What's the Big Deal With the 224 Valkyrie?

The 224 Valkyrie is a popular, new cartridge that gives shooters and hunters long-range performance from their Modern Sporting Rifles.
What's the Big Deal With the 224 Valkyrie?

The 224 Valkyrie cartridge is hot right now. Dozens of rifles are on the market chambered in this caliber and ammo makers other than originator Federal Premium are concocting a plethora of new loads. I’m even finding 224 Valkyrie brass at my public range. That fact alone is a significant indicator.

Like most new cartridges, the 224 Valkyrie has some well-known family heritage. The cartridge case is based on the 6.8 Remington SPC, which happens to be another cartridge that brings different capabilities to the standard AR-15 form factor. The 6.8 Remington SPC was derived from the .30 Remington, so the case itself is not new. While the 6.8 Remington SPC has a neck sized to accept a .270 bullet, the 224 Valkyrie decreases that neck diameter even further. As the name implies, it fires a .224-inch-diameter projectile, which is the same projectile used by the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO. Why we call some calibers .223s and others .224s when they use the same bullet is anyone’s guess.

To correspond with its larger case body, the 224 Valkyrie is designed to handle heavier bullets than a standard .223 Remington. The sweet spot seems to be the 90-grain projectile, although you’ll find loads using lighter 60-, 75- and 88-grain projectiles.

While the projectiles are heavier than standard AR-15 bullets, the unique capabilities really come from bullet length and shape. Let’s consider what makes this cartridge unique compared to other offerings.

There are plenty of long-range cartridges on the market right now, so what’s different about the 224 Valkyrie? The biggest design feature that separates it from most (not all) others is that it’s engineered to fit into a standard AR-15/Modern Sporting Rifle platform.

The 224 Valkyrie is one of the hottest rounds right now for sporting shooters and hunters.

The limiting factor isn’t the caliber or bullet diameter; it’s the overall cartridge length. The magazine and magazine well on the AR-15 rifle can only accept (or reliably feed) cartridges that are 2.260 inches or less in length. Of course, one can feed longer cartridges singly, but that negates the advantages of having a magazine. So, one of the most interesting attributes of the 224 Valkyrie is that it doesn’t require a dedicated rifle or even a larger AR-10 platform. You can simply buy a Valkyrie upper and start shooting with any standard lower.

When Federal Premium launched the cartridge, one of the big goals and subsequent claims was “best in class” for performance attributes like bullet drop and resistance to wind. The class distinction is an important characteristic and refers primarily to AR-15 system compatibility. There are plenty of great long-range cartridge options for bolt-action and AR-10 platforms as there is more space in which to operate. On the other hand, there are relatively few options for big, solid, long-range performance out of a standard Modern Sporting Rifle.

Even though the bore diameter is the same as a standard .223 Remington, it requires a different barrel and extension due to the chamber dimension differences. It also requires a bolt compatible with the 6.8 Remington SPC cartridge case base. Last but not least, the Valkyrie requires 6.8 SPC magazines, again due to differences in the cartridge shape and size.

Another factor is recoil energy. Due to the lighter bullet and powder charge of the 224 Valkyrie when compared to AR-10 platforms like 6.5mm Creedmoor, you experience less than half the recoil. To put some numbers on that using rifles of similar weight, say 7 pounds, the 6.5mm Creedmoor firing a 140-grain bullet generates 13.41 foot-pounds of free recoil energy. The 90-grain 224 Valkyrie delivers just 5.24.

The marketing promotion around the cartridge claims that the 224 Valkyrie remains supersonic past 1,300 yards using a rifle with a 24-inch barrel. That’s some pretty amazing performance, and it’s true — depending on where you are at the time. Let’s explain that.

Here where I live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, most areas are just 30 feet or so above sea level, so the air is thick and not conducive to peak long-range performance. When I’ve tested the 224 Valkyrie here using a Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie with an 18-inch barrel, I get an average muzzle velocity of 2,520.7 fps with Federal Gold Medal 90-grain loads. In this environment, that projectile transitions to subsonic flight at about 950 yards. That’s impressive on its own, but it’s far short of 1,300 claimed. However, when I tested the same load from a Palmetto State Armory rifle with a 20-inch barrel, I got an extra 76 fps of muzzle velocity. Using that rifle at a higher altitude, say 5,000 feet, moves the subsonic transition to about 1,150 yards. It’s easy to see that with an optimized 24-inch-barreled rifle and at the right altitude, the round indeed makes that 1,300-yard transition point.

Ballistic programs are great at predicting flight path while a bullet remains above the speed of sound. As it begins a transition to subsonic flight, however, things start to get weird. And for ballisticians, weird means less predictable. So, while there’s nothing wrong with impacting a target at subsonic speeds, it’s going to be more difficult to dial in the right dope for a first-shot hit.

What makes the Valkyrie interesting is its ability to handle long and skinny projectiles with very high ballistic coefficients. As a quick refresher, a ballistic coefficient is a number normally between zero and one (some rounds can exceed one, but that’s another story) that reflects a projectile’s ability to overcome air resistance. The higher the number, the more slippery a bullet is in the air. While nothing can defy gravity, a “slippery” bullet flies faster for a longer time and therefore is subject to gravity and wind forces for a shorter duration. That’s why bullets with a high ballistic coefficient “drop less” and are not impacted by the wind to the same degree.

Whether one cartridge is “better” than another is one of those strawman arguments that drive us all crazy. The real question should be more along the lines of “is X better than Y for some specific use and purpose?” Is the goal to punch holes in paper at 1,000 yards? Or is it to humanely dispatch game at 500? Or something else entirely? To see where the 224 Valkyrie fits, let’s explore some comparisons with other popular short-action cartridges to point out differences. Then you can decide where the Valkyrie fits according to your intended uses. All ballistic examples below will assume my local, near-sea-level environment and factory muzzle velocities, so if you live at higher altitudes, your numbers will vary.

.223 Remington
Since the Valkyrie is a larger cartridge based on the 6.8 SPC, you can’t fit as many in a magazine as you can .223 Remingtons. The Valkyrie actually uses 6.8 SPC magazines and those will normally fit 25 rounds. Capacity is certainly a factor, but the real difference is long-range performance.

A 55-grain FMJ .223 Remington projectile will remain supersonic to 750 yards. A match 77-grain projectile extends that supersonic range to about 900 yards. Even though the starting muzzle velocity of the heavier 77-grain bullet is lower, it has a better ballistic coefficient and maintains its velocity farther down range. The Valkyrie, using factory velocity numbers applied to my environment, remains supersonic to about 1,050 yards.

Looking at bullet drop, that 77-grain Sierra Matchking bullet will fall 449 inches at 1,000 yards. The 90-grain 224 Valkyrie, also using a Matchking bullet, drops just 380 inches. That’s almost a 6-foot difference. As for wind impact, a 10 mph crosswind will drift the Valkyrie projectile 105 inches sideways. That 77-grain .223 Remington bullet will sway 137 inches.

Again, at 1,000 yards, the 77-grain .223 Remington bullet carries 187 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy. The 90-grain Valkyrie carries 271 ft./lbs.

6.5mm Grendel
If we limit comparisons to other short-action, long-range cartridges, the 6.5mm Grendel is the closest match in terms of performance. Let’s take a quick look at how the Hornady 123-grain A-Max 6.5mm Grendel offering compares.

With a factory-rated muzzle velocity of 2,580 fps, the 123-grain A-Max goes subsonic at about 1,150 yards and drops 389 inches at 1,000 yards compared to 382 for the Valkyrie. Drift in a 10-mph crosswind works out to 95 inches for the Grendel and 105 inches for the Valkyrie. Kinetic energy at 1,000 yards is 423 ft./lbs. while the lighter Valkyrie bullet is carrying 271 ft./lbs. The Grendel is a great long-range offering as well and most of the slight performance differences are related to a very different standard bullet weight.

The Bottom Line
While we looked at brief comparisons to other short-action compatible cartridges, the 224 Valkyrie holds its own to larger-profile long-action offerings like the 6.5mm Creedmoor. While energy numbers will be less due to lighter projectile weight, the ability to reach far down range is similar, but with a lot less recoil.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the 224 Valkyrie is that it brings true long-range performance to the standard AR-15 platform. While the 6.5mm Grendel does that on paper, and offers similar ballistics, it hasn’t achieved the same level of traction that the Valkyrie seems to be gaining. Whether you want to go with a turnkey rifle like the Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie mentioned here or just an upper receiver and barrel to match with any standard lower, it brings new life and new uses for the flexible Modern Sporting Rifle.

Factory Info From Federal Premium

Federal Premium’s new 224 Valkyrie cartridge will be initially available in four of its proven product lines, offering serious options for competitors, long-range target shooters and hunters pursuing varmints up to deer-sized game.

224 Valkyrie 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing

Extract the full long-range potential from 224 Valkyrie with the 90-grain Sierra MatchKing. The bullet design has been shot to win more matches than any other, thanks to a uniform jacket that ensures consistent, long-range accuracy, and a sleek boat-tail that maximizes ballistic coefficient.

224 Valkyrie 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint

The 224 Valkyrie is built to defeat wind drift and drop, and the 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint maximizes these built-in ballistics with a sleek, thin-jacketed, polymer-tipped bullet. Its explosive expansion provides a violent energy release on impact for quick kills on varmints and predators.

224 Valkyrie 90-grain Fusion MSR

Virtually every component in Fusion MSR is optimized for peak ballistic performance in modern sporting rifles. The new 90-grain 224 Valkyrie extends range even further, offering devastating accuracy and terminal performance on medium game — with half the recoil of cartridges with similar ballistics.

224 Valkyrie 75-grain American Eagle TMJ

Train like never before with the 224 Valkyrie and American Eagle. The loads feature Federal brass, clean-burning powder, consistent primers and accurate 75-grain TMJ bullets. They’re the ultimate range ammunition for the ultimate MSR 15 cartridge.

Featured image: Federal


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