Original U.S. Civil War Sharps New Model 1859 Saddle-Ring Carbine Converted to .50-70 Govt. - Serial 31061
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a great example of an original New Model 1859 Military Vertical Breech Carbine, converted to .50-70 Government caliber, serial number 31061. This features a later version of the Sharps action with an improved gas seal and vertical breech. It still shows much of the original finish in areas, and the stocks are in very good condition, with a lovely lightly worn look. The bore is in excellent condition, with a bright finish showing crisp lands and grooves. There is just a bit of fouling in the grooves, making this definitely one of the best bores we have ever seen on a sharps!
The falling block action lent itself to conversion to the new metallic cartridges developed in the late 1860s, so many were converted in the late 1860s and were used during the Indian Wars in the decades immediately following the Civil War, such as this one was. It looks like the barrel was completely refinished when it was removed for conversion, while the receiver was not.
This example was still has some of the original finish on the receiver, with the rest faded to a gray patina, and the markings are worn but still clear in the light:
R.S. LAWRENCE PAT
APRIL 12TH 1859
C. SHARPS' PAT
OCT 5TH 1852
The left side of the receiver still has relatively clear markings as well:-
C. SHARPS PAT
SEPT 12TH 1848
Faint markings on the barrel above the chamber read-
[NEW] MODEL 1859
The rear sight is still fully intact and functional, though it has been refinished like the rest of the barrel assembly, and this has made the markings a bit faint but still legible:
FEB 15TH 1859
There are still traces of the markings in front of the sight, however they are only faintly visible in the light due to wear and oxidation. A clear serial number is marked on the receiver tang-
There were approximately 45,000 of this model made during the 1860-1863 period, serial numbers 30000 to 75000. This example has a very early serial number, so it is probably in early-mid 1860. The walnut wood stocks are in very good service used condition, with a lovely color and great grain. They do show wear, especially the fore stock, which shows light gouges from when the barrel band was fit. The butt stock also shows wear, and unfortunately none of the original cartouches are visible. The butt stock looks to have been replaced at arsenal during the conversion to .50-70 Gov't, as it is a Model 1863 butt stock without a storage compartment.
The barrel bears very faint serial number 61702 on the underside, with additional other proof marks 8, B, and 2. This indicates that this carbine was converted to .50-70, which required replacement of the barrel to one compatible with the new centerfire cartridge. They were removed and converted, but often not re-mounted on the same frame, such as on this example.
Originally this carbine was set up for tape "pellet" primers, and still has the housing for this system, though it has had the internals and lock connector removed. The action cycles well, with the ejector presenting well, and the firing pin resetting when the breech is opened. The hammer still holds correctly at half cock, firing at full.
A great example of a Civil War Carbine, reissued for use during the Indian Wars.
Years of Manufacture: 1860-1863
Caliber: .50-70 Government
Ammunition Type: Center Fire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 22 Inches
Overall Length: 39 Inches
Action: Lever Action Falling Block
Feed System: Single Shot
History of the Sharps Carbine-
The Sharps, which used a nitrated linen or paper cartridge, was available in rifle or carbine models. Approximately 3,000 New Model 1859 Carbine produced early in the production run featured brass furniture and a brass patchbox. Many of these saw service with Georgia troops during the Civil War. About 30,000 more were produced with iron furniture and an iron patchbox. All featured a pellet priming system as part of the lock plate. The New Model 1863 and New Model 1865 Carbines were essentially the same as the earlier model, the differences being confined to barrel markings. SN 32532
This popular Civil War carbine in .52 caliber fired a linen cartridge by either disc primer or percussion cap. It was manufactured by Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company, Hartford, Connecticut. The breechblock drops down to open the chamber on lowering the trigger guard lever. Early model Sharps carbines are brass trimmed and later models are iron trimmed. The principal single-shot carbines of the Civil War were "NEW MODEL 1859" and "NEW MODEL 1863". The only noticeable difference is that many New Model 1859's, but not all, have patch boxes.
The New Model 1863's were made without patch boxes, a wartime procedure to do away with extras. It has a 21 1/2-inch barrel, measures 37 1/2 inches overall, and has a two- piece walnut stock. The barrel and, on some, the buttplate were blued. The frame, lock, and barrel band were casehardened in mottled colors. The fact that the Confederates manufactured copies of the Sharps carbine in Richmond, Virginia, in quantity testifies to its general popularity. This carbine was based on Christian Sharps' patents of 1848 and 1852 and on Richard S. Lawrence's patents of 1859.
Christian Sharps (1811-1874) was the originator of a line of sturdy, practical, and popular military and sporting rifles and handguns that were associated with several events that shaped American history in 19th century, including armed conflict in Kansas during the 1850s, the Civil War, the era of the Plains buffalo hunter, and the rise of modern long-range competition shooting during the 1870s. Sharps worked at John Hall's Rifle Works in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, where he learned the principles of arms manufacturing. His first breechloading rifle design was patented in 1848, and the toggle-linking trigger guard and vertically operating sliding wedge breechblock of later Sharps rifles and carbines date from that patent. These features are still with us today, and have seen use in both rifle and artillery breech mechanisms. The spring lever-toggle-breech mechanism of the Borchardt-Luger semi-automatic pistol also had its roots in Christian Sharps' lever-linked breech.
In 1850, Sharps moved to Mill Creek, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and contracted with the firm of A. S. Nippes to manufacture two of his sporting rifle designs, which became known as the Model 1849 and Model 1850. Faced with difficulty in obtaining financing for further ventures, Sharps left the Philadelphia area in 1851 and relocated to Hartford, Connecticut, where he formed the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company. Lacking production facilities, he contracted with the Windsor, Vermont firm of Robbins & Lawrence to manufacture his new breechloader. This venture continued until 1855.
Among the Sharps-designed firearms manufactured under this association were the Model 1851 "Box Lock" Carbine, which featured the Maynard tape primer system, and the Model 1852 and Model 1853 "Slanting Breech" Carbines, which were equipped with the Sharps-patented pellet primer system as an integral part of its breech mechanism. Model 1853 Carbines were nicknamed "Beecher's Bibles," after noted New York clergyman and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. Approximately 900 of these arms were shipped in heavy crates marked BIBLES for use by anti-slavery "Free Soil" settlers who were fighting against pro-slavery forces in "Bleeding Kansas" during the 1850s. One of the most famous Free "Soilers" was John Brown, who later used 300 Model 1853 Carbines in his ill-fated attempt to capture the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859. Christian Sharps served as technical advisor to the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company, receiving royalties on the manufacture of their firearms. His relationship with the company was a rocky one, and in 1853, Sharps severed all connections with the firm. There is no evidence that he ever had any further association with the company that continued to bear his name.
In 1855, the Sharps Company introduced the Model 1855 Carbine. These arms retained the slanting breech and buttstock patch boxes of earlier models, but featured the Maynard tape primer system. Approximately 800 .54 caliber carbines were manufactured for the U.S. government, and an additional 6,000 Model 1855s in .577 caliber were purchased by Great Britain. While these carbines were in production, both Robbins & Lawrence and Sharps suffered serious financial losses. The latter corporation went bankrupt, and their operations were taken over by Sharps and moved to Hartford. The Sharps New Model 1859, introduced in that year, was available as a carbine, and in round-barrel military rifle or octagonal-barrel sporting rifle versions.
Its straight-breech design is credited to Richard S. Lawrence, formerly of Robbins & Lawrence, who had become the superintendent of the Sharps Rifle Company. This design, in conjunction with a breechblock-mounted plate capable of slight rearward movement when under pressure, created a moderately effective gas seal. New Model 1859 arms also employed an improved version of the Sharps pellet primer system which allowed the pellet feed mechanism to be disengaged. Ordinary percussion caps could then be used, with the supply of pellet primers held in reserve. Like earlier Sharps designs, the Model 1859 fired a glazed linen combustible .52 caliber cartridge. When closed, the breechblock sheared off the rear of the cartridge, exposing the propellant.
During the Civil War, the Federal government bought over 80,000 Sharps carbines and nearly 10,000 Sharps Rifles. These arms were highly regarded by the troops who used them. Sharps Carbines found favor with Federal cavalry troopers, and New Model 1859 Rifles were used with great success by famous infantry units such as Colonel Hiram Berdan's U.S. Sharp Shooters, perhaps the first specialty troops in the history of modern warfare, as well as the 5th New York (Duryea's Zouaves) and the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (Bucktails). Even the Confederate government recognized the superiority of the New Model 1859 Carbine, contracting with the Richmond firm of S.C. Robinson for the production of 5,000 copies.
The New Model 1859 was followed by the New Model 1863 and New Model 1865 Carbines and Rifles. These were nearly identical to the New Model 1859, differing primarily in barrel stampings, the omission of buttstock patchboxes, and in the design or absence of bayonet lugs. Many versions of all three arms were later converted for use with .50-70 and .52-70 caliber metallic cartridge ammunition in the years following the Civil War. The New Model 1869 Carbine and Rifle, available in .44-77, .50-70, and .60 calibers, were the first Sharps arms designed for use with metallic cartridges. In 1874, the firm was reorganized as the Sharps Rifle Co., with operations remaining in Hartford.
In 1876, manufacturing was moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it remained until 1881. This period saw the manufacture of some of the more notable of Sharps longarms, beginning with introduction of the Model 1874 Rifle. Nicknamed "Old Reliable," this arm, available in a variety of calibers, barrel lengths, sights, and other features, became a favorite with both Plains buffalo hunters and competition shooters. Many Fancy-Grade models featured engraving which ranged from simple scrollwork to elaborate hunting or western scenes on their surfaces. The Sharps Model 1877 shared in the popularity of its predecessor. These deluxe-grade heavy-barreled .45 caliber rifles were designed specifically for Creedmoor and other long-range target shooters. Only 100 of these were produced, and they are as sought-after today by collectors as they were by competitors at the time of their introduction.
The last rifle to be produced by the Sharps Rifle Company was the Model 1878 Sharps-Borchardt Rifle. This arm was developed by Hugo Borchardt, who later became famous for his automatic pistol designs. These rifles, with their flat-sided frame and hammerless appearance, differ notably from earlier Sharps designs. Like the Model 1874, the Sharps-Borchardt was available in a variety of stocks, barrel lengths and weights, sights, calibers, and other features, including deluxe grade models. These popular rifles were produced until 1881, when the Sharps Rifle Company went bankrupt and ceased operations.
Although his association with the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company ended in 1853, Christian Sharps continued to work as a designer and manufacturer of firearms. He returned to Philadelphia and formed C. Sharps & Co., a manufacturer of percussion revolvers, breechloading single-shot pistols and pistol-rifles, and four-shot pepperbox pistols. In 1862, Sharps entered into a partnership with William Hankins. Their new company, known as Sharps & Hankins, continued to produce pepperbox pistols, as well as the single-shot .52 caliber Model 1861 Navy Rifle and the Model 1862 Carbine, both of which featured sliding breech actions. The partnership was dissolved in 1866, and Sharps reverted to the C. Sharps & Co. name. This firm ceased operations in 1874 with the death of Christian Sharps on March 12 of that year.
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