The Sharps Carbine was a classic single-shot rifle design of the mid-1800s and featured heavily by both sides of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Its design stemmed from firearms designer Christian Sharps who spent time in the employ of others before striking out on his own as a gun-maker in 1851 (forming the "Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company" of Hartford, Connecticut). In 1852 arrived his Sharps Model 1852 Saddle Ring Carbine, a shortened long gun suitable for mounted troops and close-quarters fighters. The reduced-length weapon was a considerable advantage over full-length forms.
Christian Sharps retained control over this design by providing the marketing means and technical know-how while partnering with Robbins & Lawrence to manufacture the carbine on a large scale. The Model 1852 was a traditionally-arranged weapon system seating a metal barrel within a solid wooden stock with only a single band being used. A large hammer was set to the right side of the receiver and managed by the primary hand's thumb. The weapon relied on a percussion cap for ignition of the primer compound and the resulting force sent the bullet down the barrel and out of the muzzle. The trigger was underslung at the neck of the weapon in the usual way and a wiry trigger guard doubled as a lever which provided access to the breech. Despite its single-shot capability, the Model 1852 was a breech-loaded firearm which made its effectiveness in-the-field leaps ahead of comparable muzzle-loading types.
The Sharps design quickly took hold on the market and began a long-running series of like-minded guns that saw the Sharps name survive from the span of about 1850 until 1881. The Model 1852 was produced in about 5,000 examples owing little to its inherently high manufacturing costs and general distrust of breech-loaders by military authorities. In action, they proved more accurate than muzzle-loading musket-rifles and gave a higher rate-of-fire.
Sharps Carbines became very popular with mounted troopers throughout the Civil War. Overall Sharps Carbine production reached 90,000 units which set it well ahead of competing designs from Spencer and Burnside.