July 8th, 2015

Sharps Rifle Featured on Shooting USA Tonight

Sharps rifle 45/110 Tom Selleck accurateshooter

The July 8th (Wednesday night) episode of Shooting USA features the 1874 Sharps rifle, a lever-action breech-loader favored by plains buffalo hunters. Christian Sharps patented his signature rifle design in 1848. The Sharps Model 1874 was an updated version, chambered for metallic cartridges. According to firearms historian/author Garry James, the Sharps rifle “came in all sorts of different calibers from .40 all the way up to .50, and jillions of different case lengths and styles and configurations”.

Sharps rifles have enjoyed a new-found notoriety, thanks to Hollywood. Tom Selleck starred as Matthew Quigley in the hit movie Quigley Down-Under. In a famous scene (watch below), Quigley used his 1874 Sharps to hit a wooden bucket at very long range*. In this movie clip, Selleck explains the 45-110 cartridge, the rifle’s double-set trigger, and the Vernier rear sight. (45-110 refers to .45 caliber and case capacity of 110 grains of black powder).

The Sharps rifles used in the movie were made by Shiloh Rifle company (Powder River Rifle Company). There were actually three (3) Sharps rifles made for the movie. One went to the NRA’s National Firearms Museum while another was raffled off to support NRA shooting programs. The headline photo shows the third rifle, Selleck’s favorite, which the actor retained for some years until deciding to sell it. This third rifle (with spare barrel and associated items) were sold at auction in 2008.

Sharps rifle 45/110 Tom Selleck accurateshooter

* Based on the way the movie is edited, we figure the bucket is placed at about 800 yards. A typical speed for a horse galloping is 35 mph, and the horse ran (with rider holding bucket) for 46.5 seconds (0.775 minutes). To calculate yardage, divide 35 by 60 to get miles per minute, times 0.775 for distance traveled over time. Then multiply by 1760, the number of yards in a mile. That gives us 795.66 yards.

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