30 years of sharps rifles: it's been quite a journey.

Author:Venturino, Mike 'Duke'

Just this past weekend while attending our yearly winter gun show a light bulb popped on in my brain. I bought my very first Sharps rifle at this same gun show exactly 30 years ago. Never before then had I so much as handled one. And to show how varied my interests were then, the other rifle purchased at that same gun show was a pre-64 Model 70.220 Swift. Most of my pre-64 Model 70s are long gone but I still have seven Sharps rifles in the racks. That's of 46 different ones bought since 1981, counting originals and various reproductions. Collectively these have included Models 1863, 1868 (factory conversion), but most have been Model 1874s--the most famous Sharps of all.

As with everything that triggers a passion in me, I jumped into Sharps shooting with both feet. And just as with the passion for my wife, Yvonne, now a lull three decades later that Sharps rifle passion is still with me. Some might say it has cooled somewhat but actually the best way to describe it is that it has matured. No more do I feel compelled to try every chambering for which Sharps rifles were offered in the 1870s. Nor do I need to experience every barrel length and/or weight, stock design, or sighting option. I know for sure what nay preferences are from extensive hands-on experience.



Let me give a brief synopsis of that experience. By my count Sharps rifles of the 1870s were chambered 15 cartridges. I've handloaded for 13 of them. The two that have escaped me are small and meant for short2 range target shooting. They are .40-50 Sharps Straight and .44-60 Sharps Bottleneck. I've owned Sharps rifles with barrel lengths as short as 22" (carbines) and as long as 34" (Long Range target rifles). They have been as light as 7 pounds (carbines again) and as heavy as 14 pounds (replica buffalo hunters' rifles).


They have worn open-rear sights, tang-mounted peep sights and scopes. Triggers have been standard single type or double set arrangements. I've taken game from small whitetails to 1-ton bison bulls, plus several heads of Africa plains game. My Sharps shooting has occurred in weather so my gloved hand became numb from contact with the barrel and in weather so hot that my hand literally after touching it.

My handloading efforts with all those Sharps cartridges have encompassed black powder of every variety I could lay hands on, a wide range of smokeless powders and several black powder substitutes. Regarding bullet types through one or another Sharps rifle I've fired jacketed softpoints, gas-checked cast bullets, plain-base cast bullets, swaged lead bullets and paper-patched...

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