Let me just start by saying “Game changer” well there you have it, one of the most overused terms in the firearm industry. This term gets thrown around so often it has become a parody. I remember a little over a year ago hearing this and speculating with a friend what company X could possibly be releasing that would be so revolutionary. I was hoping for some new form of propellant, but instead I just got some new tips for my projectiles. (Joking aside though I do enjoy shooting the new bullets and think they are quite good.) I will not tell you the .224 Valkyrie is going to change the AR-15 long range game, but I will say that it may have some things going for it few other cartridges do.
Here is a brief description of this cartridge. It is based off of the 6.8 SPC round. It has been necked down to .224” the shoulder is steeper at 30 degrees and the length to datum at the shoulder is shorter. Federal is claiming it will push a 90 Sierra Matchking at 2700 feet per second.
It seems like the AR-15 platform is riddled with wildcat cartridges that just never gained traction, 30 ar, 25-45 sharps, 7.62x40 WT, .450 bushmaster, and I could go on. There have also been a few cartridges that have managed carve out a niche for themselves, .300 blackout, 6.5 grendel, and to a lesser extent 6.8spc. Why so many cartridges for the AR platform you may ask, and why are some successful and some languish in obscurity? First the AR itself is like the lego set of the gun world. You get to add parts and pieces where you want how you want so, the appeal of being able to swap an upper and get a new set of capabilities is just too tempting to resist. Why are some cartridges successful and some not? If we examine the cartridges I mentioned earlier we will see some common trends with the successful ones. First components were readily available in the early stages, which meant reloading and experimenting with them was reasonably cheap and easy. Having an ample amount of components also kept the price for factory ammo down. Second, each had the support of large company. Bill Alexander, a brilliant firearms designer and stand-up guy, had support from the brass giant Lapua before he even launched the Grendel at shot in 2004. The blackout was created by Advanced Armament Company and thusly had the support of Remington/Freedom Arms Group right out of the gate. Finally the successful new cartridges offered something that appealed to a wide range of AR shooters that had not previously been offered. The 6.5 could shoot beyond 1000 yard and had better exterior ballistics than some .308 rounds. The .300blk could be reliably suppressed with heavy projectiles or shoot lighter bullets to mimic the knock down power of the 7.62x39 AK round.
As I mentioned earlier AR15s are the legos of the gun world you can build them up to do just about whatever you want. Want to shoot hyper fast projectiles at prairie dogs? There is a cartridge for that. Want to shoot a thick skinned boar? There is a cartridge for that. Personally, I have even taken an Alaskan Black Bear with the platform. The ironic thing about this game, however, is once you start playing it you quickly realize that those new capabilities are hampered by one common limitation, mag length. 2.26 inches seems to be the not so magic number. Even if you go with the coveted HK magazine the extra $50 only buys you about .04 inches, and those can’t feed the fatter cartridges. The Valkyrie has addressed this limitation very intelligently. The folks over at Federal first identified what they wanted their new cartridge to do. They wanted it to be the best long range cartridge you could stuff into the AR15 platform. There are 2 primary factors necessary to achieve this ballistic superiority, velocity and ballistic coefficient. The latter being the primary driver. Knowing this they looked for the most streamlined bullet that would still leave enough room for powder. The 90gr smk was that bullet. Now comes the part I really appreciate. Unlike the 22 Nosler which prioritizes powder capacity, the Valkyrie put the focus on making enough room for the bullet while still staying under that 2.26” mark and let the powder capacity fall where it may. Thusly the shoulder is set back significantly to accommodate the lengthy projectile. This leaves less room for powder which leads to slower muzzle velocities but the higher BC for the longer projectiles being used allow the Valkyrie to outpace its competition somewhere around the 300 yard mark.
So back to the Valkyrie, If you buy the new barrel, bolt, and magazines you need to shoot the .224 Valkyrie will you be the envy of all you your shooting buddies because you have an AR-15 that can reach out past 1000 yards, or will you be the butt of the jokes a year from now because you bought into some “fad” cartridge that died off leaving you with a bunch of parts you never use. In the interest of full disclosure, I may not be the guy to take advice from on this subject since I have chased the tail of a few failed wildcats, or maybe my experience has made me all the wiser. You decide.
To speculate on the future we have to look athe the past. So what does the .224 Valkyrie have to offer. Well quite a bit if federal can live up to their claims. The initial match/long range load is the 90gr Sierra Matchking leaving the muzzle at 2700 fps, which gives this cartridge an edge over even the 6.5 grendel regarding external ballistics. Ok, so the cartridge’s performance sounds enticing but will it be able to stick around? Most likely yes the AR15 market is huge and long range shooting is one of the fastest growing shooting sports, so targeting both of those markets Federal should find some demand for their new cartridge. Finally, Federal is part of a larger group called ATK also know as Vista Outdoor, and they have deep pockets and lots of resources available concerning both R&D and ammunition manufacturing capacity. What this will lead to is a well thought out cartridge that doesn’t die on the drawing board. ATK already has 4 factory ammunition offerings slated to be released as well as several complete rifles, so it looks like there will be plenty of commercial offerings, which leads to increased popularity which leads to longevity.
So, will this cartridge stick around? Yes. WIth a steady rise in the amount of shooters getting into the long range game and the boom in the AR-15 world in the past 10 years this cartridge will appeal to a lot of folks. If it performs as advertised it will be the best performing factory round (regarding exterior ballistics) to ever leave the muzzle of an AR-15. I can honestly say as a long range shooter I am excited to see what the future holds for this purpose driven cartridge.
Written by Author/Content Provider, Marcus Hom