The title is a play on "hair trigger", referring to any weapon or other device with a sensitive trigger.
After opening credits underscored by an instrumental of "Cheyenne", an old-fashioned train is seen rolling along through a western desert. It passes another train going around a utility pole, and voices are heard repeating "Bread and butter".
Bugs is riding in the mail car of a train, singing a nonsense song called, when a pint-sized bandit attempts to rob the train (with the underscore playing stereotypical "villain music"), only to have it pass clear over his head. He then calls for his horse, which he needs a rolling step-stair to mount. He catches up and boards the train and begins to rob it while the mail clerk wraps himself in a package marked DON'T OPEN 'TIL XMAS. The bandit accidentally throws Bugs Bunny in his sack. Bugs assumes he's Jesse James. The bandit scoffs and tells him (and the audience) who he actually is: "I'm Yosemite Sam, the meanest, toughest, rip-roarin'-est, Edward Everett Horton-est hombre what ever packed a six-shooter!" (This pattern of Sam introducing himself to Bugs and the audience would continue in other cartoons.) Bugs tells Sam that there is another tough guy in the train packing a "seven-shooter", and Sam goes looking for him – unaware that he is actually Bugs in disguise.
Various fights ensue, as each character temporarily gets the upper hand for a while. After one such skirmish, Bugs tricks Sam into dashing into a lounge car in which a horrific fight is occurring, actually stock film footage of a stereotypical western saloon fight. With the sounds of crashes and bangs in the background, Bugs calmly sings "Sweet Georgia Brown" to himself. Sam emerges tottering, banged and bruised, to a comical instrumental of "Battle Cry of Freedom", and a race-based gag occurs that is subtle enough it is usually left intact in network showings: Bugs effects the stereotyped voice of an African-American train porter, and has the dazed Sam convinced he's supposed to disembark the train, piling him up with luggage; Sam even hands Bugs a silver coin as a tip, and Bugs says, "Thank you, suh!" As Sam steps off the moving train, the mail-drop hook grabs him and temporarily whisks him off the train. Bugs, thinking he has vanquished Sam, yells "So long, screwy, see ya in Saint Louie!" a line that would be echoed in Bugs Bunny Rides Again and A Feather in His Hare. But Sam gets back on board somehow, and attacks Bugs on the roof.
Finally, Sam has Bugs tied up, dangling from a rope, weighted down by an anvil, and fiendishly cutting through the rope, while the train is passing over a gorge. The screen fills with the words the narrator (also Mel Blanc, in pretty much his natural voice) is saying, "Is this the end of Bugs Bunny? Will our hero be dashed to bits on the jagged rocks below?" and so on. Then Bugs walks across the screen, dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a bag full of gold (reward money), and dragging the tied-up villain behind him, mocking the on-screen words ("Is he to be doomed to utter destruction? Will he be rendered non compos mentis?"). Bugs closes by turning to the audience and repeating a popular radio catch-phrase from Red Skelton's "Mean Widdle Kid": "He don't know me vewy well, do he?" as a bar of Kingdom Coming plays on the track at iris-out.
- A character similar to Sam was the southern sheriff seen in Stage Door Cartoon (1944), also directed by Freleng.
- Bugs and Sam would square off again in a western setting, three years later, in Bugs Bunny Rides Again.
- The voice Mel Blanc uses at the ending on Bugs Bunny is the same one he used on Tweety.
- First Warner Bros. cartoon with full credits.
- Also the first Bugs Bunny cartoon with the "Bugs Bunny In" opening.
- This is also the first cartoon where the Merrie Melodies' theme song "Merrily We Roll Along" was shortened. The rendition would be used until 1955.
- The engines on the train are 4-4-0s (four leading wheels, four driving wheels, and no trailing wheels), commonly known as American type steam locomotives due to the great number of them produced in the United States.
When this cartoon aired on The WB, the scene of Bugs and Yosemite Sam shooting six guns at each other on the train was shortened.
- VHS - Cartoon Moviestars: Bugs Bunny Classics: Special Collector's Edition
- Laserdisc - Cartoon Moviestars: Bugs Bunny Classics: Special Collector's Edition
- VHS - Bugs Bunny Collection: Bugs Bunny's Zaniest Toons
- Laserdisc - The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, Vol. 1, Side 6: Friz Freleng
- VHS - The Golden Age of Looney Tunes, Vol. 6: Friz Freleng
- DVD - Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 (unrestored, as part of a 1990 TV special called What's Up Doc? A Salute to Bugs Bunny)
- DVD - Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6, Disc 1 (with optional audio commentary by Greg Ford)
also see the List of Bugs Bunny cartoons