Sharps Model 1874, a genuine of-the-period .50-140-3 1/4″ Buffalo Rifle with South Dakota & Montana History.
This exceptional Sharps weighs 16 lbs with a 32″ octagon barrel that is 1 5/16″ wide across bbl. flats at its muzzle.
This rifle was shipped from the Sharps Hartford factory to Dan Williams, Bismark, Dakota Territory on Dec. 27, 1875 as a .44-90-2 5/8″ Sporting rifle, cal. 44-90-2 5/8″ with 30″ bbl. There is record of a Dan Williams living and practicing law in Bismark at the time lawyer and The .44-90 Sharps was one of the most powerful and accurate long range cartridge Sharps produced. Numbers of prominent citizens residing in frontier towns of the period tried their hand at hunting buffalo, grizzly bear, and other large and dangerous game. Model 1874 Sharps rifles documented to have been shipped directly to individual buyers on the frontier are rare.
It is highly likely Dan Williams tired of buffalo hunting and/or procured a powerful repeating rifle when such rifle became available after 1876. In any event his Sharps carried on as a ‘Buffalo Rifle’ long enough to become involved in the hunting the last great American buffalo herd, called the ‘Northern Herd’ which was hunted primarily in Montana from 1880 to 1883.
By 1880 American buffalo (bison) had been relentlessly hunted for ten years and had become difficult for hunters to approach. This resulted in the development of .40, .45, and .50 caliber cartridges with extra long 3 1/4″ cartridge cases to allow for longer range shooting. The .50-140-3 1/4″Sharps case can hold 140 grains of black powder and fire a 600 -700 grain lead bullet, this was the largest Sharps cartridge ever commercially produced. The Sharps rifle Company went out of business in 1880 and the .50-140 became available in 1881; this was the ultimate ‘Big-Fifty’ of buffalo hunting days.
Since the last commercially viable buffalo hunting ground was in Montana, and the buffalo had become more wary, ultra powerful and ultra long range .50-140 Sharps rifles were put to use by professional buffalo hunters. Well established frontier arms dealers/gunsmiths such as Walter Cooper, Bozeman, and A.D. McAusland of Helena, Montana mounted heavy .50-140-3 1/4″ barrels on Sharps rifles for their buffalo hunting customers. These usually sixteen pound rifles were very effective but when the buffalo were too few to commercially hunt these specialized rifles were quickly set aside since they were useless for normal hunting and sporting purposes.
Hunting of the ‘Northern Herd’ lasted only 2-3 years, and Montana professional buffalo hunters were not a large group, few genuine .50-140-3 1/4″ Sharps rifles were built and when they became obsolete, very few of them were saved. This rifle survived and has somehow remained in excellent original condition. This Sharps was found with a large old yellowed tag attached to it. The tag carries the rifle’s serial number and owner’s initials, ‘W C A’, for Walter C. Almquist, an early Montana collector of frontier arms. The tag indicates he obtained the rifle on Oct.20, 1952 from Robert Bement, a Montana resident (Miles City), had obtained it previously from one G. S. Guthrie. Mr. Almquist Lived in Montana and was very well known in the early days of frontier arms collecting and research. He is mentioned as a contributor in the first edition of ,”The Plains Rifle”, by Charles Hansen, and as a contributor in other antique gun collectors publications of the 1940s -1960s. He was also well known competitive shooter using original guns from his collection to win matches. American frontier used firearms with factory production letters identifying individuals and retaining interesting provenance are rare.
CONDITION: This original 1874 Sharps rifle, .50-140- 3 1/4, is in excellent original condition. The barrel retains 90%+ original Blue with some slight fading to ‘plum’. The frame, lock, and lever are faded gray casehardening with some visable pattern. The bore is excellent and shiny. The stock and forearm retain 95% original finish/surface with some light handling marks. All Sharps markings are crisp. The barrel is unmarked save for ‘.50’ being stamped on the top bbl. flat ahead of the breech.
A true 19th century Sharps .50-140-3 1/4″ ‘Buffalo Rifle’ is a great rarity, especially in original excellent condition. Few Sharps frontier used rifles with factory production letters identifying an individual, and retaining interesting provenance exist. This rifle has been in a private collection since 1977.
NOTE: This antique pistol is being sold purely as a collector’s item. It cannot be shipped to any locations where firearms legislation does not recognize antique arms, such as NYC, NJ, etc. Buyers are fully responsible for abiding by their local firearms regulations. We will not ship outside the USA. For the benefit of foreign buyers we will ship to fully licensed firearms export agent within the USA.
Price: $17,500.00 – SOLD