Have Gun – Will Travel

By | April 8, 2019

[April 8, 2019] When I was 5 (or maybe 6) years old, my parents gave me a toy pistol and holster set based on the television series Have Gun – Will Travel. Richard Boone starred as an Old West professional gunfighter called Paladin, in this series that ran from 1957 to 1963. I watched it with my family every Saturday on CBS and remember how this man was able to search for the truth and reaffirm honor as a valid, necessary trait of a real man.

“A knight without armor in a strange land.” from the theme song1

Rarely do movies adequately capture the traits we find in leaders. Today’s movies are more about the special effects (these are really great) than on the plot (who cares when you have action?). Paladin is presented to us as an intellectual, dapper, ladies-man gun-fighter in this macho Western series. On the surface, Paladin was just a high-priced gun-for-hire but in reality, he was a troubleshooter and private lawman-for-hire.

The show’s plot often revolved around Paladin being hired out by some shady character. Paladin would change into his black work clothes and go on the road into some risky situation. A favorite of many fans of the show had him trying to figure out where the truth lies because his employer would shade the truth for various reasons. Then, our knight-without-armor would have to rely on instinct and a sense of honor to resolve the situation.

As a private detective, Paladin was an imperfect man. He’d been a West Point-educated Union officer during the U.S. Civil War; literate with a taste for fine food, clothing, and the theater. His “headquarters” was in the ritzy Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. His calling card featured a picture of the white knight in chess (a paladin is a knight renowned for his heroism and chivalry).

The character Paladin has a strong sense of ethics that demonstrated he was no mere assassin. A man of morals and conscience, he would at least try to settle a dispute without violence whenever possible. Occasionally he would have to turn on his clients because they were wrong to have hired him to do something morally wrong.

Of course, eventually, he often had to shoot someone. Besides, it was a television show and the scene was in the Wild West. My toy pistol and holster are lost in time but I’ll never forget handing out the Paladin calling card to my friends. I was proud to be like someone who was ethical and heroic; a real man.


  1. http://www.thrillingdetective.com/paladin.html
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Have Gun – Will Travel

  1. José Luis Rodriguez

    Great article. Thanks Gen Satterfield. I see that I can see some of these on YouTube. I’ll be watching a few to see how they compare to shows today.

    1. Bryan Lee

      Hi Jose. Let’s us know what you find.

  2. Drew Dill

    Wow, this show takes me back to when I was a kid. Enjoyed the show immensely when I was young.

  3. Gil Johnson

    The main character Paladin prefers to settle things without violence. That is the epitome of a man’s man. Alas, usually he does have to resort to violence.

  4. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Info on the show from Wikipedia
    Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western series that was produced and originally broadcast by CBS on both television and radio from 1957 through 1963. The television version of the series was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons, and it is one of the few shows in television history to spawn a successful radio version.[1] That radio series debuted November 23, 1958, more than a year after the premiere of its televised counterpart.

    1. Jake Tapper, Jr.

      This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself “Paladin” (played by Richard Boone on television and voiced by John Dehner on radio), taking his name from that of the foremost knight warriors in Charlemagne’s court. He is a gentleman gunfighter who travels around the Old West working as a mercenary for people who hire him to solve their problems.

  5. Joey Holmes

    Cheers all. I’ve not been here in a while and wanted to say I missed everyone. My grandpop told me about the tv series and showed me one on Youtube. Liked it. Kind of a dandy man but gets things done. I’ll be watching more of Paladin in the next few days.

    1. Fred Weber

      Good to see you back, Joey. Let us know how you like the series after you’ve seen a bunch of them.

  6. Willie Shrumburger

    Psychology, not a pistol, often is Paladin’s weapon of choice.

    1. Albert Ayer

      …. but it’s the pistol that is always used. That alone says something about our society. We crave violence as it makes us who we are.

      1. Doug Smith

        So true. Pointing this out for us is excellent commentary.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      Agree. Just look at the SCIFI tv series. They are the Western shows within a different dress. Same “shoot em up” type of scene with a hero struggling against great odds.

      1. Bart Rhodes

        No small surprise that “Have Gun” provided writer Gene Roddenberry with a creative garden to develop ideas for another series (deemed by the omniscient sages of networkdom to be “too cerebral”), “Star Trek”.

  7. Georgie M.

    Paladin is a multilingual gentleman of letters who sees no need for macho bravado, is a champion of human rights (regardless of race or nationality) and who proves that real men can be literate, eloquent, and even wear a satin robe.

  8. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Fun quote from the movie to give everyone a taste of the atmosphere:
    Paladin: “I don’t think you got a very good look at this gun while you had it. The balance is perfect. This trigger responds to a pressure of one ounce. If you look carefully in the barrel you’ll see the lines of the rifling. It’s a rarity in a hand weapon. This gun was handcrafted to my specifications and I rarely draw it unless I mean to use it. Would you care for a demonstration?”

    1. The Kid 1945

      Thanks Maureen, good quote. It does give us a little bit of a flavor of the tv show. I enjoyed the show as a teenager growing up in West Texas. Gunslingers were the anti-heroes of the time.

  9. Army Captain

    Good story. I’d heard of the show but never saw it. Talked to my dad and he said it was popular back in the late 1960s as best as he can remember. Westerns were very popular.

    1. Eric Coda

      My dad too watched it as a young boy. He said it showed what a determined man can do but you had to be honest, strong, and aggressive. All of these are, of course, manly traits. This show would not do well in today’s sissy culture.

  10. Dale Paul Fox

    A great show. Saw it as a kid and was a big fan.

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