British Sharps Ammunition

Support for the 1863 shooter. Discussions of powders, loads, bullets, etc.
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Todd Birch
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Joined: Wed Mar 03, 2004 12:01 pm
Location: Somewhere in the Cariboo ....

British Sharps Ammunition

Post by Todd Birch » Tue May 10, 2011 11:39 am

Most '59-'63 shooters are aware of the fact that The British thoroughly tested and nearly adopted the slant breech '55 Sharps carbine. Five regiments of cavalry were equipped with them in time for service in the Indian Mutiny.
But what about the ammunition .... ? If you think that making up paper rounds for your '59-'63 is a PITA, read on ..... you won't complain again!

Seller's book says that 200 '53s were made for the Eqyptians in 26 bore (British .577) and some for the Brits. I believe that the Brits ordered or rebarreled the ''British contract" '55s in .577, the bore size of the P53 Enfield.

The following is from "Rifle Ammunition. Being Notes on the Manufactures connected therewith. As conducted in The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich."
ISBN 1-57747-100-8, THOMAS PUBLICATIONS, Box 3031, Gettysburg, PA. 17325.

The bullet was not exactly like the .577 Enfield -

"The charge for this cartridge is the same as for the Enfield rifle cartridge, viz. 2-1/2 drams. The bullet is the same externally, the difference being in the hollow at the base, which is not so deep, and the surface of which is roughed.; the weight is 530 grs, diameter .568."

This is the same size as loaded for the P53 Enfield, which was eventually reduced to .550" and 1.09" in length, instead of .568" and 1.05".

Nominally .577, the Brits found out that they needed to allow 'windage' in the Enfield bore, relying on the wooden plug and hollow base of the Minie for reliability and ease of loading with a fouled bore. They applied this experience to the Sharps with success.

Although the book shows the mandrel used in making up paper cartridges, it describes cartridges for the Sharps as "... generally made from pulp." The book goes into detail on the process of making this pulp and forming the "bags" as they called them.

"The bags are made tapering to a point between .28 and .29 of an inch in length. After filling, the bullets are placed in, base downwards. The hollow in these bullets is slightly different from the Enfield rifle bullet, the inside surface being roughened."
An illustration of the completed Sharps cartridge looks like tapered cigar, much like a Burnside brass cartridge without the lube bulge.

After forming in a die, excess paper was trimmed by a boy (Victorian child labour) and the round "gauged" (sized to spec). - "After this has been done, a small strip of paper 1.5"x.3" is now pasted around the junction of the paper and the bullet. .2" of an inch being on the bullet, and .1" of an inch on the paper, so that when this is pasted on .3" of an inch of the bullet in depth is held by the cartridge. This has been found to be quite sufficient."
After this process, technically called 'banding', has been completed, the cartridge is again gauged to see if it is correct as to length."
The cartridges are then put in trays for lubricating, another tedious and exacting process. The lube was changed from a tallow/beeswax mix following the Indian Mutiny to one largely consisting of beeswax.

"The rim of lubrication is about .2 of an inch in depth. After the lubrication, the cartridges are packed in the same way as other descriptions of cartridges, viz., ten in a packet and labelled as follows:

.577 Bore, W.T.
2-1/2 Drs. F.G.

"These packets are then packed in quarter-barrels, which are marked thus:

Rifle Carbine.
W. .577 T.
2-1/2 drams F.G. 800.
Caps 1000

"It is contemplated to alter the proportion of caps for all arms from five to four rounds to six to four."

This great book even decribes the making of the barrels from American oak!
"From birth to the packing house, we travel between the two eternities ....." Robert Duvall in "Broken Trail"

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