Phineas Newman (Winkler) is a hangman by trade. Ostracized by the rest of society for his work, he takes pride in it, and strives to be the best executioner money can by. He explains to his assistant that he does his job because, as a child, he saw his uncle hung by unprofessionals, and believes that even a condemned man shouldn't suffer. He also becomes fascinated with a gun he picks up from his latest hanging client, the Dead Man's Gun, of course.
When he arrives for his next job at another town, he learns that the town, including the mother of the raped and murdered girl, refuses to believe that their Reverend has committed the crime. He goes about his duties of preparation, not caring to hear anything about the crime, and refusing to give mercy to the pleading, condemned Reverend. That night, depressed after being refused service by the town's low-life whore, he tries to kill himself, and realizes that the Dead Man's Gun and he both have the power to choose when to take life, and when not to. He elaborately sets up the gallows so that the Reverend is unharmed at the hanging, so that the Sheriff is forced to let him go free. Phineas is glad to be done with his horrible occupation, but soon, however, he realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and seeks justice against the evil Reverend.
Condemned to death himself, Phineas refuses to tell his assistant how to foil the hanging, and resigns himself to the fate he deserves ... but what fate will be dictated by the Dead Man's Gun?