It has come to the attention of the ordnance office that some of the troops have been experiencing difficulties with the new breechloading Sharps carbines now being introduced into our service. These arms are the most perfect yet invented, but do require special attention to keep in proper order. The armorors therefore wish to provide the following advise on the care and maintenance of the Sharps carbine, as manufactured in Richmond and the north, in order to improve our effectiveness in the field.
Reports have also noted that excessive friction may develop in the breech after several rounds have been fired. This is due to an accumulation of fouling within the frame. The breech joint is as perfect as can be made by modern science, but it does still leak. This causes fouling to deposit between the breech block and frame. When the lever becomes excessively tight, spitting on the inside of the frame with the breech open will moisten this fouling and usually relieve the problem. Do not hesitate to take this action, it will not injure the mechanism. If the lever is bent in forcing the breech closed, the weapon may no longer fire as the block will not be restored to its proper position.
To clean the Sharps, the breech mechanism must be disassembled. To accomplish this, first open the breech. Next, the lever pivot pin must be withdrawn. Depress the catch ahead of the pivot pin arm and rotating the arm one quarter turn away from the frame. Next, gently rotate the pin back and forth while pulling it out of the frame. DO NOT STRIKE the pin or its arm. If the gun is very foul, the pin may be quite tight. Moisten the joint between the lever and frame to loosen the pin.
With the lever pivot pin removed, the breech block may be withdrawn. This is done by gently tapping the block out the bottom of the frame with a wooden dowel or the handle of a small hammer. In order to free the lever from the breechblock, remove the screw in the right side of the block. Soak the block in HOT soapy water.
While the block is soaking, clean the barrel and frame in the usual manner. Original Sharps, and some reproductions, have a sealing sleeve in the breech, which should be removed to be cleaned and oiled separately. Once the barrel and frame are clean and dry, they must be thoroughly oiled before being set aside.
With the barrel clean, return to the breechblock. The gas check plate must be removed and cleaned separately. This is done by gently prying up the sides of the plate with a knife blade. Finally, hold the breechblock cone under a stream of running water and check that water runs out of the vent in the front of the block. If it only drips, or fails to flow at all, remove the cone and cleanout screw. Thoroughly clean the vent channel with a pipe cleaner or small drill. Some guns have been found with undersize vents. If excessive fouling of the vent is a problem, it may be necessary to enlarge the passage.
Once all the parts are cleaned and oiled, the weapon can be reassembled. Be careful not to strike the gas plate with anything but wood when seating it in the breech block, and then only gently. When reinstalling the lever in the frame, it will be necessary to push it firmly into place in order to drive the pivot pin home.
The federally made carbines have an automatic priming device incorporated into the lock. This will allow fouling to enter the mechanism. This area should be kept well oiled and the lock should be removed and cleaned occasionally.
When properly cleaned, the Sharps carbine will render reliable service in the coming campaigns. By using these simple procedures, the new breechloaders will greatly increase our effectiveness in the field.
return to homepage
go to Tony Beck index
go to Joe Bilby index
go to Tom Kelley index