Cimarron Sharps .45-90 Rifle & Leatherwood Malcolm 6x Scope

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 27th, 2007

 

 

 

It had been a full year since I had last seen the Buffalo. He was standing in a clearing in the mountains outside of Raton, New Mexico, and was like no other American Bison that I had ever seen; solid white, with one black spot  on his left side. When I last saw him, he was standing broadside at a distance of 1125 yards in that clearing. I had time to fire only two shots at him. One connected, the other did not.  Now here I was, one year later, looking carefully and deliberately with eyes squinted to try to find him again on the side of that mountain, and there he stood, just as he had the year before, in that same clearing, 1125 yards away.

We were meant to meet again, and I had spent a lot of time in that long year thinking about that white buffalo. The rifle that I had brought with me was one that I had acquired for the sole purpose of shooting that old buffler. It was a Cimarron .45-90 Sharps replica, fitted with a period-correct scope of the type that was used by many buffalo hunters in the period of the great American Bison slaughter of the 1800s. The scope was a Leatherwood Malcolm six power long-tube model that has excellent optical qualities for a scope of that type. It would allow me to clearly see the buffler at long range, and the rear mount had plenty of elevation adjustment to allow for a direct hold out to over a half mile. The Cimarron Sharps wore a heavy octagon barrel that measures a full thirty-two inches in length, and has double set triggers to allow for a light, clean, crisp trigger release. I had carefully assembled the cartridges using new Starline cases loaded with some excellent Mt. Baldy 530 grain bullets loaded over top of 82 grains of Goex Express Ffg powder. The Goex Express powder offered the consistency that I knew I would need to accurately connect on the big buffler, and I needed all the help that I could get.

The Sharps replica that I used was the Cimarron Armi Sport "Billy Dixon" model chambered for the .45-90 cartridge. As mentioned above, it wears a thirty-two inch full octagon barrel and a checkered walnut, straight-gripped stock. The receiver, lever, lock, tangs, and hammer are color case-hardened.  The barrel, breech block, and other small parts are blued finish. The rear sight is a ladder type for shooting out to moderate ranges, and it wears a blade front sight. The triggers are of the double-set style, which results in a crisp, light pull for accurate long-range work. The markings on the lock of the Cimarron Sharps are imitative to the originals, and very tastefully done. The rifle weighs in at just under ten and one-half pounds.  The Italian markings are small, and are on the bottom of the barrel. The walnut forend has a pewter nose cap, and the butt-plate is smooth case-hardened steel.

As mentioned earlier, I mounted a Leatherwood Malcolm six power scope atop the Sharps using Leatherwood mounts. The rear sight dovetail requires a .602 inch adapter, which is available directly from Leatherwood. The scope and rear elevation base can be ordered from Leatherwood or from Cimarron along with the rifle. Using the Malcolm scope with its very clear optics allowed me to easily see the buffalo for precise sighting.  The rear mount is adjustable for both windage and elevation, and the front dovetail is adjustable for windage correction. The rear adjustments on the standard mount are not of the micrometer type, but are serviceable nonetheless. Leatherwood has a Precision Mount in the works for the Malcolm scope, but it was not ready in time for my trip to New Mexico. The rifle with scope attached weighs twelve pounds and three ounces.  The deep blue-black finish with brass accents looks great, and period correct, on the big Sharps.

On the day of the shoot, the wind was howling, to put it mildly. Gusts were ranging as high as thirty miles per hour at the shooting position. I donít know what it was doing downrange. At that distance, it takes about three seconds for the bullet to reach the target, and even a light breeze can make hitting the target difficult. I had none other than the legendary Mic McPherson spotting for me, and his advice helped quite a bit. Whether by luck, skill, or accident, both Boge and I were able to connect with the buffalo a few times, but we missed more than we hit, which only adds to the fun, and the frustration. Sometimes, a shot would hit high and off to the left, and the next shot could go low and right, depending upon that dern wind! However, I could not fault the rifle, scope, or ammunition at all. I had sighted it in earlier with the same combination, and out to 200 yards, accuracy was very impressive.

The Goex Express powder also exhibited very soft fouling. I started out using a blow tube between shots, but after a while, I decided to forego that and just shoot, as fouling was not a problem. I sometimes fired as many as 40 shots without cleaning the bore of the Sharps.  The Goex Express was introduced to compete with the Swiss powder that is so popular with black powder cartridge competitors, and I believe that it is at least the equal of the Swiss, if not better. It costs more than the standard Goex powders, but is more expensive to make. I like it. I used no special loading technique, except to swirl the charge into the cases, seating a .060 inch fiber wad with a dowel rod, slightly compressing the charge, and seating the bullet atop with no crimp on the case mouths. The Starline cases were very uniform in dimension, and the only special care given to them was that I had my friend John Knutson (www.handloads.com) to anneal the case mouths for me.  I used Federal Gold Medal primers exclusively in the ammo. Cleaning the Sharps was very easy, as the breech block is removed quickly without tools, and running a couple of patches soaked with Ballistol swiftly cleans the bore.

The big Cimarron Sharps proved to be just about the ideal rifle with which to shoot (and shoot at) the steel buffalo. I was very pleased with its looks, feel, and performance. I also love that Leatherwood Malcolm scope. It not only looks right on the Sharps, but I was genuinely impressed with its optical qualities and performance. It was easy to use, and not at all tiring on the eyes. I anxiously await the Precision Mountís arrival. It will allow much more precise and predictable sight adjustments.

While the trip to New Mexico to shoot the steel buffler was an exercise in fun, the Cimarron/Leatherwood combo would serve just as well in hunting for the real thing, and maybe I will get the opportunity to shoot a bison later this year. If I do, I can think of no other rifle that would be more satisfying to use for such a task.

If you are in the market for a Sharps replica, I highly recommend this Cimarron Billy Dixon model, and the Leatherwood scope.

Check out the rifle online at: www.cimarron-firearms.com.

Look at the scope and mounts online at:  www.leatherwoodoptics.com.

You can order Starline brass direct at: www.starlinebrass.com.

Check out the Goex Express powder at:  www.goexpowder.com.

You can order the excellent Mt. Baldy precision-cast bullets, and the Ballistol cleaner from  www.mtbaldybullets.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Jeff has a go at The Buffler. Note the elevation of the scope required at 1125 yards.

 

 

1125 yards is a LONG way! The red rectangle in the top picture indicates the location of the clearing where the White Buffler waits in relative safety (bottom picture).

 

 

Having Mic McPherson as a spotter is like having Cy Young as a pitching coach!

 

 

The Cimarron Sharps' iron sights consist of folding ladder-style rear and "sourdough" front.

 

 

Leatherwood Malcolm six-power scope greatly aids both long-range and historical accuracy.

 

 

Visible markings are in the authentic style, with the required Italian proof markings hidden on the underside of the barrel.

 

 

Loading the .45-90 with Goex Express Black Powder and Mt. Baldy bullets into Starline cases.

 

 

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