There is something quintessentially American about the Sharps rifle. A direct line back to the civil war and the opening of the west. More importantly, Christian Sharps’ invention is quite simply a better mouse trap, and the world did indeed beat a path to his door.
Christian Sharps apprenticed under John Hall, who designed a breech-loading flintlock in 1824. Sharps was obsessed with speeding up the loading process, and the result was his first patent of the Sharps breech-loader in 1848. But it was in the Civil war that the sharps proved its metal. One of the great advantages of the breech-loading Sharps that might not stand out to modern shooters, is that it could be loaded with relative ease from a prone or covered position.
A question we’ve often considered here at Gun Stories, is which gun truly won the West? I think we can make a strong case that the most important gun in the opening of the American frontier was neither Mr. Colt’s revolver nor Mr. Winchester’s repeater, but rather Mr. Sharps’ amazing single shot rifle.
The Sharps Big .50 caliber buffalo rifles probably accounted for more buffalo than all the other guns put together. At 12-16 plus pounds, the rifles were legendary for their long-distance accuracy.
No history of the Sharps would be completed without a mention of ‘the shot’, the one taken by American scout and buffalo hunter Billy Dixon, at 1,538 yards in defense of Adobe walls in Texas on June 27, 1874.
There is no living person more associated with the Sharps than Matthew Quigley. Actor Tom Selleck, whose long-range shooting in the movie ‘Quigley Down Under’, triggered a run on reproduction Sharps that continues today. Shiloh Sharps, who created Quigley’s magnificent rifle, still has backorders on their Quigley Model Sharps. Not bad, since the movie premiered in 1990. There are now more Sharps rifles being manufactured than at any time since the Civil War. Literally dozens of calibers are now available, from the big .50 down to .22 long rifle.