The Sharps Rifle

The Sharps Rifle

This became the ultimate big game rifle for hunters and frontiersmen in the West.

The Sharps rifle was one of the most famous breechloaders of its day, in part because it had its beginnings in the era of the muzzleloader. Christian Sharps was a cantankerous but brilliant inventor who, in September 1848, patented a single-shot, lever-activated, breech-loading rifle with a vertically sliding breechblock. It was quick to reload and, with its strong, drop-block action, did not require the shooter to stand and ram a charge down the bore.

A replica 1862 percussion Sharps.

Sharps had his Improved Model of 1851 manufactured by the firm of Robbins & Lawrence as the newly formed Sharps Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Shortly afterward, Sharps disassociated himself with the company (although he continued to receive $1 per rifle produced). Company armorer Richard Lawrence continued improving the rifle, which found success during the Civil War.


Ironically, both Lawrence and Sharps died in 1874. That year, investors launched the reorganized Sharps Rifle Company, and with it the Model 1874, a cartridge-firing improvement over the original design.



This became the ultimate big game rifle for hunters and frontiersmen in the West, where hard-to-kill game required bone-crushing cartridges. The 1874 Sharps was one of the few rifles that could handle such charges, and consequently it became the gun of choice for buffalo hunters.

Often weighing 12 pounds or more, it was chambered for cartridges that included the .40-90, .44-77 bottleneck and the .50-100, which gave the rifle its nickname, "The Big Fifty," along with another moniker, "Old Reliable," which was stamped on its barrel. The 1874's accuracy proved itself on target ranges as well. Unfortunately, financial problems caused the company's failure in 1881.


Today, original Sharps rifles and carbines are highly collectible. Fortunately, this gun is being reproduced by firms such as Shiloh, Pedersoli and Uberti, thus keeping the legend of Sharps alive.


Recommended for You

SIG SAUER adds to its Elite Match ammo line with the 30-06 Springfield. Ammo

New 30-06 Springfield Elite Match Ammo from SIG SAUER

Rifleshooter Online Editors - April 03, 2019

SIG SAUER adds to its Elite Match ammo line with the 30-06 Springfield.

Big game hunters in search of an accurate, long-range rifle need look no further than Browning and the new X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan. Bolt-Action

New Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Long Range McMillan Rifles

RifleShooter Online Staff - November 07, 2018

Big game hunters in search of an accurate, long-range rifle need look no further than Browning...

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range chassis rifle. Bolt-Action

Review: Performance Center-Thompson/Center LRR

Alfredo Rico - April 09, 2019

Thompson/Center and S&W's Performance Center team up to build an entry-level long-range...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - BULLPUPS

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - BULLPUPS

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of Bullpups.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

RS Sako Finnlight II

RS Sako Finnlight II

The new Sako Finnlight II sports an innovative stock and Cerakote metal paired with the terrific 85 action.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Thompson/Center Arms rimfire rifles are available with Traditional Hardwood and Flat Dark Earth Black Grit finishes. Rimfire

Thompson/Center Arms Adds Stock Options to Rimfire Line

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 16, 2019

Thompson/Center Arms rimfire rifles are available with Traditional Hardwood and Flat Dark...

Wilson Combat's new Ultralight Hunter in .300 Ham'r puts the sport back in modern sporting rifles. MSR

Review: Wilson Combat Ultralight Hunter

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 18, 2019

Wilson Combat's new Ultralight Hunter in .300 Ham'r puts the sport back in modern sporting...

The Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo combines high BCs with a forgiving bullet profile and promises versatile performance. Ammo

Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo

Brad Fitzpatrick - April 30, 2019

The Federal Berger Hybrid Hunter Ammo combines high BCs with a forgiving bullet profile and...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.