Christian Sharps bigraphy, stories - American inventor, American Civil War industrialist and Firearm designer

Christian Sharps : biography

January 2, 1810 - March 12, 1874

Christian Sharps, (January 2, 1810 - March 12, 1874) was the inventor of the Sharps rifle - the first commercially successful breech loading rifle.


Sharps began work as a youth when, it is believed, he was an apprentice to a gunsmith in Washington, New Jersey. He then accepted an entry level position at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal in the 1830s working as a filer. While at Harpers Ferry, Sharps was introduced to the Hall rifle, an early breech-loader, and worked for its inventor, Captain John H. Hall. Sharps also became versed in the manufacture of weapons with fully interchangeable parts.

Sharps was issued a patent for his design of a breech-loading rifle on September 12, 1848. The deficiencies of the Hall rifle may have caused Sharps to adopt his new design. The Sharps rifle was designed with a vertical dropping block action, operated by a lever which also served as a trigger guard. The action was not only strong but limited the release of gases when the gun was discharged. Sharps' first rifle, the Model 1849, was manufactured by A.S. Nippes & Co. at Mill Creek, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Although not the first breech-loading rifle, Sharps' was the first to be accepted widely and, with the onset of the American Civil War, the first to be produced in large quantities. The Sharps, in a carbine version, was the most widely-used cavalry carbine by the Union Army. It was so successful that it was copied and manufactured by the Confederate government to arm its mounted troops. Sharps' designed firearms later saw extensive use in the American West as military and hunting weapons. They were highly regarded as target rifles and were used extensively in international shooting competitions through the late 19th century.

Although the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company bore his name, Christian Sharps was not the company's owner. He left the firm, first to form C. Sharps and Company in 1853 and then Sharps & Hankins, in partnership with William Hankins, in 1862. Both firms were located in Philadelphia. The Sharps and Hankins partnership ended in 1866 and Sharps resumed the manufacturing of firearms under the C. Sharps and Company name. In all, he was awarded a total of fifteen firearms-related patents.


Category:1810 births Category:1874 deaths Category:American inventors Category:American Civil War industrialists Category:Firearm designers

Personal life

Born in Washington, New Jersey, in 1810, he married Sarah Elizabeth Chadwick of Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania. The couple had two children, a daughter Satella and son Leon Stewart.

During 1870 Sharps and his family moved to Vernon, Connecticut, where he continued working on firearms design and started a large trout farming business.

Succumbing to tuberculosis, Sharps died in Vernon, on March 12, 1874.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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