When most people think of the Sharps rifle, it’s a good bet they probably think “Buffalo Gun.” The “Old Reliable” Sharps single-shot rifle was generally the first choice with hide hunters of the late 1860s through the 1870s.
These big, heavy rifles—some weighing over 12 pounds and chambered for some of the biggest blackpowder cartridges of the day such as the .44-77, .45-70, .45-110, .45-120, .50-90 and .50-140—were certainly the big guns of the buffalo-hunting era. The romance of these powerful, straight-shooting rifles lives on today with collectors of original arms and through high-quality replicas with modern shooters.
However, there’s a new kid on the range, and it looks just like the old-time 1874 Sharps buffalo guns, with one exception—it’s a lot smaller. That’s right, Lyman now offers a spittin’ image of the legendary Sharps buffalo rifle, but in a reduced size that is ideal for hunting medium-sized game, varmints or just fun plinking. In fact, it’s called the Lyman “Ideal Model” Sharps. This scaled-down Sharps replica weighs in at just around eight pounds and has an overall length of 42 inches with its 26-inch octagon barrel that uses a fast one-in-18-inch rate of twist—perfect for the .22 Hornet or .38-55 cartridges the Ideal Model requires.
Manufactured in Italy by Chiappa Firearms, Lyman’s Ideal Model Sharps sports a blued barrel, a bright finish receiver, hammer, lever and double-set triggers, as well as a brightly-finished, shotgun-style butt plate. The rifle is fitted with Lyman’s famed globe front and adjustable tang rear sight. Additionally, this elegant little rifle has a handsome European walnut stock and schnabble-type forearm. The handy mini-Sharps is also attractively decorated on the receiver with laser-engraved artwork that is somewhat reminiscent of the buffalo hunting era, while the butt plate bears an attractive laser engraving of the Lyman bighorn sheep circular logo with the legend “Lyman, 1878.”
Of course, this famous old reloading and shooting accessories company offers the perfect complements for the Ideal Model mini-Sharps with its loading tools and die sets for both the .22 Hornet and the .38-55 caliber rifles.
I had the opportunity to handle one of Lyman’s Ideal Model Sharps rifles and found it to be a well-made, handsome and handy rifle with a comfortable heft that should give good service. Reduced in size and weight from the big Sharps rifles of yesteryear, the new Ideal Model should appeal to lots of shooters and hunters. Pardon the pun, but I have to say it’s a really sharp-looking gun!
Phil Spangenberger writes for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.