1859 Sharps Rifle Serial Numbers: A History of a Legendary Breechloading Firearm
The 1859 Sharps rifle was a .52 caliber, breechloading firearm invented and patented by Hartford, Connecticut native Christian Sharps. It was one of the most popular and widely used rifles during the American Civil War, as well as the era of the Plains buffalo hunter and the rise of modern long-range competition shooting. The 1859 Sharps rifle featured a toggle-linking trigger guard and a vertically operating sliding wedge breechblock that allowed for fast and easy loading and firing. The rifle also had a Sharps-patented pellet primer system that ignited the powder charge with a small metal disc instead of a percussion cap.
The 1859 Sharps rifle was manufactured by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut, from 1859 to 1866. The company produced about 100,000 rifles of this model, with serial numbers ranging from 30,000 to 140,000. The serial number was stamped on both the tang and the underside of the barrel beneath the fore end. The serial number can help identify the date of manufacture, the type of lockplate, the barrel length, and the original configuration of the rifle. Some rifles were also marked with additional information, such as government contracts, inspector's initials, or unit markings.
One of the most notable contracts for the 1859 Sharps rifle was with the U.S. Navy, which ordered 900 rifles in September 1859 and took delivery from November 1860 through April 1861. These rifles had serial numbers from 40,000 to 41,000 and were marked with \"U.S.N.\" on the lockplate and \"N.M.\" (for Navy Model) on the barrel. Another famous contract was with John Brown, the abolitionist leader who used 75 Sharps rifles in his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. These rifles had serial numbers from 51,000 to 52,000 and were listed in the Congressional Record for 1859 as evidence of Brown's involvement.
The 1859 Sharps rifle was highly regarded for its accuracy, reliability, and durability. It was used by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, as well as by civilians for hunting and target shooting. The rifle was especially favored by sharpshooters and cavalrymen, who appreciated its rapid fire capability and long range performance. The rifle could fire up to ten shots per minute at distances up to 1,000 yards. Some of the most famous users of the 1859 Sharps rifle were Berdan's Sharpshooters, a Union regiment that distinguished itself in several battles; Hiram Berdan himself was an expert marksman who won many shooting competitions with his Sharps rifle. Another famous user was Buffalo Bill Cody, who claimed to have killed over 4,000 buffalo with his Sharps rifle in less than two years.
The 1859 Sharps rifle was a remarkable firearm that played a significant role in American history. It was a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of Christian Sharps and his company. It was also a symbol of the technological and social changes that occurred in the mid-19th century. The 1859 Sharps rifle serial numbers are a valuable source of information for collectors and historians who want to learn more about this legendary weapon. ec8f644aee