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February 9, 2021

What is the Sharps Rifle in “Quigley Down Under?”

By Seth Isaacson

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The various Sharps rifle and carbine models manufactured from the Antebellum Era and into the late-19th century during the Indian Wars are some of the most iconic firearms of the American frontier. Certainly a reflection of the cowboys, outlaws, and gangs that roamed the Wild West, these rifles remain very popular with hunters, target shooters, and collectors today as well.

Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley in the 1990 Australian-American Western film, "Quigley Down Under."

If you are looking for a Sharps rifle or carbine or to sell a Sharps you already own, Rock Island Auction Company is here to help, and we carry close matches to the Quigley Down Under gun.

Famous Firearms

Rock Island Auction Company is no stranger to encountering some famous firearms from across the history of film making. From Tommy guns used in the Godfather, a shotgun personally belonging to Clark Gable, and even revolvers owned by Elvis, we have seen some pretty cool things come through our doors.

Granville Stuart's Sharps Model 1874 Creedmoor No. 1 rifle sold in 2020 for $51,750 at Rock Island Auction Company.

Rock Island Auction Company is also extremely familiar with handling delicate and fascinating pieces of history during our various auctions held throughout the year. We have sold Sharps like those used by John Brown and his abolitionist army both historically and in the television series “The Good Lord Bird.” Civil War Era Sharps New Model 1859, New Model 1863, and New Model 1865 rifles and carbines used by the Berdan Sharpshooters and other Union soldiers can also be regularly found during these exciting events. In the past, we have sold Sharps Model 1874 rifles used by real western vigilantes (like Granville Stuart), as well as fictional heroes like everyone’s favorite western marksman, Matthew Quigley, in the hit 1990 Western drama, “Quigley Down Under.”

Extraordinary Civil War Era Sharps New Model 1863 percussion Saddle Ring carbine.

The Guns of  Matthew  Quigley American Sharpshooter in “Quigley Down Under”

Many filmgoers continue to be curious about the identity of the "Quigley Down Under" gun. More than any other western, “Quigley Down Under” has been responsible for kindling popular interest in long-range shooting with black powder cartridge rifles and Sharps rifles like the special order Quigley Sharps used in the movie. It has been said that the special Quigley Sharps rifle was the co-star of the film alongside actor Tom Selleck.

Trailer for "Quigley Down Under" starring Tom Selleck.

In the movie, the rifle is essentially an extension of the character of Quigley himself. It is his awesome long-range shooting with the Sharps rifle that absolutely dominates the action scenes of the film. In addition to shooting buckets at a considerable distances and taking out criminals terrorizing Aboriginal Australians, Quigley’s Sharps rifles also serve as a utility belt of sorts for the main character because he uses the weapon for much more than shooting, at one point even using it to pull himself up through a window.

Two historic Civil War era Sharps rifles.

The Sharps Rifle and the Quigley Down Under Gun

The Sharps Model 1874 traces its lineage back to Christian Sharps’ patent in 1848 for a breech loading rifle. It is similar to the Sharps New Model 1859, 1863, and 1865 rifles and carbines used during the Civil War but differs primarily in being adapted for use with centerfire metallic cartridges. The updates primarily include a simplified lock since a percussion priming system was no longer necessary and a new breechblock with a firing pin instead of a percussion nipple and flash channel.

Granville Stuart's Favorite Rifle: a fine, special order Sharps Model 1874 Creedmoor No. 1 rifle won as a prize in the 1875 Montana Territory Match.

Christian Sharps had long left the company long before the “Old Reliable” Model 1874 was debuted in 1871 (the Model 1874 moniker came later). As shown in the movie, the Sharps Model 1874 became very popular because it was chambered for powerful cartridges, was reliable, and could accurately hit targets at great distances. They were manufactured in a dizzying array of configurations, both official sub-models and many, many special orders, and the Quigley Down Under gun was inspired by several different models.

Joel from Rock Island Auction Company explores the rich history of the Montana Territory, Granville Stuart, and his legendary group of vigilantes known as Stuart's Stranglers.

As we have seen from copies of original orders by Granville Stuart and in factory letters with many original rifles, customers could be very specific and order an array of barrel lengths, weights, calibers, sights, triggers, stock configurations, engraving, and more. This makes many Sharps rifles unique.

For collectors of single shot rifles, it doesn't get much better than an exceptional condition Civil War era Sharps New Model 1859.

Quigley’s Sharps Rifle

There are dozens of different firearms that take the stage during the entire 119 minute run time, but what role does his prominent firearms, rifles, and carbines play in the development of the plot and the character himself?

In the film, Quigley explains that his gun is experimental and features a 34-inch barrel (4 inches longer than standard) converted to fire a .45-110 paper patched bullet. It has a globe front sight, Lawrence patent notch and folding ladder rear sight, a 1,200 yard long range Vernier peep sight (“This one shoots a mite farther.”), double set triggers, and “MQ” in gold in an oval on the side of the frame. Like the Civil War Era percussion Sharps rifles, Quigley’s Sharps has a casehardened steel patch box on the stock.

The Quigley Sharps is a more advanced firearm than what Quigley’s compared to the rest of the firearms in the film which are mainly Colt percussion revolvers, Model 1863 “Zouave” rifles, and other muzzle loading rifles. Tom Selleck actually ordered three of these special order Sharps Model 1874 rifles for the movie from Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company.

Why Are Quigley Sharps Rifles Valuable?

Quigley Sharps rifles are among the various Sharps models and configurations manufactured by Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Company (as the 1874 Quigley), A. Uberti (as the 1874 Sharps Down Under), and Davide Pedersoli (as the 1874 Sharps “Q” Down Under). Rock Island Auction Company has featured rifles by these companies in many of our sales. In addition, we consistently have a selection of genuine antique Sharps Model 1874 rifles like the one used by Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley.

Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley holding his Sharps rifle.

Many of these antique rifles are still in excellent shooting condition (please have any antique firearm inspected by a qualified gunsmith before loading and shooting it). Both reproduction and antique Sharps rifles are used annually at the Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match which has been held every year since 1991 with the exception of 2020.

A competitor at the 2016 Matthew Quugley Buffalo Rifle Match.

Regardless of your opinions regarding this style of firearms or the film itself, one cannot deny the impact it had on Western culture that extends well into the modern era. Even today, snipers refer to the act of killing two targets with a single bullet as a “Quigley” directly because of the movie. Despite being over 30 years old, “Quigley Down Under” still impresses and amazes audiences around the world and remains a cult classic to many.

A Sharps Model 1874 single shot sporting rifle.

Sharps Rifles for Sale at the May Premier Auction

As mentioned previously, Rock Island Auction Company is considerably experienced when it comes to handling and selling Sharps Rifles. The exciting May 14-16 Premier Auction only confirms this fact with the addition of dozens of these historic, rare, and beautiful long guns. Check out some of these highlights and let us know which one was your favorite.

An exceptional Sharps New Model 1863 metallic cartridge conversion saddle ring carbine.

An exceptional Sharps New Model 1863 metallic cartridge conversion saddle ring carbine will be available during the May Premier Auction and is estimated at $2,000-$3,500. The carbine was originally during the Civil War, this beautiful rifle was later converted in the late-1860s to a metallic cartridge system that was used during the Indian Wars. Altered to fire the .50-70 Government center fire cartridge, these post-war conversions were completely refurbished by Sharps and stocks were replaced if needed with ones without patch boxes like this one. An interesting example of the ever-popular Sharps brand as well as a tumultuous time in American history, this rifle will be available during the May 14-16 Premier Auction so place your bids today.

A rare Washington Territory shipped Sharps Hartford Model 1874 rifle.

A rare, documented Washington Territory shipped Sharps Hartford Model 1874 rifle complete with its factory letter will also be available for purchase during the May Premier Auction as well. Estimated at $14,000-$22,500, this beautiful rifle was invoiced on January 4, 1876, to W.H. Keister of Olympia, Washington Territory, a homesteader and cattleman. It's recorded as a Model 1874 Sporting Octagon Rifle in .44 caliber using the 95 grain case with a full 30 inch octagon barrel. Along with other alluring featured such as globe and peep sights, along with double set triggers, this item is not something to ignore for the avid Sharps enthusiast. Make it yours during the May Premier Auction.

A famous photograph, later featured as an illustration 2 Aug, 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly, of California Joe, “the famous sharp-shooter, one of the best shots and most efficient men in that most efficient and admirable corps, Berdan’s Sharp-shooters.” He is shown holding his Sharps rifle.

Besides the various Sharps 1863 and 1874 models, there are also thousands of other gorgeous rifles that can be found in our Preview Hall when it opens for exhibition May 13th. Of course all COVID-19 guidelines and precautions will be adhered to, so make your plans as soon as possible.

Wild West Chronicles

Keep an eye on our Premier Firearms Auctions each April, September, and December if you are looking for a Sharps to add to your collection. There is sure to be a lot to choose from. We’ve also sold many firearm owned by Tom Selleck as well as a variety of actual screen used firearms. If you have a Sharps or other firearm you’d like to sell with the best in the industry, contact us today at [email protected] for information about consigning your firearms.

Our RIAC descriptions team and specialists inspect each firearm, and our photography team takes high resolution photographs using state of the art equipment to showcase the firearms before they are placed in our catalogs and on our website to make sure our buyers know what they are getting.

At the dawn of the Civil War, inventor and marksman Hiram Berdan proposed units of elite marksmen who would perform their deadly work at a distance from the front lines, specifically targeting enemy officers and leadership.

The Guns of Hollywood

The guns of Quigley Down Under and other popular film and television properties have long fascinated the collecting community. Pop culture and arms collecting have always gone hand in hand, so check out the weekly Rock Island Auction newsletter to receive new gun blogs and gun videos on similar topics. From articles on popular films such as Star Wars, Winchester 73, True Grit, and Tomb Raider, to television hits like the Walking Dead, Peaky Blinders, Yellowstone, 1883, Outlander, and more, we explore the most popular and intriguing guns of Hollywood.

Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren portray Jacob and Cara Dutton, the power couple of the 1923 series who defend their land with guns blazing.

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