The word “Valkyrie” is derived from Old Norse and translates roughly to “chooser of the slain.” In Norse Mythology, a Valkyrie is a female figure who chooses who may die in battle and who may live. Predator hunters are like Valkyries. When we call in a predator, we choose whether to take the shot.
When I got my hands on the new .224 Valkyrie from Federal Premium Ammunition and a custom JP Rifle chambered in .224, I chose to take the shot I was presented.
Winter strikes early in Minnesota’s North Country, and every so often the stars align and we’re blessed with a nice snowfall before a late-fall full moon. Autumn 2017 was one of those times.
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 were perfect in late October and early November.
Single-digit temperatures and a few inches of snow fell right around the time that Federal Premium Ammunition announced the release of a brand-new round, the 224 Valkyrie. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing and a custom JP Enterprises 20-inch AR chambered in .224. I couldn’t wait to get them out on a couple of stands.
After a long day at the range, testing the new rifle and the new cartridge, I quickly switched gears and was camo-clad with the FOXPRO Fusion set 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 turn the volume up and slowly start my progression toward a strict coyote routine.
At the 9-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 eager 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 eager 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. 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 20-inch match barrel we saw 2,650 fps consistently through the chronograph. To say its fast would be an understatement. Even if you use the old equation of losing 25 fps per 2 inches of barrel cut-down, a 16-inch carbine will still fire the 90-grain Sierra MatchKing at roughly 2,600 fps. That is what most modern sporting rifle owners can expect.
The 224 Valkyrie offers more than 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.
While I had only the 90-grain Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing at my disposal, Federal plans to introduce the round in four configurations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The timing of this round is absolutely perfect, as the gun and ammo market is stable and prices are reasonable. 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. JP Enterprises is one of those companies. Based in Minnesota, JP Enterprises has been around for over 25 years, and its 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 is 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.
Out on the Range
Sitting atop the rifle was a Bushnell Elite Tactical HDMR 3.5-21x50mm scope. The HDMR features the deadly Horus reticle, locking T-Lok turrets, and .1 mil-click value. More than enough scope for predators, but perfect for precision shooting.
Loaded with a couple of 6.8 SPC magazines, I filled them up and put a box of 90-grain Sierra MatchKing through the rifle just to get a feel for it and to dial it in. The first 10 shots were at 25 yards. I threw the next 10 rounds at 100 yards. The next box was a mix of 100 and 200 yards.
I found the combo to be very flat shooting and very accurate, with little tinkering with the turrets between 100 and 200 yards. I designated a 10-shot group to one target at 200 yards and the grouping was extremely tight. Not bad for a single-digit temperature shoot at an outdoor range. It didn’t take long for me to feel completely comfortable taking it afield that evening.
While the list continues to grow daily of 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, Accurage Mag, LMT Defense, LWRC International, C&H Precision Weapons. Savage Arms has the 224 Valkyrie available in its popular MSR-15 lineup.
Ultimately, Federal Premium’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.
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