Every western movie buff has been treated over and over again to the exploits of the Colt Single Action Army sixgun and the Winchester levergun. While nowhere near getting the exposure of the Winchester and Colt, the Sharps 'buffalo gun' has starred in some memorable movies. While I was in high school, the cover of GUNS magazine featured a Sharps in the hands of Stewart Granger who co-starred as a buffalo hunter with a villainous Robert Taylor in "The Last Hunt". While attending graduate school one of my finer moments was also one of my favorite movies as Mexican constable Burt Lancaster decimated the bad guys with his long range Sharps. "That shot must have been seven, eight hundred yards!" says the startled onlooker as Burt (Bob Valdez) takes a bad guy off his fleeing horse. "More like one tow-san" says Burt.

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. It has been my good pleasure this summer, thanks to the goodness of its owner Chuck Bane of Bull-X, to test a Sharps 1874 single-shot chambered in what was not one of the original cartridges, the .45-70.

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.

To keep the Sharps operating and also to clean it I call upon Shiloh Creek. They have a whole range of items for the black powder shooter not the least of which is their Black Powder Bore Solvent. A few swipes with a tight patch soaked in this solvent and the barrel is clean.

Shiloh Creek is also called upon for the loading of black powder cartridges, in this case .45-70. Forget everything you have ever learned about reloading when you approach black powder if your experience has been strictly smokeless powder. Black powder is not run through a powder measure but is scooped. It is then dropped a minimum of twenty-four inches through a drop tube such as offered by Shiloh Creek. This allows the powder to settle into the brass case that is held in place by the shellholder mounted in the base of the Shiloh Creek Drop tube. Once the powder is in place, I place a cardboard wad cut from the back of a legal pad or an Ox-Yoke Wonder Wad over the powder.

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.

If one is going to shoot a lot, it also pays big dividends to have Shiloh Creek Black Powder bore solvent handy for running a wet patch through the barrel from time to time. Cartridge cases also must be given extra care. I drop my fired cases in a plastic gallon milk jug half full of soapy water and slosh them around between shots. When arriving home, the cases are washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and dried by laying them out on newspaper. Once the primers are punched out, the primer pockets are cleaned with Q-Tips and then cases are tumbled clean. It should go without saying that once they are used for black powder, brass cases are kept segregated from my smokeless brass.

An eleven pound rifle with black powder loads is definitely a joy to shoot even with full house black powder loads with 500 grain bullets. My test gun is marked on the thirty-inch barrel in three different places with OLD RELIABLE in script and C. SHARPS ARMS CO., INC BIG TIMBER MONTANA U.S.A., and .45 2 1/10 in block type. The hammer, lever, and breech block are all case-hardened and the octagon barrel is a deep blue finish. The stock is a nicely grained piece of dark walnut with an oil finish and silver fore-end tip. Sights are buckhorn rear with a brass blade front sight. The rear sight can be folded backwards revealing a typical military style long range sight.

I did not put the Sharps Model 1874 on paper since it was equipped with hunting sights that were not user friendly for my eyes. I did set up one of Austin Precision's automatically resetting targets at 100 yards with the silhouette pig bolted in place and this proved to me that I would have no trouble using the Sharps as a hunting rifle.

I may just have a vivid imagination, but I would almost swear to the fact that while I was testing the Sharps, I could smell buffalo. As I would set the gun down and concentrate, even with my ears that are not the best, I could actually hear the stomach rumbling of big bulls. As I fondled the big Sharps I suddenly felt like dressing in leather and furs and riding a pinto pony. Now this has never happened to me before, nor has it happened since. Only while shooting the Sharps. Strange.

After talking with my good friend and fellow Shootist, Tedd Adamovich, we decided to order our own Sharps rifles. We both now have .45-110's with two sets of sights, the original hunting sights plus Vernier scaled rear aperture and globe front sight. Who knows, I may want to get into black powder silhouetting some day. We do know that we have a date for a buffalo hunt.





Lyman 420 gr. #457193

67.6 gr. Goex FFg


Lyman 500 gr. #457125

65.0 gr. Elephant Brand FFg


Lyman 500 gr. #457125

60.0 gr. Elephant Brand FFg


Lyman 500 gr. #457125

56.5 gr. Goex FFg


RCBS 300 gr. #45-300 FN

58.0 gr. Pyrodex RS


RCBS 405 gr. #45-405 FN

65.0 gr. Elephant Brand FFg


RCBS 405 gr. #45-405FN

53.5 gr. Pyrodex RS