The Ideal Model Sharps Rifle derives the first part of its title from the iconic Ideal Tool Company, which evolved into Lyman Products — an industry leader in reloading, firearms accessories, and related shooting products.
Lyman's new cartridge rifle — its first — has nothing to do with the old Stevens Ideal single-shot, which used a center-hammer falling breech block design. But it has everything to do with the much stronger side-hammer Christian Sharps design of the late 19th century, in which twin locking bolts drop down on either side of a solid falling breechblock. This was one of the most versatile rifles of its day, chambered for everything from the .40-90 to .50-100, and was a favorite of such famous buffalo hunters as Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon.
However, while the Lyman Ideal Model Sharps follows the exact form and function of the famous "buffler gun," it is noticeably slimmer and sleeker. In fact, it is approximately two-thirds the size and is correspondingly lighter, tipping the scales at a scant six pounds — a noticeable deviation from the nine-pound weight of a full-size Sharps .45-70. Here at last is the perfect companion piece for your original or replica Sharps, as well as for anyone of small stature, or who can't (or doesn't want to) tote a heavier gun all day.
Of course, with its smaller stature come limitations on the cartridges this mini-Sharps can handle. Lyman has chosen to chamber the gun for both the .22 Hornet and the .38-55, clearly pegging this rifle as either a varmint gun or a medium-size big game rifle, respectively. I ordered a .38-55 for testing.
Made in Italy exclusively for Lyman by Chiappa Firearms, the Ideal Model Sharps is a handsome rifle, featuring a deeply blued 26-inch octagon barrel with a 1:18 twist, nicely figured uncheckered European walnut stock and Schnabel fore-end, and double set triggers.
All of the metal parts are machined from solid block steel. The receiver is polished silver-gray, with simple but attractive Victorian-style design elements and a graceful "Lyman" etched on both sides, along with "Ideal Model" on the lock plate.
Also of interest is the ram's head and "Lyman 1878" deeply embossed in the polished steel shotgun-style buttplate. But the telling features that this is a Lyman product are the sights. A Lyman No. 2 adjustable peep sight graces the tang, while a Lyman 17A globe sight perches near the muzzle. Yes, I know the 17A isn't prototypical, but with its seven interchangeable inserts, ranging from clear yellow to thick post, it makes this a very versatile — and accurate — rifle indeed.
Loading is quite simple. First put the hammer on half-cock to prevent the breechblock from snapping the protruding firing pin, or a potential accidental discharge with a sensitive primer upon closing the lever. Swinging the trigger-guard lever down drops the breechblock, which exposes the breech. Fully insert a cartridge, close the lever, press back on the rear trigger to "set" the front trigger, bring the hammer to full cock, take aim and fire.
The trigger can also be used in the unset position, and care should be taken when adjusting the "set" screw not to create too light a trigger pull. I opt for 2½ pounds for target shooting, and 3½ to four pounds for hunting.
After firing, dropping the lever will extract (not eject) the spent casing. For cleaning, simply depress the spring-loaded lever pin plunger on the right side of the receiver, rotate and withdraw the lever pin, and the entire breech block and trigger guard assembly will drop out. Reverse the procedure to reassemble, taking care to line up the trigger guard link hole with the lever pin.
At the range my test gun performed flawlessly, although I have to admit as someone who has spent decades hunting with
full-size Sharps rifles, I experienced muscle-memory difficulties getting used to the slimmer, lighter feel of this mini-Sharps. But using factory ammunition, I had no trouble keeping all my shots in the 9 and 10 rings at 100 yards, both offhand and on the bench. The fact that the barrel is drilled and tapped for a scope means serious paper punchers and squirrel hunters who like to "bark 'em" will want to be among those who consider adding Lyman's newest "old" rifle to their gun racks.
- Type: falling block single-shot centerfire
- Caliber: .22 Hornet, .38-55 (tested)
- Barrel Length: 26 in.
- Overall Length: 42 in.
- Weight: 6 lb.
- Stock: European walnut
- Finish: blued barrel; polished, matte-finished receiver, lever, trigger, buttplate
- Sights: Lyman No. 2 adjustable peep tang rear w/2 apertures; Lyman No. 17A globe front w/7 inserts
- Price: $1,595
- Manufacturer: Chiappa Firearms
- Importer: Lyman