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.224 Valkyrie: Long Range From An AR-15 [Complete Guide 2022]

FROM VARMINT BUSTING TO PUNCHING STEEL AT 1,000 YARDS, .224 VALKYRIE GIVES THE AR-15 MORE POWER

.224 Valkyrie, besides having one of the coolest names for any cartridge, gives the AR-15 a solid boost in range and performance. 

But with early life issues and some heavy competition from other cartridges, it might be hard for .224 Valk to stay relevant these days.

We’ll break down some of its history, the pros and cons, and try to suss out if .224 Valkyrie is right for you.

FLIGHT OF THE VALKYRIE

In the never-ending quest to build a better mouse trap, Federal wanted to take their turn at building a new cartridge for the AR-15 platform that could help push a bit more performance out of it. 

Based heavily on the .22 Nosler, .224 Valkyrie is what Federal unveiled to the world in 2017.

But issues and oddities quickly followed.

(Left to Right) 110 gr VMax 6.8 SPC, 90gr JHP 6.8 SPC, 88gr ELD .224 Valkyrie, 75gr FMJ .224 Valkyrie
(Left to Right) 110 gr VMax 6.8 SPC, 90gr JHP 6.8 SPC, 88gr ELD .224 Valkyrie, 75gr FMJ .224 Valkyrie

On release, Federal recommended a 1:7 or 1:7.5 twist barrel for the 60-70gr bullets that Valkyrie was designed for. While this worked fine for some people, a lot of us found it almost impossible to stabilize the bullets well.

My first Valkyrie barrel was, at best, 3 MOA and would randomly have keyholes about 1 in 50 rounds. My experience wasn’t unique either, with gun forums in 2017/18 being flooded with anecdotal evidence that something wasn’t working.

Eventually, bullet wizards started to play around with different twist rates and found that 1:6.5 seemed to solve most of the problems.

But not too long after that, Federal released their new 90gr projectile, higher muzzle velocity .224 Valk ammo. While the heavier weight promised to work better at long range and push the cartridge even further than before, these 90gr bullets often didn’t play well with the 1:6.5 twist barrels many people had just switched over to.

And yet still, for some people the 1:6.5 twist barrels worked just fine.

.224 Valk groups using the same 90gr Match King bullets, but using two different twist rates. (Left) 1:7.5 twist and (Right) 1:6.5 twist. Group via Sniperhide forum
.224 Valk groups using the same 90gr Match King bullets but using two different twist rates. (Left) 1:7.5 twist and (Right) 1:6.5 twist. Group via Sniperhide forum. Target grid is 1/2″ squares

Teething issues with new cartridges aren’t uncommon; even mature cartridges can sometimes be a little spooky (looking at you, 6.5 Grendel), but these early issues did not help .224 Valk’s popularity.

Thankfully, .224 Valk is in a good place now with some established load data and a very nice bullet selection.

BASIC BALLISTICS

.224 Valk is normally found in weights from 60gr to 90gr, but the heavier stuff (75gr+) is by far the best shooting for long-range applications. Personally, 88gr Hornady ELD-M is my favorite pick for the Valk.

With a 24-inch barrel, you can expect about 2,700 FPS with 88gr ELD-M and it will stay supersonic until just short of 1,300 yards. With a ten mph full value wind, you’re looking at about 86-inches of drift at 1,000 yards.

Valkyrie2
AR-15 in .224 Valkyrie

On paper, this is a pretty peppy little cartridge for something that feeds through a standard AR-15 frame. If you want to play around with some of the lighter bullets, you can hit 3,000 fps at the muzzle and really put the hurt on varmints. 

For hunting deer-sized game, .224 Valk is, at best, a 300-yard cartridge. Personally, I would try to keep it closer to 200.

.224 VALK VS…

For all of these examples, I’m using Hornaday ammo and published load data on 24-inch barrels. 

Mostly because I find Hornady’s website easiest to use, and they have some great bullet options. All of the bullets are Hornaday's ELD-M. Your mileage will vary depending on bullet selection and load, but this is at least a good idea of what to expect.

224 Valk Vs. 6.5 Gren, 6mm ARC, .223 Rem

 0 Yards200 Yards600 Yards1,000 Yards
.224 Valk1,398 ft.lbf / 2,675 FPS1,087 ft.lbf / 2,358 FPS625 ft.lbf / 1,788 FPS330 ft.lbf / 1,299 FPS
6.5 Grendel1,818 ft.lbf / 2,580 FPS1,379 ft.lbf / 2,247 FPS748 ft.lbf / 1,654 FPS364 ft.lbf / 1,155 FPS
6mm ARC1,814 ft.lbf / 2,750 FPS1,409 ft.lbf / 2,424809 ft.lbf / 1,837 FPS427 ft.lbf / 1,334 FPS
.223 Rem1,262 ft.lbf / 2,790 FPS896 ft.lbf / 2,351 FPS411 ft.lbf / 1,593 FPS181 ft.lbf / 1,057 FPS

Take a look at the chart, and you can see that .224 Valk falls in the middle of things. More speed and energy than .223 Rem by a decent amount, more speed but less energy than 6.5 Grendel, but less energy and less speed than 6mm ARC.

BUILDING YOUR .224 VALKYRIE RIFLE

If you want to take the easy route, pick up a complete .224 Valk upper and throw it on any standard AR-15 lower. Get some 6.8 SPC magazines and you’re ready to rock and roll.

But if you’re looking to build a .224 Valk, you’ll need a .224 Valk barrel, a 6.8 SPC bolt, a standard carrier, and 6.8 SPC magazines.

JP .224 Valk rifle

Pro tip: 5.56 NATO magazines will hold and (kind of) feed .224 Valk ammo, but they won’t hold as many rounds, and feeding can be a little iffy. I’ve used 5.56 NATO mags a few times when I forgot my Valk mags at home, but I definitely had more than a few failures to feed because of it.

I highly recommend going with a long barrel when it comes to .224 Valk. This really isn’t a cartridge that is designed with shorter barrels in mind like 6.5 Grendel can get away with. 20 inches would be the minimum I would get. If you can find them, 24- or even 26-inch barrels aren’t out of the question. 

15 and 20-round magazines exist for .224 Valk/6.8 SPC, but I would normally default to 10-round magazines. Anything longer, and they can get awkward to shoot with if this is a bench or prone rifle.

WORTH THE BUY?

Right now, it’s hard for me to recommend .224 Valk to anyone. Sure, the early problems have been fixed – but the bad taste lingers.

For my money, if I’m looking for something that hits a little harder than 5.56 NATO, 6.5 Grendel is what I reach for. If I want something that is a little flatter shooting and can really reach out, my 6mm ARC rifle is where it’s at.

Grey Ghost Precision 6mm ARC DRAC
Grey Ghost Precision 6mm ARC DRAC

While .224 Valk maintains a large enough following to make parts and ammo reasonably easy to find, I think we’ll see the cartridge's popularity fall off as 6mm ARC gains traction. 

Frankly, there is nothing that .224 Valk does as well or better to really merit keeping it around. That isn’t to say that .224 Valk is ready to go the way of the dinosaur just yet. But with a decent telescope, I think we can see the meteoroid coming. 

LOOSE ROUNDS

.224 Valk is a good cartridge that I’ve had a lot of fun pushing out far on the range. While it isn’t my top choice anymore, it’s still a solid round that won’t fail you.

With twist rates and better ammo data available, the .224 Valk has come a long way since its release in 2017. 

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