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Re-enactor shot at a ‘shoot out’ at the OK Corral!

Ian Harvey


The gunfight near OK Corral, Arizona, is arguably one of the most famous shootouts of the American Wild West. The reenactment of this shootout is, understandably, quite a popular tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, the reenactment turned dangerous when one actor accidentally shot himself in the upper thigh. According to the Cochise County Sheriff’s office, the incident occurred during the afternoon performance last year. The actor was in the midst of the famous duel, between Mexican outlaw Filemeno Orante and the Wild West’s Cochise County Deputy Sheriff Kiv Phillips, when he inadvertently injured himself.

The scene that they were reenacting at the time of injury was the short, dramatic gunfight that took place on October 26, 1881. It was the epitome of what we think of as the Wild West – a gunfight between the outlaws and the lawmen. It was four against five – in the outlaws’ favor. The outlaws were Tom and Frank Mclaury, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Billy Claiborne. Being an outlaw must have been a family affair, and lawmen were similar. Three of their four were from the Earp family – Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan. Doc Holiday was the fourth member.

Neither group could be said to be the better one. The lawmen were known to be ruthless, and the cowboys were known hustlers and thieves. The trouble began on October 25 after the Earps and their friend Doc had a nasty run-in with Ike and Tom. Word spread of this encounter, which resulted in Frank and Billy vowing to avenge their brothers, Tom and Ike.

They tried to get their revenge the next day, on the 26th. Unfortunately for the outlaws, the lawmen were apparently better marksmen. No one is sure who fired the first shot, but at the end of the fight, the Mclaury brothers and Billy Clanton were dead, while Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne had to make a run for the hills in order to keep their lives.

The actor, who remains unnamed, is a member of the Tombstone Vigilantes gunfight reenactment group and was acting as the deputy sheriff in the scene. After sustaining his injury in his upper thigh/groin area, he was airlifted to a Tucson hospital for treatment, according to authorities. His current condition, however, is unknown at this time and the precise extent of his injuries is also unknown.

The actor was not the only one to receive injuries. One of the spectators was hit by shrapnel, but refused medical treatment, said Carol Capas, a spokesperson for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. So far, it is unclear how a real bullet was placed into the actor’s pistol, but the group is now taking extra precautions to ensure that an accident like this doesn’t happen again.

To their credit, the Tombstone Vigilante gunfight reenactment group are meticulous about safety. One of the members noted, “We’ve been doing this since 1947, and we’ve never had an incident before.” He emphasized the safety measures they follow. “We have strict rules about that, so we’re not sure how this happened. It’s not something we take lightly.”

Something like this should be taken seriously. It could hardly have been an accident or carelessness – the reenactment group’s armorer checks every gun before they perform a scene to make sure there is no real ammunition inside. Guns, even when used in reenactments, are not toys. The misfiring is being investigated by the Tombstone Marshal’s Office, and there has yet to be any theory brought forth as to how a real bullet turned up in a reenactment prop.

The Tombstone Vigilantes has a total of thirty-four members, all of whom are dedicated to reenacting the Wild West history around Tombstone. This includes the iconic and historic gunfight at the OK Corral. During staged gunfights, the reenactors are dressed in 1800s western attire. The town is a popular tourist attraction and the Tombstone Vigilantes perform regularly.

The 134th anniversary of the 30-second gunfight between the lawmen of Tombstone and the cowboys was to be celebrated eight days after the actor’s accident. Unfortunately for the injured actor, he was thought to most likely not be well enough to take part in the anniversary performance.



Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News