I have an old Sharps New Model 1863, converted to 50-70 Government in the late 1860s. This little carbine was purchased by my father in late 1950s for just a few dollars and it always reposed above our fireplace. It never was fired, it just was a decoration. Fortunately, the Sharps received periodic maintenance and oiling. It sat in silent repose for about 40 years. One day I made a decision to return the old Sharps to firing condition. After buying a book and reviewing diagrams, I determined that the Sharps was complete, except for a missing extractor. After a few call I was able to get a replacement from Shilo Sharps. They were very helpful and a fine company to deal with. The next task was to find a gunsmith that could accomplish the task of fitting and installing the part.
This process took two or three months and I also had to look for ammunition. In those days cases had to be made and bullets cast. After the rifle was fixed, I just didn’t have time for this so it sat for a couple of years. With some new Starline brass and a Lee .515 350 grain bullet mold. With some 2F Black powder I assembled some cartridges. The Lyman Black Powder Hand book and Mike Venturino’s book on hand loading for buffalo rifles were very helpful.
Of course, as a preparation for the test fire, I explained to my wife that the old Sharps had not been fired in about 100 years. With a look of impending disaster, she got out the first aid kit and prepared to call 911.
The Sharps fired without a hitch, shots landing centered but about 12 inches high at 25 yards, later at a 200 yard range the shots hit point of aim. Pretty good for a first attempt. Here are a couple of things I learned:
1)New 50-70 cases hold about 55 grains of powder, not the 70 grains. This is good because the original carbine load for the 50-70 was actually 55 grains of BP.
2)The 50-70 cartridge has a lot of trajectory.
3)Old rifles can be returned to service, and they are great fun! It’s a great feeling of satisfaction hearing a piece of history “boom” once more.
4)Lightweight, simple, rugged, and reasonably accurate the Sharps Carbine was a formidable weapon.
5)There is no substitute for research, books and black powder internet forums can provide a great amount of information.
Always keep safety in mind, There are a lot of things to know about Black Powder weapons, seek expert advice from shooters and gunsmiths about any potential project. Have a lot of fun.