Mc Pheeters Antique Militaria
Home Page About Us Ordering Information Links



SHARPS RIFLE COMPANY SHIPPING CRATE WITH 8 SHARPS RIFLE COMPANY GREEN LABEL 5 ROUND BOXES OF .45- 2  6/10 INCH CALIBER, CARTRIDGES – COMPLETE WITH ORIGINAL CARTRIDGES – EXPRESSLY MADE FOR SHARPS RIFLES – A RARE OFFERING:  An amazing find which just recently surfaced in an old estate, this original Sharps Rifle Company ammunition crate was found with the very collectable original Sharps Rifle Company packets of .45-2.6” cartridges and a few accessories the hunter used to reload the cartridges.  The crate and its contents had obviously lain undisturbed since the man who roamed the buffalo plains finally returned home, setting aside his Sharps rifle and this crate of big cartridges to live out the remainder of his life in tamer pursuits in “the settlements”.   

The Sharps Rifle Company introduced the .45-2.6” cartridge (also known as the .45-100) in November of 1876, however it had a short life span being replaced by Sharps in June of 1877 with the .45-2.4” cartridge case.  Nonetheless, the .45-2.6” Straight Sharps Cartridge would have been available in the inventory of the dealers and hide buyers supplying the commercial buffalo hunters on the Western Frontier during the buffalo hunting era.    

These packets bear the desirable “early style” labels as identified by Sellers in his Sharps Firearms, featuring the heavier shading on the text.  This style of label was used until 1878 when it was replaced with a label printed with a finer font and this dating is consistent with the production of the .45-2.6” cartridge.   

As the Sharps Company was effectively out of business in early 1881, boxes of cartridges which bear the company proprietary label were produced during a fairly narrow window of time and in limited numbers.  In addition, the Sharps Company found it difficult to compete with the larger ammunition manufacturing companies such as Winchester and UMC.  The comparatively limited ammunition production by the Sharps Company combined with the harsh conditions of the buffalo range where so much of their ammunition was shipped, accounts for the relative low survival rate and scarcity of these packets on the market today.  

Measuring 15” long, 9 7/8” wide and 5 ¾” high, the crate is fashioned of dense 7/8” thick planks.  The sides, bottom, and cross divider are all full form and solid with no appreciable wear or damage.  The crate was assembled with square carpenter’s nails and both ends are reinforced with thin steel bands nailed in place.  The top is not present, probably lost during the period of use.  There is the shadow of a shipping label on one side of the crate and a small scrap of the paper label is still clinging to the wood.   

The crate was specifically sized to hold seven layers of eight packets of cartridges per layer, for a total of 56 packets and 280 cartridges.  The width and length of the large interior compartment of the crate is the exact dimensions to hold the single layer of eight packets arranged as seen in the photographs below.  There is neither extra space that allows a layer of the packets to shift from side to side, nor any extra vertical space when the seven layers filled the box.  It is obvious the crate was sized specifically to contain the fifty-six packets in order that the packets would not be damaged in transit.   

The crate is being offered with eight packets, forming a complete single layer.  There is a false shelf fashioned to fit inside the crate to support the layer of packets even with the top edge of the crate, giving the illusion that the crate is full.  The false shelf is not permanently fixed and it can be removed and dismantled for shipping or storage.   

When I acquired this crate it contained fifteen matching packets – all with the same label and containing the same caliber – and the assorted accoutrements shown here.  One packet was filled with five fully loaded cartridges and each of the other fourteen packets contained five empty cartridge cases.  All the cartridge cases were the correct Berdan primed cases without headstamps as were sold by Sharps.   

The cartridge cases had not been properly cleaned before storing them, probably no more than casually rinsed off with water as was typical of the buffalo range hunters who reloaded the cases frequently.  As a result, while in storage and subjected to moisture, the hygroscopic nature of the black powder residue remaining in the cases caused an acidic reaction, forming heavy deposits of verdigris on the cartridge cases and affecting the paperboard of some of the packets to one degree or another.  I was able to remove the verdigris deposits, and the cases are now clean, smooth, full form and bright with no damage to the brass. 

Among the related tools and the powder can that was found in the crate with the cartridge packets were a number of cast lead .45 caliber bullets from the period.  The majority of the bullets are of the paper patch type, but two of the bullets are the full .45 caliber.  These two bullets were cast so that the nose has a small diameter shallow cavity (see the photograph below).  When unpacking the crate, I also found a round tin of small pistol size percussion caps.  The tin had been opened, more than half of the caps had been used, and I assumed the tin of caps had nothing to do with the other contents of the crate until I discovered the two hollow point bullets.  I found that the percussion caps fit the cavities in the nose of those two bullets, effectively turning them into an early version of an exploding bullet.  While the cap would not cause such a heavy bullet to fragment, if the bullet was fired at a heavy boned animal such as a moose, bear, elk or buffalo, upon impact the cap would detonate and initiate, possibly accelerating, the mushrooming effect of the bullet as it passed through the heavy hide and bones of the animal and enhance the wound channel to disable the animal more rapidly. 

The presence of these hollow point bullets and the accompanying percussion caps, and the large number of cartridges this case originally held – 280 – are not the sort or quantity of ammunition a target shooter would need.  In addition, the .45-2.6” caliber was not one that would have been popular with target shooters, being excessively heavy for the sport.  I have no doubt this crate of ammunition was the property of a professional hunter – most probably one of the hunters on the western plains during the great commercial buffalo hunts.  

As often seen on these early Sharps Company labeled boxes, the cartridge caliber and component data, printed for a .44 caliber loading, was crossed out and the caliber, cartridge length, and bullet weight was amended with the .45-2.6” data in period script.  This commonly encountered practice was likely employed by Sharps to use up available stocks of the boxes and labels as the company struggled with its financial situation.   

Several of the packets are annotated in pencil on the bottom with the size of the powder charge loaded in those cartridges in that particular packet – “90 Grains”, “100 Grains”, etc.  The hunter likely loaded the cartridges with these various charges, and knowing the characteristics of his rifle, would choose the loads appropriate for the range at which he was working.   

These boxes are in very good condition considering they survived the handling and repeated use by the hunter as the cartridges were fired and reloaded out on the plains.  All of the labels retain legible graphics and text.  There is some of the wear one would expect to see in such a grouping; however the two piece boxes retain their full form, with all of the corners and edges intact.   The verdigris which formed on the cartridge cases as described above reacted with the paperboard from which the packets are made, and had the most effect on the bottoms of some of the packets – seen below in the photographs as dark spots on the bottom panel of the affected packets.  The paperboard was weakened, and in some cases the corrosion dissolved the paper leaving holes.  These affected packets have been restored by attaching a piece of matching paperboard inside the packet.  This restoration was carefully done and unless the cartridges are removed from the packets, the visual affect is negligible.  Given the rarity of these packets, such a restoration was an acceptable alternative to allowing those weakened packets to continue to deteriorate.  The packets are now stable and can be displayed or handled without fear of damaging them.   

In addition to the packets, an early style gun powder can, the above described tin of percussion caps, a tin which held grease or tallow for lubricating the bullets, a handmade funnel, a wad punch, and the tip of a cleaning rod were found in the crate.  The powder can is solid, and although the surface shows wear, it retains traces of the original forest green paint and the screw on lid is present.   

That this grouping has survived is remarkable, and if it is not a unique piece, it is one of very few that exists in collections today.  Truly a rare collectible produced by the famous Sharps Rifle Company, this crate and the packets will make a special addition to your collection which you will proudly display with your Sharps Rifle.  (0355)  $10,500



Ordering Instructions

Identified Items  


Edged Weapons

Saddles and Horse Equipment


Collectors Ammunition

Uniforms, Insignia, Hats

Canteens and Mess Gear

Gun tools, Bullet molds and Parts

Field Equipment and Artillery

Original Ordnance Manuals, and Photos 

US Army Medical

Reference Books and Reprints