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Sharps vs. Spencer

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by DanB, Nov 14, 2011.

  1. DanB

    DanB Corporal

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    I thought for sure I would see a thread like this around. Maybe its within another post. I apologize if this is already circulating. Anywho . . .

    If you were a soldier on the CW battlefield, which weapon would you prefer to be in your hands--the Sharps or the Spencer? And Why?

    If another weapon would be preferable, feel free to comment.
     

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  3. LT.J.H.McDaniel

    LT.J.H.McDaniel Sergeant Major

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    Sharps is a wonderfull rifle, second to none in long rage fire.. But the spencer would be my choice.. Its THE go to gun for short rage fire fight.. In its time, it was the most advance infantry weapon in the world! So it all depend if your gonna engage in long range or close range combat.
     
  4. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Absotively. While the Sharps and other rifles would deliver knock-down power, the Spencer's relative sting was more than made up for in repeating shots.
     
  5. LT.J.H.McDaniel

    LT.J.H.McDaniel Sergeant Major

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    Wow Ole, we finnally agree on somthing.
     
  6. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    I always associate the Sharps with the great Bison slaughter of the plains post war.. and of course, Quigley Down Under
    I am unfamiliar with the use of the Sharps on a large scale during the war.
     
  7. Dave Hull

    Dave Hull First Sergeant

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    Probably because the Sharps Creedmore was not introduced until 1874 (the rifle used in QDU and the prize Buffalo rifle of the plains.)

    The Sharps used during the war was a rolling block which used primer pellets, much like the latest black powder rifles on sale today, and was later converted to metallic cartridges. I have seen one or two but never fired one, but have to assume the rate of fire was much higher than the standard Springfield or Enfield. From what I recall (it has been ages so bear with me in my geezin mode) it was a very accurate weapon, but I do not recall if that was from the barrel length or depth of lands and grooves and the rate of twist.
     
  8. johan_steele

    johan_steele Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    The Sharps & Spencer were similar in reliabilty & accuracy though the Sharps certainly had superior knockdown... the 7 shots w/ another up the pipe in a lump w/ the ability to quickly reload. I'll take either but expect the Sharps was easier to aquire ammo for in a tight situation.
     
  9. coltshooter1

    coltshooter1 Sergeant

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    I don't know if I would call the Spencer 56-50 round a light load. Its not a long range round, having the ballistic trajectory of a rainbow, but it is still packing a wallop at within 100 to 150 yards. That 56 caliber is a big chunk of lead and will do massive damage.
    For maximum stopping power the 50-100-550 post-war Sharps was the apex of the Sharps Rifle design. 50 Caliber 550 grain bullet propelled by 100 grains of black powder, it is still an impressive round today.
     
  10. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    The Spencer had approximately the same terminal ballistics as both the .58 caliber rifle muskets and also the percussion Sharps. The Sharps cartridge of the percussion guns were not near the power of the legendary cartridge Sharps of the post war buffalo guns. The Spencer definately had an impact on the war. The fire power was unmatched and it's ballistics proved every bit as effective as the rest of the arms used on the field. The Sharps was no more accurate than the Spencer and was requested as 1st choice for Burdan's Sharpshooters. Burdan experienced a burst shell casing when testing the Spencer and received an eye injury. If it wasn't for the burst casing, the Spencer would more than likely have been the rifle of choice for the Sharpshooters
     
  11. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    Tell me more about primer pellets. To my knowledge most modern BP rifles use 209 shotgun prime
     
  12. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    The primer discs that were used on the Sharps is a Lawrence patent and the discs were contained in a small brass tube. When inserted in the primer mechanism, they were advanced singley. When the hammer was cocked the disc was shoved over the nipple. They were not actually pellets. They contained fulminate of mercury like the standard percussion cap.
     
  13. bama46

    bama46 Captain

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    And they were 'automatically" placed on the nipple?
     
  14. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    The actual caliber of the 1860 Spencer was .52 and the cartridge was designated the 56-56 because the copper case was a straight case with the base of .56 cal. and the mouth of .56 cal. The 56-50 round was developed and supplied to the new 1865 model Spencer with was .50 cal. This was a tail end war model and mostly used during the early Plains Indian Wars. The increase in velocity by the Spencer was gained by the .52 cal. projectile that was fired into the rifling from the breach without the need for an expanding minie style bullet. It was charged with 42 grains of black powder and the copper case formed a perfect gas seal when fired. The Sharps used a .52 cal. bullet and used a paper or linen cartridge and did not seal off the breach as well causing some gas escape and loss of power. It was charged with 55 grains of black powder, but there was some powder loss when the falling block (not rolling block) sheared off the rear of the cartridge in order to expose the powder to the percussion flash.
     
  15. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Yes. They were also referred as priming pellets during the war but technically were flat percussion caps. An arm pushed the disc out over the nipple and held it there until the hammer dropped. It then returned back into position to allign with the next disc. It was an automatic primer feed. Maynard invented an automatic primer feed also in the form of a roll of caps. Used on the model 1855 rifle musket.
     
  16. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    The first Spencer rifles used Sharps barrels and sights supplied by the Sharps Company. This is one reason why accuracy was comparable.
     
  17. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

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    I own and have fired both the 1860 Spencer and Sharps carbines. The accurracy was very similiar, but I don't think I ever fired them over 15o yards. Never shot the rifle models of either so I can't say if they had different characteristics. The Sharps IIRC flunked the armies testing standards right before the war due to excessive leakage at the breach. Some of this problem was fixed before being mass produced during the war but still had some problems.
    My Burnside Carbine shoots just as well as those above but I can definitely see a problem with the cases sticking after being fired. Burnside was making Spencers late in the war with different amount of rifling in the barrel. I have a Merrill and a Frank Wesson carbine but I have never shot them.

    The Spencer just feels better and field tests showed it could take great amounts of abuse and still be serviceable. Knowing you had 7 shots almost instantly had to take a great deal of stress away from the shooter. I can't imagine firing a Springfield then knowing it's 20 to 30 seconds before I can shoot again.

    These are just my opinions from shooting the guns I own. I am sure others have different opinions that could be just as valid.
     
  18. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Burnside manufactured the new model 1865 Spencer with the new .50 cal cartridge. The rifles would reach out further and their accuracy was comparable with both the Sharps and Spencer rifles. I also prefer the added fire power of the Spencer.
     
  19. Dave Hull

    Dave Hull First Sergeant

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    Wafers is more like it. My dad just picked up a new BP rifle for his birthday, since he always seemed to have trouble with his old rifle (Either a Sharps or Hawken, do not recall which) The new set up is a break down, with the 550 grain bullet loaded first, then 3, 50 grain wafers. Snap shut, fire, break open and reload. It is slick as a whistle and make cleaning a snap.

    The guy at Dick's Sporting goods tried to tell us that this powder/ignition systems would replace standard powder and caps. He even said caps would stopped being produced. I told the guy it would be hard to make all the guys with older style BP rifles toss them in the scrape heap.

    I will see if I can get the name of the rifle and the specs on the new fire system. I did not pay a lot of attention to the guy because I like the old way, and ease of cleaning and loading does not really interest me when I hunt BP.
     
  20. deleson1

    deleson1 Sergeant

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    What do you think? Use Uptons plan for attacking trenches and give them 5000 Spencer Carbines to use. By 1864 they were mass producing the gun so they could of easily diverted some to the INfantry. The carbines would of worked great at short distances.
     
  21. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    Just a feeling, but shooting a Sharps at 200 yards compared to a Spencer does not compute. At 200 yards, the Spencer is considered a spent round. The Sharps will take off whatever body part it hits. As will any .577 or .58.

    I'm not disparaging the Spencer or the Henry, but they were volume-fire. And they were very useful. It's just that we are comparing apples and oranges here.
     

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