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Old March 9, 2013, 10:17 PM   #1
Eagle Eyes
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Join Date: March 9, 2013
Posts: 4
Sharps New Model 1859 Rifle

this rifle was found in a case with about a 1/4' of dust atop of it. I have tried to look up the serial numbers on this rifle to see what war it may have been used in, does anyone know or can point me in the right direction? it shows the outline of 2 rectangles on the left side of the stock near the breech being of service use. the serial numbers on both the stock and barrel are 39814. all the parts are on the rifle with the exception of the strap and bayonet. also there is a switch just behind the hammer that moves forward and backwards - what is it for ?
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Old March 10, 2013, 12:46 AM   #2
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Assuming it is a Model 1859, it could well have been used in the Civil War. The carbine version is more common than the rifle version that you have, but they actually appeared in significant numbers in cavalry hands at a fairy late date. There were rifles like yours in some units at Gettysburg (July, 1863), and in later battles. I think the button behind the hammer has to do with the percussion priming system. This system, patented by Lawrence, I think, used a pellet primer automatically placed on the nipple. I don't think it worked very well. There should be a patent stamp for Lawrence, I think on the right side of the receiver. If your rifle had some Civil War provenance, it would be worth a bundle, in spite of condition issues. There is quite a bit known about the serial numbers of Sharps arms issued to Civil War regiments. Check out "Civil War Sharps Carbines and Rifles" by Coates and McAulay. Amazon sells it.
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Old March 10, 2013, 01:27 AM   #3
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,290
There were 25 rifles from Ser #39573 to Ser #40872 that were issued to Berdan's Sharp Shooters. Most Berdan Sharps were from Ser #54390 to #57574. It is believed that the ones issued to Berdan were re-equipped with a double trigger which this one lacks.

You can also check out Wiley Sword's Sharpshooter: Hiram Berdan, his famous Sharpshooters and their Sharps Rifle.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
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Old March 10, 2013, 05:26 AM   #4
Doc Hoy
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Eagle Eyes....

Welcome to the forum....

You can see that you came to the right place.


What a find!

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. Thomas Jefferson
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Old March 11, 2013, 12:10 AM   #5
James K
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 24,133
That primer system is interesting. McShooty is correct that it uses a pellet primer, but it is not really placed on the nipple. Rather it is driven forward by the hammer falling and is hit by the hammer as it flies over the nipple. It does work, at least when clean, but they gave a lot of trouble and most users reverted to using plain old musket caps, which also had the advantage of being readily available.

Jim K
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