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When the wheel on Daniel Foster's wagon breaks, once again delaying the wagon train's long journey across the western plains, he argues that the weight of the rifles he is hauling for gunmaker Jason Clay is to blame. Jason responds that his fine Kentucky rifles protect the entire party from the Indians, but Dan is furious and refuses to listen. Jason's poorly concealed interest in Dan's fiancée, Amy Connors, heightens the tension, and when Jason discovers that the wheel's axle is broken, the two men almost come to blows. As the wagon train continues, several of the travelers, including Amy, Jason, his friend Tobias Taylor, Preacher Bently, Lon Setter, Luke Thomas, Reuben Hay, and his expectant wife Cordie, reluctantly decide to stay behind until the wagon is repaired. While riding into the hills to look for sturdy timber, Tobias encounters angry Comanches, and when he reports this to the others, Luke worries that his wife and child may be attacked with the wagon train. Despite Jason's warnings, Luke rides out to warn the wagon train during the night, and the next morning, Jason and Tobias find his body hanging from a tree. Three Comanches, including a chief and an interpreter, then interrupt Luke's burial service, demanding gifts in exchange for safe passage through their territory. Dan insists on giving the Indians all of their goods, including the rifles, but Jason and Tobias forbid him. Although Jason earns the respect of the chief by defeating the interpreter in hand-to-hand combat, the chief warns him that his warriors have many cunning arrows and shoots an arrow into Luke's grave marker. After praying for help, Tobias shoots his rifle, "Sweet Betsy," at the arrow and hits it, and the Indians leave. The men then make a new axle, and by nightfall, the wagon is ready to travel. During the night, however, several Indians shoot arrows into the camp, narrowly missing the frightened Lon. Jason sneaks into the darkness and kills the attackers, and when he returns with an arm wound, Amy insists on nursing him. Increasingly attracted to Jason, Amy finally kisses him. Later that night, Dan steals away from camp to make a deal with the Comanches. In the morning, Jason pursues him and finds him as he is promising the Indians their rifles. Furious, Jason protests that the Indians, armed with rifles, will kill not only their party, but many of the settlers who journey across the plains. The Indians threaten to kill Dan, whereupon Jason, believing that Amy still loves her fiancé, returns to his group for a vote. Tobias argues against the deal, but the rest of the men vote to give the guns to the Comanches. The chief promises Jason that his people will allow the wagon to pass in safety, but when Jason leaves to fetch the rifles, the Indians gleefully prepare for battle. Dan leaps on a horse and returns to the wagon to warn the others, but is seriously injured by an arrow. Soon after he arrives, the Indians appear, but the men, armed with their sturdy rifles, drive them off. One of the warriors charges the wagon, killing Dan, but the other Comanches retreat, and the wagon continues its journey. Cordie, now in labor, moans in pain as the wagon approaches a narrow pass in the hills. Although the hills are full of Indians, the chief, admitting the superiority of the white man's weapons, states that the wagon may pass through. Just as the wagon emerges from the pass, one bloodthirsty Comanche shoots an arrow into Tobias' back. The cries of Cordie's new baby fill the air as Tobias, praising his Kentucky rifle as a "thing of beauty," dies in Jason's arms.