RARE SHARPS AND HANKINS NAVY RIFLE WITH BAYONET AND SCABBARD

$4,795.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 218-557

This is a very good example of a scarce navy contract rifle issued to gun crews, sailors on patrol or picket duty, gunboats on the Mississippi and possibly to some US Marine detachments. This follows the standard configuration with walnut buttstock and forestock, 32 ¾ inch barrel secured by three bands, fitted with saber bayonet stud and guide key, serial numbered 338, and is accompanied by an equally rare Sharps and Hankins bayonet numbered 238, with its original scabbard and part of its belt frog. The mechanics are good and the bore is near mint.

Only about 700 of these rifles were made by Christian Sharps and William Hankins in Philadelphia, where Sharps set up shop after parting with the company bearing his name in 1854. The rifle was breechloader, single-shot, fitted for a saber bayonet, and firing a .52 caliber metallic cartridge loaded by lowering the triggerguard lever to slide forward the whole barrel and forend. Sharps managed to have the rifle tested by the Navy on July 20, 1861, and received a contract for 500 of them just nine days later. Deliveries started in March 1862 and concluded in late June, along with an additional 100 delivered in September on a second contract for that number. Serial numbers are known to run into the low 700s. A few carbines were numbered in the series and a few rifles bore simple letter designations, so the calculation of 600 rifles on contract and perhaps 100 by direct or private purchase is probably about right.

The brass buttplate has a warm mustard color. The buttstock has good color and surface, but shows wear, with a shallow notch and pressure dent on the top of the comb near the buttplate tang, a sliver out on the left at the curve of the buttplate tang, along with one small divot and two slightly larger ones on the wrist. The metal is smooth with sharp markings on the receiver: SHARPS /&/ HANKINS PHILADA on the right and SHARPS / PATENT /1859 on the left. The receiver, hammer, triggerguard and frame are plum in tone, mixed with the underlying mottled blues and purples of faded case colors that show a bit brighter on the sides of the lever/triggerguard when lowered. The barrel and bands show a matching thin blue-turned-plum brown. Both sights are in place, including the Sharps patented rear sight. The bayonet lug and key are in place. This is a nice looking gun.

The brass-hilted saber bayonet has no maker mark but has a serial number in right place on the grip, is the proper pattern, fits the rifle, and comes with its original scabbard, black leather with brass mounts, and with part of the belt frog, with the pocket intact but only portions of the belt loops in poor condition. The hilt has a nice, untouched mellow patina with some dark spots. The locking button and spring are present. The blade is very good, with smooth metal, good edge and point, a bright silver-gray in color with just a few gray spots along the lower edge of the fuller. The scabbard shows wear, with various dings to the drag, some wrinkles and crackling to the finish, but no breaks and the throat and fastening button are in place. The scabbard has shrunk slightly, so the bayonet does not seat fully. Rankin (Small Arms of the Sea Services) says the rifle could also take the Dahlgren Bowie bayonet, but that would be a loose fit given the muzzle diameter.

The bayonet is numbered 238 on the top of the grip and the rifle is numbered 338 on the tang. It is possible they were even received in the same shipment. The first delivery numbered 100 rifles. Chances are they were in the second or third deliveries: 150 rifles made to the New York Navy Yard in late April and another 150 delivered to Philadelphia in late May. Neither serial number is included among the 99 recorded from the fourth delivery, to Washington, in late June and included many in the 500 range. The fifth delivery would likely be too highly numbered even if the guns are not in sequence and sometimes include lower numbers.

These rifles saw wide distribution for use by gun crews, crews on small boats on patrol, picket, and other duties. The USS Stepping Stone drew them from Washington. The monitor Catskill and the sloop Lackawanna drew them from New York. Sixty are known to have been sent to St. Louis for use on gunboats on the Mississippi. Five sailors captured from the bark William G. Anderson near St. Joseph’s Island, Texas, were carrying them. A number of other ships are recorded as receiving them as well, including and other vessels such as the Cincinnati, Dacotah, Elk, Iroquois, Nantucket, and Wabash. As late as October 1864 the Navy ordered 30,000 cartridges for them to be delivered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Flayderman states that they were also issued to Marine detachments. We don’t know the evidence for this during the war. Marines usually had their own arms. But, McAulay (1999, CW Small Arms of the USN and Marine Corps) notes that Marines aboard the sloop Lancaster in the Pacific Squadron received Sharps and Hankins Carbines in June 1865 and in 1868 marines on the gunboat Wateree were engaged in target practice with Sharps and Hankins Rifles.

This is a tough gun to find.  [sr]

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