The Federal 224 Valkyrie! Traditionalists will howl: “Another unnecessary creation! It doesn’t do anything a half-dozen rifle cartridges don’t already do.” They’ll be wrong.
What the Valkyrie does is keep a .224 bullet stabilized and supersonic to 1,000 yards or slightly beyond. If I’m not mistaken, no other commercially loaded .224 centerfire currently does that. This makes the 224 Valkyrie a potential, long-range, Precision Rifle Series round that promises better than average barrel life and virtually no recoil compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor. Handload it and the small powder capacity of the Valkyrie case (roughly 24 grains of powder) combined with smaller bullets should keep costs down, too.
What Makes the Federal 224 Valkyrie Work
The magic behind the Valkyrie is not a short/fat case, not world record muzzle velocity, world record accuracy or world record terminal energy. The magic is long, extremely high B.C. bullets helped along by 1-7″ rifling twist rates and slightly more powder than the old 223 Remington can provide. The “Val” does all this in a length suitable for proper function in AR-15 platform rifles.
ARs (Modern Sporting Rifles or MRS) may be heavy, clunky, and ugly, but they certainly aren’t unpopular. Hundreds of thousands of former military men and women learned to shoot with AR platforms. In civilian life they continue to do so. Plenty of non-military civilians are right there with them. Just as the bolt-action Springfield military rifle became the most popular centerfire rifle style of the 20th century, so, it seems, the MRS autoloading rifle is becoming the most popular of the 21st century. And the Federal 224 Valkyrie should help drive it forward.
Shooters of classic bolt-action rifle can rightly point out that AR magazines holding 30, 20, or even 10 rounds are superfluous in a hunting rifle. Or even a coyote rifle. But there are 5-round options, so calm down. Feral hog hunters probably can use high capacity magazines to good effect. To each his own. And you always chamber bolt-action rifles for the 224 Valkyrie.
Swappable Barrels Favor the 224 Valkyrie
There is one AR feature I can’t imagine any pragmatic shooter whining about: easily replaceable barrels. Can you imagine how convenient it would be if you could pull a pin, yank off your bolt-action’s 308 barrel and replace it with a 22-250 Rem. barrel? That’s roughly the caliber swapping convenience the 224 Valkyrie promises AR shooters. Pull off that 30 Remington AR upper, stick on your 224 Valkyrie upper, and switch from hunting deer to hunting coyotes.
But ballistic nitpickers like me want to know the raw data. What does this cartridge throw and how fast does it throw it? Can the 224 Valkyrie outperform the 223 Rem., 22-250 Rem. or 220 Swift? Quick answer: it can’t match the velocity of the 22-250 Rem. or 220 Swift, but those don’t function through AR actions. In factory bolt actions they aren’t generally offered with fast twist barrels, so they can’t stabilize long, high B.C. bullets. The 224 Valkyrie should outlast them at extreme range.
Ballistic Performance of the 224 Valkyrie
Federal hasn’t yet released complete specifications on the 224 Valkyrie cartridge, but we do know it is based on the existing 6.8x43mm Remington SPC case. This means it will have more powder capacity than the 223 Rem., yet still be short enough to fit AR magazines (COL 2.26”.) We also know it will be offered with bullets from 60-grains to 100-grains with the longest probably being the Sierra 90-grain MatchKing with a G1 B.C. rating of roughly .563. A 1-7” twist is required to stabilize it. Federal’s claims this particular bullet/load remains supersonic slightly past 1,300 yards, but the Hornady on-line ballistic calculator suggests that might be overly enthusiastic.
Nevertheless, here is one huge performance advantage of the 224 Valkyrie over the 223 Rem. It pushes those 90-grain Sierra’s from a 24” barrel just 2,700 fps, but those bullets’ extra-long, drag-resisting profile minimizes wind deflection and maximizes downrange energy. Let’s run some Hornady Calculator ballistic tables using a Maximum Point Blank Range target size of four inches, easily the vital zone of a red fox and even the smallest standing ground squirrel. A 200-yard zero puts the bullet 2 inches high at 100 yards, keeping it within our 4-inch target out to about 240 yards. Nice to know is you have to shoot to quickly for a laser reading. Heres the Hornady generated chart out to 1,100 yards:
Notice the Hornady calculations don’t project supersonic speed much past 1,000 yards. Still, that beats the heck out of a 223 Rem. with a 75-grain Hornady ELD Match (B.C. .430) punched out at 2,700 fps:
224 Valkyrie Recoil? What Recoil?
Because the 224 Valkyrie is using just 25-grains (roughly) of power to drive that 90-grain bullet, recoil is going to be a lot less than that generated by a 6.5 Creedmoor spitting a 140-grain bullet from a same-weight rifle at the same MV. Total ejecta mass plus MV generates recoil. One on-line recoil calculator I consulted gave the 6.5 Creedmoor 11.72 f-p of free recoil energy and 9.71 fps recoil velocity in an 8-pound rifle. It rated the 224 Valkyrie 4.66 f-p and 6.13 fps. Neither is going to bruise your shoulder, but the 224 Valkyrie should enable you to see hits and misses and watch bullet traces as they arc in there at extreme range. Of course, seeing the splash of a 90-grain bullet on steel at 1,000 yards isn’t going to be easy…
224 Valkyrie Deer Rifles?
The heavy bullets available for the 224 Valkyrie provide enough energy and — with proper bullet materials and engineering — penetration potential to make it a viable deer and pronghorn round out to 300 yards. At 400 yards its kinetic energy drops to about 880 f-p, but I don’t think that means it’s going to bounce off the chest of a whitetail. Will this be the ideal whitetail cartridge? Hardly. But in the hands of a careful, precise shooter, it will be deadly. In keeping with the deer hunting theme, Federal recently announced a 100-grain bullet Fusion bullet load. This won’t retain as much energy far downrange as the more ballistically efficient 90-grain Sierra, but, being bonded, it should provide better “hang together” penetration performance.
A certain class of pragmatic shooters always wonders what ammo price and availability will be with a new round like this. Well, Federal so far promises good selection and variety at good prices. For the budget conscious there will be an American Eagle 75-grain TMJ (Total Metal Jacket) for practice and plinking. Projected to retail for about $14 per box. Other loads include: 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint at 3,300 fps ($25 box at one on-line retailer); 100-grain Fusion MSR at 2,600 fps (advertised at $22.49 box); and the 90-grain Sierra at 2,700 fps. (I’ve seen it advertised for $23 per box.)
Federal claims handloaders should find load data in spring of 2018. SAAMI specs, MAP, cartridge and chamber dimensions, etc. coming soon. RCBS should have dies soon, too.
Early Rifles For The 224 Valkyrie
A new cartridge is worthless if there are no rifles to fire it. It’s anyone’s guess how many are planned or already underway, but Savage has a pair in their 2018 catalog. The MSR 15 Valkyrie (duh) is a classic, 7.8-pound, AR-platform auto with an 18” heavy barrel with brake. That’s too short to maximize the Val’s potential, in my estimation. The other Savage is a 7.4-pound MSR 15 Recon LRP, also with an 18” barrel plus brake.
MPA is advertising a 12.5-pound, PRS-style, chassis, bolt-action rifle in 224 Valkyrie for $2,850. Barrel is 24″ and accuracy is guaranteed 1/2 MOA. CMMG has a 9.2-pound, AR-platform it calls the Mk4 DTR2 in 224 Valkyrie with 24″ barrel at $1,699.95.
Should You Buy a 224 Valkyrie?
This is the question only you can answer. If you like extreme range shooting, AR rifles, minimum recoil, and possibly saving money on ammo (vs. 6.5 Creedmoor), the Valkyrie might be your baby. If you prefer a bolt-action for hunting to 500 or 600 yards max, a 22-250 Rem. or 220 Swift might serve you better. Re-barrel one of those with a 1-7” twist and you could shoot the same high B.C.s as the 224 Valkyrie, but faster for superior performance. According to the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, #10, a 22-250 Rem. with a 1-7” twist barrel can drive an 80-grain ELD Match 3,200 fps. That suggests it should take the 90-grain Sierra on a 3,100 fps ride. That’s 400 fps faster than the Val, but also suggests faster barrel burn out.
Decisions decisions. So much to consider. But isn’t that half the fun? Enjoy!
Author Ron Spomer is not a classic rifle purist, but certainly a traditionalist. Nevertheless, he appreciates innovation and hopes the 224 Valkyrie goes on to enjoy a long run as a viable 22-caliber shooting tool.