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MODEL 1874 SHARPS SPORTING RIFLE – .40 – 2 ½” SHARPS – A VETERAN OF THE WESTERN PLAINS:  Showing the desirable indications of being a true veteran of frontier use, this Model 1874 Sporting Rifle was recently obtained from a family estate in the Northwest and may well have been used during the last of the buffalo hunts on the plains of Montana and eastern Washington and Oregon.   

This Sharps is chambered in .40 – 2 ½” (.40-70), a straight walled case which was introduced in March of 1876, early enough to have been used during the great commercial hunts.  The serial numbers on the receiver tang and the under side of the barrel are matching.  The surfaces of the receiver, lock, trigger group and barrel are all smooth with no pitting.  The full length 30” barrel retains distinct edges to the flats that  are sharp and smooth, and the under side of the barrel, where it is protected by the fore arm, retains much of the original bright blue finish.  The bore retains strong, clear rifling with only minor frosting and no distinct pitting spots, is still quite respectable, and should still shoot a decent group.  The bore would likely benefit from a polishing if someone was so inclined as it does not shine like some collectors prefer, but I chose to leave that decision to the new owner.

All of the patent information on the receiver, both serial numbers (receiver and barrel), the caliber, the “OLD RELIABLE” cartouche, and the Bridgeport address stamps on the barrel are all legibly stamped and all are readily visible.

The hammer/double set trigger action is very crisp, and the breech block lowers smoothly without any play and “snaps” into place when raised back into battery as it should.  The rear sight was repositioned forward of its original mortise which was neatly filled with a gunsmith installed tenon blank.  The rear sight is large "buckhorn" style, another indication that this rifle was used on the plains rather than for shooting competitions.  The front sight is in place, featuring a silver blade.  The original butt plate is smooth with no pitting and has an even naturally aged brown finish.     

As it presents today, this rifle features several characteristics of prolonged frontier use.  The fore stock is missing a large sliver of wood from the nose along the right side and a small sliver – barely noticeable – from the leading top edge of the left side.  This sort of wear and damage is typical of these rifles which were carried across the pommel of a saddle or the neck of the horse for many miles.  The wrist of the stock was broken at one time and has been expertly repaired without the addition of any new wood or filler material.  The seam is visible under close inspection, but it is not a glaring fault that the eye is drawn to, and the repair has guaranteed a strong, stable wrist.  The butt stock is overall in very good condition, showing only the normally encountered handling marks.  The toe of the stock is intact and unbroken and the wood has a very nice patina that matches the fore stock.    

I have noticed in the past few years that collectors’ interest has been cooling with regards to the brand new, “never went anywhere” large bore Sharps, and as they begin to search out these that show frontier use to satisfy their desire to own a bit of history along with the artifact, guns such as this one are becoming more difficult to find.  If you are dead set on collecting condition, and that is your primary or only concern, this Sharps isn’t for you.  However, if you are a collector who enjoys pieces that played a part in the saga of the Old West, I can virtually guarantee this rifle isn’t a “hot house rose” that spent the 1870’s and 1880’s confined in the shooting galleries of the East.  Historically documented Sharps Rifles, identified to individual hide hunters have always commanded a premium price, but opportunities to purchase those rifles are few and far between.  While there is no such definitive documentation for this rifle, there is little doubt given the silent testimony of the type of wear and aging this Sporting Rifle displays, that it “was there” on the plains during those short years of the buffalo hide trade.  SOLD



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