For several decades, things were relatively quiet on the .22 centerfire front. Starting in 2017, though, shooters were offered not one but two hot new centerfire .22s. First out of the gate was the .22 Nosler, followed a year later by the Federal .224 Valkrie.
The .22 Nosler is a proprietary, rebated-rim case with about 15 percent more case capacity and 400 fps velocity than a .223 Rem., but the Nosler retains the same .378-inch case head diameter as the .223 Rem. That means it uses the same bolt face, making it simple to transform a 5.56/.223 AR into a .22 Nosler. All you need are a .22 Nosler upper and 6.8 SPC magazines.
The .224 Valkyrie utilizes a shortened 6.8 SPC case with a 30-degree shoulder, and this allows the cartridge to handle very heavy .22 projectiles. Specifically, this load functions with 90-grain bullets for long-range shooting with minimal recoil.
The Valkyrie’s case head is the same diameter as the 6.8 SPC (.422 inch), which means transitioning a .223 AR to the Valkyrie will necessitate a 6.8 magazine, a new barrel and a new bolt face. But the ability to handle 90-grain bullets with really high BCs (.504 G1 BC with the Sierra MatchKing load) will leave long-range types salivating.
The .22 Nosler has a slight advantage in case capacity over the Valkyrie, about three grains. The Nosler is designed for 1:8 twist barrels, whereas the Valkyrie has a 1:7 twist for stabilizing larger bullets.
The heaviest Nosler factory load is its 85-grain RDF hollowpoint, whereas Federal offers two 90-grain Valkyrie loads: Fusion MSR 90-grain spitzer boattail and 90-grain Sierra MatchKing. In addition, Hornady also offers an 88-grain Valkyrie ELD Match load.
From rifles with equal-length barrels, the .22 Nosler’s 85-grain beats the velocity of the .224 Valkyrie’s 90-grain by 50 fps—2,750 fps versus 2,700 fps respectively. With a 200-yard zero, at 1,200 yards the Nosler drops 19 inches less and drifts two inches less in a 90-degree 20 mph wind.
At more modest ranges with those loads, the differences are minimal. At 500 yards the Valkyrie drops just 1.6 inches more than the .22 Nosler, so for the varmint hunter who doesn’t shoot beyond 600 yards these two cartridges will both serve equally well.
If you live where it’s legal to hunt big game with a centerfire rifle, though, the Valkyrie offers a 90-grain spitzer boattail hunting bullet. There are no heavy big game hunting loads for the Nosler, although only the .22 Nosler offers 55-grain varmint loads. There are, however, 60-grain Valkyrie varmint loads.
In terms of ammo availability, Midway USA currently lists seven different loads for the .22 Nosler and eight for the .224 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie has an edge on price due to its American Eagle’s load, which is available as low as $12 a box or 55 cents a round. Dogtown Ammunition, which is loaded by Nosler, is available in bulk for as low as 60 cents per rounds, and Nosler’s Varmageddon ammo will cost about 88 cents per shot.
Handloaders who prefer 55-grain get both bullet availability and speed with the Nosler, while those who like heavier projectiles for long-range shooting and big game will be better served by the Valkyrie. Plus, 6.8 SPC cases can be sized to .224 Valkyrie, whereas the .22 Nosler round requires .22 Nosler brass.
When it comes to guns for either round, most are ARs, and there are plenty of options in uppers and complete guns. Besides its own rifles, Nosler lists several makers that will be chambering the .22 Nosler: Noveske Rifleworks, CMMG, Radian, Phoenix Weaponry and others. The .224 Valkyrie is available from Savage, CMMG, Mossberg, Stag and others.
World War 22 is upon us, so prepare to choose a side.