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Retired Gunfighter

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"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."

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. He may also be another variation of Old Master.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, a bunch of Ganmen bandits raided a school after the end of the war. Only problem is that the teacher, "Miss Yomoko," was originally Yoko, humankind's greatest sniper. Asskicking ensued.
  • Trigun: 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 
  • Deadshot briefly considered retiring when he found out about his daughter.
  • 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 Saint of Killers from Preacher 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in Blazing Saddles (1974), with the Waco Kid.
    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.
  • Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen in Cat Ballou: a once legendary gunfighter who is now a washed-up drunk.
  • Lorn Warfield is this at the start of Day of the Evil Gun. Learning his wife and children have been taken by the Apaches forces him to strap on his guns once more.
  • Disturbing the Peace: After accidentally wounding his partner during a hostage situation and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, Texas Ranger Jim Dillon moves to the small town of Horse Cave, Kentucky, where he works as an unarmed police officer assisted by Deputy Matt. However, when Diablo and his biker gang take over the town, he is forced to strap on a gun again and confront them.
  • In Forsaken, John Henry Clayton desperately wants to leave that life behind, but circumstances keep dragging him back in.
  • In Gang of Roses, Rachel hung up her guns when she found religion. She straps then back on when her sister is murdered.
  • In God's Gun, Lewis has hung up his guns and become a farmer in Mexico by film's start. However, he takes up gunslinging one more time to avenge his brother's murder.
  • Gregory Peck as Jimmy Ringo in The Gunfighter, who is looking to hang up his guns and be with the woman he loves, but finds Young Guns waiting for him round every corner.
  • High Noon has Will Kane attempting to hang up his guns to marry his Quaker bride.
  • Captain Oren Hayes and his retired Texas Rangers in Once Upon a Texas Train.
  • Charlie, the main hero of Open Range is a veteran of the Civil War, specifically an elite raiding party, who afterwards became a hired gun, the experience of both of which have left him shell shocked. But in the present day of the film, he has retired and spent the last ten years in the relative peaceful and nomadic life on the cattle trails. But unfortunately, that doesn't last forever...
  • 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, It's Not Symbolic?.
  • Cort in The Quick and the Dead, who used to be part of Herod's gang before undergoing a Heel–Faith Turn.
  • Shane: A weary gunfighter in 1880s Wyoming begins to envision a quieter life after befriending a homestead family with a young son who idolizes him, but a smoldering range war forces him to act.
  • John Wayne's last film, The Shootist is about J.B. Books; a dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.
  • Star Wars: Both Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi and Yoda in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and Luke Skywalker himself becomes one by The Last Jedi.
  • Japanese western Sukiyaki Western Django has Ruriko, the village's local store owner and all-round cool old lady. She is really the legendary (and dreaded) Bloody Benten, a retired gunfighter and warlord that terrorized the west in her glory days.
    Ringo: (on the Bloody Benten) "When this doubly talented goddess used to play music she would hold her instruments in both hands. But when she was on the warpath she held eight hands! [...] And everything in her way got stained red! They dubbed her...Bloody Benten!"
  • Wyatt Earp in Sunset, who is now acting as a technical adviser on a movie about his own life.
  • Tombstone, a 1993 Western movie, starts with Wyatt Earp, a well-known peace officer, settling down in the town of Tombstone. He refuses to get into any trouble saying he's retired, even if he's not above stopping some roughhousing in his view. Of course, things soon get messy as the leader of a local gang accidentally 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.
  • Eastwood as Will Munny, in Unforgiven, along with Ned Logan, who reluctantly take on One Last Job alongside The Gunfighter Wannabe The Schofield Kid.
  • 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).

  • 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.
  • The Half-Made World: John Creedmoor begins the book as one of these, with the added wrinkle that his Gun, Marmion, is a magical Evil Weapon (one of many) and technically his boss. Previously a famous outlaw, he “retired” to wander the West after the last mission Marmion sent him on ended so badly it soured him on working for the Gun ever again. Surprisingly, it let him live peacefully for years, only to pull him back in for One Last Job. Creedmoor is torn between how much he dislikes being an Agent of the Gun and how much he enjoys the power and freedom it grants him.
  • 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.
  • In Portlandtown, The Marshal laid down his gun after he shot the Hanged Man, and has lived ten years in peace. When trouble comes to his family, though, he picks it up again.
  • Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird, who was an excellent shot, but hating killing things and wouldn't even touch a gun. He does have to use one to kill a rabid dog, however.
  • Mike Resnick's Widowmaker trilogy used this one IN SPACE!.

    Live-Action TV 
  • JD Smith from The Dakotas.
  • Dead Man's Gun:
    • In "The Bounty Hunter", after obtaining the Dead Man's Gun, storekeeper Raymond Jakes visits retired Bounty Hunter Mr. Otis, who retired after being shot In the Back, for advice on becoming a bounty hunter. Unfortunately, the advice that Otis gives in not what Jakes wants to hear.
    • In "The Resurrection of Joe Wheeler", a town drunk must return to his former life as a legendary gunslinger to save his town from a group of outlaws...with a little help from the Dead Man's Gun.
  • Tom Jace in the Frontier Circus episode "The Shaggy Kings". Tired of The Gunfighter Wannabes calling him out, he retired after he nearly died from a bullet in the back from one of them. He still carries his gun as a reminder of his vow to never use it again. He lives under the name Michael Smith till the father of the last man he killed comes hunting for him.
  • The title character in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Mr. Denton on Doomsday".

  • The Johnny Cash song "The Last Gunfighter Ballad" (on the album of the same name).
    • Originally by Guy Clark
  • In "The Ballad of Bill Thaxton" by Marty Robbins the title character is a former Texas Ranger who is still formidable as an experienced gun fighter named Sundown learns the hard way. Bonus points for the reason Sundown's usual tactic doesn't work.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A storyline in the newspaper comic 'Comic Strip/{{'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.
  • The Far Side: one strip invokes this trope on a guy who defeats a table tennis champion.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a retired gunslinger in one sidequest who found religion and cut off his index and middle fingers to make sure he can never use a gun again.
  • Reverend Ray McCall from Call of Juarez, until he picks up his guns again to hunt down the murderer of his family. Call of Juarez: 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.
    • In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger the protagonist Silas Greaves has been searching for Bob Bryant for years but the trail run cold when Bob retired from crime and became Ben the bartender. Some of the outlaws Silas fights during the game end up retiring after facing him. Frank James gives himself up for trial. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid go to Bolivia, are presumed killed in the Bolivian Army Ending and don't come out of retirement until 1910.
  • 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.
  • A sidequest in Red Dead Redemption 2 has Arthur Morgan track down various retired gunslingers in order to get a picture and an interview for a writer penning a book about former gunslinger Jim "Boy" Callahan. Unfortunately for him most of them tend to be unstable/hostile individuals and usually force him into a duel that leads to their deaths. The one exception is Black Belle, a female outlaw who after Arthur helps out in fighting off bounty hunters complies with his requests.
  • In Weird West Jane West was once a renowned bounty hunter who eventually buried her old gear and settled down with her family to become a homesteader's wife. The game begins with a bandit gang killing her son and kidnapping her husband, forcing her to dig up her old gear to rescue him.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied by The Penguins of Madagascar in "Mr Tux". Private is a retired mini-golf ace, and has to deal with a challenger who comes looking to beat the best. (Comes complete with the classic back-story speech.)
  • Also parodied in the Recess episode "Dodgeball City", where Gus was known as El Diablo, the fastest dodgeball in the west, before he accidentally hit a little kid and swore never to play again. He returns to single-handedly defeat Lawson and the entire team of fifth graders then retires again.
  • Slugterra: In "Mario Bravado", Eli has to search out retired slug slinger Mario Bravado as the only one who can teach him how to make an impossible shot necessary to rescue Pronto.

Alternative Title(s): Retired Gunslinger