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25-45 Sharps Cartridge for Hunting with an AR-15 Rifle

Could the .25-45 Sharps cartridge be the ultimate deer cartridge for the AR platform? Read on to find out.

25-45 Sharps Cartridge for Hunting with an AR-15 Rifle

Left to right: .25-45, .223, 6.5 Grendel, .350L, .300 BLK (Photo courtesy of Sharps Rifle Company)

The .25-45 Sharps was designed to increase the terminal ballistics of the AR, especially for hunting. It’s elegant in its simplicity, geometry, and effectiveness. The .223 chambering leaves much to be desired when it comes to terminal impacts on big game. However, take that same .223 case and neck it up to shoot 75- to 100-grain .257-diameter bullets, and you have created an effective hunting AR that can cleanly take antelope, deer, and hogs. That increase in power isn’t just for hunters but translates into effective self-defense as well.

Cartridge Design and Parameters

The .25-45 is soft recoiling, creates little muzzle blast, and is economical to shoot. It was designed in 2012 for filling the freezer with big game and takes its name from its bullet diameter (.257 inch) and the length of the case (45mm). Original published specs were from a 24-inch test barrel and clocked an 87-grain bullet going 3,000 fps. This creates an impressive 1,738 ft.-lbs. of energy. The trajectory with a 200-yard hunting zero is 2 inches high at 100 and 7 inches low at 300 yards, where it is still packing almost 900 ft.-lbs. of energy. This is excellent performance from the AR platform.

The .25-45’s design doesn’t stray far from the AR’s original .223 parameters, so it still feeds fine from standard magazines and bolts. One doesn’t have to perform engineering gymnastics to get it to feed and function in the AR platform like some of the other finicky, boutique, AR cartridges.

25-45 Sharps AR-15 Hunting Ammunition
The .25-45 Sharps, right, is a superb deer cartridge inside 300 yards. Next to it ais the .223 Rem. (Photo courtesy of Sharps Rifle Company)

The .25-45 is not meant to be a 1,000-yard target cartridge, an engine block destroyer, or a sneaky suppressed round. I like it for what it is: a fun, no-nonsense, 300-yard deer cartridge that is accurate and easy to shoot. A simple barrel swap is all that’s needed to take any AR to the next level.

The Build

To test the cartridge, I chose Sharp’s 18-inch, 416R stainless steel, lightweight profile barrel Cerakoted black. I put it in an Aero Precision M4E1 receiver and a 13.5-inch Midwest Industries Night Fighter handguard. I snapped that to a Midwest Industries lower that has a great Rise Armament trigger, ambidextrous Radian Talon safety, and a Magpul CTR stock. This build may be the ultimate whitetail deer hunting rifle. It points well from field positions, is easy to carry, and settles solidly when shooting from a bipod.

I chose to mount Leupold’s 2.5-8x36mm VX-3HD atop the build because it is so versatile. At 2.5X, it has a wide field of view that can quickly engage close, moving, or multiple targets. For precision or distance work, the optic can be turned up to 8X for full capability. I mounted the scope in Midwest Industries’ QD mount and installed a set of their excellent backup sights.

Shooting Performance

Sharps sent me their 87-grain factory load to test, and performance was great. It was accurate, mild-recoiling, and there is no doubt as to how effective that Speer Hot-Cor bullet is on game or for self-defense.

25-45 Sharps AR-15 Hunting Ammunition
(Photo courtesy of Sharps Rifle Company)

Reloaders can take advantage of several hunting bullets available for the .25-45. My favorite is Barnes’ 80-grain Tipped Triple-Shock. The monolithic copper bullet retains its weight and penetrates deeply. Nosler’s 85-grain Ballistic Tip is a great varmint bullet that also works for deer and antelope when placed in the ribs. Reloading data can be found on Sharps’ website.


I enjoyed building and testing the .25-45 Sharps. It is a small cartridge with a big swing. I have thought the design has made sense from its beginning and am happy with how much it adds to the AR platform. My only regret is that I’ll have to be patient until next October to punch a pocket full of whitetail tags with it. Sharps Rifle Company is diversifying and advancing the AR-15 ecosystem, and I look forward to seeing what they produce in the future.

25-45 Sharps AR-15 Hunting Ammunition

XPB Bolt and SAGRS Carrier

Sharps manufactures an upgraded bolt called the Xtreme Performance Bolt (XPB). This bolt is built from S7 tool steel and tempered with a proprietary process that increases yield strength by 60 percent and tensile strength by 70 percent over standard AR bolts. Its radiused lugs increase reliability by riding up and over carbon fouling or dirt that would typically gum up a system.

MSRP: $60-$120


They also make a bolt carrier group with an adjustable gas key dubbed the Sharps Adjustable Gas Recoil System (SAGRS). This is a cool feature that allows the shooter to adjust gas pressure at the bolt carrier with a hex wrench. It almost completely eliminates back pressure to the face when shooting suppressed. I like the design, and though I have not yet put thousands of rounds through it, there are a lot of great words from people that have. Both the XPB bolt and SAGRS are offered in several outstanding finishes, including diamond-like coating and NP3.

MSRP: $260-$270

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