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Every western movie buff has been treated over and over again to the exploits of the Colt Single Action Army six gun and the Winchester lever gun. While nowhere near getting the exposure of the Winchester and Colt, the Sharps 'buffalo gun' has starred in some memorable movies. And can anyone forget the ultimate Sharps cowboy, Tom Selleck as he unlimbers his Sharps and rolls a bucket off into eternity in "Quigley Down Under"? That movie has done for the Sharps rifle what Dirty Harry did for the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum back in the 1970's. But you say the Smith & Wesson is a modern gun and the Sharps is no more. Wrong! As this is written at least four companies are offering modern copies, replicas of the old 1874 Sharps rifle and in calibers such as .45-70, .45-90, .45-110, and .50-70.
The Model 1863 Sharps percussion rifle saw service during the Civil War but it was the Model 1874 cartridge Sharps that became the epitome of what a nineteenth century hunting rifle should be. And don't believe all buffalo hunters used the big .45 or bigger .50 caliber Sharps. Well known buffalo hunter Frank Mayer favored an eleven pound, thirty-two inch barreled .40-90 Sharps whose flat shooting characteristics allowed him to take buffalo out to 600 yards. This before the days of the sporting rifle scopes and modern smokeless ammunition. All Sharps rifles, both original and replicas require the use of black powder cartridges for the utmost in safety and efficiency.
The original Sharps Model 1874 was manufactured from 1871 to 1881 in calibers .40-90, .44-77, .45-110, .50-70, and .50-90. The action is a falling block, breech-loading, single-shot. Triggers could be single or double set and barrels could run from twenty-two inches to thirty-two inches. Just as with the modern replicas, sights were the standard hunting type or the aperture rear with a globe style front sight.
To operate the Sharps, the big hammer is placed at half-cock, the lever is operated down and forward opening the breech, a cartridge is loaded, the lever is brought back and up, the breech block closes, the hammer is cocked and the Sharps is ready to fire.
Being a black powder firearm, the Sharps must be cleaned post haste after a shooting session. This is made relatively easy by two things. One is the ingenious design of the Sharps and the other is the wonder of modern cleaning solvents. For the Sharps itself, a lever on the breech is simply moved and withdrawn and the block drops out into the hand for easy cleaning.
Not just any old bullet is used with black powder. Forget the jacketed bullets and use either home cast or commercial cast bullets. None of the commercial cast bullets that I know of are properly lubed for black powder shooting. Bullets need special lube for black powder shooting and that lube is SPG. Designed by competition black powder shooters, the buttery consistency of SPG lube helps to keep fouling of the bore to a minimum and what does occur is kept soft. Before I started using SPG, I would have barrels so fouled that is was almost impossible to get a patch through them.
____________________ "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
There are a couple fella's at my range that shoot replicas of the Sharps. One thing I find interesting is they use a 'blow tube' after each shot. It's simply a piece of clear tubing that fits into the chamber.
Fire a shot, eject the case, place the tube into the chamber and blow into it. The moisture from their breath helps keep the fouling very soft, allowing better accuracy over a period of time. In combination with the SPG lube, the moisture also makes cleaning a snap. When they run a patch down the bore it comes out almost clean looking.
____________________ "Get off your computer and go load some ammo"