more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

Post by lurker »

first, a little background.
Christian Sharps patented his first rising block breech-loading rifles in the late 1840s, and the Sharps Rifle Company continued to improve the design for the next 2 decades. originally using a slanted breech, by the early 1850s he had gone to a straight rising block. in the mid-50s sharps experimented (as did the US war department) with the maynard paper tape primer system, but by 1859 the maynard system was abandoned in favor of a disc-primer system. the sharps rifle earned a reputation for range and accuracy, and the improved rate of fire made the carbine very popular with cavalrymen in the west. Although the word "sharpshooter" comes from the earlier, german word "scharf-shutzen" the Sharps name became syonymous with handy, rapid-firing and accurate long range rifles and the men who used them. Christian Sharps had long since moved on, having left the company in 1853. he continued developing firearms, but his only remaining connection to the Sharps Rifle Company was the royalty checks he received.

when John Brown was in "bleeding Kansas" he solicited northeasten abolitionists to equip anti-slavery men with sharps carbines, some of which were intercepted in crates marked as bibles, and the carbine acquired the name "Beechers Bibles". similarly, when Brown seized the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, he was armed with Sharps carbines. during the civil war, the 1859 infantry model rifle was favored by sharpshooters (Berdan's comes immediately to mind), and the carbine continued to be preferred by cavalry. more complex and costly (about triple the price) than the standard muzzleloading weapon of the war, the northern war department resisted adoption, while the south's production was constrained by lack of industrialization and federal incursions. early in the war a factory was built to make a confederate sharps in Nashville, tn. when federal armies approached, the factory was dismantled, packed up and moved successively to atlanta, ga, macon and finally tallassee, alabama, where union troops finally caught up with it*. a similar factory operated in richmond throughout the war. southern manufacturers cut costs by omitting the pellet primer mechanism and using brass fittings.

though outclassed by magazine-fed repeaters using metallic cartridges like the spencer and henry, sharps followed the post-war government's practice of converting single-shot rifles to metallic cartridges, by addition of a dog-leg firing pin and extractor. thus, the sharps remained popular with cowboys and buffalo hunters, and for many years held the record for longest ranged shot, at adobe walls, texas.

* i've seen different accounts about the confederate sharps factories, so don't take this as gospel.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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the problem with breechloaders during the first half of the 19th century was sealing the breech. there had been earlier breechloaders, notably the revolutionary-war era British Ferguson rifle and the M1819 Hall rifle. the Hall rifle and carbine served until replaced by the 1842 muzzle-loader, but suffered from gas leakage at the breech. Sharps collaborated with Richard Lawrence to produce a floating sleeve in the chamber, which was forced back against the breech block by expanding gases from the main powder charge. though an improvement, this was further improved by H. Conant, who devised a floating plate on the breech block, which was forced *forward* against the sleeve. this substantially solved the problem, though the ultimate solution was the metallic cartridge, pioneered before the war by Burnside and Maynard. unfortunately these weapons were still too complex and expensive, even when compared to the sharps.

the sharps finally came together with the model 1859, produced in both carbine and rifle models in .52 caliber. externally primed with either the mechanically fed disc primer or a standard musket cap, the piece could be either loaded with a loose bullet and powder, or a pre-manufactured paper or linen cartridge. when the breech is closed, a blade on the breech block cuts off the rear of the cartridge, exposing the powder. thus, the sharps is sometimes called a "paper-cutter". when the war department finally yielded to soldiers' demands for sharps rifles, they contracted at $36 each, triple the cost of a Springfield muzzle loader. a cost-cutting measure in '63 deleted the patchbox from the stock, reducing the price to $33. the rifles were fitted with either a sword or triangular socket bayonet.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Huh. What was the powder load of the CW era .52 caliber?
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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60 grains from my reading.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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That would get it moving pretty well.
When only cops have guns, it's called a police state.
It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense of our nation worthwhile. -Earl Warren

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Modern Sharps replicas
the replica sharps rifle and carbine has been produced for shooters and civil war reenactors for decades. like most replicas, the majority come from italy, by IAB (shut down in 2008), Armi-Sport(Chiappa), Pedersoli and others, and the Montana-based Shiloh Sharps. the reputation, price and waiting list (justified or not) runs from IAB at the low end to the Shiloh at the high end. the vast majority of replicas omit the disk primer system, as did the confederate copies. for reasons i'm not familiar with, all of the replicas i've seen are .54 caliber. I have handled a 150+ year old wartime model '63 carbine, have worked on an IAB '63 sporting model, and currently own an IAB '63 carbine and Armi Sport model '59 "Berdan" rifle with set trigger. both are well-made and fine guns. i have live fired the "berdan", but usually just fire blanks at reenactments. Unfortunately, replica sharps have a couple of issues which can make them problematic, which is odd because the soldiers who used them loved them. most of the problem is ammunition. in the 1800s ammunition came from factories, made to a degree of precision most individuals are not up to. most of the rest is maintenance issues.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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ok, picture time.
here's the IAB '63 model carbine,
and the ArmiSport '59 "Berdan" infantry model rifle with set trigger.
2sharps.jpg
they are functionally identical, the most obvious difference being the patch box on the stock, and of course the barrel length. supposedly they changed the shape of the hammer too, but i haven't noticed it.
the IAB was made in 1977 and has numerous PC (Period Correct) patent markings from the Sharps Rifle Company. while the detail is nicer, the case hardening and overall workmanship on the ArmiSport is better. the ArmiSport was made in 2000.
i've lightly modified a Springfield triangular bayonet to fit the rifle. a bayonet on the carbine would be incorrect.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

Post by eelj »

How often do you shoot them and do you cast your own slugs. Are they very accurate? I like black powder but I only have experience with muzzle loaders with patched ball.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

Post by Elmo »

Very interesting information, Lurker.

It's a lesson in lateral thinking. A whole lot of work went into trying to make paper cartridges, which were a carryover from the muzzleloaders, work in early breechloaders. I hadn't thought about the gas leakage problem before.

Then somebody slapped his forehead and came up with a brass cartridge. Solved that problem, but introduced the new problems of extraction and ejection which paper didn't have, because that just burned up. Turns out the extraction/ejection problem was the easier problem of the two.

Does your Sharps replica shoot paper or brass cartridges? The only one I have seen (at a 200 yard silhouette match) was the latter.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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i live fired the rifle once or twice, not enough to get a feel for what it can do. never live fired the carbine yet. i fire blanks at yankees or rebs a couple of times a month. since i reenact infantry, there's no good way to argue for the carbine on the field. even the rifle is a stretch, since they were usually carried by federal sharpshooters, and we portray line infantry.

mine are both paper cutters. i have a little stash of about 50 bullets, and a steady supply of black powder and musket caps. the metallic cartridge was just becoming popular during the ACW, mainly with the spencer and henry rifles. the first major use of metallic cartridges and repeaters was near here, at hoover's gap during the tullahoma campaign in june/july of 1863.

the tullahoma campaign is largely forgotten because it concluded the same week as gettysburg and the fall of vicksburg, and is overshadowed by those fights. federal general Rosecrans pushed the Army of Tennessee clean out of tennessee into north georgia largely through maneuver, with approximately 500 federals killed. a brilliant exercise in tactics, but the confederate army escaped and survived to fight and win another day, at chickamauga.

Wilder's Lightning Brigade of mounted infantry used spencers purchased with the soldiers' own money to push confederate pickets out of Hoovers' gap, and repelled repeated counterattacks by a confederate division. the army had little interest in repeaters because a. they thought the soldiers too stupid to manage the weapons, b. repeaters and single-shot breech-loaders were always more complex and expensive than muzzleloaders, and c. they feared the soldiers would waste ammunition. since the guns were so expensive, officers would sometimes advance the money to the troops, and deduct it over time from their pay.

by the end of the war, the value of breech-loaders and metallic cartridges was well understood, and Erskine Allin, head of federal ordnanace invented the springfield trapdoor which was retrofitted onto existing stores of springfield muzzleloaders. Britain did much the same with their snyder conversion enfields, and the sharps rifle company was not far behind.

:sorry: you got me going there. i can go on about this stuff for hours. the feedback loops of technology and society fascinate me, and war, especially the civil war, are exemplary cases of this. sometimes, if a spectator at an event expresses interest i latch on to them and go on and on and on, and have to be pulled off them by threats or offers of food. for example, let's talk about organizational skills. prior to the civil war, a big army was 10 or 15 thousand men. by the end of the war, armies were 60, 80, 100 thousand, and the war forced development of the industrial, management and logistical skills needed to operate on a grand scale. when the transcontinental railroad was completed, a federal general, Grenville Dodge, was in command, using skills he'd acquired in the war.

sorry, i forget. what was your question? :surrender:

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Wilder's Brigade also did a lot of work at Chickamauga, allowing Thomas to get his position hardened enough to withstand the rest of the first day, and clearly the most effective unit in the center of the Union line. By the end of the second day it was the only effective formation on the Union right. Chickamauga was the empty victory, as when it was over the Union held Chattanooga and the Confederates were in no shape to mount another major attack. Although Rosecrans was whipped and Lincoln referred to him as confused and disoriented "as a duck hit on the head", Thomas wasn't whipped, he wanted to go in for the third day but half the army was with Rosecrans.

Ah, and it's finally becoming recognized the Civil War's important theater wasn't Virginia, but the West. And in that theater it was the increasing use of technology by the Union, and the failure of the Confederacy to keep up, that made the difference. Distances were so huge trains and steamboats became the logistical pipelines impossible to be replaced by animal power. Telegraph became the courier.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Antiquus wrote: ....
:thumbup:

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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If we do the annual meeting at Gettysburg in 2016, you should be there. Well, if you can't come just send the guns.
When only cops have guns, it's called a police state.
It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense of our nation worthwhile. -Earl Warren

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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if you're in g'burg, you can see the real thing at the museum. but they won't let you handle or shoot them. :sad:
i'll keep it in mind :hmmm:

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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let's take a closer look at this sleek beauty. it has a normal (for the time) side hammer and lock, which actuates a musket cap on the nipple or cone.
1.JPG
pulling the breech block lever down and forward drops the breech block down for loading or disassembly.
2.JPG
to remove the breech block, depress the retaining pin, and rotate the breech block pin clockwise.
3.JPG
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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disassembly continued:
wriggle out the breech block pin and the block slides out.
4.JPG
the breech face can now be separated from the breech block.
5.JPG
if it's stuck on, as so many are, a chisel will help it along. this is also a good time to remove the nipple, if you haven't done so already.
LUGO0155.JPG

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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I :love: this thread.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Fukshot wrote:I :love: this thread.
good, good. :beer2:
i don't think you're going to like it so much when i get out the dremel. i wish i knew/was a skilled machinist, but we does what we can with what we has.
DSCF0001.JPG
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

Post by sikacz »

Nice thread! :beer2: Make sure you have spare parts before using the dremel! :roflmao:
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

Post by shinzen »

Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing, I knew nothing about these interesting pieces of history until this post.
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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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shinzen wrote:Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing, I knew nothing about these interesting pieces of history until this post.
i didn't know anything about them (except that they looked really cool) until a couple of years ago. for safety reasons, we do not allow short rifles in the rear rank. being 6'2", i was always in the rear rank until i was promoted to corporal. even then, not a great idea until i made sgt, which put me at the end of the line.

at that point i asked my capt. and sgt. major what they thought, and they said no problem. there are lots of reenactors with sharps, particularly cavalry carbines, but oddly enough most of them seem to have little knowledge, or interest in sharing.

so for the last couple of years i've been learning, reading everything i could to try to make it reliable, and i've had some success. but information is scattered and hard-won, and there's a lot of mis-information out there, so i wanted to share and preserve what i've learned, all in one place. maybe i should put up a short suggested reading list. when i found LGC, i thought this looked like a good place.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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I think I'm having chest pains!

What are you going to do with the Dremmel?

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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Fukshot wrote:I think I'm having chest pains!
patience. all in due time. meanwhile, take an aspirin. just in case.
Fukshot wrote: What are you going to do with the Dremel?
evil, evil things. :evil: but it turns out ok. :blush: no risk, no adventure. :see_stars:

short reading list:
"sharps patent improved breech-loading & self-priming rifle, carbine and shot gun." hartford: press of case, lockwood and company. may 1 1864 (reprint by invictus, decatur, mi.).
"civil war guns", w.b.edwards, stackpole, harrisburg, pa, 1962.
"civil war sharps carbines & rifles", coates & mcaulay, thomas publications, gettysburg, pa. 1996.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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my goofy exuberant dog knocked my main computer off the desk onto the floor, and the hard drive crashed, so it's likely going to be a week or so before i can get pictures and post again regularly. sorry bout that.

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Re: more on the sharps paper cartridge replica.

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finally replaced my hard drive, got the OS (win7) up and running smoothly, am replacing apps. i've never lost a drive in 30 yrs of computers, so no backups. the old drive was unrecoverable, so i've lost everything :weep: hopefully i can return to this in a couple of days. meanwhile, i have to replace a blown head gasket on my 1990 geo metro. it's always something.

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