Collecting the Old Reliable Sharps Rifle

This early custom Shiloh Model 1874 Sharps, in 50-70 Government, was known as the company’s “Gemmer Sharps.”

This early custom Shiloh Model 1874 Sharps, in 50-70 Government, was known as the company’s “Gemmer Sharps.”

Working in collaboration with Navy Arms, in 1970 the firm of Davide Pedersoli & Co., also of Brescia, Italy, began producing most of a modern Remington Rolling Block copy. Actually, at that time the Italian manufacturer reproduced everything but the barrel, and the parts were all shipped to Navy Arms’ facility in New Jersey, where the actions were fitted with a 45-70 barrel.

Then, in 1983, Pedersoli began to build complete modern copies of the widely used single-shot rolling block-action blackpowder cartridge rifles dating from the late 1800s.

Today, Pedersoli is also recognized as one of the more prolific manufacturers of Sharps rifles and carbines. The company produced its first Sharps, a “Sporting Rifle” model in 45-70 Government, back in January, 1993. Today, the company catalogs the most complete selection of Sharps rifle and carbine models available from a single manufacturer. Many of the rifles offered as other “brands” in this country are actually produced in Italy by Davide Pedersoli & Co.

Armi Chiappa, better known in the U.S. as Armi Sport, is another Italian manufacturer of Sharps rifles and carbines. Altogether, the company offers more than a dozen different models or variations, ranging from a percussion New Model 1859 Rifle and Carbine to an elaborately engraved deluxe copy of a Model 1874 Hartford-built Sporting Rifle.

Again, like IAB Arms and the Pedersoli company, Armi Sport’s Sharps reproductions are offered by a number of importers in the U.S., primarily Cimarron F.A. Co. and Taylor’s & Co.

In the U.S., the heart of Sharps rifle manufacturing today is located in Big Timber, MT. Shiloh Rifle Company, now known as Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company, moved from their original manufacturing facility located on Long Island, New York to the C. Sharps Arms facility in the small south-central Montana town in 1983.

C. Sharps Arms was already operating its custom shop and distribution center there, and the move brought these two companies together under one roof, which was a primary reason for Shiloh’s relocation. That relationship ended in 1986, when both companies set out to establish their own Sharps lines. The manufacturing facilities of two companies are still within a block of each other.

When it comes to production Sharps copies, many blackpowder cartridge rifle shooters today continue to consider the rifles produced by Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company to be the cream of the crop. The fit and finish of the Model 1863 percussion rifle and carbine, along with the many versions of the Model 1874 metallic cartridge rifles produced by this maker, is superb and in no way second to the quality of any other maker.

Shiloh manufactured the Sharps rifle that Americans are now most familiar with, thanks to the movie featuring actor Tom Selleck – Quigley Down Under. And much like the rifles produced at the original Sharps plants in Hartford and Bridgeport, Connecticut, it’s often hard to recognize one of the Shiloh rifles as one particular version or another due to all of the optional custom features available.

C. Sharps Arms was founded in 1975 by John Schoffstall, and brought its first Sharps New Model 1863 Rifle and Carbine reproductions to market in 1976. At that time, the company relied heavily on the early Shiloh operation in Farmingdale, New York to do their manufacturing. John played an instrumental role in getting Shiloh to make the move to Montana in 1983, where the company continued to produce both Shiloh and C. Sharps Arms rifles. Today, C. Sharps Arms has full manufacturing capability and is noted for the extremely high quality versions of the Model 1874 Hartford- and Bridgeport-produced Sharps originals.

The company also offers a beautiful rendition of the Model 1877 Sharps, also known as “The English Model,” but if this slim and trim back-action lock Sharps reproduction catches your eye, be ready to hang on to your pocket book. With a few optional upgrades, this great-handling beauty could set you back more than $10,000!

The Sharps manufacturers just covered are the primary makers of today’s modern Sharps breech-loading rifles and carbines. Prior to the early reproductions that were successfully brought to market in 1975 by Shiloh Products, Inc., there were several other attempts during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but they simply failed to get off the ground. Those makers featured here are the companies that have worked hard to build and market quality copies of the big and famous drop-block single shots that are so often simply referred to as “Old Reliable.”

This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest annual book 2009. To get all 63 editions of the book — 1944 – 2009 on a 3-DVD set Click Here.

Recommended books for gun collectors:

Standard Catalog of Firearms, 20112011 Standard Catalog of Firearms, 21st Edition.

Gun Digest 2011, 65th Edition

The Official Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices 2010

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