This day in history

26 October - Shootout at the OK Corral

On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former Kansas police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, the town marshal, represented "law and order" in Tombstone, though they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless.

The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. In October 1881, the struggle between these two groups for control of Tombstone and Cochise County ended in a blaze of gunfire at the OK Corral. 

On the morning of 25 October, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury came into Tombstone for supplies. Over the next 24 hours, the two men had several violent run-ins with the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday. Around 1:30 p.m. on 26 October, Ike's brother Billy rode into town to join them, along with Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne. The first person they met in the local saloon was Holliday, who was delighted to inform them that their brothers had both been pistol-whipped by the Earps. Frank and Billy immediately left the saloon, vowing revenge.

Around 3 p.m., the Earps and Holliday spotted the five members of the Clanton-McLaury gang in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral, at the end of Fremont Street. The famous gunfight that ensued lasted all of 30 seconds, and around 30 shots were fired. Though it's still debated who fired the first shot, most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury's chest. Though Wyatt Earp wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach, Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing, as did Billy Clanton. When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills.

Sheriff John Behan of Cochise County, who witnessed the shootout, charged the Earps and Holliday with murder. A month later, however, a Tombstone judge found the men not guilty, ruling that they were "fully justified in committing these homicides." The famous shootout has been immortalised in many movies, including ‘Frontier Marshal ‘(1939), ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ (1957), ‘Tombstone’ (1993) and ‘Wyatt Earp’ (1994), and made Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday household names of the Old West.

Down East Dickering

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about dickering!

Find out more

Counting Cars

The heir to the chrome is back with brand new episodes.

Read more

Pawn Stars UK

Big Mark and his team return for a brand new series.

Find out more

Storage Wars

Dave ‘the mogul’ Hester is back for the brand new series.

Visit show page

The World of Tanks

Brought to you by Wargaming.net, proud sponsors of HISTORY.

Find out more

Stan Lee's Superhumans

From the uncrushable man to the human fireball, catch the new series on H2.

Visit show page

Ice Road Truckers

The queen of the ice roads is back for a brand new series.

Visit show page

Pawn Stars

Step inside the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop every Monday night on HISTORY.

Visit show page

Mountain Men

Life's hard when you're not top of the food chain.

Read more