Hands-on With the Sharps Bros. 224 Valkyrie Livewire AR-15

posted on October 23, 2018

“Let me build you a rifle.” That’s what John Sharps, of Sharps Bros., said to me at NRA Annual Meeting earlier this year. We had met to chat about some lower receivers sent to Shooting Illustrated, all quite ornate and unique, for a series on building your own AR-15 (read our First Look on the Hellbreaker receiver or see our roundup on custom receivers that includes Sharps’ The Jack receiver). One thing’s for certain: If you want an AR-15 receive unlike any other, Sharps Bros. definitely has you covered. Sharps Bros. components are available through a variety of distributors, such as Rainier Arms, RSR, Ellet Bros and Zanders, but only Rainier Arms offers complete lowers.

We talked about the rifle, and decided on the Livewire receiver. It’s not quite as flashy as, say, the Overthrow, which features a Spartan (meaning the Greek soldiers, obviously not referring to the minimalist meaning…) helm as the leading edge of the receiver, but is enough of a departure from a standard receiver to be of note. Given the rampant success and adoption of Federal Premium’s 224 Valkyrie, we decided the rifle should be chambered in this new caliber, and after a flurry of e-mails between Sharps, the engineers at Federal and Rosco Manufacturing (the barrel maker), the rifle came into existence.

In addition to the Sharps Bros. upper and lower receivers and handguard, a Fail Zero 6.8 SPC bolt carrier group, CMC Triggers single-stage trigger, Magpul MOE grip and Mission First Tactical buttstock make up the major components. An AAC flash hider caps the 18-inch, 1:6.75-inch twist barrel, brand-new from Rosco Manufacturing. Lastly, a Bravo Company Gunfighter charging handle completes the upper. All parts functioned flawlessly throughout all testing, and the rifle turned in sub-MOA groups both at the indoor range and on steel plates at 300 yards (we’re looking for a longer-range option for future updates and will report back once achieved).

I want to focus, though, on the fit and finish of the Sharps Brothers pieces. While, yes, the lower receiver is more spendy than a basic model, it’s not a lot more so. A flared magazine well, contoured grip area, and precision machining explain much of the difference in price, but the real value is in adding the upper receiver to the mix. As a general rule, of course, buying an upper and lower from the same manufacturer will result in a tighter fit than parts from different manufacturers, but in the case of the Sharps Brothers pairing it’s exceptional. Lines are crisp and match, well, like they were made for each other (because they were).

Even the 13.7-inch, M-Lok slotted handguard is precision-fit to match the upper (and, in turn, the lower). With seven M-Lok attachment orientations, and Picatinny rail slots at the muzzle for a front sight, it’s a lightweight (9.3 ounces) addition to a build that’s comparable in price to, well, pretty much every other M-Lok, freefloat handguard out there. Fit and finish is superlative, and lends excellent balance to a completed rifle. It balances out the beefy barrel so that the weight distribution isn’t muzzle-heavy, while allowing a bipod, foregrip or other accessories to be added as desired.

When looking to an upgraded build, there’s going to be a premium price; there’s no getting around that. In the case of the Sharps Bros. components, though, that premium isn’t terrifically steep: MSRP on the Livewire stripped upper is $259.95 (available at Rainier Arms for $239.95), while the billet upper is $249.95 ($220.75 at Rainier). The handguard is quite reasonable at $139.95 ($129.45 at Rainier). While the stripped lower and upper are slightly more expensive than their generic counterparts, it’s not onerously so, and lend a unique, custom feel to your build. The complete Livewire lower at Rainier is $399, quite comparable to other, full-featured lowers on the market.

In the end, choosing other-than-mil-spec components for an AR-15 build is an intensely personal decision. If you’ve got the itch to put together an AR-15 unlike any other, the top-notch parts available from Sharps Bros. will absolutely make your build stand out from the crowd. The Livewire receiver around which this rifle takes shape is one of the more-conventional designs, and it’s unique enough to stand out from the pack. Whether you’re looking for mild or wild, the fit and finish on any of the Sharps Bros. offerings is excellent and will serve your build well.


shooter at range with instructor
shooter at range with instructor

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