It seems that new rounds are springing up left and right, especially in the AR platform. With every passing industry trade show, we are introduced to the next big thing, or little thing, as the case may be. Speaking of cases, they’re shortened, necked down, necked up, or modified as the designers see fit, and very few new cartridge cases are not related in some way to a past case – even if that case dates to pre-World War I days – take, for example, the recently introduced 26, 28, and 30 Nosler cartridges, all based on the 404 Jeffery from 1905.
For every new cartridge that sticks around (6.5 Creedmoor, say), there are probably a dozen that fade into obscurity until they are occasionally rediscovered like a rare vinyl record at a thrift shop. The reasons might be unclear (I still like 260 Remington, dangit), performance from real world barrel lengths being underwhelming (327 Federal had such promise), or financial (big bore cartridges are awesome, but $2 a round chases people away pretty quick). I’m still waiting for someone to introduce the 224×45, created by necking down the 6×45 to shoot 5.56mm bullets. It might be able to fire 55s at over 3250fps! Wow!
I am therefore a little jaded when news of a brand new cartridge comes over the wire, because it is often little more than an attempt to cook up interest when the sales numbers for the “old” cartridges aren’t looking impressive any more. One recent cartridge has broken this trend for me, and that cartridge is the 224 Valkyrie. I’ve already shot it, and I want to share the gospel of the Valkyrie with you.
However, I would be remiss in discussing the 224 Valkyrie if I did not talk about the 22 Nosler. The 22 Nosler, introduced just last year at SHOT Show, did not seem to be taking the AR world by storm when, less than a year later, news of the 224 Valkyrie broke over the horizon. A quick glance might leave the uninitiated with the impression that they’re “basically the same, so who cares,” but there are some important differences which leave me with the impression that the Valkyrie is going to stay, while the 22 Nosler will languish a few boxes at a time on gun store shelves.
If you’re short on time or have no stomach for massive walls of text, here’s the summary: 224 Valkyrie is cheaper to shoot, the cartridge case makes more sense from a reloading perspective, and it offers better performance at long distance, especially when considering wind, thanks to its ability to shoot heavier bullets.
Now begin the massive walls of text.
It’s The Economy, Stupid
There are differences between the two in terms of ballistics, and I’m going to discuss those in detail. But the biggest difference is one of cost, and that difference is enough to make the choice clear, at least to me.
Photo Credit: Nosler
Nosler rifles and ammunition are high quality, accurate, premium products and demand an accordingly premium price. Most gun owners, though, can’t always afford premium at this level. The cheapest 22 Nosler match grade ammunition at the time of this writing seems to be hovering over 1 dollar per round – note that there is currently a 62gr Varmageddon available directly from Nosler at a special price of 70 cents per round, but it seems to be a sale or clearance price, not a normal price.
Either way, 22 Nosler is about three to five times the price of the cheapest new production 55gr brass case .223 Rem, the cartridge 22 Nosler is meant to be better than. Even if we acknowledge that most of the Nosler product is match grade stuff with a heavier match bullet and move up to affordable brass cased 223 Rem with a 75gr BTHP, comparable Nosler ammo costs more than twice as much.
For some, that wouldn’t be a problem, and they’d never dream of shooting the cheapest brass case factory ammo they could find. But for others, the thought isn’t so bad, especially when they just want to go to the range and put holes in paper in groups of acceptable size, while still having the option of grabbing a box of the good stuff for when the tiniest group is necessary. A year after 22 Nosler hit the market, we still aren’t seeing these options, just the high-end stuff.
Enter Federal and their 224 Valkyrie. Rather than use existing bullets found in .22-250 or 223 Rem, they brought in four loads with a few new bullets and a few holdovers. This gives everyone options, and the starting price for some 75gr FMJ 224 Valkyrie is about 50 cents a round. Sure, it’s not match grade stuff and it won’t shoot like Nosler Custom Competition loads, but at half the price, you can spend more time dialing in your skills and getting to know the performance of the cartridge. When it’s time to step up for competition, you can spend the same buck-or-so a round to buy 90gr BTHP Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition. For hunting edible game there’s a 90gr JSP Fusion load, and varmint hunters have the option of a 60gr – wait for it – NOSLER Ballistic Tip load.
Photo Credit: Federal Premium
At 50 cents a round, 224 Valkyrie undercuts a lot of the cartridges on the market which are currently popular for similar purposes, including AR-15 platform competitors like 6.5 Grendel (meh) and of course the AR-10/LR-308/SR-25 options from 6.5 Creedmoor to 308 Win. In fact, 50 cents a shot for 224 Valkyrie is not far away from current prices for surplus 7.62×51 NATO ammunition.
Photo Credit: Federal Premium
The biggest up-front cost of getting into a new caliber is the rifle or perhaps the barrel/bolt/magazine combination if it’s designed to fit in an existing platform, but the biggest long term cost if you actually shoot your new rifle is the ammo. A lot of shooters have figured this out, and this is I think the biggest reason why 224 Valkyrie is here to stay. The barrier to entry for 224 Valkyrie has started out low and is only likely to get lower as more ammunition manufacturers jump into the fray.
A Lot of Numbers
The following sections go a bit deeper into the differences between the two cartridges from a ballistic perspective. If your eyes tend to glaze over when a lot of numbers come up on your screen, here are the basics:
- 22 Nosler appears to be meant to provide the highest velocity numbers possible within the limitations of the AR-15 magazine well.
- 224 Valkyrie is meant to provide the longest supersonic range and least wind drift possible within the limitations of the AR-15 magazine well.
- The differences between 22 Nosler and hot factory loads for 5.56 NATO or 223 Rem are not as big as some would have you believe.
- 224 Valkyrie does stuff you can’t do with 223 Rem/5.56 NATO.
Velocity Isn’t Everything
Aside from price, the biggest difference between 22 Nosler and 224 Valkyrie can be seen when we look at the twist rate and loads chosen by their respective manufacturers and backers. 22 Nosler’s twist rate (1/8 and slower) seems to be chasing 22-250 performance in an AR-15 platform, while 224 Valkyrie (1/7 and faster) appears to be trying to blaze its own trail with faster twist rates.
The introduction of the 22 Nosler (300fps faster than 223 Rem! Wow!) left me feeling underwhelmed for two reasons: first, because I just don’t care about extremely high velocities, and second, because it’s not that much faster. Sure, 3500fps sounds cool on paper, and if you want to have to carry your steel targets even farther out to avoid cratering and damage, pushing every bullet out at that velocity can be fun.
But I know from my experience participating in informal precision rifle matches as well as organized competitions like the 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge that velocity can’t be the only thing you rely on when it comes to hitting a target at long range – especially when there’s wind involved.
Caption: At the finish line of the 2012 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge with my awesome teammate and my Savage 6.5 Creedmoor bolt action rifle.
Look at what is arguably the most popular new rifle cartridge of the last decade or so – the 6.5 Creedmoor. The 6.5 CM pushes a 140gr bullet at around 2600fps. Only 2600? How boring! That doesn’t sound cool at all in a press release. But thanks to its high ballistic coefficient bullets, that velocity doesn’t disappear quickly – it maintains speed so well that at 500 yards, the 6.5 CM 140 is still going over 2000fps, while the blisteringly fast 22 Nosler 55gr BT, having left the muzzle at 3500, has slowed down to 1800fps.
This is the fundamental difference between 22 Nosler and 224 Valkyrie: Nosler seemed to be chasing either 22-250 or the most impressive muzzle velocity numbers for a press release, while Federal, apparently having learned from experiences such as the 327 Federal debacle, went after downrange performance with heavier bullets.
If you were, before the 22 Nosler, wishing your 223 Rem rifle was just a little faster, then you are likely very happy with the 22 Nosler concept. Predator hunters and those needing the flattest available cartridge inside 300 yards are in this group.
But if you wanted more than just a simple addition of a small amount of speed, you are probably going to be very happy with 224 Valkyrie, because, while it does offer more speed than the 223 Rem, it also offers the ability to shoot heavier bullets.
Yes, there’s now an 85 grain 22 Nosler load, but that’s just getting started for the 224 Valkyrie, with 90gr factory loads and the new 95gr Sierra MatchKing available soon. I’ve had a box of Berger 90gr VLDs sitting around for almost a decade, and it looks like I’ll finally be able to use it.
Gun Wars Episode 224: A New Twist
224 Valkyrie is designed to perform with a twist rate of 1/7 or even faster – many barrels are available with a 1 in 6.5″ twist. Accordingly, you haven’t and probably won’t see a whole lot of super light, super-fast loads for the 224 Valkyrie, because those more lightly constructed bullets have a reputation for not holding up to being spun so much. 22 Nosler barrels tend to be 1/8, which is fine for the 75-77gr bullets which have previously been the heaviest one could load to magazine length in an AR-15.
In the 224 Valkyrie, though, you will see a lot of heavy, long, high ballistic coefficient bullets loaded to magazine length, because the designers sacrificed a tiny amount of case capacity to allow for a longer bullet within the length required by the AR lower receiver and magazine internal dimensions.
So it’s true when Nosler says that 22 Nosler has a higher case capacity than 224 Valkyrie, but that minor difference doesn’t amount to a whole lot where the rubber meets the road. You’ll note that the Nosler website discussing the topic doesn’t show velocity data when they compare heavy bullets from 22 Nosler and 224 Valkyrie at range, only trajectory.
Photo Credit: Nosler
That’s because the 224 Valkyrie is supersonic at longer range, making your job easier if you want to shoot that far. While the 224 Valkyrie’s vaunted (too-vaunted, really) “1300 yard” supersonic range is going to be cut short with real world barrel lengths such as 18″ compared to a 24″ test barrel, keeping a heavy bullet supersonic well past 1000 yards will not be a problem for the Valkyrie. Photo Credit: Kestrel Meters
Both Federal and Nosler appear to be using G1 drag profiles for their trajectory calculations, which give more optimistic numbers than one is likely to encounter in the field. I prefer to use the G7 drag profile when calculating trajectory and wind drift for HPBT bullets because that’s exactly what G7 was meant to do, while G1 is more of a flat base shape.
We have good G7 numbers from Berger for their VLD Target line. The 90gr VLD has a G7 of .274, and taking the 18″ velocity numbers from Bill Marr’s work and running them through the JBM Ballistics calculator, we see that a 90 from an 18″ barrel 224 Valkyrie will still be supersonic just past 1050 yards.
Using a .245 G7 BC for the Nosler 85 RDF, and their velocity claim of 2750fps, we see the 22 Nosler 85gr staying supersonic at…1055 yards. So, they’re the same, right? Not quite. Assuming a constant 10mph wind, the difference in wind drift between the 22 Nosler 85 and the 224 Valkyrie shooting a Berger 90 VLD at 1000 yards is about the same as the difference between Hornady’s 5.56 Superformance 75 and the 22 Nosler 85 RDF. As for cartridges like 308 Win shooting a 168gr VLD at 2600 from an 18″ barrel or the ho-hum 6.5 Grendel shooting a 130gr VLD at 2350 from the same length, the 224 Valkyrie still requires less wind correction.
The strength of the 224 Valkyrie is clear: a heavier bullet with a higher BC, even at a slightly lower velocity, means longer supersonic range and less wind drift. I can calculate and compensate for a little more drop a lot easier than I can compensate for rapidly varying wind speeds when shooting 800 yards across a valley. This is where the 224V starts to make its superiority known over the 22N.
One footnote to this section is that Federal, especially in their Gold Medal line, is not known for producing the highest possible velocities. I fully expect that, when other ammunition manufacturers choose to load 224 Valkyrie, we will see a 100-150fps bump – but even if we don’t, 224 Valkyrie is superior to both 223 Rem and 22 Nosler for long range shooting, if for no other reason than the case design allows for longer bullets that help buck wind better.
Respect Your Elders
We’ve talked a lot about 224 Valkyrie and 22 Nosler, but what about the cartridge they’re supposed to replace in the chamber of your AR-15?
Nosler does a lot of comparing 223 Rem with 22 Nosler, and it’s true that the 22 Nosler kicks the butt of a lot of standard 223 Rem loads, with their quoted velocities of 2650 for a 75gr bullet out of 223 Rem and 2950 for a 75 out of an 18″ 22 Nosler. These are accurate numbers for some 223 Rem loads. But there are two things missing from that equation: 5.56 loads and Hornady Superformance.
While 5.56 and 223 Rem does not do well from extremely short barrels, velocities from 16″ and 20″ barrels are quite fast at times. Even with heavy bullets, one can expect 5.56 NATO loads with 75 or 77gr bullets to be traveling at around 2700 from a 16″ and 2800 from a 20″ barrel, cutting the “300fps” advantage of 22 Nosler in half.
Hornady Superformance ammunition uses special Hornady Superformance powder, and the numbers they give for a 5.56 NATO Superformance Match 75gr BTHP from a 20″ barrel are 2910fps, only 40fps shy of the Nosler numbers from an 18″ barrel. No, it’s not entirely fair to compare 18″ with 20″ barrels, but it’s not likely that you would see more than a 50fps bump by going to a 20″ 22 Nosler barrel.
Varmint hunters – remember the 22 Nosler 55gr load at 3500fps from a 24″ barrel? You can see literally 99% of the same velocity with 223 Rem, as Hornady’s Superformance Varmint line offers a 53gr V-Max at 3465 out of a 24″ barrel. Neither can compare to the performance of 22-250 from the same length barrel, either in standard or “Superformance” variant.
So yes, it’s true that 22 Nosler offers increased performance over 223 Rem, but the difference between a ho-hum 223 Rem load and the velocities one can achieve with 5.56 NATO or Hornady Superformance loads vacate Nosler’s vaunted velocity victory.
Another consideration regarding velocity: if you reload, you’ll probably find that the best (most accurate) 22 Nosler loads aren’t the fastest. We can see this from their load recommendations. Of course, this is true with many cartridges, and is likely to be true with 224 Valkyrie. But the Valkyrie still holds the trump card: heavy bullets.
Remember our supersonic range calculations for the 22 Nosler firing an 85gr RDF at a claimed 2750fps out of an 18″ barrel? This load data chart tells us that the most accurate load has a max velocity of 2755 – out of a 24″ barrel. Why bother shooting 1000 yards if you’re not going to be extremely accurate? It’s fair to assume that losing 6″ of barrel length causes the most accurate 22 Nosler 85gr RDF load to drop significantly below that 2755fps number.
Bottom line: while you can get almost the same velocity from 5.56 or 223 Rem that you can get out of factory 22 Nosler loads, you can’t get almost a 95 grain bullet into an AR-15 mag in a 223 Rem or 5.56 NATO load. The best you can do is a 77. The new 22 Nosler 85gr RDF is by no means bad, but it’s no match for the slipperiness of a 90 or 95.
Remember the discussion about where cases come from? Because 22 Nosler is a unique case with a rebated rim, your only source of brass to date is Nosler (at around 70 cents per case) or by buying and shooting 22 Nosler ammunition. Note that 22 Nosler brass currently costs 20 cents more per case than a loaded round of 224 Valkyrie. If that alone isn’t a reason to go with the Valkyrie, I don’t know what is.
224 Valkyrie, on the other hand, uses the 6.8 SPC as a parent case, meaning 6.8 SPC brass can be modified via the few steps one would already take when reloading (trimming and resizing). Plus, of course, there’s a supply of 224 Valkyrie ammo from Federal, meaning you can take that brass and reuse it. And did I mention 224 Valkyrie LOADED AMMUNITION is cheaper than 22 Nosler BRASS?
We’ve spent more than enough time discussing why I think 224 Valkyrie sounds good on paper. How does it do in the real world?
I was relieved to see that, contrary to my fears, 224 Valkyrie did not depend on long barrels for its performance. I had been worried that when used out of a shorter barrel (in the context of long range shooting, even a 20″ barrel can be considered “short”), the velocity numbers would drop off a cliff. However, some excellent (and timely) work by Bill Marr at Rifleshooter.com showed a steady drop in 224 Valkyrie velocity all the way down to 16.5″. I’ve already referred to his numbers above.
I thus built a rifle using an 18″ Rock Creek stainless barrel provided by Rainier Arms. Because 224 Valkyrie has a different pressure curve than 223 Remington, the gas system must be a different length. While a 223 or 5.56 barrel of 18″ length would use a rifle gas, intermediate gas, or midlength gas system depending on the desires of the end user, this Rock Creek barrel uses a gas system one inch longer than a standard rifle gas system.
This necessitated the use of a different handguard – a longer one to cover the gas block. Though I was originally considering 13″ with an exposed gas block, Charlie at Geissele suggested to me that I use a 15″ handguard, and I’m glad that I listened to his advice. With the 15″ Geissele handguard in place, the Superlative Arms adjustable gas block is just covered by the handguard, but not so much that I can’t quickly and easily adjust the gas system.
Atop the upper is a Trijicon TA11H-308G. This is a 3.5×35 fixed power scope meant for use on the M240 machine gun and has a ballistic drop compensation reticle to match. “But the ballistics of M80 ball out of the M240 with its 24.8″ barrel must be so different than the ballistics of 224 Valkyrie out of an 18″ barrel!” you protest.
Well, it might shock you to learn that a bullet with a G1 ballistic coefficient of .399 and a muzzle velocity of 2850fps has a really, really similar trajectory to a bullet with a G1 ballistic coefficient of .393 and a muzzle velocity of 2800fps. You see, the 75gr Full Metal Jacket load – the “cheap stuff” from Federal for the 224 Valkyrie – is the former, and 7.62×51 M80 ball out of a 24.8″ barrel the latter.
The range at which I was shooting only has steel out to 500, but the ACOG BDC was dead on with 224 Valkyrie at every distance available. The 75gr FMJ stuff smacked steel with authority, a notable difference from my experiences with shooting 5.56 or 223 at these medium ranges of 300 to 600 yards. Often, especially at 500 and beyond, one must listen very carefully for the telltale sound of a hit when using 223 Rem. In contrast, the 224 Valkyrie caused the range safety officer (who seemed to take a particular interest in the rifles I was shooting) to immediately comment on how loud the impact sound was when I was making hits.
224 Valkyrie vs 308 Win
I also had another AR type rifle at the range, which, like the 224 Valkyrie, had an 18″ stainless barrel and was equipped with a 3.5×35 TA11 ACOG. Unlike the new rifle, though, this one was actually chambered in 308 and based on the “Large Frame AR” platform. This was an interesting contrast for me, as the two rifles were roughly the same size and shape and could conceivably be used for the same purposes – sure, 308 Win has some advantages, but as I soon found out, so did 224 Valkyrie.
Despite having a heavier profile barrel (and less material removed from the inside of the barrel), the 224 Valkyrie rifle came in over a pound lighter than the 308 Win rifle when unloaded. Both rifles had effectively identical optics, and while the 308 Win AR is set up as more of a fighting carbine with Magpul MOE handguards and a fixed front sight base whereas the 224 Valkyrie is more precision oriented with a 15″ free float handguard, there’s nothing stopping me from forcing the 224 Valkyrie into the fighting carbine role or the 308 Win rifle into the precision role.
The big difference, however, was recoil. While I am not saying that the 308 Win rifle is difficult to shoot – I’ve turned it over to numerous new shooters without worry that they’ll end up with scope bite – it is undeniable that the 224 Valkyrie had far less recoil. This was even with the gas system of the 224 Valkyrie shut off so that I could ensure I didn’t lose any brass.
This greatly reduced recoil allowed me to get back on target faster and better follow my shots at distance. It also made shooting far more enjoyable. While I like the sound of 308 on steel, it was just plain easier to make hits with the 224 Valkyrie.
“But wait!” you say. “You’re comparing a premium match grade free floated thing with a ‘fighting carbine’! OBVIOUSLY it’s going to be easier to make hits with the fancy rifle!”
Well, there is something to that, to be sure. But I have found this particular 308 AR to deliver very good accuracy, more than enough to consistently hit steel targets within 500 yards –remember, we’re shooting big steel targets, not comparing tiny groups on paper.
What made it easier to make hits with the 224 Valkyrie was not only its lower recoil, but that even this 75gr FMJ load bucked the wind a little better. Remember, while the 18″ 224 Valkyrie 75gr has almost identical ballistics when compared to a 24.8″ M240 firing M80 ball, I was shooting German and Malaysian surplus as well as Federal Gold Medal Match 168s out of an 18″ 308 barrel.
That 6.8″ shorter barrel means lower muzzle velocity and thus slightly less ability to buck the wind, and while the wind drift difference at 500 yards between the two barrel lengths was only about 6″ with a 10mph wind, the wind at the range that day was extremely gusty and at times over 15mph. When gusts died down, I had no problem hitting at distance with either rifle, but when the wind was rapidly changing speed, it was easier to get on target with the Valkyrie than with a 308 Win rifle of similar length, even when shooting match ammunition in the 308.
This was a brief range trip during which I fired only 40 rounds of 224 Valkyrie and 70 rounds of 308 alongside 40 rounds of 223 Rem. But it was also a relatively low-cost range trip: my ammunition cost for the Valkyrie was just under 20 bucks, while my 308 ammo costs were right around the same amount for the 50 rounds of surplus I fired. The FGMM 308 was of course more expensive, but let’s set that aside for a moment. I had a great time smacking steel at some extended ranges for over an hour, and I did this for not a whole lot of money.
In a time when finding a receipt for $99 cases of ammo from 2001 can cause me to weep for the prices of old, shooting more for less is a good thing.
What Don’t I Know Yet?
Well, the answer to that question is, “A lot of things,” but relating specifically to the 224 Valkyrie, it remains to be seen how well I can stabilize 90 and 95gr projectiles out of the 18″ 1/7 twist barrel generously provided by Rainier Arms, as 1/6.5 seems to be growing in popularity for this caliber. If you’re curious about stability and twist rate, check out the excellent stability calculator on Berger Bullets’ website.
I did, however, ask Sierra about the stability of the new 95gr SMK out of an 18″ 1/7 twist barrel, and their ballistic technician said I’d be fine with that combination. He also told me that no one has been having stability problems with the new bullet.
Side note: with a sea level/standard temperature stability factor of 1.34, the 90gr Berger VLD at 2600 out of an 18″ 1/7 224V barrel offers slightly greater stability than the shorter 85gr Nosler RDF at 2750 out of an 18″ 1/8 22N barrel, which has a stability factor of 1.31. Both loads are above the minimum “comfortable stability” factor of 1.5 at altitudes above 3200-3700ft.
Another thing I don’t know: why 6.8 SPC wasn’t 224 Valkyrie in the first place. Admittedly, the designers were looking to balance external and terminal ballistics, as was pointed out to me by Zak Smith of Thunder Beast, who has written extensively about the 6.8 SPC. But one way to get better terminal ballistics is to shoot a heavier/longer bullet of the same caliber, and 6.8 SPC, from what I have seen, shortens the effective range of the M4 instead of lengthening it – while 224 Valkyrie increases both terminal effectiveness and range.
When designing 6.8 SPC, the folks behind the cartridge tested, as I understand it, everything from .224 to .30 cal. So, even if we don’t know why the 6.8 SPC couldn’t have just been the 224 Valkyrie or 224 SPC in the first place, thus offering an increase in terminal effectiveness AND an increase in max effective range, we do know that 224 Valkyrie isn’t really a brand new cartridge – just brand new to the world of standardized cartridges.
Finally, I don’t know what barrel life will be like. Given that we’re looking at shooting heavier bullets at lower velocities than the 22 Nosler, which has a stated barrel life of 2000 rounds for target and benchrest use or 4000 rounds for competition, I am strongly inclined to believe that the 224 Valkyrie will have moderately increased barrel life compared to 22 Nosler. However, both cartridges, from the look of their cases, will have decreased barrel life compared to 223 Rem.
Who Is 224 Valkyrie Right For?
The utility of the 224 Valkyrie is going to be lost on most AR-15 owners and buyers. Most people seem to buy ARs for home defense or plinking, both of which the AR in 5.56 excels in doing. Many other people simply don’t have access to a range where the added power of 224 Valkyrie is going to make a difference.
Out West, we’re spoiled with many 500 yard, 1000 yard, and even longer ranges within reasonable drives. If you live in a densely populated urban area and shoot at a 25-yard indoor range, having a cartridge that can maintain supersonic speed to 1300 (or 1000) yards is quite pointless other than as a conversation piece. And, I think, many people shooting 600 yard competitions with 223 Rem/5.56 NATO rifles would be just fine sticking with that they have and what they know.
There is, however, a sizable contingent of the gun owning population that can benefit from the advantages of 224 Valkyrie, and even some of the folks who would be “fine” with 5.56 would be better off with 224 Valkyrie.
If hunting with a .224″ diameter bullet is legal in your state, I think the Fusion offering is going to be very effective. I have tested the 62gr 5.56 Fusion load and its 62/64gr Speer Gold Dot cousins, and think the 90gr 224V load will be extremely effective for deer and other similarly sized animals. While this bullet will maintain supersonic speeds well past any range where people hunt with .224″ diameter projectiles, it should also make for quick, ethical kills of game within the “normal” hunting distances (under 300 yards). My personal preference for game I would eat (if I hunted any more) would be for Barnes to make a heavier .224″ diameter TSX, but using the existing 70gr TSX projectiles in 224 Valkyrie should offer some extended engagement distances due to moderately increased velocities.
Varmint hunters? Well, if you insist on shooting the lightest bullets, such as those in the 35-50 grain range, you could go the 22 Nosler route and enjoy spending 100% more to shoot them 1% faster than a .223 Rem AR-15 with Hornady Superformance. On the other hand, a 1/7 224 Valkyrie should be just fine with, say, 53gr V-Max, and be very flat within the typical varmint hunting distances.
Target shooters, I think, will love the 224 Valkyrie, especially if they are using the AR15 platform. It is ballistically superior to anything that is cheaper, and cheaper than anything that is ballistically superior (and even then, we’re talking big differences in price for small differences in ballistics). Yes, I know I’m talking about the 50 cents per round 75gr FMJ load here, not target-specific bullets, but even $1.10 a round for match grade stuff is cheaper than most match grade 6.5 Creedmoor.
Reloaders are going to like 224 Valkyrie. If you’re serious about precision shooting, you probably reload, and the 224 Valkyrie makes even more sense there. It’s going to be cheaper for you to buy 80-95gr VLD target bullets than it would be to buy bullets for 6.5mm cartridges like the 6.5 Grendel (which is ballistically inferior to 224 Valkyrie anyway), and it uses less powder, too. You can use factory Federal cases or the newly available Starline brass.
If you like shooting 308 Win and for some reason haven’t jumped on the 6.5CM bandwagon, you’ll love 224 Valkyrie, if only because the trajectories are so similar that you won’t have to spend a ton of time memorizing a bunch of new holdovers – and you’ll have a better time dealing with wind, too. Also, it’s cheaper. Did I tell you that?
Anyone who has bought a 6.5mm Creedmoor in the last ten years is a prime customer for a 224 Valkyrie rifle. No, the 224 Valkyrie isn’t as good as the 6.5mm Creedmoor in terms of external ballistics, but if you want to shoot to nearly the same distances at significantly lower cost and with less recoil, you’ll probably love having a 224 Valkyrie in the safe next to your 6.5 Creedmoor. I can say confidently that there is not a competition I have entered while carrying my 6.5 Creedmoor bolt gun that I could not have done as well or better at with a 224 Valkyrie semi auto, thanks to its reduced weight and recoil, and my skills not being good enough to max out the capability of the Creedmoor.
Don’t get me wrong – 6.5CM is great. It has succeeded because it offers excellent performance, low recoil, solid backing from a major ammunition manufacturer, and enables the use of long, high BC bullets in a semi-auto rifle magazine. Federal’s 224 Valkyrie has all of these features and more – it fits in the more popular AR15 magwell as opposed to the AR10/SR25 length magwell, it is cheaper, and it has even lower recoil.
I think the 224 Valkyrie is going to do very well in the marketplace, and I can’t wait to see what ammunition options are available for it when other manufacturers start jumping into the game.
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March 20, 2018 at 12:18PM