Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 240: Sharps Model 1855 Navy Rifle with Rollin White Mechanism

Auction Date: December 3, 2021

Very Rare Well-Documented Sharps Model 1855 Navy Breech Loading Percussion Rifle with Rollin White Self-Cocking Mechanism Formerly in the William M. Locke Collection

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $18,000 - $27,500

Very Rare Well-Documented Sharps Model 1855 Navy Breech Loading Percussion Rifle with Rollin White Self-Cocking Mechanism Formerly in the William M. Locke Collection

Manufacturer: Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company
Model: 1855-Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 54
Barrel: 27 1/2 inch round
Finish: bright
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 931
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 115
Class: Antique

This incredibly rare Sharps rifle is pictured in "The William M. Locke Collection" on page 352 and in "Sharps Firearms" on page 63, both by Frank Sellers. This is the only Model 1855 Navy rifle with a still functional Rollin White self-cocking mechanism. The Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. made only fifty of these self-cocking Model 1855 rifles for the U. S. Navy. Except for the self-cocking mechanism, they were the same as the other 201 Model 1855 rifles made for the Navy. Of the 50 made for the Navy, virtually all failed in the testing at the Navy Yard. Reportedly only twelve were left in their original form after the Navy returned the 38 that failed the tests and could not be returned to operating state by the Navy. Sharps was directed to remove the cocking device and return them "to their original state." The self-cocking mechanism was complicated. A switch inside the operating lever operates a disconnect lever. When the switch is in the rear position, the disconnect lever raises the cocking lever so it will not engage the tumbler and the hammer must be cocked for each shot. When the switch is in the forward position, the hammer is cocked each time the lever is closed. The cocking lever is attached to the breechblock with the same screw as the lever link. The link was modified to make room for the cocking lever. The lever carries the number of the device, "8", on the right side. The spring for the lever rides in a slot cut in the rear of the receiver. A special tumbler, with the cocking surface extended to the centerline of the receiver, was made to allow the tip of the cocking lever to engage it. The over-sized tumbler required an equally large tumbler to hold it in place. Except for the screws required to hold the new parts in place, the other lock parts, internal and external, were the same as the Model 1855s made without the device. The rifle has the standard "SHARP'S RIFLE/MANUFG. CO./HARTFORD CONN." marking on the barrel behind the rear sight, "SHARPS/PATENT/1848" on the upper tang and "EDWARD MAYNARD/PATENTEE/1845" on the primer cover. "R. WHITE'S PATENT/1855" is stamped on the lock plate behind the hammer. This rifle was developed at the same time that Robbins & Lawrence, the actual manufacturers, were making the machinery for producing Enfield rifles for the British government, so Enfield type sights were used on all of these rifles. A bayonet lug is on the bottom of the barrel for a sword type bayonet. The stock has a tiny "GDM" mark by the toe and is mounted with brass furniture. Provenance: The William M. Locke Collection; The George Moller Collection

Rating Definition:

Fine. The rifle was reportedly polished back to its current bright condition when it was in the famous William Locke collection, and the iron remains bright with scattered very light pitting, and the brass has a mellow aged patina. The re-oiled wood is very good with a wax coating overall and minor handling and storage marks. Mechanically excellent. This is the only Sharps Model 1855 Navy Rifle extant with a fully-functional Rollin White self-cocking mechanism. This rifle would be an incredible addition to any Sharps or antique U.S. martial arms collection and has provenance from two of the greatest American arms collections.

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