It seems like every couple of months we get a new wonder cartridge that’s going to let us shoot further, faster, flatter or with more force. The current flavor of the month is, of course, the .224 Valkyrie, a new offering from Federal that’s been in the works for a while now.
I’ve been hearing rumors and mutterings all over the place since late last year about what these new magic bullets are supposed to be able to do, so naturally now that you can actually find both ammo and uppers (assuming you can catch the latter when they’re in stock) I wanted to see for myself if the new kid on the block really lived up to the hype.
What did I find out?
Well, you’re just gonna have to keep reading, but I’ll give you a hint: I was impressed.
Let’s talk about why.
What The Heck is a .224 Valkyrie?
The .224 Valkyrie started out in life as a .30 Remington/6.8 SPC case. It’s basically a necked down 6.8 SPC with a .22-caliber bullet, in this case, a long and skinny .224-diameter bullet that has a high ballistic coefficient. We’ll talk more about what that means in a second.
The important thing to note here is that you have a bullet and casing that’s pretty similar to your .223/5.56 rounds (same bullet diameter, actually), but with a lot more oomph. For those of you playing along at home, that means that with a new bolt and a new barrel, your regular ole AR-15 can run .224 without a problem.
You can even use the same magazines, although I would suggest function testing them to make sure everything feeds okay first. I’ve heard of folks having problems getting .224 to feed reliably from metal GI mags. STANAG mags are great, but most of us have a few dozen
packing peanuts PMAGS laying around anyway so it shouldn’t be too big of an issue. You just won’t be able to load the mags to their usual capacity.
6.8 SPC mags and bolts should work just fine.
The overall goal here is to get a round that is ballistically more kin to 6mm long-action cartridges you’d normally need an AR-10 for but in an AR-15 lower, which is cheaper. You can read more about the differences between the two in our AR-10 vs AR-15 Guide.
There’s a sizeable amount of ballistic witchcraft that goes into that, and we’ll also touch on that in a minute. If you’re just looking for the immediate rundown, the gist of it is the bullet goes really, really fast, and maintains that speed really, really well.
How Does the .224 Valkyrie Work? (Nerdy Stuff, Skip if You Hate Numbers)
The .224’s real party trick is its ability to stay super-sonic (faster than the speed of sound) at longer distances than most (if not all) other short-action cartridges, and even a few big boy cartridges. This is important because while a bullet remains supersonic, we can use our ballistics calculators or even just some quick mental math (if you’re better at math than I am) to get some very predictable accuracy adjustments which will allow us to hit our target on the first shot.
You can, of course, estimate a bullet’s point of impact at ranges beyond where it drops below super-sonic speeds, but your estimations will be less accurate. Here’s where the most common bullet I use in my AR-15 stacks up against the Valkyrie at 1,000 yards according to my ballistics calculator.
|Bullet||Velocity at 1,000 Yards|
|.223 Remington 77-grain Matchking||960fps|
|.224 Valkyrie 90-grain Matchking||1,419fps|
The speed of sound at my elevation and current temperatures is about 1,118 feet per second, so while the 77gr Matchking .223 loses its supersonic status before it hits the 1,000 yard mark, the Valkyrie maintains that speed out for a few hundred extra yards, nearly making to the 1,300 yard line while still moving faster than the speed of sound. This gives you more distance where you can accurately predict bullet impacts.
The shift from supersonic to subsonic speed makes a bullet behave more unpredictably, and at longer ranges where every little thing adds up to dramatically affect your accuracy, this can make a huge difference.
A faster bullet also, obviously, reaches its target faster. This, of course, means you have to compensate less to hit a moving target. Somewhat less obviously, a faster bullet also has less time to be affected by gravity and wind. This means less compensating for bullet drop and an easier time compensating for a crosswind.
For example, say you have a 10mph crosswind blowing directly from left to right across the path of your bullet. How much is that wind going to push that bullet to the right?
Bullet Wind Drift at 1,000 Yards
.223 Remington 77-grain Matchking 75.35 inches
.224 Valkyrie 90-grain Matchking 57.51 inches
As you can see, the Valkyrie has noticeably less drift, which means you have far less adjusting to do to get your shots to land where you want, and you’ll have less of a windage hold left or right of your target if you’re using a mil-dot reticle.
Finally, a faster moving, larger projectile is going to carry more energy into the target, which is important for hunters and other folks like military and law enforcement who need better terminal ballistics at range.
If you’re punching holes in paper, you can skip this section.
So, going back to our 77gr Matchking .223 bullet, how does the Valkyrie stack up when it comes to energy down range?
|Bullet||Foot Pounds of Energy at 1,000 Yards|
|.223 Remington 77-grain Matchking||158 ft-lbs|
|.224 Valkyrie 90-grain Matchking||402 ft-lbs|
Looking at this data, and assuming my math is right (it is, I used a calculator), we have a heavier bullet impacting with over twice the energy at 1,000 yards.
For hunters, that means long-range shots on medium game aren’t just possible, they’re relatively easy.
Basically, the Valkyrie makes absolute mincemeat out of the .223 in every category.
The Really, Really Nerdy Stuff
The reason the .224 Valkyrie has such superior ballistics is because of something called ballistic coefficient. Ballistic coefficient is a function of the bullet’s weight, cross-section, and coefficient of form and tells you how well the bullet fights air resistance in flight. It is inversely proportional to negative acceleration, meaning a high number indicates a low negative acceleration, and in turn higher velocity at longer ranges
This is because the drag due to wind resistance facing the projectile is small compared to its mass.
If you’re shooting bullets in space or somewhere else without air, this is irrelevant.
You can read more about all this here, but the basics are: SD/i=BC where SD is the sectional density (Mass/cross-sectional area) and i is your bullets coefficient of form.
All of this means that a bullet with more sectional density compared to its coefficient will have a higher ballistic coefficient, which means it has an easier time fighting the drag from air resistance.
The Simple Explanation
Bigger numbers are better. The .224 Valkyrie 90gr Matchking has a ballistic coefficient that’s a whopping .563 compared to the paltry .372 of it’s nearest .223 competition.
That means you get a bullet that, ballistically, is more similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor with a 143-gr. Hornady ELD-X bullet has a ballistic coefficient of .623.
Which is what I told you at the beginning of the article, but now you have the numbers behind it (that you can easily verify with your own ballistics calculator) so you know I’m not talking out of my ass when I say that this new cartridge from Federal kicks a lot of ass.
Buying .224 Valkyrie Ammo
If you’re looking to buy .224 Valkyrie and get in on this new cartridge, you probably have a few questions.
First, is it worth it?
For me, I like the idea of being able to comfortably stretch an AR-15 caliber out to 1,000 yards. I know several hunters that are excited about being able to take larger game like whitetail more reliably with an AR-15.
If you don’t hunt and you don’t reach out past 500 yards ever, I’d say maybe wait awhile on this one. Sleep on it and maybe save your money.
If you shoot long range or want to start, absolutely get on this. You’re not going to find a cartridge with this kind of ballistic performance any cheaper or more accessible. It’s a light recoiling bullet backed by one of the biggest and most reliable names in the industry.
Which leads to the next question: what options has Federal put out there?
Our current .224 Valkyrie offerings are as follows: The 90-grain Gold Medal brand with a Sierra Matchking bullet that we’ve been discussing, a 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, a 75-grain American Eagle Total Metal Jacket, and a 90-grain Fusion MSR. There will also be a 100-grain bullet out shortly, but details on that are sketchy, so I’m sticking with what’s on the shelf right now.
This gives you a number of options, depending on your needs. First, we have the 90-grain Gold Medal option that is optimized to give you the optimal performance in a target shooting environment, whether you’re competing or just trying to better your long-range skillset.
Next, we have the 60-Grain Nosler Ballistic Tip which has a thin-jacketed, polymer-tipped projectile designed for maximum expansion and fragmentation on impact, making it perfect for clean, efficient terminal impacts against small game such as varmints and predators like coyotes.
The third option on the go is the 75-grain American Eagle Total Metal Jacket, which is a full metal jacketed round that is going to be the go-to option for plinking at the range and training. You still get the superior .224 ballistics but in a slightly cheaper package. Think of it like you would a 55-grain FMJ .223.5.56. Basic, but will get the job done.
Finally, we have the 90-grain Fusion MSR. Federal’s Fusion MSR line is known for its accuracy and excellent terminal ballistics at longer ranges, but the new .224 offering gives you all the terminal ballistics of larger calibers, with about half the recoil. This is the option I’d recommend for law enforcement or hunters looking to bring down Whitetail-sized game.
Building a Rifle in .224 Valkyrie
Of course, all this fancy ballistics talk is useless if you don’t have a gun that can take advantage of this new cartridge, so let’s talk about how to get into the world of the .224 Valkyrie.
The easiest thing to do would be to just go out and grab an upper. Everybody seems to be jumping on the .224 Valkyrie train, so feel free to go with your favorite manufacturer. I’ve had luck with the PSA upper below, so if you can find those when they’re in stock, go for it.
We’ll have a full roundup of uppers available soon (assuming we can actually get some in to test) and we’ll go over the best options there.
The other way to get into .224 Valkyrie is, like I said earlier, to just swap out your bolt and barrel. This is an awesome option for builders and those who are comfortable tearing down an existing upper, but I know not everybody is cool with that.
If you like, check out our guide to building an AR-15 upper for everything you’ll need to swap parts in and out.
If you’re swapping bolts, companies like Stag make a complete BCG like the one above, and JP enterprises makes just a bolt assembly you can swap onto an existing BCG. Again, a 6.8 SPC bolt will work just fine…they’re the same case, just a different length.
That about does it for this one. The .224 Valkyrie is an awesome little cartridge that shows a lot of promise, and its backing by one of the biggest names in the industry, Federal, means that it’s here to stay. I for one am looking forward to using this round for years to come. I’m impressed with the ballistics, and my wallet is happy that I can not only switch to .224 and still use a lot of my old gear, but also that I can leave the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .270 in the safe more often when I want to hit targets past 800 yards or so.
What do you think of the .224 Valkyrie? Have any other questions I didn’t answer? Let me hear from you in the comments!