While world famous author and adventurer, WL Emery is on safari in deepest, darkest Africa - I am in charge of looking after his house and feeding the cat while he's gone! I am absolutely delighted that he's left the liquor cabinet unlocked while he's gone too! Not only am I in a position to inhale the finest gins and spirits - I can snoop through his stuff! Lookit this:
First things first. The first thing ya do with an old rifle like that is look it up on the internet and get an appraisal. Some of these guns are worth serious money. WL spoke half heartedly about shooting it - and again, you can't even think about that without a check over by a competent gunsmith. And if you do decide to shoot it - BLACK POWDER ONLY. If you put smokeless in that thing you will blow it up and possibly yourself as well! Were it mine, I would be torn between wanting to display it as WL does, and storing it safely away as a valuable monetary asset.
This gun was the high capacity assault rifle of its day. It loaded paper cartridges from the breech and was the pinnacle of percussion firearm development. This thing would have hit the battlefield the same way the semi-auto Garand did when the field was dominated by slower bolt guns.
Old percussion guns were all the same. You dropped a powder charge down the barrel, placed a patched round or conical projectile on top and rammed it down the barrel to seat it on the powder charge. It was slow, difficult work under live fire in battle. This breech loader could send 'em down the pipe as fast as you could stuff them in and set a cap on. If I remember my history correctly, not a lot of them were made and very few of them were involved in the Civil War - but I could be wrong on that. They were relatively short lived too - the Sharps company successfully made the transition from paper to metallic cartridges where this rifle really earned it's stripes as a buffalo gun. That is where the term 'sharpshooter' comes from - it was originally 'Sharps shooter'. It's a cult classic gun today, and the guys are buying Italian reproductions faster than they can build them. Anyone that watches Quigley Down Under wants a Sharps rifle afterward.
I always wanted the Sharps but the Italian repros just didn't fit me right. It broke my heart; but to me the balance and heft were all just wrong and I had to go to a reproduction of the Remington rolling block. My experiments in BPCR shooting have amounted to so much flubdubbery - but I will get there.
The good news is that if ya wanna shoot a Sharps, you can - without having to break into WL's house or paying him upward of $20k for a historical curio. The guys at Uberti have our backs, and if you ever see one - take the time to handle it. You won't be sorry.
Get your visa cards out, boys!