A running iron is a short branding iron with a hook on the end in the form of a J. It can be carried on a saddle and used to run any brand a cowboy wants to brand. Branding irons used to stamp a brand on an animal are too cumbersome to carry horseback. The running iron can be used any place a cowboy can build a fire to heat it, and the accomplished wielder of a running iron can draw a brand that looks better than a stamped brand. For this reason, and for the reason that a running iron can be used to change a brand and make it look like a different brand, the cattlemen’s associations look upon a man who carries a running iron in much the same way a bank teller would look upon any man he does not know who walks into the bank carrying a gun.