Christian Sharps

Christian Sharps
Born Christian Sharps
(1810-01-02)January 2, 1810
Washington, New Jersey
Died March 12, 1874(1874-03-012) (aged 64)
Vernon, Connecticut
Occupation Gunsmith, inventor, trout breeder
Spouse(s) Sarah Elizabeth Chadwick
Children Satella Sharps, Leon Stewart Sharps

Christian Sharps (January 2, 1810 – March 12, 1874) was the inventor of the Sharps rifle, the first commercially successful breech-loading rifle.

Early life

Born in Washington, New Jersey, in 1810, he married Sarah Elizabeth Chadwick of Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania. The couple had two children: a daughter, Satella, and a son, Leon Stewart.[1]

Sharps began work as a youth when he was an apprentice to a gunsmith in Washington, New Jersey.[2] He then accepted an entry-level position at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal in the 1830s working as a filer.[2] While at Harpers Ferry, Sharps was introduced to the Hall rifle, an early breech-loader, and worked for its inventor, Captain John H. Hall.[2] Sharps also became versed in the manufacture of weapons with fully interchangeable parts.[3]

The Sharps Rifle

Main article: Sharps Rifle

Sharps was issued a patent for his design of a breech-loading rifle on September 12, 1848. The deficiencies of the Hall rifle may have caused Sharps to adopt his new design. The Sharps rifle was designed with a vertical dropping block action, operated by a lever which also served as a trigger guard. The action was not only strong but limited the release of gases when the gun was discharged. Sharps' first rifle, the Model 1849, was manufactured by A.S. Nippes & Co. at Mill Creek, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.[4]

Despite not being the first breech-loading rifle, Sharps' was the first to be accepted widely and, with the onset of the American Civil War, the first to be produced in large quantities. The Sharps, in a carbine version, was the most widely used cavalry carbine by the Union Army. It was so successful that it was copied and manufactured by the Confederate government to arm its mounted troops. Sharps-designed firearms later saw extensive use in the American West as military and hunting weapons. They were highly regarded as target rifles and were used extensively in international shooting competitions through the late 19th century.[5]

Later life

Although the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company bore his name, Christian Sharps was not the company's owner. He left the firm, first to form C. Sharps and Company in 1853 and then Sharps & Hankins, in partnership with William Hankins, in 1862. Both firms were located in Philadelphia. The Sharps and Hankins partnership ended in 1866, and Sharps resumed the manufacturing of firearms under the C. Sharps and Company name. In all, he was awarded a total of fifteen firearms-related patents.[5]

In 1870 Sharps and his family moved to Vernon, Connecticut, where he continued working on firearms design and started a large trout farming business.[6]

Succumbing to tuberculosis, Sharps died in Vernon, on March 12, 1874.[1]

See also


  1. 1 2 Shearer, Benjamin F. (2007). Home Front Heroes: A Biographical Dictionary of Americans During Wartime. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 747. ISBN 978-0-313-33423-8.
  2. 1 2 3 Zwoll, Wayne van (31 December 2013). "Sharps: Buffalo Rifle". Mastering the Art of Long-Range Shooting. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. pp. 35–37. ISBN 978-1-4402-3465-1.
  3. Headrick, Daniel R. (2012). Power Over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 260. ISBN 0-691-15432-5.
  4. Flayderman, Norm (2007). Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values. Iola, Wisconsin: F+W Media, Inc. pp. 193–196. ISBN 0-89689-455-X.
  5. 1 2 Bridges, Toby (5 August 2008). "The rebirth of Old Reliable - The Sharps rifle". In Ken Ramage. Gun Digest 2009: The World's Greatest Gun Book. Iola, Wisconsin: F+W Media, Inc. pp. 84–93. ISBN 0-89689-647-1.
  6. Rywell, Martin; Sharps, Christian (1957). The gun that shaped American destiny. Pioneer Press. p. 20.

Further reading

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