The Sharps Rifle Company (SRC) developed the .25-45 Sharps cartridge and introduced it in 2012. Not to be confused with Shiloh Sharps—a company that makes historically correct blackpowder cartridge rifles—SRC is for all practical purposes built around this one cartridge, which is designed to replicate .250 Savage ballistics in an AR-15. Four years after its introduction, most hunters have never heard of the .25-45 Sharps. That’s about to change.
The .25-45 Sharps is nothing more than the .223 Rem. necked up for a .257-caliber bullet. The “.25” designation expresses the caliber of the bullet, and “45” is the length of the cartridge case in millimeters. Trying to produce ballistics equivalent to the .250 Savage in an AR-15 was aggressively optimistic, particularly considering the relatively limited powder capacity of the .223 Rem. case. However, SRC felt using the .223 Rem. as a parent case was mandatory because it would allow the easy conversion of any mil-spec AR-15, without a new bolt or magazine.
Admittedly, I was surprised to find the .25-45 Sharps is as advertised. Duplicating the ballistics of the first cartridge to break the 3000 fps mark is remarkable when done in an AR-15. Upon discovering SRC’s 87-grain factory load could achieve 3000 fps out of a 20-inch-barreled AR, at a Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute-approved maximum average pressure of 60,000 psi, I was immediately smitten.
What’s the big deal? At last count, 44 states allow rifle hunting for big game but nine do not permit hunters to use the .223 Rem. With the .25-45 Sharps, a hunter can simply replace his AR barrel and the rifle becomes big-game legal (where semi-auto rifles are permitted). Furthermore, his AR is now capable of delivering nearly 50 percent more energy downrange. Don’t forget, the .250 Savage has been heralded as one of the best deer/varmint cartridges of all time.
As game-changing as all this might seem, in 2012 the .25-45 Sharps was met with minimal fanfare. This was partly because SRC initially offered only barrels and one factory load, and partly because other gun and ammunition manufacturers ignored the cartridge. Now, though, the .25-45 Sharps is gaining traction, and hunters have more options.
For 2016 SRC is offering four factory loads, along with barrels and complete upper assemblies, for the .25-45 Sharps. The company’s online store also stocks .25-45 brass, RCBS and Redding reloading dies, and logoed magazines. Just as important, SRC sells entire rifles to include a package that comes with a pre-zeroed Leupold VX-R Patrol riflescope fitted with a Custom Dial System turret cap that corresponds with .25-45 ballistics, a hard case and 100 rounds of ammunition. Other rifle options include a variety of camouflaged finishes, open sights, various barrel lengths and profiles, and an alternate Diamondhead VRS KeyMod handguard.
SRC provided a .25-45 Sharps Rifle with a 20-inch 416R stainless steel barrel and a 13.5-inch free-floating Diamondhead VRS-T handguard for testing. Like all SRC rifles it came with the company’s own balanced bolt-carrier group and patent-pending Relia-Bolt, which has redesigned lugs to virtually eliminate the most common AR malfunctions due to improper gas-system timing or poor cleaning. Other standard features included M4 feed ramps, a threaded muzzle and a CMC trigger group.
I fired all four SRC factory loads through the rifle. The original 87-grain Speer Hot-Cor soft-point load averaged 2978 fps—close enough to the 3000 fps mark to back SRC’s claims. This is a great all-purpose load that’s also available in a remanufactured format retailing for 34 percent less. The third load, intended for varmints and predators, launched Sierra’s 70-grain BlitzKing bullet at almost 3100 fps. Designed especially for feral hogs, the fourth load—the Swine Smasher—uses a new bonded-core bullet called Dead Tough developed by SRC. It’s a 100-grain, blunt-nose projectile that’s supposed to penetrate deeper than 24 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin.
For accuracy testing I mounted a 1X-6X-24mm Swarovski Z6i on the rifle using Leupold QRW rings. I fired about 100 rounds from field positions and tested every load at 100 yards from a sandbag rest. The average size for the 20 groups from the bench—five, five-shot groups with each load—was 1.48 inches. In total I fired 240 rounds, 60 of each load. Only two stoppages occurred; both were with the 100-grain Swine Smasher, and both were during the first 10 shots fired with this load.
SRC is now supporting the .25-45 Sharps cartridge in a big way. With only a new barrel ($230-$240, depending on length), hunters can affordably modify their current AR in .223 Rem. or .300 AAC Blackout to shoot the new cartridge. Alternatively, the least expensive .25-45 Sharps conversion kit retails for $299.99. It comes with a barrel, Relia-Bolt, logoed dust cover, logoed magazine and 40 rounds of ammunition. Complete uppers start at $699.99, rifles at $1,199.99.
I’ve been shooting the .25-45 Sharps for four years and have been a fan from day one. I liked it enough I had a Mossberg MVP bolt-action rifle rebarreled for it. It’s about time hunters realized what the .25-45 Sharps has to offer. I consider it the .250 Savage or .257 Roberts of the new millennium. Finally, those who enjoy the AR can experience the quarter-bore revolution that started with the first 3000 fps sporting rifle about 100 years ago.