Big Iron

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"Big Iron" is a country ballad by Marty Robbins, originally released as an album track on Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs in September 1959, then as a single in February 1960 with the song "Saddle Tramp" as the B-side single. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[1]

It tells the story of an Arizona Ranger's duel with an outlaw named Texas Red in the "town of Agua Fria".[2] The town predicts the death of the Ranger (Texas Red had already killed 20 men), but the Ranger kills Texas Red with the swiftness of the "big iron on his hip." This term refers to the gun the Ranger carries. Texas Red hadn't even "cleared leather" - the Ranger's draw was that swift.

Robbins' version of the song reached #5 on the Billboard Country chart and #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1960.[3]

The song is also featured in the video game Fallout: New Vegas on the in-game radio, Radio New Vegas.

The Ranger's "Big Iron" actually existed. It was a one-off custom handgun chambered in .45 Colt and featured a Great Western copy of the Colt Single Action Army frame, Colt 1860 Army backstrap, grip frame and grips and a cut down 9 1/2" Marlin rifle barrel. Marty Robbins saw it in Andy Anderson's famed North Hollywood gun shop in the late 1950s and wrote the song around it. Its current whereabouts are unknown.[4]

In albums

  • Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (September 1959), a compilation, CL 1349 - mono, CS 8158 - stereo, PC 8158
  • More Greatest Hits (April 1961), CL 1635 - mono, CS 8435 - stereo, PC 8435
  • Bend in the River (1968), D 445 - mono (Columbia Musical Treasuries), DS 445 - stereo
  • The Heart of Marty Robbins (1969), STS 2016 (Columbia Star Series)
  • All Time Greatest Hits (August 1972), CG 31361, KG 31361, C 31361
  • Marty! (1972 - 5 record set), P5S 5812 (Columbia Musical Treasury)
  • Streets of Laredo, KH 32286 (Harmony, August 1973), LE 10576 (Columbia, December 1973)
  • Marty Robbins' Own Favorites (1974), P 12416 (Columbia Special Products)
  • Marty Robbins Gold (1975), NU 9060 (K-Tel)
  • All Around Cowboy (1980) P 15594
    • No. 1 Cowboy (1980), P 15594 (re-release of "All Around Cowboy")
  • Marty Robbins (1981), GS 4003 (History of Country Music, Sunrise Media)
  • A Lifetime of Song 1951 - 1982 (August 1983), C2 38870
  • Memories in Song (1983 - 2 record set), P2 19162 (Columbia Special Product)
  • The Best Of Marty Robbins (1984), RB4-214-1
  • The Essential MARTY ROBBINS:1951-1982 (1991), Sony Music Entertainment Inc C2T 48537 CT48538 CT 48539
  • MARTY ROBBINS Lost and found (1994), Sony Music Entertainment Inc CT 57695
  • MARTY ROBBINS Memories in Song (1994), Sony Music Special Products Compact Disc A 19163
  • MARTY ROBBINS LIVE Concert Versions Of His Greatest Hits (1995),Pickwick Group Ltd London England 300382
  • Under Western Skies (Oct 1995), Bear Family Records, West Germany 4 CD Box Set BCD 15646
  • MARTY ROBBINS Legendary Country Singers (1995), Sony Music Special Products R989-06 PT-25142
  • Story of My Life: Best of MARTY ROBBINS (Mar 1996), Sony Music Entertainment Inc Sony CK 64763

Cover versions

Michael Martin Murphey covered the song on his 1993 album Cowboy Songs III. With Robbins' family's blessing, the song was recorded as a duet with Robbins. It was released as a single and peaked at number 62 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.[5]

Other covers of the song include:


  1. Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Note: It is suggested that the "town of Agua Fria" is Agua Fria, New Mexico, because it is the only "Agua Fria" ever been a town, see "Research - Big Iron The Book". Retrieved 2015-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 533.
  4. Bob Arganbright. "ANDY ANDERSON, "The Gunfighter"". Retrieved 2015-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "RPM Country Tracks". RPM. December 25, 1993. Retrieved September 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>