What did we see at Range Day? Valkyries, Valkyries everywhere. Federal’s pint-sized long distance runner has already outstripped the market purchase of its direct competitors in the high performance AR-15 market, testified to by the sheer number of .224 Valkyrie rifles peppered across the booths and stalls of Range Day ’18.
How did it do this? Common wisdom says all odds are against the Valkyrie. It requires new magazines, barrels, bolts, etc. to use, which *everyone knows* is the deathknell of a new round. It is not an easy round to reload for, using a different shoulder angle and case length than its parent – and its parent is, if not obscure, then uncommon. It fires bullets that are expensive and unusual for the caliber. How could it succeed then, with everything working against it?
CMMG brought out their MK4 Valkyrie rifle to the shoot, which also debuted their new ambidextrous charging handle design.
The problem with common wisdom, though, is that it’s often wrong. It turns out that new bolts and magazines are cheap! If you have to buy new ones, so what? The .300 Blackout and 6.5 Creedmoor didn’t succeed because they used the right parent cases; they succeeded because they filled the right market niches and hit the ground with market support. Consumers were both willing and able to buy in. The Blackout offered an AR-15 compatible dual-use supersonic and subsonic round, and the Creedmoor was a thrilling PRS cartridge that you could actually find on store shelves (unlike my own beloved .260 Remington). More importantly, lots of companies actually made rifles in both calibers – perhaps the most important factor for the prospective early adopter. Neither actually succeeded on the cargo cult voodoo of bolt compatibility or reloading ease – two factors that, if we’re getting down to tacks, don’t matter much to the average consumer.
Hrachya tears it up with the MPA 224BA at 795 meters.
Which is how we ended up with me walking through the dust at Range Day, going from booth to booth and shooting no less than 5 guns from different vendors in the caliber – something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before with a new caliber release. Of the big caliber releases last year, I am not confident that I ever saw even a single weapon chambered for any of them at Range Day – much less shot one! With the .224 Valkyrie on the other hand, the question of “where are the guns?” is easily answered – they’re all over!
Ashbury Precision Ordnance joined the party, too, with their .224 Valkyrie chassis bolt gun.
I don’t think the Valkyrie will have any problem finding a niche, either. Anyone who has ever searched for a decent PRS gas gun in 6.5 Creedmoor will tell you what deep pockets you need, what compromises you must make, and what a lack of aftermarket support you can expect. From this, the appeal of a bog standard AR-15 receiver set that can compete at 800-1,200 meters thanks to a little clever application of off-the-shelf 6.8 SPC components should be obvious. Put simply, the .224 Valkyrie brings PRS to the AR-15 platform – but more importantly, it makes semiautomatic PRS rifles affordable and accessible.
Federal has, in my opinion, done everything right in releasing the .224 Valkyrie. The round’s long ogive gives it the staying power it needs to truly punch above its weight at long range (and my experiences on the range – at 800 meters and up – supports this). The squat case inherited from the 6.8mm SPC gives it both the relative capacity and the efficient burn chamber it needs to fly fast enough to minimize drop and drift. Federal even avoided subconscious associations with the .22 Long Rifle by choosing the designation “.224”, while the Valkyrie name itself is both appealing, and exists as an independent brand from the parent company – a smart move when seeking to establish both market acceptance and identity for your new standard.
Both the Savage MSR15 Valkyrie and the MPA 224BA proved extremely capable on steel plates at 795 meters. TFB writer Hrachya had no trouble ringing steel 9 times out of 10 with the Valkyrie gas gun – despite no prior long range shooting experience!
Perhaps the biggest mistake Federal avoided was releasing the round to the public without any industry support. Instead, Federal actively courted the partnership of gun companies prior to release, which resulted in a running start. At the 2018 SHOT Show range day, I saw no less than seven factory rifles chambered for the round, and Federal’s representatives revealed that 17 companies had already partnered with them to produce weapons for the round, and that at least 30 companies total were working on rifles either with or without direct support from Federal. This is not the soft-start of still-third-tier calibers like 6.5 Grendel or 6.8 SPC, but a running start that could propel the .224 Valkyrie to .300 Blackout levels of success, or even further.
Pretty far away! The red circle marks the two steel targets set up just shy of 800 meters, in one section of the range at Industry Day.
Speaking with Federal’s team on the .224 Valkyrie on Range Day, we learned that the caliber has been in development for four years. During that time the company applied all of the lessons learned from its greatest might-have-been calibers – many of which now exist as little more than curios for ammunition collectors like myself to buy in singleton. The result is a smart, sexy round with a real application and strong, immediate market acceptance, and it looks to be quickly becoming the darling of the AR-15 industry. I don’t think we’ll be forgetting the name “Valkyrie” any time soon.