Monday, January 13, 2014

The Sharps Carbine

Been a while since I've written anything. With the holidays and blah, blah, blah.....oh let's just own up to it.  I've been lazy. 

Now is a good a time as any to write about the Sharps carbine.  The Sharps is the design of Christian Sharp, a Harpers Ferry Armory gunsmith.  It is a single shot, percussion, breach loading weapon.   The pattern began life with the first models rolling into production in the early 1850s.  Transitioning through several patterns, the Sharps carbine's service life extended well past the Civil War with the last models/conversions utilizing a center fire cartridge.  

During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate cavalrymen used the Sharps.  It was so popular and of such good design that the Virginia gunsmith, S.C. Robbins, produced its own version of the weapon -  although of a lessor quality.  

An easy way to distinguish the Richmond Sharps (depicted above) is by its rear dovetail sight.  The original Sharps (depicted below) has a more sophisticated elevating sight. 

The Sharp's is loaded by lowering the lever (which also serves as a trigger guard), thus lowering the breach. 

A cartridge made of a .52 calibre minie ball affixed to a linen or paper wrapped powder charge is next inserted into the breach. 

The breech is then closed by use of the lever.  Closing the breech severs the back of the linen or paper cartridge. The hammer is moved to half cock and a percussion cap placed on the nipple.  With the hammer moved to full cock, the carbine is ready to fire. 

Civil War cavalrymen favored the Sharp's, because of is user friendly nature, rapid rate of fire and dependability.   The Sharp's was also prized as a battlefield pickup, not only for the aforementioned qualities, but also a for a practical reason. Unlike the metallic cartridge carbines of the era, the Sharp's round is uncomplicated to manufacture.  Thus Southern arsenals were able to produce it making the Sharp's a more useful captured arm than its more complicated cousins. 

The weapon pictured in the top most photo is my Sharp's carbine. It is a New Model 1863 carbine.   Earlier models are found with brass patch boxes in the stock.   With is popularity and long service life, the Sharps is readily found on the market at reasonable prices.   However, please note that the weapon has been mass reproduced   Beware of modern replicas.