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

Reloading

The Handloading Question

Craig Boddington - March 26, 2019

With all the great factory ammo out there, why bother to reload? Craig counts the ways.

Bolt-Action

Review: Mossberg MVP Precision Rifle

J. Scott Rupp - March 21, 2019

Want to get into the long-range game and not go broke? Check out the Mossberg MVP Precision...

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

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.

Steyr Arms Announces Sniper Rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor

Scott O'Brien from Steyr Arms sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to take a look at Steyr's new tactical heavy barrel sniper rifle in 6.5mm Creedmoor.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - BULLPUPS

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of Bullpups.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

MSR

Review: Tromix .375 SOCOM

David Fortier - March 15, 2019

The new Tromix .375 SOCOM offers great performance with less recoil than its .458 brother.

Accessories

Rifle Shooter Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

J. Scott Rupp - May 07, 2019

Rifle Shooter editor Scott Rupp provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts.

MSR

M&P15 SPORT II Rifle Available with CTS-103 Optic

Rifle Shooter Digital Staff - April 23, 2019

Smith & Wesson's M&P15 SPORT II OR rifle with Crimson Trace CTS-103 optic will be on display...

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.

×