Blackpowder Paper Cartridge

principle owner of either company and severed his relationship with the Sharps management within two years after the initial company was formed in 1851. Richard Lawrence of the firm Robbins & Lawrence then became the chief engineer of the Sharps action, refining it for mass production and making many mechanical improvements in the ensuing years. If you enjoy history, the Sharps story is a fascinating read.

Christian Sharps first appears as an apprentice at the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in the 1830s, working under Capt. John Hall, inventor of the Hall rifle, the first percussion, breech-loading, military firearm ever issued in significant quantity.

Sharps' experience at Harper's Ferry was fortuitous training for what was to come. It certainly exposed him to the essentials of mass production, machine tool design and the quality control and gauging required for the manufacture of interchangeable parts. It also familiarized him with the Hall action as well as other experimental breechloading models the

Charlie Hahn Sharps Cartridge Tubes

Hahn's cardboard tubes are more durable and easier to assemble than paper cartridges.

Hahn's cardboard tubes are more durable and easier to assemble than paper cartridges.

Ordnance Department was constantly examining and testing.

Sharps received the basic patent for his falling block and toggle-lever percussion action in September 1849. The first commercial production of a Sharps .44 caliber sporting rifle was undertaken the same year on a contract basis with Albert Nippes of Mill Creek, Pennsylvania. From 1849 to 1859, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company


To disassemble the Sharps, lower the lever, rotate and pull out the link pin at the front right side of the action (1). The Shiloh uses an authentic Lawrence-designed gas plate to seal the chamber (2). Keeping the gas plate clean and lubricated is the secret to the Lawrence design (3).

Sharps Paper Cartridge RiflesRapine Bullet 410Charlie Hahn Sharps Cartridge Tubes

The Shiloh Sharps Civil War rifle, known as the New Model 1863, is fitted with an accurate rendition of Richard Lawrence's 800-yard ladder sight. Held over from muzzleloading days, a patch box (below) was titted to most percussion Sharps.

turned out a variety of sporting and military rifles and carbines, but it took the outbreak of the Civil War and the Ordnance Department's emergency requirement for firearms to put the company on a firm financial footing.

By 1860, the company plant in Hartford, Connecticut, employed 450 men, working primarily in an immense production building, measuring 215' long, 45' wide and four stories high. Run by overhead shafts and belts, the company's machine tools were powered by a single Corliss 250 horsepower steam engine located in the basement, turning a driving wheel 20' in diameter. It is estimated at the time the production potential of the Sharps plant was 30,000 guns a year.

Between 1859 and the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company produced approximately 129,000 straight-breech percussion Sharps, known as the Model 1859, New Model 1859, New Model 1863 and New Model 1865. The majority of the Civil War production was devoted to manufacture of carbines issued to Federal cavalry units. Only 9,350 Sharps rifles were purchased by the government during the war, and 2,000 of those, most fitted with double set triggers, were issued to the famous Berdan Sharpshooters.

Just how good was the military percussion Sharps? Thanks to the modern recreations of the Sharps percussion guns by firms like the Shiloh Sharps Rifle Company, Pedersoli, Chiappa and US distributors like Cimarron Firearms Co. and Dixie Gun Works, we have chance

The Shiloh Sharps Civil War rifle, known as the New Model 1863, is fitted with an accurate rendition of Richard Lawrence's 800-yard ladder sight. Held over from muzzleloading days, a patch box (below) was titted to most percussion Sharps.

1863 Pedersoli Percusion Sharps

to find out.

The rifle pictured here is my early Shiloh Sharps, New Model 1863 in .54 caliber. Of all the modern renditions of the percussion Sharps, the Shiloh guns are the most historically correct and use a simple, but effective, gas plate assembly, designed by Richard Lawrence, to seal the breech at the moment of ignition. They are true paper or linen cartridge models. The Italian guns normally employ various modern chamber sleeves and even brass cartridge cases to insure a seal at the breech.

The original Civil War cartridges for the percussion Sharps were made from a cylinder of nitrated paper or linen, filled with 65 grains of musket powder and glued or tied to a conical bullet weighing between 426 to 510 grains with a diameter ranging between .531" to .550". It's an easy cartridge to duplicate in paper or with C. Hahn's cardboard tubes. For detailed loading instructions, I refer you to Shiloh Sharps excellent "1863 Support/ Shooting Forum" on the web at forums/.

The pure lead bullet I shoot is cast from a Rapine Sharps "ringtail" mould with a weight of 475 grains and a major diameter of .544". Ray Rapine's moulds are a piece of art and are offered in numerous historical bullet designs. The bullets they throw are concentric and exactly to specifications. I use a bunch of them.

For paper, forget about making a nitrated paper. What you want is a paper that burns with a minimum of ash. Just tear off a piece of paper, light it and see how much ash is produced. Two excellent papers I use are the paper Subway sandwiches come wrapped in and Mexican tamale paper.

The alternative to paper is a small cardboard tube supplied by Charles Hahn. That's what I normally use. The cardboard tube cartridge is much more durable, faster to assemble and highly accurate. The inside diameter of the tube fits the ringtail projection of the Rapine bullet perfectly.

Using the cardboard tube, I take a small square of tamale paper, insert it and glue it to seal off one end of the tube. My load is very mild but incredibly accurate: 50 grains of Swiss 1-1/2 Fg black powder, producing an average velocity of 870 fps over my PACT Professional chronograph. I then apply clear fingernail polish to the ringtail portion of the bullet and insert it into the open end of the tube. After it has dried, I smear some SPG lube by hand into the exposed grease grooves and shoot it.

I'm not sure what happens to all the pieces of the tube, but I find charred strips of it on the ground 8' to 10' from the end of the muzzle.

With this load, the Shiloh Sharps 1863 percussion rifle routinely produces 3-shot, 1" to 1-1/2" groups at 50 and 100 yards. In short, the percussion Sharps will outshoot many of my modern rifles. It's simply spooky when you consider the overall system of the gun, the assembled ammunition, and the coarse open sights.

No wonder Berdan's Sharpshooters loved their percussion Sharps!

papER cARTRiDGES cHARLiE HAHN SHARpS papER cARTRIDGES 9 locust court, Berlin, md 21811

(410) 208-4736

[email protected]


peter schiffers. softcover,

Sharps Paper Cartridge Rifles


Was this article helpful?

+5 -3


  • ren gerber
    How to make a paper cartridge for muzzleloaders?
    9 years ago
    How to disassemble/assemble sharps 1859?
    8 years ago
  • yemane
    How to measure 1863 sharps for charlie hahn tubes?
    7 years ago
  • Laura
    Which bullet fits hahns tubes?
    7 years ago
  • jack
    How to make paper cartridges for 1863 sharps?
    1 year ago
  • Kaj
    How to make paper cart from hahns tubes for a 1863 sharps?
    1 year ago
    How long is the chamber sleeve on a 1863 c sharps?
    8 months ago
  • cecilia
    Who makes paper tubes for sharps carbine?
    4 months ago
  • cheryl
    Are Shiloh Sharpe 1863 models exact copies of original 1863 models?
    3 months ago

Post a comment