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Gunsmith John Pray Lower (1833–1917), who opened a gun shop in Denver in the 1870s, always had more than a prayer when it came to any marksmanship contest or display. Considered one of the best shots in the Colorado capital, Lower practiced in the private shooting range behind his store. In this January 2, 1882, photograph Lower has used his hammerless Sharps-Borchardt Model 1878 rifle to put 50 shots in a target from a standing position 200 yards away. He was a hunter, too, though someone else targeted this bear earlier, its posed head and paw serving as mere props. Back in 1878, three years before the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. shut down, Lower wrote a letter to the company: “Send no more of the hammerless guns. Only the old models will sell.” The earlier Sharps models with side hammers had attracted more buyers. Lower would change his tune, though, and eventually purchase many of the hammerless rifles for sale to the Western crowd and for his personal use.


Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.