Written by Erich Mueller


Hardly a Wild West scene is as well known as the long-range shot in the film Quigley Down Under. The weapon used by Tom Selleck as the sniper, Quigley, in the Australian film was a Sharps 1874 with Creedmoor Diopter. It was this film and this weapon that gave birth to what I would call something of a crazy idea: Why not use this breech-loading rifle in an African antelope hunt? For those who are wondering why crazy, you must take a closer look at the history and the technical specifications.


The rifles designed by Sharps were built especially during the American Civil War. Later, the Model 1874 was specifically designed for North American big game and given the nickname of the Buffalo Rifle. It was a rather sad chapter for America when professional buffalo hunters nearly eradicated the herds of millions of bison. The popularity of the rifle was due to its simplicity, robustness, and caliber. The cartridge .45-70 Government issue was used widely as a military bullet. Easy, and available nearly everywhere. It was issued to buffalo hunters free of charge to accelerate the extermination of the buffaloes and therefore that of the Indians. In my research I discovered the Italian weapons manufacturer Davide Pedersoli. Founded in 1958, this company has been dedicated to researching and manufacturing historical weapons since its beginning. Numerous awards are the best proof of the quality and precise ballistic properties of Pedersoli weapons, so it was not hard to find the Sharps 1874 I was looking for and decided on the 1874 Sharps Sporting No. 3 Extra Deluxe.


Polished frame and fittings, nickel silver front stock cap, a specially selected walnut stock with perfect fits, clean blends and gold inlays designed by Bison. When I first held the gem with a total length of 124 cm, I thought that the idea of ​​this rifle on plains game was really crazy. I had a fantastic rifle in my hands, but with the massive octagonal barrel that alone has a length of almost 82 cm, it also weighed 5.2 kilos.

The next step took me to Ferlach, to my longtime friend Herbert Scheiring, arguably one of the best gunsmiths in the world. The Sharps case block closure, the forged main components, deep drawn barrel, elicited from Herbert an appreciative smile. The supplied Creedmoor Diopter was then mounted immediately and then injected. After only a few shots and thanks to many years of Herbert’s experience and the perfect combination of double set drigger, Creedmoor Diopter and tunnel front sight with interchangeable inserts, we had the desired result. The next step from Buffalo Bill in Africa was an unexpected call. A longtime customer and hunting client of mine, who was also part of the Royal Family in Dubai, asked me to organize a plains-game hunt in Namibia for him and his friends. Since I had already twice successfully hunted in Namibia with him, I already knew his wishes and prepared a safari in the Etosha area, where he was able to hunt the black-nosed impala. Knowing that he was an excellent shooter, I asked him if he wanted to go hunting with a Sharps for those antelopes in Namibia. After only a few YouTube studies came the happy confirmation: “That’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to try.” Said and done!  The organization was completed quickly. I had known my outfitter and PH Marius for several years and quickly had the confirmation for the desired period – early July. I flew Qatar from Vienna via Doha directly to Windhoek. When checking in at the airline, in the gun case, next to the Sharps was my smaller custom-made .30-06 Mauser 98 alone weighed a whopping 17 kilograms. Additional payment was needed. After the normal entry formalities and the registration of the weapons in Windhoek we went on a five-hour drive north to our camp.  The next morning it was time for a test shoot. We placed the paper disc at 150 meters. The first two shots were taken as usual seated, but the result was not pleasing. Too deep and too far to the right. Rashid just did not feel comfortable to shoot sitting and the next three shots were over sticks. The hit picture was immediately completely different. All three shots were only a few centimeters apart from each other directly in the middle, vertical about 5 cm deep. All top-placed shots. There was no need for readjustment. The difference in height was certainly because we had used a 405-grain bullet shooting in Ferlach, and a 325-grain bullet in Namibia. Dont forget that we have shot over an open sight and at 150 meters with the Sharps. Rashid had earned the first spurs. Paper is one thing, but what about hunting in practice?

Black-faced impala

Our hunting area bordered directly on the Etosha National Park, with varied terrain, rocky hills, dense bush and open savanna. The main roads lead only to the natural or artificially designed waterholes. From there it was hunting on foot, stalking on fresh track. Our PH Marius had previously told us we might see lions, and this was confirmed on our first hunting day. Not 100 meters in front of our hunting car we saw a group of six lions. Even when we came closer and no more than 30 feet separated us from the cats, they ignored us. There were only lionesses in this group.


Marius pointed to a herd of zebra approximately 300 meters away, the focus of the lionesses’ interest. Then somehow the situation changed, and it seemed the lionesses were not too pleased with our presence. They realized that we were attracting the attention of zebras to us and thus to them. They did not creep closer to the zebras. No unnecessary movment. They knew their chance would come. Sooner or later. This incredible experience told us one thing: To be careful when stalking.  We saw large herds of springbok, blesbok, zebra, black and blue wildebeest but also medium sized groups of female Livingstone eland and Marius decided to try our luck with the springbok. The wind was in our favor, and we stopped the vehicle well camouflaged next to a group of trees, about 350 meters from the first springbok of about 110 animals and began stalking. Isolated bushes and smaller trees offer us enough camoflage to approach to 150 meters. Marius indicated the shooter and Rashid was ready on the sticks. At 125 meters the shot broke and was down. The remaining herd fled then stopped further away to watch. We waited a few minutes then went to find the buck. How effectively the Sharps rifle and the 45-70 cartridge brought down the target.

Marius told Rashid how in death the springbok’s white hair tufts stand up behind the tail root and smell of caramel, a scent that comes from glands under the white hair tufts, and that only a few minutes after death the glands close. Sometimes the springbok raise their hair tufts, arch their backs, jump stiff-legged into the air and thereby release this scent to attract females. After the usual photos with trophy and of course the rifle I could make out another buck. Alone, standing between two trees, tugging at some blades of grass. My guess was confirmed by Rashid and, of course, Marius. A very strong old buck. Short question to Rashid and a nod.  

The downwardly pulled lower lever, and down sliding case block showed the cartridge insertion into the barrel. The Hornady 45-70 with 325 grains slid into the barrel. Lower lever up and the massive block closed precisely. The target stick at the correct height. Aim at the buck. The light heat waves that you often feel clearly through a riflescope were not an issue here with the open sight. The calm breathing showed Rashid concentrated, already focused the target. Then the bang! Incredible. Open sight, 262 meters, not a big target and a clean shot. Handshakes and hugs to the hunter. Rashid and the almost 6-kilo Sharps have found each other here for life! What a start to a safari.   In the evening the plan for the next days were discussed. Black-nosed impala, found only in northern Namibia, is at the top of Rashid’s wish list. All those who have experience in hunting impala know how hard it is to hunt this antelope species, and the fact that they belong to the favorite prey of lion and leopard, makes them particularly alert and shy.   


Marius knows his hunting ground very well and guided us the next morning to a favorite place of black-nosed impala. We stop the vehicle about 400 meters from a waterhole and cautiously stalk in that direction. Somehow the wind seems to be allied with the impalas and kept swiveling. After two hours we were finally near the waterhole and saw some impala, but only a few females and young. We left the waterhole and I think in this situation, Rashid would prefer to have a short, lightweight rifle and not an almost 6-kilo Sharps!

Top: Black wildebeest. Bottom: Zebra

Suddenly I saw something brown between all the green, and binos confirmed my guess. Just over 300 meters away was our destiny. To make this one-of-a-kind trophy is one thing, approaching a good shooting distance is another. Rashid was already very familiar with the Sharps and perhaps adrenaline made him forget its weight. Carefully, step by step we stalked closer to 80 meters. This time, Rashid used a fork of a tree as a support and he and the Sharps had the prize of a big, black-nosed impala trophy.   


Then we decided to do some wingshooting for sand grouse which flew to different waterholes. Fun factor high, effort low and the resulting taste just delicious and a welcome change between all the game meat. The sand grouse were slowly sizzling on the grill as we planned the next few days. We wanted to see if the Sharps would manage larger game species.

We started with a fantastic sunrise, hot coffee and eggs with roasted kudu meat strips, wonderful crisp morning. First, we drove to the waterholes and left the vehicle 300 – 400 meters away, stalking slowly and always against the wind. At the first two waterholes we only found fresh tracks of three eland bulls and a lot of zebras, but no game around, so continued. On the way to the next waterhole, we passed open grassy areas and Marius pointed to a group of zebras just over 500 meters away. We stopped in the shade of a tree offering plenty of coverage. The terrain and the wind were perfect. Using the bushes, we stalked to within 200 meters zebras. The herd consisted mainly of mares with half-grown foals and some young stallions. We watched them for a few minutes and were just about to start the way back when suddenly a splendid specimen of an old stallion came out behind two trees. We wanted to try to get closer.   


Anyone who has hunted zebra knows how hard these boys are to shoot. But Rashid had proved several times that he was an excellent shooter and had the Sharps very well under control, but a full-grown zebra stallion is a different story from an impala, especially using a weapon 130 cm long and weighing about 6 kilos.   

We were got to 80 meters from the stallion, which stood alone on the left of the herd watching over its harem. The small bush behind which we were lying on the ground was not big enough to shoot from with sticks. So, my backpack was turned into a rifle rest. While prone shooting may sound easy, it is significantly more difficult than when standing and shooting from the sticks. The stallion had somehow noticed that not 80 meters away from him something moved in bush. He stood directly facing us. We could see his teeth as he fluttered his upper and lower lips. Very clear for us. He would not turn broadside. His next movement would be to flee, and the zebras would leave us in a cloud of dust.  


Marius whispered softly to Rashid: “Go straight on the chest.” This is exactly where the heart lies just behind it. I can hardly believe what I see next. The stallion reared up on his hind legs, a 90-degree turn, and he collapsed. That’s it. We were covered in dust by the running zebra herd. When the air cleared, we went to the fallen beast.  The 45-70 projectile with a 325-grain load was literally a hit. After souvenir photos along with the Sharps we went back to the camp to watch the autopsy to see which path the projectile took. The bullet had gone straight through the heart. It passed through the pectoral muscle and even struck a bone before it pierced the heart. It was congratulations!


Above and left: Rashid in action

But as with any hunting safari, time always goes by way too fast and too soon the last day of hunting knocks on the door. An eland bull was still wanted. That morning we found tracks of the three eland bulls that Marius knew, an old gray-blue bull escorted by two mature youngsters which the Bushmen say are “askaris”, companions to an old, lone animal. The old bull benefits from the vigilance of the two younger ones and they in turn learn from the experience of the old bull. These three bulls were not half an hour ahead of us. Eland shooting is one of the biggest challenges for most hunters. Patience and endurance are vital. That zigzag behavior is typical of eland if they are looking for a suitable place where they can settle down. This hacking is of course not to our advantage because it keeps you in the wind.   


Over three hours passed as we followed Marius till we saw the three eland in front of us. The old bull was almost completely behind a bush and we could only dimly see his head with the long big horns. The two askaris were to his left without cover. We may have been too close, or they got wind of us, but they made a 180 degree turn and stormed off. The strong old bull followed the two, and we could only watch as the whole effort of almost four hours of stalking disappeared in the dense bush. It should have been the culmination of this safari: A 900 kilo antelope from a Sharps 45-70 but it was not to be. But there was no sadness about the unsuccessful 10-kilometer stalk, just a kind of pride: We had done it with the Sharps Monster.

We still had a good seven kilometer walk back to the car.


Just before we reached the waterhole where we had parked, Marius stopped. His trained eye had spotted two gemsboks sheltering from the midday heat in the shade of two trees. The unsuccessful eland was forgotten, and hunting fever was rekindled. The gemsbok had not seen us, and Rashid was ready on the sticks in a few seconds. The bigger of the two gemsbok was standing broadside not 80 meters away. Take a deep breath and shoot. The buck jumped and dropped. Although not an eland, a great gemsbok now concluded our wonderful Namibian safari.


We had come to Namibia with a Sharps 1874 with an open sight to test it for its antelope-hunting capability. Yes, the Sharps is long, and it is heavy. It is a single action and has a rather unusual European caliber in 45-70. Thanks to the open sight with diopter and tunnel front sight and the excellent shooting performance and accuracy, we did not regret at any time the decision to hunt with this rifle. Tastes differ, but no one who got to see this rifle on this hunt could resist a whisper of wonder – a classic beauty! What more could one ask for? Now, the next thought is not so far away: Buffalo hunting with a Sharps 1874.