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In the early 1870s, the citizens of Casper, Wyoming are chagrined by the arrival of Rick Martin, a notorious gunslinger who has returned to his hometown to warn of an impending attack by outlaw Tom Quentin and his raiders. Rick visits his recently deceased mother's grave and is dismayed to see a freshly dug grave, with a tombstone bearing his name, next to it. Marshal Bat Davis, Rick's friend, comes to the cemetery to inform him that after his last visit, during which he killed three men, the town council decreed that he would not be allowed to return. Even though Bat and Rick know that the men were killed in a fair fight, the townsfolk are weary of Rick's reputation being linked with Casper. Rick relays the warning to Bat and offers to help fight the raiders, but Bat states that he will have to consult the council members. Rick then visits hotel owner Jim O'Hara, his oldest friend, who greets him warmly. While Rick rides out to see Laura Mead, his childhood sweetheart, the town council, including Bat, Jim, Hank Spencer, Ed Marsh and Canby Judd, votes to order Rick to leave by midnight, even though Bat protests that he needs Rick to fight Quentin. At the Mead ranch, Laura is thrilled to see Rick, although she still disapproves of his life as a "top gun" who hires out to "settle trouble." When Rick suggests that she accept his long-standing marriage proposal and they move to California, Laura informs him that she is engaged to Judd. Back in town, Rick discusses the situation with Jim, who had hoped that Laura would change her mind about the prosperous but untrustworthy Judd. Rick questions Jim about his mother's death, and Jim reveals that she was shot by marauders on the night that she mortgaged her ranch to Judd for $5,000. When Rick examines the paperwork, he discovers that it is actually a bill of sale, not a mortgage, and a smudge at the top indicates that the bill of sale title was covered by another paper, thereby fooling Mrs. Martin into believing that she was signing only a mortgage. Furious at Judd's deception, Rick rides to his old homestead and there accuses Judd of killing his mother. Judd denies it and the two men engage in a fistfight, which is broken up by Laura. After Rick departs, Judd lies to Laura, telling her that they were fighting because Rick is jealous of their relationship. That evening, Bat pleads for deputies to help him fight the raiders, but few men come forward. Meanwhile, Judd approaches young hothead Lem Sutter, and as they lay a plan to ambush Rick, Laura confronts Rick about his fight with Judd. Rick tersely replies that he no longer has any right to fight over her but refuses to divulge the real reason. Soon after, women and children begin assembling in the church for safety, and Laura again questions Judd about his fight with Rick. Judd promises to resolve their differences peacefully but, as he rides out of town with Rick, Judd admits that he made "too sharp of a deal" for Mrs. Martin's land. Judd offers Rick $30,000 plus the land if he will leave, but Rick insists on a gunfight to settle the matter. Lem suddenly jumps out into the middle of the road, and Rick realizes that Judd has steered him into a trap. Rick and Lem draw, with Rick winning in a fair fight, but when the townspeople rush out after hearing the gunshot, Judd proclaims that Rick shot Lem in cold blood. Rick protests that he is being framed, but Bat is forced to take his guns and arrest him. Early the next morning, Judd proposes bribing Quentin to leave Casper alone, and the timid Marsh and Hank support him, even though Bat insists that cash means nothing to Quentin. Bat then scouts ahead and is met by Quentin and his henchmen. When Bat proposes an honorable fight between the two of them, Quentin guns him down and a shootout begins between the townsmen and the outlaws. Although Quentin loses a number of men, the deputies are all killed except for Jim, and the criminals go to the saloon. Jim then tells Judd and the others that he is going to release Rick so that he can protect himself, and they decide to offer Rick money to protect them. Jim scoffs at their hypocrisy, but when Laura urges Rick not to help the town, as it is unworthy of him, he decides to do it anyway. After Rick exits the jail, Jim tells a shocked Laura the truth about Judd, then goes to the hotel to wait for Rick. Rick lures two of Quentin's five remaining men into the hotel, where he and Jim tie them up. Quentin and his other henchmen soon come looking for them, and during the ensuing gun battle, Quentin wounds Jim in the shoulder while Rick kills the henchmen. Rick and Quentin stalk each other through the town until they prepare to face each other in the street. Quentin laughingly warns Rick that Judd is about to shoot him in the back, but Rick does not believe him until Judd calls out. Rick and Quentin draw, and as Rick shoots Quentin, Laura comes up behind Judd and shoots him before he can kill Rick. Rick comforts the shaken Laura, and later, the entire town gathers to wish them well as they leave for a new life together in California.