1856 Sharps Slanting Breech Naval Rifle

Value (2009) | $7,500 Insurance

GUEST:
Well, I brought in a rifle that I'm pretty sure is from the Civil War era. I've been confused about it for a long time. I know Sharps is the manufacturer. And I took it to an antique dealer that was a friend of the family and I used to cut his lawn for him. And I said to him, "What have I got here?" And he said, "Well, I'm not quite sure. It doesn't seem to be what the rest of them are." And I kind of thought, "Oh, all right." I always thought maybe if I went to Gettysburg, I'd drag it along with me, and I haven't yet, and so here I am.

APPRAISER:
They were made by Christian Sharps in Hartford, Connecticut.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
They made over 100,000 Sharps carbines, but this one is a special one. They only made about 263 of these.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
They're made in 1856. They're known as a Sharps slanting breech naval rifle.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
They're a rare gun. .54 caliber. And they're just an odd gun. Did you ever notice what's on the underside of the barrel down by you?

GUEST:
I did, and the man that was speaking to me said it may be for a bayonet, but then he said, "On the other hand, it's too short. So did they cut the barrel down and then reattach the bayonet?" And I said, "It doesn't look like that much of a botch job to me."

APPRAISER:
And it came from the factory that way.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
That is for a bayonet. It had a big, massive saber bayonet that could be used as a saber, or you could attach it to the end of the gun and be used as a bayonet. But when you put it on there, the weight of it would almost tilt you over. That's one of the neat characteristics of this gun. Another, did you ever notice this door?

GUEST:
Yes, and I tried to pry at it and it didn't happen real well, and I thought, well, I know enough to leave well enough alone.

APPRAISER:
Well, I'm glad you left it alone because most of the time, those doors are missing. And this is what those are for. We cock the hammer back, we lower the door, and it has an open space. These guns generally run on a percussion cap.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
You put it individually each time on the nipple every time you want to fire it. They made a system developed by Edward Maynard that worked with like a little cap gun roll. And it would feed the roll of caps underneath the hammer every time you cocked it back. And watch this. It still works.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
It's made in 1856, and it is a navy rifle. On the top of the barrel, we even have a little naval anchor.

GUEST:
I never noticed it.

APPRAISER:
It's so small, but it's at the breech of the barrel, just like it should be. I love the flavor. I'm so proud you never cleaned this up. It's got a deep patina. It's just beautiful. If you're going to insure it, I would say that we would need to insure it for at least $7,500.

GUEST:
All right. Well, I guess I better get on that right away.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Shiloh Civil War Relics
Savannah, TN
Appraised value (2009)
$7,500 Insurance
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
19th Century
Form
Rifle
Material
Metal, Wood

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