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When the stage stops at the Oxhorn, New Mexico relay station, the brother of cattle baron Jared Tetlow tries to incite a gunfight with Jaime Brigo, prompting Brigo's friend, Tom Ketchum, a notorious gunslinger nicknamed "Blackjack Ketchum," to shoot Tetlow in order to save Brigo. Brigo then accompanies Tom to the Horseshoe Valley, where Brigo's friend and employer, Matt Riordan, and his daughter Nita, operate the Double R ranch. Determined to settle down and start a peaceful life, Tom buys some land, but when Nita suggests that they get married, he hesitates, fearing that his reputation will continue to haunt him. One day, Jared rides into town and promises prosperity in return for an open range on which to graze his cattle. When the townsfolk protest that the cattle will overgraze the range, Jared decides to use coercion to get his way, although his younger brother Ben urges him to reason with the ranchers instead. When Laurie Webster, the newly arrived niece of attorney Bob Early, innocently relates the incident at the relay station, Jared vows to avenge his brother's death. Following Ben's advice, Jared offers to buy homesteader Jarry Carson's spread, but when Carson refuses to sell, Jared's hired killer Dee Havalik guns him down in cold blood. Although Jared claims that Dee shot in self-defense, Sheriff Macy insists upon convening a coroner's jury to look into the shooting. Jared then orders his men to intimidate the townsfolk into freeing Dee, singling out Matt as their first victim. After Jared's thugs beat Matt in the street, the terrified jury frees Dee, prompting the sheriff to ask Tom to organize resistance to Jared's campaign of terror, and Bob and Doc Blaine offer to assist Tom in his efforts. When Jared, Dee and his six hired guns set out for the Riordan ranch, Doc and Bob arrive just in time to drive them away. Jared then orders Dee to eliminate Tom, but when the gunman and his hired thugs arrive at Tom's ranch, Tom leads them into the desert hills and one by one, disables four of Dee's men by stealing their horses and canteens. Concerned for Tom's safety, Nita infiltrates Jared's camp one night and overhears Jared plotting to eliminate her father by stampeding the Tetlow herd across the Double R. After the stampede kills Matt and ravages the ranch, Nita accuses Jared of murder. When Dee returns to town and reports that he lost four men to Tom, Jared becomes enraged. Shortly afterward, the sheriff arrives to arrest Jared for Matt's murder, and Dee shoots him down. Later, Brigo tries to rally the citizenry against Jared, but Tom warns that Jared has bought up all the guns and ammunition, thus leaving the town defenseless. After forcing one of Dee's men into revealing where the guns are hidden, Tom instructs Brigo and the others to meet him later that night. As Jared watches from his hotel room window, Tom leads a column of men out of town to stampede the Tetlow herd and then seize the guns. In the chaos, Jared's brother Andy is trampled, but Dee escapes and rides back to town to report to Jared. After Jared shoots the hotel keeper to prevent him from summoning the territorial marshal, Ben, disgusted by his brother's violent behavior, warns Tom that Dee is planning to kill Nita. As Ben attempts to hold off his brother's men, Tom faces off with Dee and outguns him, sending him to his death. After Bob, acting as sheriff, arrests Jared, Ben calls off the cattle war and awards the herd to the town as compensation for damages. His enemies now vanquished, Tom finally agrees to marry Nita.