle down and hang up his guns. This can be because he's gotten older and slower, but more often it's because he's either gotten married and wants to live to raise a family or his conscience bothers him about the people he's killed. Thus he can be considerably younger than the average Retired Badass.

The classic plotline for a Retired Gunfighter is for a Young Gun or The Gunfighter Wannabe to try to force him out of retirement for one last gunfight so they can make a reputation. Alternatively, an old enemy or a surviving relative of an old enemy arrives to seek Revenge.

Frequently, a retired gunslinger will have changed his name or otherwise obscured his identity in order to avoid his reputation. If he hasn't managed to find a new place to stay, he may be The Drifter.

A special case is when somebody who is already established in the town turns out to actually be a Retired Gunfighter, in this case he comes as a complete surprise to the villain- might be used as a supporter of The Hero or a mentor to the Young Gun. He can also simply be a surprise hero, masquerading as a Meek Townsman until the villain shows up. Often his family and friends are surprised as they didn't know he was a gunfighter. If a major hero is pointedly identified as never carrying a gun, don't be surprised if he turns out to be a Retired Gunfighter.

Examples of Retired Gunfighter include:

Anime and Manga

  • Vash tried to pull this one between the manga series, until his former allies and enemies found him, the townspeople didn't even realize it was him.

Comic Books

  • The Saint of Killers from Preacher (Comic Book) was this for a while - he hung up his guns and got married. Then she got sick during the winter, and a band of thugs got in his way, preventing him from returning with medicine in time. Then he picked up his guns again to get revenge on the thugs... and things went downhill from there. Really far down.
  • Jonah Hex has become one of these in his Deadly Distant Finale (set in 1904) that appeared in the Jonah Hex Spectacular one-shot.
  • The Coyote Kid from Welcome to Tranquility was a murderous psychopath driven by the spirits of wind, fire, blood and death until he fell in love. The Kid settled down and started a family, which kept the spirits away until the day zombies "farmed" and ate his family and made him watch.
  • Deadshot briefly considered retiring when he found out about his daughter.


Waco Kid: Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word "draw" in my sleep. Then one day I was just walking down the street and I heard a voice behind me say "Reach for it, mister!" I spun around. And there I was face to face...with a 6-year-old kid! Well, I just threw my guns down and walked away. The little bastard shot me in the ass! So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled inside a whiskey bottle and I've been there ever since.

  • Borderline: Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider. Yes, his guns were in storage while he acted as a priest, but that might have been more of a vacation than a retirement. The whole movie is meant to play him up as supernatural, not merely human. What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic?
  • Tombstone, a 1993 Western movie, starts with Wyatt Earp, a well-known peace officer, settling down in Tombstone city. He refuses to get into any trouble saying he's retired. Of course, things soon get messy as the leader of a local gang kills the town marshal, so Wyatt's two brothers take his place. As one of them is maimed by criminals, and another is killed, this gets personal, so Wyatt confronts the outlaws.
  • Ronald in The Warrior's Way turns out to be the surprise version (although not so much of a surprise to anyone who saw the cover of the DVD).
  • Captain Oren Hayes and his retired Texas Rangers in Once Upon a Texas Train.
  • Cort in The Quick and the Dead.
  • Wyatt Earp in Sunset.


  • Mike Resnick's Widowmaker trilogy used this one In Space.
  • Kilkenny, in several books by Louis L'Amour, is The Drifter because he wants to retire, but people won't let him once they find out who he is.
  • Really dubious: To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch, depending on where you think he learned his marksmanship skills.
  • Lu Tze in Thief of Time of the Discworld series fits this trope in many ways, though it is suggested that his reluctance to take on his mission of training Lobsang Ludd is actually feigned, and he becomes eager to embark when he realizes he has a second chance to destroy the world ending clock. In any case, he has pretty much resigned himself to being The Sweeper, even though his true name is legendary and would command massive respect from the school's pupils.

Live Action TV


  • The Johnny Cash song "The Last Gunfighter Ballad" (on the album of the same name).

Newspaper Comics

  • A storyline in the newspaper comic Latigo concerns an ex-gunman who goes straight after four years in prison, and becomes the preacher in the town of Rimfire. It originally ran in 1981.

Video Games

  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura has a "retired" gunslinger in one sidequest who has got religion and cut off his index and middle fingers to make sure he can never use a gun again.
    • What I found weird about this is that even though he can't use guns any more, and won't attack you if you attack him, and gave up his title, he still carries a rifle with him. He won't say so, but you can check his inventory, and he's got one.
      • Really now? In The Man with the Golden Gun there was a weapon manifacturer who created a rifle, meant to be used by an assassin who was also lacking in the finger department. He used a pressure based trigger in the stock. Coincidence? 8:30.
  • Landon Ricketts from Red Dead Redemption fits this archetype for the most part, although he still functions as an unofficial lawkeeper protecting the folks of Chuparosa.
    • John Marston himself, to an extent. least he tries to be.
  • Reverend Ray McCall from Call of Juarez, until he picks up his guns again to hunt down the murderer of his family. Bound in Blood shows Ray's transformation from Confederate soldier to outlaw gunfighter and the tragic events that push him to box up his guns and turn to God.

Western Animation