Veteran bounty-hunter Morg Hickman rides into a town in danger. The sheriff has been killed, and young inexperienced Ben Owens named a temporary replacement until a permanent can be found. Ben wants to be that permanent replacement, so needs to impress the townspeople with his skill. When he finds that Morg was a sheriff for a long time before he became a bounty-hunter, he asks the older man to teach him. Morg thinks that being a sheriff is a foolish goal, but agrees to instruct Ben in handling people, more important to a sheriff than handling a gun.
In “Tin Star,” the western begins with bounty hunter, Morg Hickman (Henry Fonda), arriving in town with his latest human catch. The townspeople react coldly to Hickman and demand that he wait to get his money until the identity of the wanted man can be verified.
While waiting for his reward, Hickman finds out some interesting things about the small town. First of all, they have trouble keeping their sheriffs alive.
Secondly, the current wearer of “The Tin Star” is a young and inexperienced man named Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins). At the rate he is going, Sheriff Owens is probably going to be the next casualty of the badge.
When the newly appointed Sheriff Owens learns that Hickman used to wear “The Tin Star,” he approaches the older man to ask him if he would teach him how to be a good sheriff. Hickman hesitantly agrees because he doesn’t understand why the young man would want to risk his life in this way.
What unfolds are a series of life lessons about people, fighting and how to maintain law and order in the Old West.