Sharps Firearms: Early Metallic Cartridge Firearms and Model 1874 Sporting Rifles, by Roy Marcot and Ron Paxton, with De Witt Bailey II and Richard Labowskie, Northwood Heritage Press, Tucson, Ariz., 2017, $89.95

“You could not hit a man at 300 yards if your gun was resting on Gibraltar,” Rooster Cogburn tells Texas Ranger LaBoeuf in the 2010 remake of True Grit. “The Sharps carbine is an instrument of uncanny power and precision,” LaBoeuf insists. “I have no doubt that the gun is sound,” Cogburn shoots back. All jesting aside, a sharpshooter with a Sharps carbine could and did hit targets at 300 yards and beyond, as it was powerful and precise—in the right hands. The uncanny rifle is the subject of this truly epic book.

Roy Marcot, longtime editor of the journal of the Remington Society of America, has written three histories about that iconic firearms manufacturer. In 2012 the Sharps Collector Association approached Marcot and coauthor Ron Paxton about compiling a history of gunsmith Christian Sharps (1810–74) and his companies. Building on a half-century of research spearheaded by collectors John Hintlian and scores of other Sharps aficionados and experts, Marcot, Paxton and collaborators De Witt Bailey and Richard Labowskie put in nearly six years of additional research and legwork. This volume and three to follow are the fruits of their labor. 

The book covers the development of early Sharps cartridge firearms through the Model 1874 in all its variations. It wraps up with a detailed and absorbing look at buffalo hunting on the frontier and the central role played by Sharps sporting rifles, the coveted big-bore favorites of many Western hunters. The 388 pages are packed with every conceivable fact, figure and historical anecdote about the company and its firearms, not to mention mini biographies of famous and everyday Sharps users. Before publishing their work, the authors asked 14 Sharps experts to conduct a thorough peer review. Accompanying the text are hundreds of illustrations and photos—both historical and contemporary images of the gun and various users. Graphic designer Paxton himself photographed over 1,300 Sharps firearms. If this compendium is any indication, the four-volume set will prove the definitive history of Sharps.

If you collect Sharps rifles or own just one and want to learn everything possible about the gun, the book is a must. To order a copy, send a check for $89.95 plus $10 postage to Northwood Heritage Press, c/o Roy Marcot, 12655 E. Horsehead Road, Tucson, AZ 85749.

—Dave Lauterborn