Make: C. Sharps & Co., Philadelphia
Model: Pistol Rifle – Standard Model (Base on 1848 Pistol)
Serial Number: 272
Year of Manufacture: Mid-Late 1857-1860 (“Sharps Firearms” by Frank Sellers)
Caliber: 40 Cal. Mule Ear (The bore measures 0.401” from groove to groove).
Action Type: Percussion Breechloading Single Shot Falling Block
Markings: The left side of the receiver is marked “C. SHARPS & CO. PHILADA PA”. The upper tang is marked “272”.
Barrel Length: The round barrel is 27 ¾” in length.
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a thin half-round German silver blade that is dovetailed into the top of the barrel. The rear sight is a very unique “U” notched elevator sight. Elevation is controlled by a slotted base with ears at the front of the sight. A thin blade is withdrawn rearwards from one of the slots in the ears, the sight body moved up or down, and the blade inserted back into the chosen slots in the ears. The base is dovetailed into the barrel. Please see our pictures for a better description of this sight than we can put in words.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two piece walnut with a pistol grip and a crescent shaped steel case colored buttplate. The right side of the buttstock has a hinged patchbox for storing percussion caps and the forend has a steel nosecap. The lower tang of the receiver runs the full length of the front of the pistol grip, which has an oval grip cap with serrated edges that is secured by a thumbscrew with serrated edges. The buttstock shows a shallow chip at the rear of the upper tang. The buttstock shows a scrape through the finish on the right side below the patchbox, a few small compression marks at the toe and several light scratches on both sides. The finish is scraped off of both sides of the forend in spots, and the forend also shows a few compression marks on the left side and underside. We see no sanding marks under the finish or any other indication that the stocks were ever refinished. The LOP measures 14 3/8” from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate, which still shows vivid case coloring under the brown patina which is starting to form. There are several spots of solid erosion on the buttplate, but no wear marks. The buttplate is in Fine overall condition. The stocks rate in about Very Good overall condition, and would easily be Fine if it weren’t for the chip at the back of the upper tang.
Type of Finish: The barrel is blued, the receiver is case colored. The patchbox and forend nosecap are silver plated.
Finish Originality: All Original
Bore Condition: The bore is bright, turning to grey at the muzzle. The rifling is relatively sharp. There is very light erosion near the muzzle.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 15% of its metal finish. A brown patina with a blanket of solid erosion has formed over the metal parts. There is silver plating visible on the nose cap and the patchbox has most of its plating remaining. There is still case coloring visible on the sides and top of the receiver. The screw heads are sharp except for the upper tang screws, which are both disfigured. The markings are faint but visible. Overall, this rifle rates in about Very Good condition.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The trigger is adjustable via a set screw at its top front and the hammer has a half-cock position. There is a notch cut-out at the top of the breech for the “Mule Ear” cartridge. We have not fired this rifle.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None
Our Assessment: This is a rare Sharps Pistol Rifle made in the late 1850’s: only about 550 were made. These rifles were among the very first to use metallic cartridges, although they were fired by use of a percussion cap. The rifles were chambered for paper cartridges in .36 caliber as well as wire ejector and mule ear cartridges in calibers from .34 to .44. At the time, they were considered an officer’s or lady’s model because of their small size. A pistol rifle was submitted to the trials for Breechloading firearms at West Point in 1857, and although it performed flawlessly, it was rejected as a service rifle because of its small size (Sharps Firearms by Frank Sellers). This rifle is chambered for a .40 Caliber Mule-Ear percussion cartridge. It has a round 27 3/4 “ barrel with one of the most interesting rear sighs we have seen – an elevator sight whose elevation is controlled by pulling a thin blade out of the slotted sight base and re-inserting into another slot, either higher or lower. The breech end of the barrel has a section cut-out at its top for the “Mule Ear” flag on the cartridge: after firing the rifle and opening the action, the flag is grasped to pull the cartridge out of the breech. The forend nosecap and patchbox on the buttstock are silver plated, with a blued barrel and case colored receiver. Neither the wood nor the metal surfaces show any sign of ever having been refinished. The pistol rifle is in about Very Good condition with 15% of its original finish remaining. The metal surfaces are covered with a brown patina and a blanket of light solid erosion, with silver plating visible on the nosecap and patchbox, and case coloring visible on the receiver. The bore is mainly bright with sharp rifling and just a hint of light erosion at the muzzle. This is a very honest rifle that literally looks like it was shot a few times and then put away in storage for 150 years. This rifle has everything a collector could wish for: it was made right at the turning point from paper to metallic cartridges, only a few were made, the rear sight is unique unto itself, the rifle was made to fire a cartridge that only a few people have ever heard about, and the neither the metal nor the wood were refinished. What a fantastic find for the collector of antique American firearms!!!
Make: C. Sharps & Co., Philadelphia