The Tombstone Vigilantes are a volunteer group of modern-day cowboys and cowgirls that keep the gunslinging history of Tombstone alive with free shows on Allen Street every second Sunday.
KEEPING HISTORY ALIVE
Steve Reeder has been president and chief of the Tombstone Vigilantes for the last 34 years. "Our mission statement here is to recreate the old history of Tombstone. Some of it actually happened, and maybe some of it didn't. But just provide entertainment and keep the history of Tombstone alive," he said.
TOO TOUGH TO DIE
The group is comprised of people who are passionate about history that took place at the turn of the century in the rough-and-tumble town of Tombstone. "Ever since I was a kid, I was into Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, and so being here is like a dream come true for me," said Mike Monroe, a member of the group.
Without a doubt, Hollywood played a role in bringing prominence to the town. There have been numerous films made highlighting the gunfights that took place at the turn of the century in and around Allen Street. In fact, Tombstone adopted the tagline: "Tombstone, The Town Too Tough to Die" from the 1942 film of the same name.
"I love the old West," said Frank Carra, another member of the group. "I love being a part of its recreation, and keeping the romance of the old West alive."
2ND AMENDMENT SANCTUARY CITY
In 2017, the mayor of Tombstone proclaimed the town as America’s Second Amendment City. Although it's unclear how official this statement actually is, it does encourage its citizens and visitors to carry with confidence and safety in the town. Arizona is also a constitutional carry state. "I think you'd find that, yes, guns are really accepted here," said Steve Reeder.
DIVERSE GROUP OF VOLUNTEERS
Lorelie Redmon is one of many female members of the Vigilantes. She loves how diverse the group is. "If you look around, people from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different skill levels. But the one thing I think we all have in common is everybody here is a ham. Everybody loves to be on camera, everybody loves to be out on the street acting. And everybody loves to raise money for all of our various charities," she said.
AMBASSADORS OF TOMBSTONE
Tombstone relies heavily on tourism, and the Vigilantes play an important role in attracting visitors. "We're the ambassadors of Tombstone," said Mike Monroe. In many ways, they are. They bring a lot of people to town, entertain them for free, and raise money for various charities in town.
GUNS OF THE VIGILANTES
The guns the Vigilantes use in their performances are all real and belong to the members. Armorer Don Mott is responsible for making sure they're all safe. Prior to performances, the Vigilantes gather at Vigilante Hall at one end of town. All of the guns are handed in and Mott inspects them in the armory. Absolutely no outside ammunition of any kind is allowed anywhere near the performances. Rules are strictly enforced.
Motts loads all of the blanks for the guns which, for sake of ease, are either chambered in .45 Colt or 12-gauge. "Most everybody either uses a Colt replica or a Ruger Vaquero," said Mott. "That's the two predominant guns."
Prior to every performance on Allen Street, the Vigilantes do a safety demonstration to show how dangerous blanks can be at a close range. One of the performers shoots a beer can from a few inches away with a .45 Colt blank. The can explodes.
OPEN YEAR ROUND
Some people think it costs money to enter the town of Tombstone. That's not true. It's free to enter and there's plenty of parking and lots to see and do. The museums and exhibits cost a few dollars, but they're worth it. And if you visit every second and fourth Sunday of the month, you can see the Vigilantes performing from around 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Allen near the Birdcage Theater. Their performances are fun with lots of gunshots and laughs and donations all go to good causes.