Before the Civil War, Argyle Dollarhyde had everything a man could ever want: a beautiful wife, three strong sons, and a prosperous stake in the booming cotton industry. But now Union troops have left the South in ruins - and Dollarhyde's life is in shambles. Refusing to fall prey to carpetbaggers, Dollarhyde gathers up his family and sets out for the one place a man can still live free: Texas. Where the natives are as dangerous as the land itself.
On the American frontier, every gun tells a story. A boy in Texas waits for a Christmas present he chose from a Montgomery Ward catalog. The present - a brand-new lever action Winchester 1886 and a box of its big .50-caliber slugs - never makes it there. Instead the rifle is caught up in a train robbery and starts a long and violent journey of its own - from the hands of a notorious, kill-crazy outlaw to an Apache renegade to a hardscrabble rancher and beyond.
At 50, cattle driver Sam Sawyer thinks he can finally dust off and retire, maybe open an eating house. But after a pack of Apache ambushes him and leaves him to die in Gila River country, he barely makes it to a remote ranch. The owner, Hanna Stewart, has worked the desert spread with her young daughter ever since her husband went for a ride and never returned.
Outlaw Wes Cavanaugh knows that crime doesn't always pay - at least not much. That's why he and his partner, Mose, are willing to pay Jimmy Stock for information on a job that's guaranteed to pay off big. Jimmy's made a career of selling tips to bandits, but the job he sells Wes - a payroll train about to leave Omaha - requires more than information.
Eli had always led the life of an outlaw. Cutting corners and breaking the law, he knows how to get away with pretty much anything - until he's caught red handed attempting to rob a wagon set out as a trap. Imprisoned and alone, Eli is unsure whether the members of his gang have made it out alive, or if the men behind the disguised wagon are after his life. But he is sure about Lyssa - the beauty who selflessly takes care of him in prison.