224 Valkyrie 16 and 18 inch Barrels Chronographed


Good morning sports fans, and welcome to the science nerd hour! Well, it’s what us knuckle-dragging heathens consider science hour anyway. Ever since we first learned about the new 224 Valkyrie round from Federal and its alleged performance, the questions have been fast and furious. I know I was extremely impressed by my first test rifle with a 22-inch barrel. But the thought I had immediately after was, how does this perform out of a 16 or 18-inch barrel?

Considering that the 224 was basically designed to optimize the AR platform, this is a fair question. Some of you varmint guys or high power shooters might only like 20 inch or longer barrels, but that is a hard sell to the rest of us. I prefer my all-around rifles to have 16-inch or occasionally 18-inch barrels, which is a pretty good compromise in 5.56/223.

Bullets generally have less velocity out of a shorter barrel, which isn’t rocket science to figure out. If we have an optimum length for powder burn overcoming friction at a given length, anything shorter than that gives less velocity. But the reduction in speed is rarely linear and is really something you have to test with a Chrono to figure out. And bullets do weird things. 308, in my opinion, is perfect at 18 inches. 16-inch barrels tend to kick like a mule, and the velocity at 18 is close enough to the velocity at 20. 5.56/223 I tend to prefer at least 16 inches, and even 14.5 shows dramatically declined performance. It is a lot of voodoo and black magic, and you have to shoot it to find out.

Like many of us, I don’t have a pile of money lying around to have barrels chopped down willy-nilly. So I reached out to one of the leading Valkyrie rifle builders in the country, Rainer Arms. Not only did they already have 16 and 18-inch barrels, but they were also more than happy to build up two uppers for testing.

Initially, this was only supposed to be a Valkyrie velocity test. But when I see something amazing, I have to tell you about it. And the complete rifle Rainer Arms sent me is just that. If you came for the gun porn and not the conclusive spreadsheet, this part is for you.

The Rainer Arms AR-15 is the best put-together rifle I have ever seen. The attention to detail shown on this rifle is almost unbelievable. I have reviewed rifles that cost twice as much that don’t have this craftsmanship. In terms of raw machine hours, I can’t believe they can sell the Ultramatch rifle for $2,000. Even the details like a hollow spot on the takedown pins for your fingernail are ingenious. The motorcycle handlebar ambi charging handle is among the best I have seen, and no one has ever heard of it. Rainer is a force to be reckoned with in the AR market, and the big boy companies had better watch out.

My favorite part? A patented lever lock that holds the handguard. One simple, easy-to-use lever is all that holds the handguard in place. It locks up so tight, you would never know it. But you can pull the entire thing loose in under 10 seconds. Couple that with an adjustable gas block, in-house made flash hider, and out of the box 45-degree safety? Count me in.

Anyway, on to the numbers. My test relied on my Pact chronograph to check the velocity on 3 popular loads for this caliber. I tested the 60 grain Federal, the 90-grain SMK from Federal, and the new 88-grain match from Hornady. As a baseline, I also tested 77-grain Black Hills from a 5.56 16-inch upper.

Without any kind of baseline, I expected the 224 Valkyrie to do well in the 18-inch barrel, and not do well in the 16-inch barrel. It just seems like our luck, that a round designed to turbo-charge our AR’s would be neutered in the preferred barrel length.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The Valkyrie was a winner in both upper receivers. Here, let me add in the spreadsheet of doom.

BulletBarrel lengthVelocityBarrel lengthVelocity
77 BH/ 55616 2645 n/a n/a
60 GR/224 V163020183120
88 GR/224 V162514182590
90 GR/224 V162530182624

So the 90-grain I tested, even though Federal has issued an accuracy issue alert for it. Until they get it sorted out, the Hornady has the bullet with the highest Ballistic Coefficient, which makes for the best test case.

What do we see from the chart above, using mid length 16 barrels, of 77 grain 5.56 compared to 88-grain 224 Valkyrie? The 5.56 has a velocity edge of about 130 feet per second. In real terms, what does that mean?

At CQB range or even normal combat ranges, I don’t think 130 FPS means much. Since 224 Valkyrie and 223/5.56 shoot the same bullet and leave the same size hole, it is even harder. Do 11 grains of mass offset 130 FPS in velocity? We could spend a fortune testing that an not get an answer. Standby one, I need to go call DARPA. Personally, I would call that a wash with rifle velocities.

What does matter, however, is what happens when we put those numbers in our ballistic solver. I used Hornady 4DOF for this one, which seems like a pretty good choice. And what came out the other side was staggering.

In 16-inch barrels, the 88 grain Hornady has caught up to the 77 grain Black Hills by 300 meters. Actually passed it at that range. The higher BC pushes the Valkyrie well past 1000 while still in the supersonic range. The solver says the 77 is subsonic at around 950 meters.

This is crazy, but the Valkyrie seems to be a winning solution in the shorter barrels, too. There is still a lot of testing to be done, and many things are unknown. Like what is the optimal twist rate, what is barrel life, what is the ideal bullet? But for now, Valkyrie seems to fulfill its promise. It optimizes America’s rifle, the AR-15, in terms of both reach and lethality. With across the board wins over 5.56, I think Valkyrie is here to stay.

Visit Rainier Arms to learn more about Rainier Arms Ultramatch Rifle by clicking HERE.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your next Valkyrie***

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Jack February 19, 2020, 9:58 am

    I would like to thank you all for this information. I have been looking for an AR platform round that is somewhat close to 22-250. I will def. be building an 18in Valkyrie upper for my AR. in fact parts are ordered as I type. I have been reloading since I was 5 with my Dad that’s 51yrs. velocity on coyotes is the key for rapid knock down. Looking at the Valkyrie in my opinion this is it. Most likely no pass through = less pelt damage and should cause some pretty impressive internal damage. Time will tell. I cant wait to get it together and try it out.

  • ook July 8, 2019, 8:02 pm

    People just don’t get the .224v and I am surprised. All those CMP matches shot single loaded at a AOL that doesn’t fit in the mag with 80gr @600. I like shooting 80 gr plus out of a bolt gun. If it was just about performance sure 5.56 is not much different. The difference is the 224v feeds those 80+ out of a mag. 80gr plus is a different animal. Shot much at 800 yards with 77gr? Its not real fulfilling. With a 80gr it is. Nice light recoil that equals or exceeds 168 gr MK in wind drift out of a .308 win. Count me in for the 224v. Oh it can use the Hodgdon non temperature sensitive powders unlike the 6.5g.

  • Dacian Halmagean June 12, 2019, 9:24 am

    Wow you contradict yourself… To say the 224 Valkyrie is a pointless round but you’d rather take the 300 blackout over it or even the 6.5 Grendel. (love the Grendel btw) when just a few paragraphs up you State you’ll take a lower velocity higher BC cartridge over high velocity low bc. The 224 Valkyrie (and I didn’t want to believe this before) given the right bullet actually out performs the 6.5 Grendel exterior ballistics wise.

  • R March 1, 2019, 11:37 pm

    OK. Enough amateur, ballistic bullshit.

    Velocity is only one consideration which first has to pass other critical analyses, those being retained energy, ballistic coefficient, and sectional density. Bearing those things in mind, the 5.56, although faster with some loadings, has greater drop, sheds energy quicker, and because its bullets have less sectional density has less terminal performance. It is an inferior loading at 3200 FPS even to a .224 Valkyrie propelling a 90 grainer at 2400 FPS. While so much is made of “tumbling” and “hydrostatic shock”… Honestly, a bullet simply has to maintain a supersonic velocity to impart hydrostatic shock, and a higher sectional density actually increases the effect of it. While rifle twist is more a function of a bullet’s tumbling characteristics than its velocity.

    Thus, if the US/NATO were to go over to .224 Valkyrie they would improve their small arms, combat effectiveness 150%. It would essentially be a better solution to the 5.56N underperformance than the Chinese 5.8mm service round.

    The 6.5 Grendel is a better choice, but would cost more to adopt.

    On a side note, all the magnum crazy people of yore obsessed with velocity and really produced marginal, punishing, barrel burning cartridges as a result. The magnum craze was a particularly stupid, American phenomenon. What is necessary to have a good, precision cartridge? Bc at least .500, high sectional density, velocity of 2500 – 3000 FPS. This is the way to appreciate ballistics. That’s why the .300 PRC is the comet which kills the .300 Win Mag dinosaur.

    O’Connor was a great gun writer, but his love of the .270 Win was a shortfall of his era. He didn’t know better. “Faster, hmm, better.” Then at 500 meters with those loadings of yore transfered energy goes down to 850 FPE and sinks quickly afterwards. While the bc of that 3100 FPS 130 grain .270 encounters massive drop and instability because it isn’t as aerodynamic. I think there is an emblematic criticism here to consider: velocity empowers high bc and sectional density, but if you lack them to begin with, your loadings are inferior to those with lower velocity but possessing better ballistic requisites. O’Connor felt that the 7×57 was a junior cartridge to the .270 when it actually was and is ballistically superior. A 7×57 modern loaded with a 162 grain BT shot from a barrel with a 1:8 or 1:9 twist flying at at least 2700 FPS will ballistically outperform a .270 in every loading, every day. It will look a lot like a 6.5 Creedmoor ballistically, but deliver more energy over greater range, with less recoil than a .270 or .308. That’s something to ponder. While a .280 Ackley is superior to a .30-06 in every factory loading, where a .30-06 comes into its own with a long throat, a 1:9 twist, RL-17, and a 215 grain BT traveling at 2700 FPS (not without pain). Velocity is not the primary consideration of ballistics or good accuracy: the same people pushing velocity think 14″ barrels ought to shoot 1000 meters MOA with varmint bullets: poseurs.

  • Freedomlover September 25, 2018, 9:57 pm

    The Valkyrie is a pointless rifle cartridge in my mind. For the AR-15 I would rather go with .300 AAC Blackout or 6.5 x 39 Grendel. I don’t care for the 5.56 x 45 round, but I would take it over the Valkyrie rifle cartridge.

    • R March 1, 2019, 11:39 pm

      The .300 BO is a pointless cartridge and a total waste of time.

    • joeBlow May 16, 2020, 4:55 pm

      You are clueless except the short barrel advantage and noise a 224 will outperform .3bo in every way and with any load. It’s pathetic how big of a difference it is. You get more energy to the target at any distance… and it’s super sonic out to 1300 yards. .you get less recoil a lot more bullets and an ar15.

  • Stan September 24, 2018, 10:56 pm

    “What do we see from the chart above, using mid length 16 barrels, of 77 grain 5.56 compared to 88-grain 224 Valkyrie? The 5.56 has a velocity edge of about 130 feet per second.”

    “With across the board wins over 5.56, I think Valkyrie is here to stay.”

    Sounds to me like you’re contradicting yourself, Clay.
    How about comparing apples-to-apples and doing a comparison with the Same bullet in both calibers?
    In your own testing, the Valkyrie only surpassed the 5.56 at extreme(read impractical) range.
    And that is using an extremely heavy for caliber(.22 centerfire) bullet in the Valkyrie. There’s your BC advantage.
    You didn’t mention Cost or availability, so, I will. No comparison on this— 5.56/.223 the overwhelming winner.

    At more common and practical ranges, I see NO reason to toss your 5.56 AR to grab a .224 Valkyrie. If you somehow
    have a need to take shots at game at 1000 yds, which is questionable in itself, then perhaps it’s a decent choice. But, you
    would be Much better served in that case by a heavier caliber.

    So, for self-defense, I’ll just save my cash and stay with 5.56, thank you. For long range, I go with Far more potent medicine
    than a .22 centerfire.
    Since the advent of smokeless powder, there have been 3,000+ cartridges offered. Think about that, and how many were really landmark developments.

    • no one important March 2, 2019, 1:33 am

      Not that guy, but having run some numbers myself, I come to three immediate realizations about the .224 Valkyrie cartridge.

      One, all the hype is about 200 feet per second muzzle velocity difference, all else being equal. The 5.56mm Mk 262 round throws a 77gr Sierra MatchKing at about 2725 ft/sec from a 20″ gas gun. The Valkyrie goes up to about 2925, from the same length barrel. The difference in long range trajectory and distance at which the bullet remains supersonic is negligible.

      Two, the real story is the super-fast rifling twist and altered case geometry allowing the Valkyrie to handle ultra-long-ogive, high-BC bullets like the Sierra 90gr MatchKing that are a non-starter in 5.56mm. It is ONLY with the super-long bullets that there’s any meaningful difference between the two cartridges, and this only because 5.56mm can’t handle the long-ogive bullets at magazine length.

      Three, the claims of shooting 1300+ yards and staying supersonic are optimistic at best, pure science fiction at worst. Don’t take my word for it–go to your favorite ballistic software and plug in a G7 ballistic coefficient of 0.288 for the 90gr Sierra and a real-world muzzle velocity of 2600–which is what you’re going to get out of 18-20 inch barrels, unless you want to lug around a 28″ or 30″ Palma barreled bolt gun to use the new lightweight cartridge that supposedly gives previously unimaginable long-range performance out of compact ARs. We’re not even talking 14.5″ M4 clones, the platform is a full size M16A2/DMR with a 20″ barrel. It stays supersonic to 1171 yards if it starts out at 2600–which is still impressive, but it’s hardly going to dethrone the 6.5 Grendel, and it’s most certainly not staying supersonic at three quarters of a mile. And if you don’t shoot the ultra-heavy 80+ grain match bullets, you’re gaining almost nothing over the 5.56mm.

      • fdgh May 16, 2020, 5:19 pm

        dude you miss wind drift and drop …also I plug in the g7 numbers 20 inch barrel its still supersonic out to 1200.. give it a few more inches and you got the 1300. The 5.56 is dead in my opinion. You can beat a dead horse or hang on to it, but at the end it’s just science.. nothing wrong with your antique feelings towards the 5.56 it just is dead.. old school,.. unusable… too old… owned by the new kids on the block… probably taken behind the barn every day at lunch… no bad feelings it just is the way it is

  • Phil September 24, 2018, 4:57 pm

    I respect the author’s choice to review the shorter barrels, but it seems this round was designed for longer range shooting which lends itself to the longer barrels. I’d be curious what the optimal barrel length is with this round, anyone seen anything? At 16-18″, I’m not really seeing an extreme advantage over 5.56, where I can get a 77 grain SMK to push 2600 out of a 18″ barrel.

    • MojoMitch September 25, 2018, 9:08 pm

      I wont go shorter than a 20 on any of those rifles, 20-26 is my preferred length, depending the cartridge and what’s on the end of the barrel.
      Good article though on the “Rainer” highlights though.

  • Charles Valenzuela September 24, 2018, 3:52 pm

    It’s a nice rifle, no doubt about it. BUT the article was supposed to be about velocities in 16 and 18 inch barrels. You couldn’t even be bothered to tell us the make and style of the ammunition you “tested”. This was just a shameless plug for the rifle manufacturer. NOT impressed with your information (which comprised less than 3% of this rifle advertisement). Even your table of velocities was crap. Did you write this as an advertisement for the rifle and then decide to change the title and plug in a couple of line about velocities? Yeah. That’s exactly what you did.

    • Yup yup April 25, 2019, 9:53 am

      Precisely my thoughts!

  • MojoMitch September 24, 2018, 1:58 pm

    Great information and Rainer porn, thank you.

  • Mike Watkins September 24, 2018, 1:42 pm

    My opinion, this cartridge (and quite a few others) were created specifically for those guys who were always peeking at the other guys dicks in the shower in jr. high gym class. Ya know, “is mine bigger than his?”

    I do not know of any place within a hundred miles of me where I can shoot 600 yards, let alone a thousand. So I’ll just have to “settle” for my .308 AR’s I guess. [sniff]

  • Donald Blaufuss September 24, 2018, 10:34 am

    My 223 WSSM shoot rings around the valk, it will shoot 80 grain bullets faster then the valk shoots 60 grain! This is in a 16 inch ar barrel at every bullet weight the WSSM is about 400 fps faster then the valk.


    • Rhiggs September 24, 2018, 12:06 pm

      So what you are saying is Valk hit the bullseye and your WSSM hits all the rings around it? Good for you and your WSSM! LOL!!

  • James September 24, 2018, 10:04 am

    You should shoot the 62grain 5.56 to compare with the 60grain .224.

  • Troy September 24, 2018, 9:45 am

    I see absolutely no advantage over the 6.5 Grendel in 16-18″ BBL and the Grendel shoots a 123 grain bigger diameter billet that goes same velocity as the 88-90 grain Valkrye
    And you get .27 cent Wolf that shoots same velocity as 123 grain and shoots very close POA/POI and shoots very well out of my 11″ and 16″ Alexander Arms barrels
    Valkrye is a solution that has already been met in a standard AR platform

    • triggerpull September 24, 2018, 10:06 am

      The 95 MK load I developed for the valk leaves the Grendel behind at 600 yds (and can shoot well under .5 MOA).

      • Brian September 24, 2018, 11:27 am

        Thats interesting…..and what does the 95MK do from the larger Grendel case (hint: the 224 Grendel has been around for a decade)

        • triggerpull September 24, 2018, 5:11 pm

          Oh do tell.

    • Johnny Raygun September 24, 2018, 10:23 am

      I agree that the Grendel has a bigger bullet and is comparable. It is also true that wolf ammo is a great deal. Wolf will eventually come up with the Valkyrie ammo. If one is to invest in a “long range” and bigger bullet, it would seam to be more prudent to go with the 6.5 Creed. Yes you can buy just an upper and use existing lower, but a AR10 in 6.5 is a better option, money aside.

  • triggerpull September 24, 2018, 9:42 am

    I jumped on the valk bandwagon early this spring–and it’s been a wild ride, to say the least. I’ve since purchased three different barrels and built three different guns and probably spent days of work in my home armory whipping up thousands of test cartridges. Here’s my opinion on the valk–take or leave it.

    It all started when word got out that the valk was “the equivalent of the 6.5 Creedmoor” ballistically and this became the battle cry of the entire industry/media complex as it rushed headlong into rushing the valk out on the market. What wasn’t mentioned was these results were achieved in unique match configurations that did not necessarily conform to the eventually settled-on SAAMI specs. Two of the three barrels I acquired have chamber cuts that clearly do not conform to SAAMI specs based on the casts I’ve done. Not necessarily a bad thing if you’re willing to venture out into wildcat territory (which I did, and in fact did achieve an accurate cartridge that can theoretically stay supersonic to 1300 yds with a 95 gr MK bullet, but it also is 2.35″ in COL). The specs on the chamber cuts are on the loose side with a freebore length not far short of twice SAAMI specs. In practical terms–this is going to make it real hard for your barrel to produce accurate and consistent velocities no matter what your bullet size and twist are if you’re talking SAAMI conformity. Keep in mind I’m not saying that Rainer used this “oversized” chamber reamer–but it was used by more than one manufacturer and it remains a strong possibility that many of those barrels are in circulation in the market.

    My “connections” tell me that the bullet manufacturers are diligently at work producing the optimal bullet for the valk–the existing ones that have been out there for years were not really conceived with valk performance and specifications in mind. I always thought the “promised land” of a long range sniper-grade cartridge in the valk lay in heavier than 90 gr bullets, but I’m told that 80 to 90 is the now the sweet spot target weight now that will still attain 1000 yd+ supersonic performance. I’m standing by for those bullets.

    • Stan September 24, 2018, 11:59 pm

      So, explain to me what real advantage the Valkyrie has over the venerable .22-250?

      • XLR December 29, 2018, 2:11 am

        Don’t know I’ve never seen a 22-250 shot out of an AR-15 rifle.🤡
        That’s about as dumb a comparison as 308win to 300win Mag.

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