Sharps Rifle

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by milpas, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    I see a Sharps-Vetterli listed by Sawyer (Firearms in American History) as being in the US repeating rifle trials of 1878. Could anyone point me to information re this rifle? Is this just a Swiss Vetterli produced by Sharps Rifle Manufacturing? There was a Vetterli entered in the 1872 trials, but it was just listed as "Vetterli" and the Sharps rifle was listed as "musket Sharps Rifle Co".

    Fuller in his 1878 trials list labeled it as just a Sharps which confused me no end as I had not only never heard of a repeating Sharps, but couldn't imagine adapting the Sharps mechanism.

    I find it difficult getting information about the various rifle trials.
  2. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Hi milpas.....welcome to TFF! :)

    Hmmmm....this is a tough one. Not much info out there on a Sharps-Vetterli Rifle. Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms lists a Sharps-Borchardt and a Sharps & Hankins, but no Sharps-Vetterli.

    I did find a small mention here..... Perhaps the guy that wrote it, Buck Elliott <>, has some more info. You might try Emailing him.

    I also tried Googling "US Army Repating Rifle Trials of 1878" and came up with this:<20:TASFAR>2.0.CO;2-Q

    Sorry I couldn't be of more help. :(

  3. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    I've been thinking this one over (I love a mystery), and had an idea.

    I'm wondering if perhaps Sharps had an agreement with Vetterli to submit the Vetterli Model 1871 or Model 1878 ( to the U.S. Army trials with the thought that if the rifle were selected, Sharps would manufacture them, under license, here in the U.S. for the Army.
  4. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Sharps produced a falling block model 1877 , a downsized 1874, and the 1885 Borchardt, but I know of no Swiss connection.
    Will do some research,and report.
  5. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    Thanks. I paid jestor for the the Repeating Arms article last year. It wasn't much help. It was more an overview article covering the last half of 1800s so don't waste money ordering it. I emailed Buck Elliott last Thursday but haven't heard back. His post was from a few years ago and might have a different address now.

    There is a report of the Board of 1878 that is about 70 pages long but haven't figured how to get hold of it yet.

    I also post on the Vetterli forum but haven't heard from anyone there yet.
  6. Dakota Red 1

    Dakota Red 1 New Member

    Nov 26, 2007
    Got me hooked milpas. Please let us know when you get something. I can get jstor stuff-no charge. Be happy to help.
  7. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    I've located a copy of the report of the board of 78 to examine magazine guns in the "Report of the Chief of Chief of Ordnance to the Secretary of War" on Google books.

    The Reference to the Sharps magazine rifle #s 3 and 5, (the description and reports of the test firings) starts at page 484. It is a bolt action but I see no mention of Vetterli. The rifles were presented by Mr. Borchardt. The Sharps company is refered to as "The Sharps Eine Company".

    Go here:
    and follow the pdf link.
  8. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Well, the Sharps-Brochardt Model 1878 is a known quantity. It's well described (and pictured) in Flayderman's 8th Edition on page 175.....BUT it's not a bolt action, so where, or how, or whether it fits in, I don't know.
  9. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    Mr Brochardt was the designer and responsible for the Sharps-Borchardt 1878 and later I believe went to Winchester. The 1878 Sharps-Borchardt rifle however is a much different animal than the rifle described in the 1878 report. I would guess that he either was in on the designing the trials rifle or could have just represented the company at the trials.

    Unfortunately the Plates in the copy of the report online are not complete and only show a portion of the plate. Looks like the book didn't get opened up all the way when scanned.

    From what does show of the bolt, it looks to have very similar lugs to those on the bolt on my Swiss Vetterli.
  10. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    After several readings of the description of the Sharps rifle in the Report, it sounds consistent with a Vetterli action. If I can find a complete picture of Plate V which shows the Sharps receiver and other details, I can have a better idea.

    Given the complexity of hand building a receiver and the amount of rifles submitted, it would be my guess that Sharps bought some receivers from the Swiss and then barreled them in the appropriate US caliber and supplied the stocks. This would be the most economical way to do this rifle on spec for the trials. In spite of making a superior rifle, it is my impression (could be wrong) that Sharps was never a real prosperous company.

    If anyone can point me to a source for Plate V, it would be appreciated.
  11. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    You're right milpas, although they did well during the Civil War, manufacturing about 115,000 of the "Sharps New Model 1859, 1963, and 1865" rifle & carbines....and after the war they did get a contract to convert some of those guns to metallic cartridge (31,098 carbines and 1,086 rifles).....after the military contracts lapsed, they downsized considerably, moving from their plant in Hartford, CT to a smaller one in Bridgeport, CT and struggled in the civilian market.

    Apparently the Sharps-Vetterli was an attempt to get back into the military game.

    Please keep us posted on what you find out.
  12. milpas

    milpas New Member

    Mar 7, 2008
    I finally obtained the diagrams from the Ordnance Report

    The Sharps magazine rifle had a Vetterli style bolt design. However the mechanism for transferring the cartridge from the magazine was different than the Swiss Vetterli, which answers the question of whether the Sharps company was just entering a Swiss Vetterli. Below are diagrams of both the Sharps and the Swiss Vetterli.

    I haven't yet matched the magazine mechanism to any other yet. Maybe someone here recognizes it.

    One wonders if one of these rifles still exists.
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