Johnny Ringo, a notorious gunslinger, is hired as the sheriff of Velardi, Arizona, a wide-open frontier town. His first act as the Velardi's lawman is to hire the town drunk, Case Thomas, as his deputy. In his sober moments, Case is quite a gunsmith. He gives Johnny his latest creation - a seven-shooter - based on a design by the French gunsmith LeMat. Johnny hopes the seventh shot, a .410 gauge shotgun shell, will make the difference when he tries to run a crooked saloon owner and his henchmen out of town.
A carnival whose primary attraction is young sharpshooter Kid Adonis arrives in town. Max Healey wants to make the big-time by adding to Adonis' reputation as the man who killed Johnny Ringo. Adonis believes Ringo killed his father and wants vengeance. To make sure the young gunfighter wins, Healey plans to shoot Ringo from ambush before he can get off a shot at Adonis.
Virgil Kincaid, the owner of a hardscrabble ranch, is accused of murdering Lorna Parrott. Her six-year-old son identifies Kincaid as the killer but, during Kincaid's subsequent trial, identifies a different man. The jury finds Kincaid not guilty, but the Velardi townspeople hound the rancher, killing his stock and destroying his water barrels despite Ringo's efforts to shield him from their wrath.
Cully kills a drunken rancher who threatened him in a saloon and is stricken with remorse. Rather than face the man's three brothers who ride into Velardi demanding revenge, Cully plans to slip out of town leaving Ringo to confront the men alone.
Ringo and Cully join a pair of guards from Yuma prison searching for three escaped convicts. The lawmen quickly discover that the sadistic guards would prefer to kill the escapees then return them to state custody.
Jessie Mead rides into town and begs Johnny to put him in jail, going so far as to break a storefront window to provide an excuse. Ringo soon learns why Mead wants to be locked up - a posse of bounty hunters demands custody of the prisoner who's wanted dead or alive. Mead begs Johnny to turn him over to the U.S. Marshal, but the posse won't wait and whip the townsmen into a lynch mob. While the mob attacks the jail, the posse reveals their true nature by robbing the bank while Ringo and Cully protect their prisoner.
Cully and Ringo stumbles across an old army stagecoach hidden in an abandoned mine with a skeleton inside. After the lawmen drag the coach into town, men with no apparent connection to one another are found dead, one after the other. Ringo attempts to determine if the murders are connected to the abandoned coach or just coincidence.
During a devastating heat wave, a rain maker dressed in Biblical robes comes to Velardi and guarantees to deliver rivers of water. Ringo doesn't trust the man and Cully recognizes the man's carny pitch, but the desperate townspeople's put their faith in the bearded stranger - who is really the front man for a sinister plot.
Cyrus Hampton, a rich old man dying of an incurable disease, arrives in Velarde with a wild tiger. He plans to release the animal in a remote canyon and then hunt him down. Johnny refuses to grant him permission fearing the big cat will kill livestock or a cowboy rounding up strays. Hampton's assistant ignores the warning and releases the cat and Ringo's fears come true when a cattleman is found severely mauled by the beast.
A middle-aged saloon singer, determined to leave her abusive boyfriend, shoots him in her hotel room, then flees to Velardi. Cully sees her perform and is promptly smitten. Their romance quickly develops and appears to be headed towards the altar until the ex-boyfriend, a notorious gunslinger now recovered from his wound, traces the chanteuse to Ringo's town.
Johnny investigates Josie Wilkins' report that her father was murdered, but can't find a body nor any evidence to support her claim. Laura Thomas believes the young girl's story, and when Josie is abducted, Ringo comes to same conclusion.
Ringo investigates a brutal stagecoach robbery where the driver and one of the passengers were killed. The only survivor is Agnes St. John, an author writing a book about the brutal violence of the West. Agnes soon must confront the violence head-on when the murderers learn that a witness that can identify them survived the hold-up.
Silky Carter robs and kills a shop owner in Tate City and the local sheriff believes he's heading towards Johnny Ringo's jurisdiction. Due to a mix-up at the printer's office, Carter's wanted poster has a photograph of Arthur Tobias, Arizona Territory's treasurer. When Carter learns that Tobias, who is scheduled to collect money collected to fight for Arizona's water rights in Congress, he kills the politician in order to impersonate him and abscond with the proceeds.
Acting on information provided by a neighboring sheriff, Ringo requests the exhumation of Boone Hackett's grave. Needing the signature of his next of kin, Johnny asks his "widow" to travel to Velardi to handle the necessary paperwork. When the woman disappears from her hotel room, Ringo realizes that either Boone Hackett's ghost is continuing his career of mayhem, or the outlaw's grave contains an empty coffin.
When Billy Boy Jethro forces his attentions upon Laura, Ringo thrashes the younger man and throws him jail. A lonely waitress who takes a shine to Billy Boy sneaks a pistol into his cell allowing him to break jail. When Ringo tries to recapture Billy, a gun battle ensues leaving the escaped prisoner dead. Billy's relatives, led by the hard-bitten Gabe Jethro, come to town for avenge the young man's death.
A U.S. marshal asks Johnny to pose as a convicted killer in order to learn which of the four gang members waiting to be hanged was really the lookout and therefore innocent of killing two bank tellers in a botched robbery. Not only can't Ringo identify the gang's lookout, but its leader realizes that Johnny is really working a lawman working undercover and plans to eliminate him when the gang breaks out of jail.
A woman arrives in Velardi claiming to be Johnny Ringo's wife and has a marriage certificate to back up her story. She claims that two years earlier Ringo married her while he was near death with a fever and lost track of him when fled the gang of gunslingers who were out to kill him. While Johnny tries to discover whether the certificate is a forgery, the woman's previous husband, a ex-convict who robbed a hotel of $25,000 and managed to hide the loot before being captured, arrives and announces his plans to flea to Mexico with his former wife as his companion - ...
The Reno Brothers, relatives of notorious bank robbers, are searching for the outlaw gang that led their siblings into a trap, killed their father and made off with the stolen loot. The trail leads to Velarde but they before they can make their move, the last member of the gang frames them for robbery and murder.
After learning that a ruthless bounty hunter is on the trail of Rafferty, a local rancher, because of an outstanding arrest warrant, Ringo tries to find the man first to convince him to turn himself in. The bounty hunter isn't interested in justice, only the $2500 reward for Rafferty, dead or alive, and he doesn't mind killing Rafferty, his two children and Ringo to collect it.
When Emilia Crane's younger son, Harley, announces his intention of riding off with his outlaw brother, she informs Ringo that her older son, Red, is a notorious criminal who dyes his hair and calls himself "Jack Raven". Ringo attempts to arrest Red but in the ensuing gunfight accidentally shoots him in the back. Red's wife, Suzanne, plots revenge against Ringo, while Harley devises a more elaborate plan to kill not only Johnny, but Red's wife, too.
After Case Thomas is killed during a robbery, Ringo and Cully trail the alleged murderer to a wide-open town on the Arizona-New Mexico border. Their efforts to apprehend the suspect are hindered by a gambling house owner who owes the suspect's father a debt of gratitude.
Johnny is seriously wounded by an old enemy, one of the Brogger brothers. While Doc Bardell operates to remove the slug from Ringo's chest, Johnny has flashbacks to the last time he faced the brothers in a gunfight. When Frank Brogger rides into Velardi with two other gunslingers to finish the job his brother started, Ringo finds out how many real friends he has among the townspeople.
Brad, a young ranch hand who was celebrating his 21st birthday, was arrested for the murder of the wife of an escaped convict. When the jailbird on-the-lam learns that the evidence against the youth is entirely circumstantial, he decides to meet out his own justice and informs Ringo that the ranch hand's parents will be killed if he doesn't force Brad to return to the family home in order to be lynched.
Ringo investigates when a stranger looking for his sister mysterious disappears and a pretty mute woman starts to act strangely. Not trusting in coincidences, Johnny rides out to the mute woman's ranch and discovers her husband has gone insane and is holding the stranger captive.
Ringo is enraged when Judge Bentley allows several hardened criminals to be let off with light sentences. After consideration, Ringo decides that the jurist needs to see first-hand the dangers lawmen face when tracking down thieves and murderers, so he convinces Bentley to serve on the posse deputized to find the murderers who held up a stagecoach. When the judge is slain by the robbers, Durant is assailed by not only the jurist's widow, but the state governor himself.
When a shopkeeper is found hanging from a lamppost the same night three strangers ride into Velardi, Sheriff Ringo suspects that it is not just coincidence. He learns that the murdered man, his son and his partner were participants in Wyoming's Johnson County War, as were the saddle tramps - all of whom have vengeance on their minds. Without hard evidence to back his suspicions, Ringo is powerless to prevent the deadly game of cat-and-mouse that is being played on the town's streets during the hours just before dawn.
While Ringo works with the army to track the comancheros who have been raiding nearby ranches, Cully rides to meet a troupe of dancing girls whose next stop is Velarde. He learns that the girls have been abducted by two teamsters who plan to turn them over to the renegades for ransom. Cully and Ringo rescue the troupe and using the girls as bait hope to wipe out the comancheros before they strike again.
Ringo stumbles into town after a long absence reeking of alcohol, calls out two cowboys from a saloon and guns them down. Mayor Henderson demands to know Ringo's reasons for killing the men and the sheriff explains that he found three Chinese tied up in the desert who died from lack of water and tracked the killers into town with only whiskey to keep him from falling victim to the same fate as the other victims. His mission isn't complete - one of the murderers is still at large.
Tad Stuart and two of his henchman plot to avenge themselves on Ringo for arresting his brother and Lil Blanchard for testifying against him. Their plans are thwarted by a stranger from Boston who devoted much of his life studying karate and jiu-jitsu in Japan and has taken a liking to the lovely Lil.
Wes Tymon's farm is stricken by drought and his pregnant wife is seriously ill. When a banker refuses him a loan, Wes shoots him in frustration. Ringo comes to his aid, but his assistance may be too late to save his wife and the yet to be born baby.
The United States Secretary of State, Charles Seward, requests that Ringo help a famous Italian astronomer take pictures of a solar eclipse from on top of Superstition Mountain. The owner of the mountain fears that the local Yacqui Indians will be become violent if strangers go near their ancient burial caves on the mountain and is determined to prevent the scientist from accomplishing his mission.
An old lady friend sends a desperate mail to Ringo claiming that the local townspeople are getting ready to lynch her. When Ringo arrives, he discovers his friend, a female saloon owner, was convicted of murdering a leading townsman who wanted to shut down her establishment when almost everyone else in town had a motive for slaying the victim.
Coffin Sam Sabine, a gunslinger with eleven notches on his pistol handle, arrives in Valerdi and offers Ringo a unique proposition. Sam claims his gun hand is becoming crippled and the only way he'll be able to fend off kids who want to outdraw him is to make his reputation so fierce that they'll never try. His plan - paying Johnny one hundred dollars to lose to him in a staged gunfight.
U.S. Marshal Kramer arrives in Velardi with a notorious Mexican bandit as his prisoner. Ringo recognizes him as the man who killed his uncle and challenges the lawman to a gunfight, which the marshal declines until after the bandit is taken to prison. Ringo decides to join Kramer on his trek across to the desert to settle accounts with the bandit's outlaw gang hot on their trail.
Clay Horne, an old gunslinger friend of Ringo's, rents an old codger's mine as a refuge against four men hired to avenge another man's death by Horne in a fair fight. Ringo is trapped in the middle when Horne's enemies decide to take the law into their own hands.