A game-changing caliber for long-range predator hunting
By Matthew J. Breuer
In late 2017, Federal Premium once again went above and beyond, and created an all-new round with a catchy name stamped on it. The 224 Valkyrie was announced in December and there are already a ton of gun nuts picking up every tidbit of info they can. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of the initial runs of the flagship 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing, and ran them through the ringer. As the additional rounds came into play, I tinkered with each until I landed on the 60-grain American Eagle Nosler Ballistic Tip, which was designed with predator and varmint hunters in mind.
In Minnesota’s North Country, winter strikes early, and predators are active and hungry. Early in the season coyotes are still relatively ignorant. They’re still curious, haven’t seen a lot of pressure, heard a lot of calling, or been educated to the sound of a rifle shot. Plus, there are pups, lots and lots of pups. Early season calling can be absolutely fantastic, and this year the conditions have been perfect.
Sub-zero temperatures and a foot of snow fell right around the time that Federal announced the release of the 224 Valkyrie. I scrambled to find a gun to push the ammo downrange, and was lucky enough to try out a few different guns over the course of my testing.
After a long stretch at the range testing the new cartridges, I quickly switched gears and was camo-clad with the FoxPro Fusion 60 yards in front of me and a barbed-wire fence off my right shoulder. As much as I love punching paper, I was truly in my element, my happy place.
Much like most of the stands I make, I started off mid-volume with some Baybee Cottontail to see if anything was nearby. I never want to handcuff myself by starting off with coyote sounds, as a fox or cat could be nearby. After about four minutes I started to volume up and slowly start my progression toward a strict coyote routine. At the nine-minute mark, I switched to Coy Pup Distress 3 and a big, lighter colored coyote with beautiful guard hairs emerged from the far pine edge. He was locked on to the FoxJack decoy atop the Fusion and wasn’t stopping for anything. He charged hard until my buddy mouthed off a yip. The coyote stopped, I squeezed, and the coyote dropped in the fresh white snow at 123 yards.
Any time I’m able to take down a coyote with some daylight left, I’m anxious to see how it looks. I love walking back to where a predator came from, looking at my setup to see what the animal was seeing. I’m also anxious to get photos and move on to the next location. On this night, it proved to be a mistake, as we heard a coyote yipping in the distance as we were taking photos. We were hoping to get a glimpse at it to see how far we could stretch out the 224 Valkyrie, but the coyote eluded us… this time.
We made a few more sets, catching a glimpse of one coyote that hung up in the brush, but never had the chance to fire another shot. This totaled to 50 shots at the range, one bullet sent in the field, and one beautiful coyote in the fur shed. Mission accomplished.
The all-new 224 Valkyrie from Federal Premium was designed for AR platform rifles to be the new long-range dominator. The 224 Valkyrie is based on a 30 Rem./6.8 SPC case necked down to .224 caliber. It offers dramatically improved trajectories over all other AR-15 cartridges, including the 22 Nosler, .223 Rem. and 6.5 Grendel, with roughly half the recoil of larger cartridges offering comparable ballistics, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Initial numbers from Federal boasted 2,700 fps at the muzzle from a 24-inch barrel with the bullet still being supersonic at 1,300 yards. When shot through a chronograph I found anywhere from 3,260 fps to 2,280 fps through three different rifles. The bolt gun provided the fastest fps out of the muzzle.
The 224 Valkyrie offers over 125 inches less drop and almost 70 inches less wind drift at 1,000 yards than the .223 Rem and other short-action calibers like the 22 Nosler and 6.5 Grendel. Plus, its ballistics are comparable to much larger, harder-kicking calibers like the 6.5 Creedmoor, with as little as half the felt recoil. While I was unable to stretch the bullet out that far, I trust that this truly could be the first 1,000-yard cartridge for modern sporting rifles.
Federal offers the round in four configurations:
1) The 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing will be the flagship round. The bullet design has been shot to win more matches than any other, thanks to a uniform jacket that ensures consistent, long-range accuracy, and a sleek boat-tail that maximizes ballistic coefficient. Precision and long-range shooters will love this round. And, we know it’ll take down coyotes to boot.
2) The 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip will be my go-to predator and varmint round. A lighter bullet with unmatched speed will be a favorite for people hunting prairie dogs and predators across the country. At 3,300 fps out of a 24-inch test barrel, this round will be blazing fast, and holds speeds up to 934 fps at 1,000 yards.
3) The 90-grain Fusion will be the mid-sized game cartridge. Fusion already has a name for itself amongst deer and other mid-sized game hunters from coast-to-coast, and in 224 Valkyrie it’s going to be a deer-hunting dream. With half the recoil of calibers with similar ballistics, this will be the perfect deer cartridge for the entire family.
4) The 75-grain American Eagle TMJ will be the entry level, low-cost round in 224 Valkyrie. At just $13.95 per box, this will take plinking to a whole new level, and will be a favorite amongst three-gun shooters and casual shooters alike. With the low entry-level cost, you won’t be disappointed in its speed or accuracy. It’s still thumping close to 3,000 fps out of the muzzle. And, at an MSRP of $13.95, consumers should see this going for around $11 a box at retailers, making it a strong competitor with the popular .223.
The timing of this round is absolutely perfect, as the gun and ammo market is stable and prices are reasonable. The fact that you can get into a 224 by just purchasing a new barrel, bolt, and magazine for your existing AR lower makes it an affordable setup from the get-go.
When Federal announced the introduction of the 224 Valkyrie, only a few companies were able to put together barrels and bolts in short order. I wanted an AR-platform gun for predator hunting, and a bolt gun to test the true capabilities of the load.
JP Enterprises is one of the companies that specializes in modern sporting rifles, and jumped on the 224 Valkyrie wagon early. Based in Minnesota, JP Enterprises (www.jprifles.com) has been around for over 25 years, and their shop has a great following from shooters “in-the-know.” Very popular amongst precision and competitive shooters, and gaining traction with the weekend shooters, JP offers everything from full custom rifles to simple add-ons like triggers, buffer springs, and everything in between. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the JP PSC-11 in OD Green. It featured a 20-inch barrel coated in black Teflon outfitted with a JP large profile muzzle break and an adjustable gas block. The adjustable gas block was a very cool feature, allowing me to fine tune the amount of gas that was being pushed toward the bolt carrier group. The rifle had a low-mass bolt carrier which was significantly lighter than a mil-spec bolt, making the reciprocating mass much lower. The gun also had one of my favorite AR accessories from JP, the Silent Capture recoil spring. The Silent Capture spring eliminates the “twang” you hear when firing many of the ARs on the market, and it allows you to get back on target with ease. The last, but certainly not the least important tool on the PSC-11 was the Armageddon Gear Revolution Trigger. One of the most common inconsistencies for precision shooters is the lateral force they apply on the trigger when they squeeze, causing pulled shots. The “roller trigger”, which was developed by Tom Fuller from Armageddon Gear, features a free rolling trigger that makes it nearly impossible to squeeze the trigger with any lateral force, as your finger will roll off to the side.
When I wanted to drive tacks, I turned to the heavy bolt gun from Buck Holly at C&H Precision Weapons (www.chpws.com). Based in Gerogia, C&H specializes in precision guns for long-range shooters. The rifle I was lucky enough to tinker with is from their Heritage Line of custom built rifles and was specifically built for Buck’s youngest daughter Noah who is five years old. Due to the combination of the weight of the rifle and the low recoil of the new 224 Valkyrie cartridge, this is the perfect round for young shooters that want to shoot long range or hunt small to medium-sized game animals. She has made first round impacts on IPSC targets at 1,000 yards and routinely makes hits on prairie dog targets between 250 and 500 yards. It features the C&H Javelin Action (made by Defiance Machine), Schneider USMC M40 contour, 1/7 Polygon Barrel at 22 inches, Area 419 Brake, SIG Tango6 5-30×56, Badger Ord Rings M40A3/A5 Rings, Grayboe Renegade stock with Wiebad Padded Cheek Piece, C&H M-Lok Rail System in Front of the stock, Badger M5 DBM, Timney Calvin Elite Trigger, and a spiked Atlas Bipod. Chambering work is at C&H is done concentric to the bore once the barrel bore is co-axially indicated in to within .0002 of an inch. They then use JGS Reamers and headspace gauges for the highest quality chamber.
While everything is still preliminary, things are looking bright for Federal and their new baby. The 224 Valkyrie is already being noticed, and gun manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. Expect a lot of companies to offer the 224 Valkyrie by the time SHOT Show comes to a close in early 2018. While the list continues to grow daily, there are currently less than a dozen manufacturers making barrels and bolts, or complete guns. JP Enterprises obviously has several options for hunters and long-range shooters. Other players include Seekins Precision, LaRue Tactical, MasterPiece Arms, MagPul, Accurate Mag, LMT Defense, LWRC International, C&H Precision Weapons, and by the time this article hits newsstands, Savage Arms will have the 224 Valkyrie option available in their popular MSR-15 lineup.
Ultimately, Federal’s 224 Valkyrie will unleash a new era of 1,000-yard-plus accuracy and performance for gas-driven AR 15s and short-action bolt guns, without the hefty recoil and price tag of larger caliber options. Thanks to the continuation of Federal’s 95-year commitment to excellence, shooters can expect best-in-class ballistics, supersonic flight past 1,300 yards and extreme long-range accuracy from this exciting new cartridge. And with the full array of high-performance projectiles available, it’s poised to deliver on virtually every shooter’s needs.
After SHOT Show, everyone and their brother should be able to find the new loads in stores and online. If you’re like me, you’ll be one of the first people in line to add a new tool to the gun safe. The 224 Valkyrie could easily be the most exciting thing in the gun industry in 2018.