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  1. #1
    Advisory Panel Patrick Chadwick's Avatar
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    Sharps M1863

    Has anyone out there experience of shooting with an original Sharps M1863 percussion rifle?

    (I guess I needn't hold my breath!)

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    Contributing Member gsimmons's Avatar
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    Used to shoot a Shiloh sharps. They are as close to original as possible. Does this help? I loaded as original with nitrated cartridges.

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    Advisory Panel Patrick Chadwick's Avatar
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    Thnaks for replying. I should add that I have a small book on reloading for the modern replicas, but my present challenge is an original. It seems that the replicas all diverge somewaht from the concept of the original with regard to the chamber sleeve and the gas plate.

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    Contributing Member gsimmons's Avatar
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    Can we see some pictures of the breach block etc., Patrick?

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    Advisory Panel Patrick Chadwick's Avatar
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    After the 155-year service...

    Quote Originally Posted by gsimmons View Post
    Can we see some pictures of the breach block etc., Patrick?
    That'll have to be after the next photo session.

    What I acquired was this:



    - With decidely crusty metal surfaces, and inspector's cartouches almost obliterated by Bubba clamping the rifle in a vice.



    And if I remove the vice-jaw imprints by steaming, then the cartouches will disappear completely. So the marks will have to stay - for the present.

    In short, a rifle which borescope fans would deride as useless. But well-greased BP bullets in military rifles ride happily over rust pits and score marks - as long as these defects are small compared with the bearing surface of the bullet! And, of course, it is a mistake to clean too thoroughly between shots, as this just exposes the rough bits again!

    So, having given the Sharps it's "155-year service", and fitted a new backsight, courtesy of Pedersoli, I gave up trying to find anyone who actually shoots an original, and decided to proceed myself - with due caution.

    I started with a very cautious 56gn of swiss No. 3 (FFg) at 25 meters. The group was tight enough (about 3") to encourage me to try at 50 meters.
    At 50m, the shots were far off off left - so far, that a correction by driving over the backsight in its dovetail (about 4mm!) would have looked grotesque.

    However; I now had confidence that the old banger was fully functional, so I raised the charge to 60gn.

    This was the result:



    - and that was all I had time for today. A 2-inch group at 50 meters may not have been quite up to the standards of Hiram Berdan, but it'll do for a start!

    I will provide detail photos in a later posting. For the present, please note that this is a genuine C-series New Model 1863, with all markings in the usual locations.

    What bothers me is that the pressure plate is a real press fit, almost a driving fit. No distortion or corrosion, just very tight. That is why I would love to hear from someone else who shoots an original - all the modern reproductions seem to have quite freely-moving plates. Which is maybe why such dodges as O-rings have been applied in an effort to reduce gas leakage.

    This original system seems to work better than all the repros. I asked two bystanders to observe the block area when I fired, and they could see nothing except the flash of the percussion cap. This, the original tightly fitted system, seems to ensure that with the first shot the plate is driven forwards to seal the gap - and stays there, unlike modern loose-fitting plates.

    Furthermore, after about 12 shots, when I took out the breech-block assembly, it was clean of any powder deposits on the sliding surfaces. Oily, of course, but no powder residue.

    So it seems that the tight fitting of the original pays off in use. And I suspect that the notorious gas leakage troubles and the various "fixes" for the same are the result of machining to looser tolerances and the avoidance of hand-fitting.
    Last edited by Patrick Chadwick; 07-08-2018 at 03:29 PM.

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    Contributing Member gsimmons's Avatar
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    Sharps M1863

    The Shiloh sharps I had had a tight fitting gas check or plate. Not loose fitting at all. I made the longer cartridges out of nitrated paper with ring tailed bullet. When you loaded it, the plate was sharp enough to cut the tail off the cartridge.
    I used cooking spray on the breach block and could shoot it all day without cleaning the B.B.
    Nice rifle, looks like fun!

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    Advisory Panel Patrick Chadwick's Avatar
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    "Nice rifle, looks like fun!"

    It is indeed! And easier to handle than a muzzle-loader. The group on the target I posted is high at 50m, but I think the sighting may be just about right at 100m. If not, then the front sight blade is pinned, like a Trapdoor, and fairly easy to replace.

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    Advisory Panel Patrick Chadwick's Avatar
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    Sharps Block & Cartouche

    OK, not very good photos, but maybe it all helps!

    First, the inspectors' cartouches.



    As you can see, they have almost been obliterated.



    One can tell that they are indeed cartouches, but they are no longer legible, as it is just about impossible to distinguish between the lines of curly script and the pores of the wood.

    Quite impossible to photograph with my equipment, but by turning the stock to-and-fro under good light, the integrating effect of the eye leads me to think that the first letter of the top cartouche is a very curvy I , J or S. If anyone could post photos of good cartouches it would help to improve the guesswork!

    As to the breech block here it is:



    - With the inner, outer and side (cylindrical) surfaces of the gas plate/check.





    Despite the condition of the exposed metal surfaces, these internal surfaces are in excellent condition. Note the fine finish on the cylindrical surface of the plate, and that there is NO slot to insert a screwdriver blade or similar and thus lever out the plate. Which leads me to think that it was not intended that the plate be removed after every shooting session.

    Or maybe just a manufacturing oversight?

    Anyway, this is a very fine rifle to shoot!
    Last edited by Patrick Chadwick; 07-09-2018 at 03:31 PM.

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    Sharps M1863

    That is exactly how the B.B. was in my Shiloh sharps. I hand stoned the surface until it fit nice and tight, no slop at all and I had to lever it out like yours.
    They are a lot of fun aren’t they, I wish I kept mine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Chadwick View Post
    Anyway, this is a very fine rifle to shoot!
    I always wanted to try a real one...

    Regards, Jim

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