old single action rifles (1880's)


November 3, 2010, 12:14 AM
So, I was watching a show on the outdoor channel called Cowboys, and seen an episode on long rifles of the old west. The period of these rifles seems to be in the 1880's or there abouts. I don't know to much about these old guns, BUT I'm HOOKED!! I want one so bad...

I'm looking for information on some of these magnificent rifles. Want one chamberes for 45-70. The three I'm interested in, or know the most about right now, are the Sharps (Quigly's rifle) the Winchester highwall 1885 and the remington rolling block. Here's my problem, I don't have a small fortune to pick up one of these beauties, so I was wanting you ask you guys what your opinions were on some of the replicsa of these rifles. The one I'm sorta leaning twoards at the moment is the 1885 highwall, but I really like the advantages of the sharps double trigger. Any info on the origonals, or replicas that you have is really appreciated! How they handle, how the shoot, Also, when it comes to vernear (sp?) Style sights, can they be mounted on any rifle??

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November 3, 2010, 12:25 AM
I almost bought a Rem. Rolling Block in 7 x 57mm at a local gun show. Guy wanted $750 for it...I drooled and counted my cash in my head, it was early in the show and I had a couple of other things ahead of it on my list. Turned it down, walked two tables away and turned around to see some guy buy it.

Too soon old, too late smart...be ready to jump on one if you find it. Don't be like me, to slow and very sorry. LOL!

High wall and Lo wall replicas are out there, seen them for $1,200 to 1,500 like new...be prepared to spend a little cash.

November 3, 2010, 01:22 AM
I can't wait to get one of these honeys in 45-70. At 4 1/2 pounds though it'll be a kicker, I'd also love one in 7X57.


Jim Watson
November 3, 2010, 08:59 AM
It is tough to learn all you need to know one question at a time on the Internet.

I suggest you get 'Shooting Buffalo Rifles of the Old West' by Mike Venturino.

November 3, 2010, 11:26 AM
The three rifles you are considering are all good ones. The 45-70 is also your best choice, even if you reload. Most people that get the fever for one of these old single shots usually just finished watching Quigley Downunder and just have to get a big 45. Since the "more" affordable" Quigley rifles are chambered in the 45-120 they jump on one. Big mistake. They kick like an elephant and do not perform very well with smokeless powder. Go with a 45-70 for sure or if you reload a 40-65.
The Quigley model regardless of brand has a lot of drop in the stock and so tend to have more felt recoil. The Italian replicas are probably the best bang for the buck. Be carefull not to go too cheap on the price for a new Italian, the less expensive ones have a reputation for mechanical problems that are not easily remedied. I know of a couple occasions where the rifle ended up back in Italy to get NOT fixed. If you decide on the '74 Sharps plan on spending $750.00 or more for a new one.
The American made replicas are a lot more expensive, but really are worth it. All brands that I know of have excellent warranty and customer service.

November 3, 2010, 11:36 AM
At 4 1/2 pounds though it'll be a kicker, I believe that is a typo.

Any 45-70 rolling block is going to weigh more then 4 1/2 pounds.

And it wouldn't be a just a "kicker".
It would be so brutal it would be practially unshootable!


November 3, 2010, 05:16 PM
Those are all fine choices and I'd love to own any of them.
Might be a bit older than you'd like, but its pretty much in the same early cartridge catigory, but I would like to suggest an Enfield with a Snider conversion. They were put on the M1853's I believe and are in the .577 Caliber.

Some general Info:

The general mechanism is similar to a Trapdoor, but this is the European version.
Heres a REALLY nice one.

And one if money is a concern.

Jim Watson
November 3, 2010, 06:13 PM
That Danish Snider might be a challenge to shoot, 17.8mm (.70 cal) rimfire.

Even a British .577 Snider is not nearly as well supported as .45-70 etc.

November 3, 2010, 06:16 PM
Subscribe to both Rifle and Handloader. Mike V always has one article or the other about BPCR rifles. Always an enjoyable read.

November 3, 2010, 06:46 PM
I have an 1885 Browning in 45-70, Traditional style with the tang sight and curved buttplate, and can highly recommend it. Although it's not a low cost option they are strong enough to handle just about anything you want to reload for it.

November 3, 2010, 07:10 PM
I had a Sharps repro, bought 2nd hand, in .45-70 a few years back. After a few range sessions, I decided the .45-70 was too tame and had it rechambered to .45-110 (all you need to do is lengthen the chamber to 2 7/8 inches and buy new cases at about $3 each...and get dies...and a new press because the cases were too long for my old RCBS Junior). I'd load up with about 105 grains of FFg (solid-head cases don't hold as much powder) and a 500 grain cast bullet and head to the range to make smoke. THAT was fun! Recoil was pretty much a HARD push and the smoke obscured the target. However, I never could get that cheap repro to shoot accurately, so I finally sold it.
If you get a repro old-west single shot, go with the best you can afford. A Pedersoli Sharps is the minimum I'd consider to get back into buffler huntin' again, with a hard look at the Shiloh and C. Sharps offerings.
Just my .02.

November 3, 2010, 07:34 PM
I have long enjoyed the single shooters and have acquired a couple that I find great fun. This is an H&R replica and I like it a lot.


This is a Spanish import copy in 30-30 (the big bores are more fun).


The Martini Henry is really cool.


November 4, 2010, 01:26 AM
Although [the 1885 Highwall is] not a low cost option they are strong enough to handle just about anything you want to reload for it.I can attest to that. I have loaded mine till you couldn't fit any more powder, and after the roar of the shot, it just seems to sigh and ask for more. I plan to re-chamber mine to .45-120 and load it nearly as hot (with smokeless)...which should make for one heck of a buff. duster. I highly recommend this rifle, but there are a few things to look for before you buy, because there are several variants of this rifle. 1st is the receiver, some have provisions for a tang sight, and some do not (mine being the later). Secondly, you also want to pay attention to the barrel profile, they were produced with full octagon, half-octagon, as well as round barrels (mine being the former). You also want to look at the stock because some came equipped with a butt-pad, while others did not. If you like to load it stout, i'd avoid that crescent butt plate.

The Sharps 1874, is also a nice nostalgic rifle, and can be loaded stout, but i'd not punish one like I do the 1885.


November 4, 2010, 09:06 AM
Crappy pic of my 1874 Sharps Infantry rifle in .45/70 caliber.
Wonderful shooter.

November 4, 2010, 09:21 AM
Depends on what you are planning on using it for, but no matter what you use it for, they are a real joy to shoot.
I have a repro Sharps 1874 in .45-70, and have shot almost all of the manufacturers offerings from other importers and US made in these big bores. With the exception of the Springfield, all are plenty strong for black powder shooting. As stated before, they don't do real well with smokeless, but I have had some very good shooting sessions with it, light recoil and a couple of very accurate loads, not that I would use any of them for hunting.
The expense of a new rifle is just that, expensive. My Sharps is in the mid range of import value and at the range it shows, the cheaper ones don't shoot as good a group, and the more expensive Shiloh's and such are just amazing in the accuracy department. I also added a $400 scope, again not the top of the line, but adequate for what I am using the rifle for. Groups of 3 - 4" at 300 yards are common, and a couple in 2" and less have been had, most of this is due to the shooters inability which comes with age.
No matter what you buy, these are the most fun to shoot of any rifle I now or have ever owned, I spend more time shooting my Sharps than anything else I own.
Have fun when you get one.


November 4, 2010, 12:12 PM
Well, first of all, my "single action" rifles include an AR15 and Mini-14s. I have never heard of a double-action rifle. I believe the subject of this thread is single-shot rifles.

A vernier sight can only readily be mounted to rifles with a long tang. Others can be modified, but it is a bit of trouble and expense. I traded off my Browning 1885, in .45-70, a replica of the Winchester 1885, largely because mounting a vernier sight would have involved a true custom gunsmith fabricating a tang extension. I decided it was more cost-effective to buy a Browning 1885 BPCR version that came with the tang long enough to mount the vernier sight. Of course, priorities changed, and a long-range BPCR type of rifle got postponed indefinitely. Browning no longer lists the 1885 or BPCR, and I believe these Miroku-made rifles are now only sold under the Winchester name.

BPCR = Black Powder Cartridge Rifle. Google that for some interesting reading. It is not just a type of rifle, but a sport in and of itself.

I do have a .45-70 single-shot rifle, a fairly modern design that is based on the Farquharson single-shots of the British Empire era, and bears a cosmetic resemblance to those wonderful rifles, the elegant Ruger No. 1. Not many Farquharsons are likely to have seen much use on the American frontier, but Africa and Asia are a different story, though the expense of these rifles meant they were a gentleman's rifle, not for many common folks. It is not feasible to readily mount a vernier sight on a Ruger, as the safety is mounted on the tang. Not many Rugers are used in BPCR; probably because most BPCR clubs mandate certain features the Rugers do not have, and/or because very few .45-70 Rugers have been made with the long barrels favored by black powder shooters. The Quigley Shoot held every June in Montana, however, does allow Rugers, if I recall correctly.

FWIW, tang-mounted vernier sights are not the only long-range sights that can do the job. I remember one of Mike Venturino's articles stating that the barrel-mounted sights more common in the 19th Century were fully capable of making the famed "Billy Dixon Shot." This article was written with science to back it up. I believe this article is reprinted in Mike Venturino's book, which another member has mentioned. Get this book!

While waiting for your copy of Mr. Venturino's book to arrive, google such things as Billy Dixon Shot, Shiloh Sharps, Lone Star Rifle, C. Sharps, and Pedersoli. (Pedersoli is a good, reputable Italian rifle maker, though compared to a Shiloh, well, no Sharps beats a Shiloh Sharps.)

When my time to buy a fine single-shot arrives again, I will look mostly at Shiloh Sharps and the rolling blocks made by Lone Star. To be clear, I am no expert on these rifles, just passing along some tips I have uncovered while reading and dreaming. A large local dealer of high-end firearms does occasionally have Shilohs and C. Sharps, plus the real thing, from time to time.

November 4, 2010, 01:15 PM
I have never heard of a double-action rifle.The newest double action rifle (http://www.rossiusa.com/news-detail.cfm?newsID=25). :D

November 4, 2010, 09:02 PM
Sorry about the "single-action" thing, I meant single shot, but I can't edit post off my phone. Thanks for all the info on these guns. I'm haveing a blast looking and searching for info on these old majestic rifles. I may have to sell a couple of my lead slinging toys to buy one of these though. Thanks again, brian.

November 4, 2010, 09:09 PM
Just found a second source that said the Uberti's 1871 rolling block only weights 4.4 pounds. It's a 3rd of the size smaller then the original due to modern metals. A 4.4 lbs 45-70 (:what:) isn't made for full blown loads I take it.

I've been eyeing a few of these sharps rifles at my local GS, jut don't have the extra cash to make it happen.:(

November 4, 2010, 09:27 PM
That Uberti rolling block would be waaaaay better in .45 Colt or .454 Casull.
Better yet, they should probably chamber it for the .460 and .500 S&W cartridges which are basically revolver cartridge duplicates ballistically of the .45/70 and .50/70 cartridges.

November 4, 2010, 09:44 PM
Better yet, they should probably chamber it for the .460 and .500 S&W cartridges which are basically revolver cartridge duplicates ballistically of the .45/70 and .50/70 cartridges.Problem with those is the extremely high pressure (think "high-powered" bottleneck rifle cartridge). The .45-70Govt., and others like it, have a pretty mild pressure level (when loaded to SAAMI spec.). That isn't to say that it cannot withstand those cartridges/chamberings, only that it will be harder on the action.


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