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Garrett Arms' 1874 Military Sharps .45-70.

With today's renewed interest in the metallic cartridge firearms of the 19th century, several arms firms are producing or importing reproductions of a variety of these historic guns. A recent addition to the current lineup of newly made old-timers is the 1874 Military Pattern Sharps rifle from Garrett Arms & Imports, Inc. Originally produced by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. from late 1871 through early 1877, a total of 1,769 of these rifles was made.

These arms were something of a vestige of the percussion-era rifles, and many parts of the '74 Military model were interchangeable with Sharps' earlier caplock rifles. Interestingly, about 50 of these models were manufactured for use by the U.S. military for their long-range matches at Creedmoor, and several hundred were shipped to the New York State Militia.

Like the original version, the Garrett replica is a three-band rifle in .45-70 Govt. caliber (the 19th century Shaprs were also made in .50-70), sporting a military-style butt, a 30-inch round barrel, the classic 1874 Sharps falling block action, a single trigger, sling swivels, a blade front sight and a Lawrence-type, single folding leaf rear sight. Garrett Arms has also stocked their rifle with a one-piece, walnut, military-style forearm and the traditional straight-gripped walnut stock. In general, the rifle is handsome and rakish. It is finished with a handsome dark blue barrel, rear sight, trigger, swivels, breechblock hinge pin and all screws, while all other metal parts are color case-hardened.

At the range, this Italian-import, single-shot rifle turned in a pretty respectable performance. However, I did discover a couple of minor glitches during testing. While this rifle shoots as well as one would expect of an iron-sighted .45-70 with a long hammer fall, I found that the front sight blade (equipped at the factory) was far too high. This, however, is minor, since the sight can be filed down to the individual shooter's preference. In fact, it is better to have too high a front sight blade to work with than one that is too low.

With the front sight as high as it was "out of the box," the rifle shot nice tight groups, but low. For example, at the 50-yard target, shooting from a benched position, I was able to consistently score three-shot clusters in the 1-1/2-inch area. These shots were falling about 10 to 12 inches below the point of aim. At 100 yards, my shots were dropping a full 16 inches low, yet the rifle was still grouping tightly.

I tried flipping up the Lawrence rear sight and aiming through the notch found at its base. This helped some but not enough, as the groups were still falling around 11 inches below the point of aim. The rifle sure does put its shots in there together though. At the 100-yard range I was averaging groups of around 2 inches or so, with my best score of the day measuring just 1-1/4 inches, center to center!

With a crisp trigger pull of just 3 to 4 pounds, this .45-70 is able to hold tight groups, and, as mentioned earlier, an individual shooter can file the sights down to his liking, which will bring the point of impact up to the point of aim at a given distance. I noticed during shooting that the barrel bands had a tendency to work themselves forward a tad. Closer inspection revealed that, at least on this specimen, they were slightly oversized. While not a serious problem, it is something that the manufacturer's quality control department should correct if it exists on other rifles.

I also felt that the chamber may have been bored a little too tightly. I experienced some difficulty in chambering a couple of factory rounds. Overall, though, the rifle shouldered comfortably and functioned smoothly. During my testing, I used both Remington 405-grain soft-point and Federal 300-grain hollow soft-point ammo.

The Garrett Sharps handled both types with ease, as would be expected; however, my best shooting was done with the Remington ammunition. This could well be a shooter problem, as I am still healing from a recenty dislocated shoulder and a fractured upper arm (courtesy of one of my horses). This is the first "kicking" rifle I've fired since my injury, and I could be a mite sensitive to the harder jolt that Federal's 300-grainers deliver. The Remington 405-grain bullets move downrange at traditional .45-70 Govt. velocities, around 1,330 feet per second (fps), while Federal's 300-grain projectile zips out at a whopping 1,880 fps! Quite a difference. This is especially felt with a military-style steel buttplate and a tender shoulder.

I can report that, in spite of the minor points covered in this article, I was favorably impressed with the Garrett Arms 1874 Military Pattern Sharps rifle. I feel it is a worthy addition to today's selection of metallic cartridge historical replicas, and it would make a darned good plinking, all-around fun and hunting rifle--once it is sighted in to the individual shooter. Retailing at around $519 for the standard trigger version that I tested, or $546 for the set trigger model, this rifle is well worth its price tag.

Incidentally, Garrett also offers a percussion model in .54 caliber, and based on my results with the .45-70 metallic cartridge version, I'm sure the caplock military Sharps is a dandy! For further information on their Sharps replicas, write to: Garrett Arms & Imports, Inc., Dept. GA, 1304 Windsor Pt. Rd., Norfolk, VA 23509. They offer some real dandy sharpshootin' rifles!
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Spangenberger, Phil
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Oct 1, 1985
Words:917
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