224 Valkyrie Varmint Loads
Date: May 26 2023
The 224 Valkyrie was launched in 2018 by Federal Ammunition in Savage MSR rifles with 18-inch barrels including a 1:7 rifling twist. The two companies were both operated under the Vista Outdoor umbrella at the time, but Savage Arms has since sold and is now on its own. The Valkyrie was created by necking the 6.8mm Remington SPC down to 224 caliber, bumping the shoulder back to allow room for longer bullets in standard AR-15 2.26-inch magazines, and given a 30-degree shoulder. The case includes a trim-to length of 1.58 inches.
Using a 1:7 rifling twist accommodates bullets up to 90 grains. The 224 Valkyrie includes a case capacity sitting somewhere between the 223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO and 22 Nosler, confused by the fact the cartridge might be found anywhere from preceding the 22 PPC (Sierra) to following 224 Weatherby Magnum (Hornady) in the pages of conventional load data. The Valkyrie gains around 100 to 150 feet per second (fps) on the 5.56x45mm NATO, and comes up 150 to 200 fps shy of 22 Nosler velocities using same-weight bullets.
I have employed the Valkyrie on good-sized Texas hogs, a tenacious quarry that on average weighs the same as healthy deer, with some boars pushing 300-plus pounds. It certainly gets the job done with the right bullets, serving as a mild-mannered option for youth or petite women hunters, or those simply sensitive to recoil.
Yet, as an obsessive burrowing rodent hunter, I was curious to see how the powder capacity gain over the 223 Remington – more importantly, the fast rifling twist – would pair with lighter, more-explosive bullets weighing from 53 to 73 grains.
The Franchi Momentum Elite Varmint test rifle is indicitive of the Valkyrie’s journey from primarily a gas gun to more commonly a bolt rifle today. This Italian creation included exceptional ergonomics combined with some impressive features for a rifle retailing just south of a grand. The Gore OPTIFADE Subalpine EVOLVED EGONOM-X synthetic stock included a removable, black-contrasting comb and molded-in checkering on the palm-swell grip and wide-flaring forearm. The soft TSA recoil pad is said to reduce felt recoil by up to 50 percent. The barrel is thoroughly free-floated and the length of pull is a generous 14 inches.
The Midnight Bronze CERAKOTE-finished action holds matching one-piece 20-MOA Picatinny rail and 24-inch, spiral-fluted barrel. The barrel included a 1:7 rifling twist and measured .87-inch in diameter just behind the included muzzle brake screwed onto 5/8x24 threads. The three-lug RELIA bolt provided a quick 60-degree lift with buttery-smooth cycling. The RELIA Trigger is adjustable from 2 to 4 pounds, including a crisp 3-pound break out of the box. It feeds from a 7-round polymer magazine dislodged by a knurled button found inside the trigger guard. The bottom metal/trigger guard is milled from aluminum. The Remington-style, two-position safety includes a rear white dot for safe (the bolt operating for unloading), and a forward red dot for fire. I added a Maven RS.5 SFP 4-24x 50mm scope with SHR-W reticle in low Nightforce X-Treme Duty Ultralite rings for testing.
The Valkyrie, to my mind, should provide an ideal dynamic of case volume for wringing maximum velocity from lighter varmint bullets, without going overboard like my 22 Creedmoor. My concern going into this project was the rifle’s quick 1:7 twist, hoping the lightest, most frangible bullets would not spin apart at the velocities involved. Too, the lighter bullets (53 through 60 grains), and their correspondingly shorter profiles, also prompted minimal seating depths, seating bullets right to the .224-inch mark instead of the standard practice of pushing flat bases or boat-tail/bearing-surface junctions to the bottom of the neck. The two heaviest bullets did not require this approach. Because the Valkyrie was designed to fire long-for-caliber bullets up to 90 grains, light/short bullets seated too deeply are required to make a considerable leap into the rifling lands. The .224-inch mark was as far out as I believed I could seat the lightest bullets while also maintaining sufficient neck tension for consistent accuracy.
Test bullets included Nosler’s 53-grain Tipped Varmageddon, Sierra’s 55-grain BlitzKing, Nosler’s 60-grain Ballistic Tip Varmint, Speer’s 70-grain Varmint and Hornady’s 73-grain ELD Match. For the most part, powders were chosen on the promise of top velocities, while including as many temperature-stable and clean-burning examples as possible, including those with copper-erasing technology. Other parts of the equation included Starline brass, CCI BR-4 Small Rifle primers, RCBS beam scale and powder trickler, a Redding Premium Die Set and a precision Area 419 ZERO Reloading Press. The Starline brass held about a grain less water than Federal cases on hand.