The real Old West was populated by the bold, the daring, the desperate, and the violent. These were the people who had the cojones to leave the East and take their chances. They were very tough characters for the most part, and they had very little to lose. Many were also Civil War veterans, and were no strangers to guns and their proper use.
The best example of what really went on took place in Northfield, Minnesota in 1876, when Jesse James and his gang of fun-loving cretins decided to hold up the bank. That meant they were going to steal money that people had sweated for and saved, and it pissed off the locals so badly that the whole town armed itself and proceeded to shoot the hell out of the James boys.
Ah well, Gary Cooper looked great in a tux.