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In the early 1880s in the Arizona territory, Ranger captain Matt Sloane goes undercover to smash a notorious outlaw gang led by Johnny Ringo, which includes Ike Clanton and "Curly Bill" Broces. After circulating several phony "wanted" posters that establish him as an outlaw, Matt arrives in Tombstone, the center of Ringo's activities. Unknown to Matt, his young son Terry has recently run away from home miles away after discovering one of the posters of Matt. After Terry is chased by a mysterious man who tries to kill him, the boy is picked up by a passing stagecoach and looked after by passenger Della Cooper, the daughter of Tombstone's assayer. Meanwhile, when Matt checks into his hotel, he is attacked by Ringo, Clanton and Broces, who believe that Matt may be poaching on their claim to the silver in the area. Matt denies any involvement in a recent silver robbery, and is backed up by the arrival of rancher Pete Beasley, a secret member of Matt's organization, who maintains that Matt has been working for him as a ranchhand. The next day Matt, Pete and the other undercover Rangers meet the governor of the territory, who presses Matt to put an end to Ringo's criminal activities so that statehood will be approved. Matt then exhibits a sheet of paper stolen from Ringo's office, which contains several cattle brands that Matt suspects represent critical information about Ringo's illegal activity. Later, Matt is visited by Joe Barger, a family friend who reports Terry's disappearance and states that he may be on his way to Tombstone on the stage. Distressed over Terry's safety and also fearing that his son will reveal his identity, Matt rides out to meet the incoming stage. Outside of town, the stage is shot at by a mysterious sniper and Terry is wounded just as Matt arrives. After Della learns that Matt is Terry's father, she becomes outraged that Matt left Terry alone and insists the injured boy be taken to her home and treated. There, Matt confides that he was once a lawman in Texas, where Terry witnessed the murder of his mother. When Matt explains that he quit being sheriff to track down his wife's murderer, Della is appeased but still concerned for Terry. Despite Della's protest, Matt takes the recovering Terry to the Beasleys', but refuses to answer his son's questions about the "wanted" posters. Later, Matt learns from some of his men that two of the brands on Ringo's stolen sheet match those from ranches that have recently had cattle rustled. After tracking down the next brands on the list, Matt discovers that the stolen cattle are being driven into Mexico. Matt then evades an attack by Broce and rides to Mexico to meet a contact who is shot just as Matt arrives. Before dying, the man utters the Spanish word for "scorpion." At the office of the town chief of police, Col. Aramillo, Matt explains his mission to break Ringo's gang and Aramillo offers full cooperation, then reveals that "scorpion" is the name of a local silver mine. Upon returning to Tombstone, Matt tells Pete that he believes that Ringo's gang is selling the rustled cattle in Mexico for silver bullion, which they are then passing off as coming from local Arizona mines in order to sell it to the U. S. government. Upon discovering that Della has made numerous inquiries around town about Terry, Matt confronts her at her home. Della reveals that she has remained in the dangerous town of Tombstone only to care for her father and feels a kinship with the troubled Terry. Matt then asks Della to take care of Terry in the event that anything happens to him and she agrees. The next day, Matt and Joe capture Clanton and pressure him into giving them information. Clanton mentions the Barrelhead mine and admits that Ringo has a boss, but no one knows his identity. While Joe checks on the Barrelhead mine, Matt takes Clanton to Mexico, where he asks Aramillo to jail him. Back in Arizona, when Joe reports that Barrelhead is an empty shell that has not produced silver in years, Matt arranges for the local newspaper to print a story claiming that the government will cease purchasing Arizona silver by the end of the month. As intended, the story causes Ringo to set into motion another theft of cattle to sell in Mexico. Meanwhile, Fernandez, the owner of the Scorpion mine who is in league with Ringo, tries to bribe Aramillo to release Clanton and when he fails, kills Aramillo. In Tombstone, Della is startled when Terry comes to her house and states that he plans to leave town because he is frustrated by Matt's refusal to discuss whether or not he is an outlaw. Overhearing Terry's greviances, Mr. Cooper tells Della that maybe it is time for them to leave the dangerous territory. While Matt stakes out the Barrelhead mine to catch Ringo's men bringing in the Mexican silver, Clanton arrives and tells Ringo that Matt is a Ranger. Ringo then asks Cooper, who is the secret head of the silver operation, for instructions. Della is stunned to learn of her father's outlaw activities and Cooper is unsure how to proceed. When Clanton then arrives at the Coopers', Terry identifies him as the man who murdered his mother and then tried to kill him. Ringo recommends taking Terry hostage as protection to escape to Mexico, but when Cooper refuses, Clanton kills him and the men leave with Terry. Della rides to warn Matt, who is in the middle of a shootout with Broces at the mine. While the other Rangers overpower Broces and his men, Matt rides after Ringo, Clanton and Terry. Matt rescues Terry, then kills the outlaws as they attempt to flee. Later, after Arizona becomes a state, Matt and Della consider making a home for Terry together.