April 27, 2018
A while back it seemed as if the industry was releasing a new sporting cartridge a week, and while some were interesting, few have offered a substantial improvement over much older designs. Occasionally, though, one shows up that really catches the attention of shooters. One brand- new offering, Federal's newly released .224 Valkyrie, just may be another success story.
It appears to bring a lot to the table compared to the 5.56x45 NATO round, the standard by which all AR-15 cartridges are judged. In profile it is similar to a scaled-up 5.45x39, an AK cartridge. Conceptually similar to the .22 Nosler, the .224 Valkyrie was developed to fit into the confines of an AR-15 magazine while offering a noticeable increase in performance over the 5.56.
The .224 Valkyrie shares the same parent case as the .22 Nosler: Remington's 6.8x43 SPC. However, there the similarities end. While the .22 Nosler features a rebated rim, the .224 Valkyrie retains the standard 6.8mm SPC case head diameter. More importantly, the .224 Valkyrie case has been shortened to facilitate the seating of long and heavy-for-caliber projectiles.
While the .22 Nosler is intended for use with traditional 5.56 NATO-weight bullets, the Valkyrie is not so limited. Factory loads include not only traditional weight, but also super-heavy 90- and 100-grain bullets—bullets featuring high ballistic coefficients and sectional densities. Even these long bullets fit neatly within the confines of an AR-15 magazine, and they can deliver surprising performance to 1,000 yards and beyond. For example, while Sierra's famous and well-respected 77-grain MatchKing has an advertised G1 ballistic coefficient of .372, the 90-grain Sierra MatchKing, loaded by Federal in the .224 Valkyrie, has a G1 BC of .563. Even when driven at modest velocity, the MatchKing has impressive exterior ballistics and long-range performance.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do some limited testing of the .224 Valkyrie using Federal's new 90-grain Gold Medal Match load and two LaRue Tactical rifles. The first sported a short 11.5-inch barrel while the second measured 20 inches. Average velocity from the 20-inch barrel was 2,687 fps while the 11.5-incher averaged 2,353 fps. That's an average loss of 39.2 fps per inch. Both Valkyries shot sub-m.o.a. five-shot groups at 100 yards, with the 20-inch gun averaging 0.8 inch during initial testing.
I shot the Valkyries side by side with identical-length LaRue Tactical models in 6.5mm Grendel. Recoil of the Valkyrie was, of course, noticeably lighter than the 123-grain 6.5mm Grendel rounds due to the Grendel's heavier payload.
The cartridge seems capable of bridging the gap between the 5.56 and the Grendel. The ammunition weighs less than the 6.5mm Grendel, offers milder recoil yet provides a flatter trajectory and less wind drift. Even when fired from a short 11.5-inch barrel, a 90-grain MatchKing remains supersonic past 1,100 yards. When fired from a conventional 20-inch barrel, it remains supersonic to more than 1,300 yards. It's certainly a step up from the 5.56.
Federal is also supporting this cartridge by offering four initial loads. In addition to the 90-grain Gold Medal Match load ($32), it is offering a 100-grain Fusion MSR hunting load ($29) and a 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip ($30). And, importantly, Federal is producing an economical 75-grain American Eagle total-metal-jacket practice load priced at $14. These four loads will allow you to hunt both medium-size game and predators, compete at long range and enjoy a fun day plinking at the range.
As for the platform itself, building an AR-15 in .224 Valkyrie is simple. All you need are a .224 Valkyrie barrel and a 6.8mm SPC bolt and magazine.
Since its introduction, the 6.5mm Grendel has been the choice for long- range work when using an AR-15. With the right bullets, though, the .224 Valkyrie can actually beat the Grendel when it comes to bullet drop, wind deflection and retained velocity. This is an impressive feat in and of itself. The ability to throw 100-grain bullets is eye-opening, and I have to wonder about the possibilities of even perhaps a super-heavy subsonic load down the road.
I'm betting the .224 Valkyrie will eclipse the .22 Nosler, but time will tell. Most new cartridge introductions invoke little more than a polite yawn from me. This new offering from Federal, though, has real potential in many different areas.