Flight of the Valkyrie: .224 Puts Rounds On Steel at 1 Mile — Review

It is not often we see a caliber that actually changes the way we think about shooting. Wildcats abound, often with marginal improvement over a factory round at best. There are exceptions, though most calibers fail to catch hold. Even those backed by major players. Several new calibers have been tried in AR-15’s over the past few years, none strong enough to give the rifle new legs. Today, hopefully, that changes.

Back in October, Federal announced the .224 Valkyrie, a revolutionary upgrade for the AR-15. The Valkyrie would share a bolt face diameter with the 6.8 SPC and have an overall length that was capable of firing 90 and 100-grain projectiles from standard magazine size. Recorded from rifle length barrels, Federal states shooters should expect muzzle velocity to be 2,700 feet per second (fps). That is a pretty healthy set of specs. Federal’s claim of supersonic to 1,300 yards set the internet on fire.

Testing the .224 Valkyrie

So, this is not a history of cartridge development. That isn’t my area of expertise. This is a test to see if the Valkyrie delivers, with a brief description of my set up. So first question, should we believe the hype about the bullet? In short, yes. Because the Sierra MatchKing 90 grain isn’t a new bullet. 223 Remington actually uses a .224 bullet, for reasons unknown. But the point is, a .224 inch 90-grain SMK has always been an option for rifles chambered in .223 if they don’t feed from an AR magazine. The ballistic coefficient has been proofed, it actually is very high. Federal says .274 (G7) BC, Applied Ballistics says .257 (G7) BC. Either one makes this an extremely good bullet.

A Further Look At the Case

Secondly, we do have to look at the case a little bit. It matters for durability. Why a 6.8 case head dimension? Because Federal has been making 6.8 SPC for a foreign military customer for many years, therefore they have lots of data. Some of the other AR calibers that came down the pipe had a bad habit of shearing bolt lugs. This had less to do with higher pressures and more to do with the machining of the bolt lugs. Taking material away from the bolt face doesn’t just change the amount of steel, it changes the way heat treat affects those parts. The first question I asked the Federal Ammunition Manager was about the lugs. He assured me that the pressures are similar to 6.8 SPC, and 6.8 did not suffer that problem. So that gives us two in the positive category.

Getting Ready for Field Testing

The Valkyrie fits a standard AR-15, with a bolt, barrel, and magazine swap. Magazines were easy, a 6.8 SPC will work. I called a buddy at Gunmagwarehouse.com, and he sent me an ASC brand. There aren’t that many 6.8 makers around, but I bet that rapidly changes. The bolt, again not a problem. LWRC makes bolts, and they fit an AR carrier group.

Now to find an upper, that was a quest. When you are testing a new round, you can’t just slapdash some lowest bidder parts together and call that data. If I said the Valkyrie was inaccurate and slow because I tested it with a bargain bin factory upper, people would justifiably call bullshit. To test the accuracy of a cartridge, you must rule out all other variables. A totally new round, with the claims Federal was making, deserved a legitimate rifle to be judged by. So there was only one thing to do. I reached out to Craddock Precision, in Lexington, Illinois. Craddock Precision has a reputation for extremely good builds, using only top shelf blanks and parts. Their customer list includes some absolute legends in long range. They were already in the .224 Valkyrie game, so it was off to the races.

***Read Patrick Kelley’s in-depth review of the Savage MSR15 in .224 Valkryie.***

The upper returned to me is an absolute work of art. The barrel is a 22-inch, match grade, 1:7 Criterion, cut in-house. It is a “medium-heavy” profile, in keeping with the precision requirement I had. The handguard is a German made Hera KeyMod, which fits like a glove. As an added bonus, I had them thread it in a 5/8x 24 pitch, so I can use 7.62 suppressors in future testing. That is one of the really nice things about going to a custom shop, they can build to any spec you like.

Rounding out the package, a lower with an AR Gold trigger, my standard for everything. With an out of the box crisp 3.0 pound break, it is mandatory like Metallica for accuracy testing. Coupled with a Magpul PRS stock and a Vortex Razor HD II on top, I couldn’t have asked for a better set up.

Range Time

The first thing you notice about the Valkyrie is how soft it recoils. Spotting your impacts is easy. The second thing I noticed, was how much I like my Craddock upper. It took about 20 rounds to get the barrel settled in, something to be expected when installing a new barrel. It takes a minute for your barrel to find its sweet spot, something you also no doubt notice if you clean the copper out completely with copper solvent. For those first 20 rounds, the Craddock turned in paltry .6 and .7 inch 100-yard groups. After a little break in, it shrank to .34 inches, which is one of the tightest I have shot. I have no doubt there is a little more in there, it just might take a better shooter to get it.

I didn’t have a mountain of bullets for play time, and Valkyrie isn’t one you can just grab at the gas station, at least not yet. So I did the only sensible thing and moved straight back to 1,027 yards. Federal says supersonic to 1,300, but 1,027 seemed a prudent compromise for truing the muzzle velocity. I wasn’t disappointed. It took a couple of walk-on rounds to find the difference between alleged velocity and known velocity, yielding another surprise. My muzzle velocity was 2,760, and the Valkyrie fought the wind better than I would’ve guessed. Dope trued, I smashed three into a B/C zone target with ease for a group. Between the soft recoil and the excellent BC, this was the easiest 1,000 yard shooting I have ever done.

Going the Distance

The thousand was so easy, it seemed like a good idea to move straight back to a mile. That is passed even the most optimistic supersonic estimate, but exactly what I was looking for. One mile has become the new test, as bullets and rifles improve. The group the Valkyrie had just given me proves that shooting 1,000 yards isn’t all that impressive anymore. Moving into subsonic range teaches us a lot, even if it presents other problems.

With the use of ballistic computers, everything inside supersonic becomes easy. ( Except the wind call, that still separates the men from the boys.) Once we have a trued muzzle velocity, everything within supersonic range becomes a known quantity. The same is actually true in the subsonic range. We can predict that too. The unknown part is the transonic range, where the bullet is passing from super to subsonic. That is when, in scientific terms, “ weird shit happens.” Bullets wobble on axis, flight gets screwy, and it is very hard to predict. About the only thing we still have to shoot for DOPE purposes is that transonic region. Also, some bullets survive it better than others. And I really wanted to see if the 224 was a survivor.

Article Continues Below

1 Mile

So we went out to a mile. Even here in Idaho, God’s Country, finding a mile with a backstop isn’t the easiest thing to do. I located a spot, but with less than ideal circumstances. When I am testing a new round at ranges like this, I prefer a rock background. It makes it easier to see the splash, so you can fix your firing solution. The second best option is dust. I had neither. It had just rained, and a rocky spot with a mile reach didn’t turn up. So I settled in to try anyway.

One mile also starts really playing hell with your ability to see. 224 Valkyrie is an awesome round, but it isn’t magic. Well, maybe it is a little bit magic. But it is still running out of energy quick at 1,760 yards. It took a few rounds to find my correct elevation, with little tiny puffs of mud to spot. After I got the DOPE right, I shot five rounds at steel. It barely chipped the paint, but two landed. There was so little movement of the target I actually had to drive down to see it, still believing I had shanked all five. They might’ve barely chipped the paint, but two hits were visible. The most telling part, they were both on the left side of the target. The wind was from my left, odds are pretty good I overestimated the wind drift on the other three. Wow. Just wow.

Lasting Impressions

From initial testing, the Valkyrie is the little engine that could. It is soft shooting, accurate as hell, and the price is right. Environment affects what the speed of sound is, but for my conditions, my bullet went subsonic around 1250 yards. Just shy of the Federal claim of 1300, but close enough to count. The bullet made hits at a mile, and I have never done that with a small frame AR. In fact, the smallest caliber I have achieved that with to date is 308. From what I see, the 224 Valkyrie is a Creedmoor for small guns. And the potential is staggering.

For more information about Federal ammunition, click here.

***Check out GunsAmerica for your next rifle chambered in .224 Valkeryie.***

{ 49 comments… add one }
  • Randy Wilson February 19, 2018, 10:55 am

    I must admit I was a bit skeptical when I read this article. But the point is to be able to hit a metal target at 1760 yds is quite impressive. I will also admit it’s the foot pounds of energy that determines whether it will dispatch a bad guy or not. The Army says 58 ft lbs of energy is enough to do just that. So, a little math tells us that a 64 grain bullet has to be going 639 FPS to achieve the 58 ft/lbs rule of thumb established by the army. (Rounding things off a bit). I didn’t take the time to look at the charts on the 224 Valkyrie but if a 90 gr bullet is still around 640 fps at a mile the dude is probably going to be dead…

  • Russ H. February 13, 2018, 1:13 am

    I\’ve never seen so much BS in the comments section! To you naysayers – I bet none of you have ever even tried shooting accurately at a mile, much less hit anything! I can\’t believe the stupid things I just read… Lot\’s of keyboard shooting going on here.

  • LP Brezny February 13, 2018, 12:09 am

    My partner and I shot the system re a chassis rifle at SHOT SHOW 2018 980- yards ( ranged ) Canadian snipers spotting /calling the shot. ( three of them ) 10 for 10 hits coyote accuracy & gusting 12 mph full value wind. Nice round in the Federal 90 grain pill. One mile? I will stay with my Montana 1999 338 Lap thank you. Been there done all that. However on the energy deal remember, muzzle loaders back in the day shot 950 f.p.s. all day long. Killed lots of stuff from sea to shining sea.

    L.P.

  • Scott February 12, 2018, 11:36 pm

    I think you have the sectional density in place of the ballistic coefficients. Sierra lists the 22 cal 90gr bullets at BC 0.563. Sectional density is 0.256.

  • DaveGinOly February 12, 2018, 10:39 pm

    \”Except the wind call, that still separates the men from the boys.\”
    A good friend of mine would disagree. She shoots in three different long-range rifle disciplines, and she\’s pretty good at it!

  • buhbang February 12, 2018, 10:25 pm

    Don’t ammo companies use longer barrel’s to get higher velocity numbers to print on box? I wonder what length Federal used to get the 1300 number.?
    I Hope you get to test out the 18″ soon, and you will let us know how it goes.

  • bob February 12, 2018, 6:21 pm

    How is this different from the .224 Roberts that shoots a 90 VLD from a modified 257 Roberts case?

  • Just Steve February 12, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Not sure if I should get excited about this or not. Back in 2001 I was shooting 90gr JLK’s out of an AR svc rifle @2700fps and a 26″ match rifle I was 2800+ fps. I still have a couple thousand of those bullets on the shelf.

  • Bob February 12, 2018, 11:23 am

    A 1 Mile hit with this round is a Joke since it would NOT have any real power (ft. lbs.) at that range! Just like 6.5 CM you won’t see people taking Large Game with this round either…

    • Kelly Lee February 12, 2018, 1:45 pm

      You totally missed the point. It wasn’t about how lethal/useful the round is at a mile but that it’s inherent accuracy is that good.

    • Jake February 12, 2018, 1:59 pm

      So Bob, you going to stand out there at a mile and let people shoot at you? I have a funny feeling 90 grains at 900 fps is going to hurt REAL bad.
      In addition to all the things a round like this can do, accurate H&I type fire where the opponent knows he can be hit, forcing him to stay down is invaluable. Especially when it can be a 25 round string of fire.
      I see these guys build my preferred ignorantly long and heavy barrels too! One of my kids lives near Lexington. Time for a little detour next time down there.

      • Andrew N February 13, 2018, 12:59 am

        I’m betting it would do more than “chip paint” on Bob. I’m with you, it may not bring down a moose, but it sure can keep heads down!

  • Robert February 12, 2018, 9:31 am

    It sounds like fun to shoot at a mile. But why a new bullet? ARs are already chambered for .308 – a .243 would work fine with just a different bbl. Then you can drive 100 grn bullets at ~3000 fps. Same with the 6mm Creedmore – the 6mm Rem will outperform it and already existed.

    • Kelly Lee February 12, 2018, 1:49 pm

      Again, another that missed the point. Find me any standard AR that can even load a .308 or .243 through the mil-spec AR mag well let alone be able to fire it. I dare ya. Why? Because there is no such thing! This cartridge works in a standard AR15 rifle mag well.

      • robert February 12, 2018, 6:32 pm

        Sorry KL. I guess I’m lucky enough to afford another rifle to do the work. Get the right tool for the job. Shooting a new cartridge thru my mil-spec AR is not one of my goals in life. And, if I want to shoot a mile, I’d get a .50. This whole story is BS.

        • buhbang February 12, 2018, 11:50 pm

          this is the right tool for the job, your just not smart enough to realize it. what if the job is to shoot steel at a mile away from an AR15 platform ( notice I didn’t say AR10?), Also, not everyone hunts, but I guess you’ve never heard of target shooting?. your milspec Ar wouldn’t have made it out to the 1000 yd. target this one does it with ease… and then goes out a mile! you still don’t see a difference in that?
          pretty much every AR upper & lower made is mil spec. did you think yours was the only one? and whats that have to do with anything? anywhere remotely related to this article? But at least today you learned of the AR10 platform and no longer think the 308 comes from an AR15 platform, so your making progress.
          and while the .224 Valkyrie is new. I bet you didn’t know, the .223 remington uses the .224 bullet, so it’s not that new, also.it uses the 6.8 spc bolt and mag’s, which are not new either.
          and most of us can also “afford” to buy an AR. but choose to build our own, and we get exactly what we want in the caliber we want. and when we’re finished, we have a better more accurate weapon,or a cheaper than bought weapon. either way, we know where every part goes and how to fix or replace anything should it ever be needed. thats why the AR platform is so great, many many options ( even .50 cal. genius) to customize it how you need it. truck gun.. range gun.. hunting gun.. self defense gun.. or in your case, safe queen gun. How confused were you when you saw “multi-cal” on your lower? I would have loved to be the guy at the ammo counter when you asked for a box of multi-cal AR bullets 🙂

        • Ontheright February 13, 2018, 9:40 am

          And yet this “BS” story struck you hard enough to illicit a response, albeit a nonsensical one. Speaking of “getting the right tool for the job”, if you knew half of what you thought you knew you wouldn’t offer up a .50 for the job that a .308 was designed for. If it was all/only about “shooting a mile” get a .22 and aim for the horizon…pffft! Just can’t fix stupid.

    • Jake February 12, 2018, 2:06 pm

      This is an AR-15 round. The others you mention require an AR-10 rifle. You can just buy an upper and a 6.8 mag for your AR-15 and away you go. Or, if you have the tools, a barrel, bolt and mag.

    • Jake February 12, 2018, 2:09 pm

      AR-10’s are but not AR-15’s. This round is for the AR-15.

      • Jake February 12, 2018, 2:12 pm

        A bot kept telling me it wouldn’t take my comment and then posted all three. Sorry!

  • Jeff Drew February 12, 2018, 9:24 am

    Good article, but questions popped up! Given the testing process and available resources, what would the approximate cost per round be for the average Joe/Jill? What would be the recommended optics for this testing operation? Will the .224 round work as well in other rifle actions? As a TC Contender user, I like hearing of these projects. Thanks!

    • Jake February 12, 2018, 2:01 pm

      I am seeing them online for $11-$12 per box. Once fired brass .20 each.

    • buhbang February 12, 2018, 11:55 pm

      Authors Vortex ( 4.5 to 27 X magnification ) runs around $3400.

  • Nathan February 12, 2018, 9:18 am

    So… Let’s do some ballistic gel testing at mile now, just because

  • Joe Bob February 12, 2018, 9:15 am

    How bout parts lists and pricing?

  • WALT MORRIS February 12, 2018, 9:09 am

    tongue in cheek: how much mold was growing on the bullet before it reached the mile mark?
    it sounds like an awsome rifle makes a guy wonder how much all this cost, not counting the optics.

  • joefoam February 12, 2018, 8:56 am

    Very impressive shooting. I just hope there aren’t people out there trying to hunt at such distances. I can only imagine the wounded animals wandering off to die because the shooter is not going to go looking for the animal when its a mile away.

    • Thomas Gomez February 12, 2018, 11:12 am

      The 1 mile shots are not about hunting. It is to demonstrate the stability of the bullet through, super, trans and subsonic flight. 1 mile tests tell you a lot. Clay did an excellent job with this article.

    • Chickenmax February 12, 2018, 8:39 pm

      You are missing the point of the article and build.The author never said it was for hunting.Just a data collecting build.

  • Jeffrey L. Frischkorn February 12, 2018, 8:14 am

    While the Valkyrie may make you a good shooter (that is, if you practice!) it is not going to make you a better hunter… For that you need woodscraftsman, knowledge of the animal, and such like.. I will say \”congratulations\” to anyone who pokes holes in paper or hits a steel plate at 1,000 yards or even one mile but I won\’t do the same if the person drops a woodchuck, coyote, a deer or a whatever.. Good shooting, yes, but really, poor hunting in my opinion.. Sadly, the arms merchants and the outdoors media have muddied the waters in their efforts to say they are one in the same.. They are not…

    • DavisGunner February 12, 2018, 8:52 am

      Jeff… I separate the two by stating that hunting is a test of ones woodsmanship skills while long range is a test of ones shooting skills.

    • Caliche February 12, 2018, 9:08 am

      If I shot a coyote from a mile away, I would be less than interested in your sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hunting ethics lesson.

      • Ontheright February 13, 2018, 9:11 am

        Pretty close to what I was thinking…

    • Shawn February 12, 2018, 10:05 am

      In regard to hunting, Jeff Cooper once remarked: “Be proud of your close shots and be embarrassed by your long shots.”
      IMO, shooting an animal at long distance isn’t hunting – it’s nothing more than killing from afar.

      • Ontheright February 13, 2018, 9:32 am

        I appreciate his service, but unless Jeff Cooper is/was feeding my family his words are meaningless. Describe it however you like, hunting or killing from afar, the words are irrelevant, especially when you come home empty handed. Meat on the table supersedes distance shot, method or weapon used, or even grain/size of bullet (sorry Clay, no disrespect brother). Once I see and smell those marinaded and smoked venison steaks come off the Traeger the only words I care about are “Bon Appetit”.

    • Ontheright February 13, 2018, 9:56 am

      I read the entire article twice and even did a text search and the word “hunting” didn’t come up once. Your comment is nothing more than bloviating projection. Well done!

  • akjc77 1blue February 12, 2018, 6:37 am

    I always wondered why 6.8SPC never really caught on? I always wanted to try that, but have not even seen but a few for sale in KY and never had a chance to try one yet. I think people are just very scared to get stuck with an odd Caliber AR that they can’t find ammo for or is too exspensive? This .224 stuff will likely be the same deal for us mass consumers? How come the military didn’t even test it when they were recently considering a new rifle and Caliber?

    • Dr Motown February 12, 2018, 8:46 am

      I’ve hunted hogs and deer with 6.8 SPC, and it’s a great round if you know its limitations ( most effective to about 150-200yds). Certainly wouldn’t use it for long-range hunting, but lethal for typical woods and swamp hunting. Ammo, of course, is a concern long-term, but, so far, I’ve been able to find whatever I need whenever I need to restock.

    • Lee February 12, 2018, 10:43 am

      The 6.8spc didn’t catch on because the 6.5grendel killed it. As soon as wolf started importing cheap 6.5grendel, the 6.8spc became just another obscure cartridge. For a few years the grendel was the most optimal practical performing cartridge one could fit in an AR. Now the 224valkyrie will be the 6.5grendel killer…

    • Penrose February 12, 2018, 6:07 pm

      I’ll stick my neck out here and say that, from all the current articles I’ve seen, the Valkyrie was developed for competition accuracy at long distances. I didn’t see anything about lethality at those distances, except from those who want an “everything” cartridge, and rated it for things it was never designed for, like sniping and hunting. The military already has firearms and cartridges that will reach out and touch you hard at those distances. I don’t think the military needs a new cartridge right now. They’re doing pretty well with what they have.

      They’re a lot of cartridges out there now that were all designed with long range accuracy in mind, just like the Valkyrie. Unfortunately, new cartridges come with a price: Cost of hardware; Availability of ammo; Cost of ammo; Staying power of ammo; New reloading components… etc. With the Valkyrie, an AR15 can now be as accurate at long distances without investing many thousands of dollars in rifle and/or chassis.

      Glass is still an issue and is one of the single most expensive parts of a long range rifle. New ammo doesn’t change this, unless new reticles are required in support of the cartridge.

      As long as the ammo is available and (relatively) inexpensive, and AR15 uppers/barrels become available at a decent price, I think it’s good for the beginner or competitor who wants to play with better accuracy on the cheap. It’s not a sniper round and it’s not a hunting round. It just puts a spot on a target, where you want it.

      • Jake February 15, 2018, 9:40 am

        I would be inclined to see it as a potential sniper round. If the 77 grain 5.56 peters out at 7-800 yards and this 90 grain Valkyrie is still supersonic at 1,200 yards you have a much more deadly round with a quarter mile greater effective range. That long .224 bullet would keyhole on impact causing a horrible wound channel.
        I also think a gel block test beginning at 1,000 yards could be enlightening.

  • Dr Motown February 12, 2018, 6:02 am

    Clay: if the bullet diameter is the same, will a .223-specific suppressor be compatible with the Valkyrie round? Or would there be issues with increased pressure so that a .30-cal suppressor would be necessary?

  • Brian Radford February 12, 2018, 5:37 am

    Perhaps you should have used the 224Grendel, its simply better.

  • Clay C. February 12, 2018, 5:23 am

    I am also very curious about this as a yote gun , can you run some of there 60 grainers for accuracy and velocity ?
    Thanks for putting in the work !

  • Steve in Detroit February 12, 2018, 5:18 am

    If you do not mind, what was the drop at the 1 mile distance?

  • Chief February 10, 2018, 6:42 pm

    Really good article Clay!I was curious what the Craddock complete upper ran and how you think the barrel in your upper compares to say a Krieger?Its looking like the .224 would be a fantastic coyote gun.

  • Steve G February 9, 2018, 1:58 pm

    Clay, do you know what the minimum barrel length requirement is to get the full performance potential of the .224?

    • Clay Martin February 9, 2018, 4:11 pm

      I think that is still in the testing phase. my 22 was pretty incredible, but we have 18″ ones coming in. I am very interested to find that out myself.

      • M1AMike February 12, 2018, 2:27 pm

        Clay,

        Excellent work. Could you provide the drop for 1k and 1 mile? We at Stop The Gun Ban would like to play with this as well.

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