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MODEL 1868 SHARPS CARBINE – IDENTIFIED TO COMPANY E  8TH US CAVALRY – A HISTORIC AND WELL DOCUMENTED EARLY INDIAN WAR ISSUED CARBINE IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  Perhaps the best known specimen of a Sharps Model 1868 Carbine identified as having been in the inventory of the Company E, 8TH US Cavalry Regiment, this exact carbine is featured in a number of published references such as GUNS OF THE WESTERN INDIAN WARS by R.S. Dorsey, and at least one article published in the GUN REPORT magazine, also by Dorsey. 

The left side of the carbine’s butt stock is legibly stamped “Co E 8TH CAV”, establishing the issue of this carbine to Company E of the 8TH US Cavalry Regiment   The format and font of this stamping is identical to those present on another Model 1868 Sharps Carbine – stamped in the same location – and on the grips of three Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers and a Remington New Model Army – all bearing the same “Co E  8TH CAV” stamping, using the same font and format.  

The 8TH US Cavalry Regiment was created after the Civil War in 1866, at the Presidio of Monterey, California as the army reorganized and expanded to meet the demands of the advancing frontier.  During that early Indian Wars period, the 8TH was attached to the Department of California, and Company E was stationed, and saw considerable action, in Oregon against the Modocs, in Idaho against the Nez Perce and Bannocks, and in New Mexico and the Arizona Territory against the Apaches.   

As indicated in the summaries of Ordnance Returns provided on pages 76-78 in Arming and Equipping the U.S. Cavalry by Dusan Farrington, in 1871 Company E of the 8TH Cavalry Regiment was stationed at Ft. Wingate, New Mexico and was armed with the “new” Sharps Carbine.  While there is no doubt that this carbine was in the hands of a 8TH Cavalry trooper during the early 1870’s, a collector is tempted to consider that this carbine may have remained in the company’s inventory after the issue of the Model 1873 Springfield Carbines.  It is known the Sharps carbines were issued to the packers, teamsters, and scouts who accompanied the columns of soldiers in the field, and at times they were used by the soldiers for hunting and foraging, and such may have been the case when Company E found itself in the field in the later 1870’s and 1880’s, engaged against the hostile Apaches throughout the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona.     

It is worth noting that while the army did not approve of such unit identification stamps on the firearms, and in fact, specifically prohibited the practice via written orders, there were several units on the frontier that regularly applied stamped identification marks on their guns, to include the 3RD, 4TH, 8TH, 9TH, and 10TH Cavalry Regiments.  Of special interest is that as the army discouraged the practice, and therefore never established a service-wide standard for content, font, or placement of the identification stamps on the arms, each unit developed their own unique criteria and style, and more often than not, located the stamps on the same place on the firearms within a company or regiment.  The unique nature of these stamps has proven to be a boon to modern collectors, as once familiar with the placement and style of a particular unit’s stampings, the collector is better equipped to identify genuine stamps from spurious stamps that may be applied to enhance an unmarked piece, and as many of these early frontier arms were used heavily and often show significant wear, in the cases where a portion of the markings have been partially worn or obliterated, what markings remain are sufficient to make a complete identification of the unit possible.  

There is no doubt whatsoever that the stampings on this specimen are original to the carbine’s period of use, and that they are indeed genuine 8TH Cavalry markings.  The butt stock is in very good condition with little of the significant wear commonly encountered on these Sharps Carbines which were used in the field.     

As a result, the fully legible stamping on the butt stock easily rates as excellent.  The buttstock is stamped “Co E  8TH CAV” in a straight line, parallel to the bottom edge of the stock, and positioned midway between the butt plate and the point of the comb – again, in the same location as the stamping which is present on the other known Sharps Carbine with the same stamped identification.  Showing only the slightest amount of wear across the length of the stamping, all of the characters are fully present and some still retain the sharp edges which were left standing proud of the surface when the butt stock was newly stamped.  The stamping on this butt stock is without doubt the best known surviving example of this unit’s markings on a carbine.  The two correct, and original, inspectors’ cartouches are still present and faintly legible on the left side of the butt stock – one underneath and just above the sling ring bar, and the other immediately above the “8TH” portion of the unit stamping.   

While this carbine shows evidence of issue and use, it has survived the untold miles of campaigning and the passage of time in remarkable condition.  The metal is overall smooth with a pleasing even plumb brown color, with the original bright blue finish still present under the forearm, and traces of the original blue elsewhere in protected areas.  The bore is clean and bright throughout with no dark patches or pitting, and distinct clear rifling throughout.  The receiver, breech block, lever, trigger plate, butt plate and barrel band all retain visible traces of the case colors.  The screw heads retain much of the original bright blue finish with no damage or wear to the screw heads.  The lock mechanism and breech block both operate properly, functioning as crisp as the day the carbine was manufactured.  

All of the Sharps manufacturing and patent information stamps are present and legible on the lock plate and receiver.  The original rear sight is fully intact, functions properly, and the Lawrence patent information is present and legible on the sight base.  The serial number on the upper receiver tang is present and fully legible.  

The butt stock and forearm are likewise in very good condition and retain the majority of the original finish, showing only the slightest handling marks and no damage or wear.  The forearm is full form, with no splits or chips from the barrel channel edges.  The butt stock is likewise in full form with the toe still intact, an area often split away or damaged.  There are two longitudinal age checks in the butt stock wood, very fine and showing no sign of enlarging or affecting the integrity of the stock – simply the result of the natural aging of the wood.     

An original copy of the January 1975 issue of the GUN REPORT magazine which featured a detailed article covering this particular Sharps Carbine will accompany this sale.  

This is a very nice example of one of the most famous and highly respected cavalry carbines employed during the early Indian War years, and of a quality that is seldom encountered specifically because most Sharps Carbines were used so extensively during their period of issue.  The added value of being identified to a specific company and regiment with an established record of frontier service will make this carbine a star addition to any collection which will leave no doubt that you are holding a true piece of Indian Wars history.  These firearms which are identified to the frontier army cavalry regiments are sufficiently rare enough to be highly desirable, and as a result they seldom appear on the market.  This is a good opportunity to add an investment grade carbine to your collection.  (0105) $8500



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