1859 Berdan DST Sahrps
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Author:  mark [ Tue May 25, 2010 8:43 pm ]
Post subject:  1859 Berdan DST Sahrps

Good evening:

I am a newbie and soon to join a local shooting team. I am the proud owner of a n 1859 Berdan # 57283 and have no idea how it found it,s way into my family, which was originally from upstate NY. I recently had it restored as it ha seen tons of use. However, I am in need of an original hammer and any info ,out there, on the original owner.

Mark - Westminster.Md

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Wed May 26, 2010 9:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 1859 Berdan DST Sahrps


Please see my reply to your initial post on where to obtain replacement parts for your Sharps.

You mention in this post that you were "soon to join a local shooting team". Since you mention the Sharps and 'shooting team' in the same post this has raised a red flag for me. I would strongly advise against using your original Berdan contract Sharps to 'live fire'. The pressures generated by a live ball and a 60 gr. load of black powder can be potentially disasterous unless the weapon has been thoroughly inspected by a qualified gunsmith, and ideally the gun scanned by X-ray machine for any subtle weaknesses that have developed in the 148 year old steel.

When I was growing up in Detroit the North South Skirmish Assoc. would hold shooting competitions at Greenfield Village (part of the Henry Ford Museum complex--the chair Lincoln was assassinated in was on display inside the first courthouse Lincoln began his legal career in--Henry Ford had bought and transported both them for his museum complex). I would hang around the skirmish units, who were exclusively firing original rifle muskets of all types. The weapons all had to be inspected by qualified experts before being allowed on the range (by their 'unit armorer' and the NSSA inspector). Occassionally I would hear a tale of a fellow loading up an original musket and firing it only to have the barrel burst, bolster/cone fly off to a different county and the hammer causing mayhem on body parts.

A word to the wise: One of my good friends recently bought a repop rifled musket that had been 'defarbed'. He took the weapon over to another friends farm to live-fire it. After the second rd there was a loud explosion and whirring sound. My friend looked down to find the bolster had split in half-the cone disappeared and shrapnel from the bolster narrowly missed the head of another friend who was on the firing line a few feet away. My friend called the seller and found out that they had removed the repop's original bolster and welded a new one on. The gun had primarily been used for blank fire; evidentally the pressures and associated stress from the live fire contributed to the failure.

Second, shooting an original Berdan contract is akin to entering one's 90 year old grandmother in a mud wrestling contest; she might acquit herself honorably the first match, but won't go the distance. When I was at Mansfield, OH CW show earlier this month DST Sharps (I hesitate to identify them as Berdan Contract since the range of serial numbers were at the outer range of the USSS production run); were selling for $10 to 14,000 range (NRA excellent condition dst Sharps will go for $30,000; even in today's economy).

Unfortunately, I re-read your post to see that you had 'recently restored' your Sharps. There were only 2000 Berdan Contract rifles manufactured (out of 9,000 CW range rifles-most are NM1863 that were produced in 1863-5). In the world of collecting, the Berdan Sharps (with its distinctive set triggers) is one of the most high demand weapons from the CW. Depending on what you had done to 'restore' the rifle, you may have reduced it's value significantly. At this point I would strongly recommend you buy whatever replacement parts you need on your family heirloom, hang it over the mantle. Then see about doing some serious geneology to see what ancestors served in the CW-you may be a descendent of a Sharpshooter; or one of the lucky Veterans who were issued Sharps that had been used by the USSS or Bucktails, during the closing months of the War. Either way the rifle has a long and honorable tradition. You have a unique talsman of America's bloodiest war-take care of it. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.

If you are intent on doing competitive shooting with a Sharps, I'd recommend trolling the NSSA website on their 'for sale' section. Once in a blue moon a Shiloh Sharps NM1863 will come up for sale. OR you can contact the NY Company (Co. B 1st USSS); as their group just purchased a complete USSS uniform and brand new Armi-Sport Sharps. You can contact Rich Simmons (http://www.pages.prodigy.net/richsim) for details.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS

Author:  mark [ Wed May 26, 2010 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 1859 Berdan DST Sahrps


Thank you for your reply regarding my Berdan DST. I will not be firing the Berdan as I don't want to take the chance of destroying it. It was in rough condition missing the hammer assembly, the forestock, barrel bands, and various screws , etc. I have purchased origianl parts for it over the last 10 years and a good friend , Dave Booz, put it back together for me. However, I am still missing an original hammer. I also have an 1836 Harpers Ferry Musket and I know which family member owned it. I'm guessing that my Berdan was probably with the Bucktails as the serial number is in the range of the weapons that went to them. My family research indicates that I had no family members in the war but it looks like the wife of the man that owned the HF Musket was in Gettysburg approx. 5years after the war to visit her sister.

Thanks again,
Mark E. Henze

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Thu May 27, 2010 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 1859 Berdan DST Sahrps


Good to hear that you are in the process of restoring your Sharps and not planning to take her 'mud wrestling'.

The Berdan Contract Sharps were manufactured from the stock parts Sharps Mfg. Co. used to make the standard NM1859 infantry rifles (30 inch barrel, saber bayonet lug, small rear sight) and carbines. With over 80,000 carbines produced (and some canabalized for parts), you can pick up NM1859 locks, bridles, tumblers, screws and hammers--they can vary in price due to condition. With a bit more patience you can also find all of the parts to restore a Lawrence pellet primer system.

There was not a specific 'dst Sharps' hammer made for the USSS contract-they were just 'stock hammers' pulled from the parts bin and fitted/screwed into place. So you are in luck in getting a replacement for your rifle from either source I mentioned before.

Both S&S and Lodgewood also have the 3 barrel bands, rifle forestock (usually 90% ready-need to do some Dremel or routing for the barrel band mortise and forestock retainer, nose cap, etc. The forestock is made from black walnut matches the dimensions of the original rifle) and any other parts you may be needing.

While collectors place a premium value on Sharps that retain their original parts, during the War and afterward many 'battle tested' Sharps were sent to the regimental armorer, arsenal or back to the Sharps factory for refurbishing or repair. So your restoration project should not pose a problem. Besides, I anticpate you will keep the rifle as a valuable family treasure (which is what most of us who post on this site would do).

At the close of the CW, veterans who wished to purchase their own rifle from the Gov't could do so. Many men brought home their trusty rifle-musket that did post-War duty shooting Indians, cay-oats and other 'critters'. Also Bannerman purchased huge stocks of obsolete arms from US and European Govt's and sold them from his store in NY. So the rifle could have been brought home by a CW veteran-ancestor or purchased years after the war. Your rifle, no doubt, would likely have some remarkable tales to tell of where it has been these past 148 years.

I will be at Greenfield Village this weekend. One of the fellows I met last year purchased a Berdan contract Sharps in an old antique store from the 'west side of of the state'. I am planning to get a photo of the rifle and other particulars. I suspect the rifle was originally owned by one of the veterans of companies C, I, K (1st Regt) or possibly B (2nd Regt). Once I get the particulars I'll post it on the Forum.

Enjoy Memorial Day and remember why we celebrate it.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS
Robert Finch Camp (1st MI SS) 14, SUVCW

Author:  mark [ Thu May 27, 2010 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 1859 Berdan DST Sahrps

Thanks Bill, I purchased everything from Lodgewod a few years ago and I thought I had the correct hammer ,,but it didn't fit properly. So,, that's my last remaining part ,,as I have a repro on it now. mIt looks great but I want to complete the piece.

Blessings and Have a Great Memorial Day,
Mark E. Henze

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