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GUNS Magazine October 2010 - Page 18
SHARpS RiFLE TERMS & CARTRiDGES Setting the record straight. ecently, in another major gun magazine, a writer described a R Sharps Model 1874 rifle as having “double locking bolts.” That has gotten many laughs from the knowledgeable because a Sharps Model 1874 doesn’t have any “locking bolts.” So for this column I’m going to do a brief primer of Sharps’ rifle terminology and some details on the cartridges for which that fabulous old “buffalo rifle” was chambered. The many designations the Sharps short as 21.5", as long as 36" with Rifle Company assigned to their total rifle weight running from 7 to 25 Model 1874s stemmed from differences pounds. Stocks could have crescent, in their basic configurations. These rifle or shotgun style of buttplate encompassed differing lengths and with straight or pistol grip and weight of barrels and also full- either single trigger or the double-set round, half-round/half octagon, and trigger arrangement. And they could full-octagon shaped barrels. Their be mixed in combinations of those stocks could be with crescent, rifle, or features. shotgun buttplates and with straight The company also had some odd grips or pistol grips. All their actions ideas about sighting equipment. A were essentially the same, but there standard Sporting Rifle, Hunter’s were minor differences, as I will talk Rifle or Business Rifle had Lawrenceof shortly. style rear barrel sight with a silver The varying Model 1874 blade front. But they were drilled and configurations were named Sporting tapped on their tangs for peep sight Rifle, Mid-Range Rifle, Schuetzen mounting. Long Range, Creedmoor Rifle, Hunter’s Rifle, and Mid-Range target Business Rifle, Long rifles rarely had a barrel Range Rifle, Creedmoor, mounted rear sight but Military Rifle and did have tang mounted Carbine. Space won’t peep sights. But, (and allow a complete this is a big but) those description of each style peep sights had a totally but be sure of this fact. different screw spacing In the 1870s, the Sharps and spring system Rifle Company was than the ones used on almost a custom shop so Sporting Rifles. Then there is much variation thesefouroriginalcartridges to confuse matters even due to individuals representthefourboresizes more, Military Rifles ordering their idea of forwhichtheSharpsRifle and Carbines did not the perfect rifle. For Companymaderifles.From have their tangs drilled instance, Sharps Model left:.402-5/8"case,.442-1/4" and tapped for mounting 1874 Sporting rifles are case,.452-1/10"caseand.50 either sort of peep sight. known to have been 1-3/4"case. An uninitiated person ordered with barrels as would be confused if thismodernSharpsModel1874reproduction byC.SharpsarmsCompanyofBigtimber, Montana,isshownwithaschnabletip forearminstalled,andwithapewtertip forearmbesideit. hearing Sharps rifle owners asking one another if their rifles had “the tulip” or a “Hartford collar.” Both terms regard where the barrel joins the receiver. When the Sharps factory was located in Hartford, Conn., most rifles had a machined ring at that juncture. During the transition to and after the factory was moved to Bridgeport, Conn. that changed to a flare, which has come to be known to collectors as “the tulip.” There were also pewter fore-end tips and schnable types, and both could be had when the rifles were made in either city, although pewter ones predominated from Hartford and schnable ones from Bridgeport. Transition To Cartridge And let’s not forget “conversions.” By the 1870s there were thousands of obsolete percussion Sharps carbines floating around. Many gunsmiths converted them to fire metallic cartridges. The factory also did likewise both for the US Government and later for commercial enterprises. Those thisrifleappearstobeastandardSharps Model1874SportingRifle,butitisactually aSharpsFactoryConversionofanearlier percussioncarbine. 18 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • OCTOBER 2010