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224 Valkyrie vs 223: Stretching the Capability of the AR-15

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The 224 Valkyrie and 223 Remington are two 22-caliber centerfire rifle cartridges that were designed for use in the semi-automatic AR-15 platform.

With the proliferation of the AR-15 as one of the most popular modern sporting rifles on the planet, the 223 Remington has in turn become one of the most common centerfire rifle cartridges on the market today.

Even though the 223 can reliably reach ranges upwards of 800 yards with proper match-grade loads, some shooters wanted to go further and hit targets out to 1,000 yards and beyond.

Adapting new calibers to the AR-15 is nothing new, as the 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, and 6.5 Creedmoor have all seen mild success in the rifle platform and can easily hit targets at 1,000 yards. However, these cartridges have heavier recoil, and some shooters wanted to maintain the lower recoil impulse of the 0.224” diameter bullet while still reaching out to 1,000 yards and beyond.

Enter the 224 Valkyrie, which can maintain supersonic flight and MOA-level accuracy at 1,300 yards with proper loads. Topped with the 90-grain Sierra Matchking bullet, the 224 Valkyrie was developed by Federal Ammunition to answer the call of long range precision shooters who wanted to use their AR-15’s to hit targets beyond 1,000 yards.

Although the 224 Valkyrie is superior to the 223 Remington in virtually every ballistic criterion, is it really worth it to convert your AR-15 to fire the new 224 Valkyrie ammo?

In this article, we will compare the 224 Valkyrie vs 223 to give you a better understanding of each cartridge and help you decide which rifle cartridge is ideal for your needs.

What is the Difference Between 223 and 224 Valkyrie?

The difference between 223 and 224 Valkyrie is their effective range and the bullet weights they fire. The 224 Valkyrie was designed to shoot heavier bullets up to 1,300 yards while the 223 excels at firing lighter bullets at ranges at or below 800 yards

A Note on Nomenclature

Please note that within this article we will refer to the 223 Remington (223 Rem) and the 5.56x45mm NATO round interchangeably. There are differences between the two and you can read about them in this article: .223 vs 5.56

In short, a 223 Rem can safely be fired from a rifle or handgun chambered in 5.56, however the opposite is not true.

Cartridge Specs

When evaluating two long range precision rifle cartridges, it’s a good idea to analyze the cartridge specs to gain more knowledge of each.

Probably the biggest difference between the 223 Rem and 224 Valkyrie is the base diameter. As the 224 Valkyrie cartridge is based off the 6.8 SPC, the 224 Valk has a base diameter of 0.421” while the 223 is a bit smaller with a base diameter of 0.376”. This means that the 224 Valkyrie is too wide to fit in standard 5.56 NATO magazines for the AR-15, and 6.8 SPC mags will need to be use for 224 Valkyrie.

The 224 Valkyrie case length is shorter than the 223 Rem so that longer, heavier bullets can be loaded in the 224 case while maintaining the maximum 2.26” overall length required to fit in the AR-15 platform. If the overall length were longer, then a heavier and more expensive AR-10 receiver would be required.

The 224 has a few grains more case capacity than the 223, but otherwise the remainder of the specs are the same. In terms of bullet diameter, both fire a 0.224” bullet

Recoil

The 224 Valkyrie and 223 Remington are both known for having exceptionally mild recoil. Most shooters would have zero issues spending a whole day at the range shooting either.

However, if someone is EXTREMELY recoil sensitive, then the 223 Remington is the better choice as it has 4 ft-lbs of felt recoil on average, compared to 6.5 ft-lbs of felt recoil for the 224 Valkyrie. The difference is primarily due to the 224 Valkyrie firing heavier bullets, like the 90 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles that the cartridge was designed for.

It should be noted that even though the 223 Reminton technically has less recoil, most shooters will not be able to discern much difference between the two.

Muzzle Velocity and Kinetic Energy

Muzzle velocity, measured in feet per second (fps) is the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel of the firearm. Generally, a longer barrel length will generate a higher muzzle velocity because it allows for a more complete powder burn.

Muzzle energy is measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs) and is a measurement of how much force a bullet delivers to its target at a given range.

For the purpose of comparison, we will consider the Gold Medal Match variety from Federal Ammunition. These rounds are topped with Sierra Matchking (SMK) projectiles that are well known for their accuracy, consistency, and precision when it comes to long-range shooting.

For 223 Remington, one of the most popular loads is the Federal 77 gr SMK variety, as this is the heaviest bullet that can be loaded into a standard AR-15 magazine. For the 224 Valkyrie, we will consider the 90 gr SMK, as this is the bullet the cartridge was built around.

For muzzle velocity, there is virtually no difference between the 223 Remington and 224 Valkyrie for these two loads. The 223 Rem has a muzzle velocity of 2,720 fps while the 224 Valkyrie clocks in at 2,700 fps. Considering the 224 Valkyrie is firing bullet that is 13 grains heavier and sacrificing only 20 fps, that’s impressive to say the least.

Although there is no discernable muzzle velocity advantage, kinetic energy is a different story entirely.

As the 224 Valkyrie fires a heavier bullet, it has higher muzzle energy compared to the 223 Remington. The 224 Valkyrie has 1,457 ft-lbs of muzzle energy compared to 1265 ft-lbs for the 223 Remington.

Trajectory

Trajectory is how we quantify a bullet’s flight path as it travels downrange measured in inches of bullet drop.

Obviously, a flatter shooting cartridge is preferred for long-range shooting, as a shooter will require fewer adjustments to their optics to compensate for bullet drop. Having a flatter trajectory also means that a cartridge will be more forgiving of ranging mistakes.

One of the major selling points on the 224 Valkyrie is its flatter trajectory compared to the 223 Remington.

For the purpose of this comparison, we will stick with the Federal Premium Gold Medal Match ammo discussed in the previous section. All calculations were performed using the Hornady Ballistic Calculator.

Assuming a 100 yard zero for both rifle cartridges, at the 500 yard marker the 224 Valk has experienced -55.6” of bullet drop compared to -64.3” of bullet drop for the 223 Remington. But the 224 Valkyrie has barely spread its wings at 500 yards!

At the 1,000 yard marker, the 224 Valkyrie has a bullet drop of -345.8” compared to -475.7” for the 223 Remington.

The main reason for the drastic differences in trajectory at 1,000 yards is that the 224 Valkyrie is still supersonic, while the 223 Rem has dropped below subsonic speeds. For reference, the speed of sound is 1,125 fps, so any velocity above this is considered supersonic.

Once a bullet drops into subsonic speeds, external forces like gravity more greatly affect the bullet’s flight as illustrated by the example above. Furthermore, accuracy generally begins to suffer when a bullet goes subsonic.

The 77 grain bullet fired by the 223 Remington rifle cartridge went subsonic around 850 yards. The 224 Valkyrie was specifically developed for long-range shooting, so it is not surprising that its trajectory was superior to the 223 Rem.

Ballistic Coefficient

Ballistic coefficient (BC) is a measure of how well a bullet resists wind drift and air resistance. Put another way, it’s a numeric representation of how aerodynamic a bullet is. A high BC is preferred as this means the bullet will buck the wind easier.

Generally, heavy bullets will have a higher BC as it takes more force to disrupt the flight of a heavier bullet than a lighter one. Ballistic coefficient varies from bullet to bullet based on design, weight, and other factors that are beyond the scope of this article.

The 224 Valkyrie was designed to fire heavy bullets like the 90 grain Sierra Matchking bullet for its exceptional ballistic coefficient. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that the 224 Valkyrie is generally superior in terms of ballistic coefficient.

For the 224 Valkyrie, its 90 gr SMK bullet has a BC of 0.563 which is insanely high for a 0.224” bullet diameter. For the 223 Remington and its 77 gr SMK bullet, the measured BC is 0.372.

We saw the effect of high ballistic coefficient in the trajectory section above, but how does this translate into wind drift?

Assuming a 10 mph crosswind, at 500 yards the 224 Valkyrie has experienced 16.9” of wind drift compared to 27.9” for the 223 Remington.

The added bullet weight of the 224 Valkyrie cartridge really shines when it comes to ballistic coefficient and fighting wind drift.

Sectional Density

Sectional Density (SD) is the measure of how well a bullet penetrates a target. This is extremely important when hunting big and medium sized game, as you need a bullet that can punch through thick hide, bone, and sinew.

Sectional density is calculated by comparing the bullet weight and the bullet diameter. The higher the SD the deeper the bullet will penetrate into the target. This is a simplified view of penetration as there are other factors to consider, such as bullet expansion and velocity.

The 224 Valkyrie will generally have higher sectional density as it can fire heavier bullets.

Since both cartridges fire the same diameter bullet, penetration will be dependent on the kinetic energy that each is carrying. As noted in the previous section on Kinetic Energy, the 224 Valkyrie and its heavier projectiles generally have higher kinetic energy than comparable 223 Remington loads.

This means that the 224 Valk will put more kinetic energy into the same area as the 223 Rem. The 90 gr SMK bullet for 224 Valkyrie has a sectional density of 0.256 vs 0.219 for the 77 gr SMK for 223 Remington.

Barrel Length and Twist Rate

Barrel twist rate is a term that is often thrown around in the shooting world but sometimes misunderstood.

When a bullet is fired, it travels down the barrel and begins to spin due to the rifling. This spin stabilizes the bullet in flight, increasing accuracy and consistency.

For rifle barrels, twist rate is expressed as a ratio of rotations per length of barrel. For example, a 1:7 twist barrel will cause a bullet to experience 1 full rotation per 7 inches of barrel length.

Typically, longer, heavier bullets require a faster twist barrel while lighter bullets work better in a slower twist barrel. This means that your barrels twist rate will directly impact which bullet weights your rifle will fire best.

For your standard 16-18” barreled AR-15 chambered in 223/5.56 NATO, you will generally find there are three different twist rates available: 1:9, 1:8, and 1:7.

By far, 1:9 and 1:7 are the most popular twist rates available through 1:8 is beginning to pick up steam. The 1:9 twist rate is generally considered ideal for a 62 grain bullet or lighter, while the 1:7 is the twist rate of the modern M4 carbine and can reliably stabilize a 69 grain bullet and up. The 1:8 twist barrel is a “middle of the road” option that can stabilize projectiles between 62 and 77 grains.

For the 224 Valkyrie, there is generally only one twist rate a shooter should consider, and that is the 1:7 twist as the faster twist rate is needed to stabilize heavier bullets.

One other item to consider when purchasing a 224 Valkyrie is barrel length.

Many shooters who own an AR-15 platform like it for its light weight and shorter barrel. This makes for a very maneuverable rifle that is easy to carry long distances and through thick brush. However, short barrels are not necessarily the best option when you want to shoot long distance.

Bullets fired from a short barrel will generally have lower muzzle velocity than those fired from longer ones. This is due to the bullet exiting the barrel before it has reached its full velocity.

For a 224 Valkyrie, a 22-24 inch barrel is required for the bullet to reach its full muzzle velocity and potential. However, humping around a 24” barreled rifle in the woods is not the simplest thing to do.

This means that when you plan out your 224 Valkyrie rifle, it’s a good idea to know what you plan to do with it before selecting a barrel length. If you plan to shoot out past 1,000 yards in long range shooting competitions, then you need to seriously consider a 24 inch barrel. However, if you are planning on varmint hunting below this distance, you can probably get away with a shorter barrel.

Hunting

The 223 Rem has a long and storied history as being an extremely effective varmint round. Rounds like the Nosler Ballistic Tip and Hornady V-MAX have made the 223 Reminton a potent choice when you plan on ridding your property of prairie dogs, coyotes, groundhogs, or any other small varmint that dare cross your path.

Although the 224 Valk is a relatively new cartridge, it performs just as well as the 223 in terms of varmint hunting.

The 224 Valkyrie cartridge has the added ability to fire heavier bullets, raising the question if it can be used for larger game like whitetail. The ethical question of using a 0.224” bullet diameter has been debated ad nauseum on the Internet and most states require a 0.243” minimum bullet diameter for deer hunting.

However, the Federal Ammunition 90-grain Fusion bullet would be a good option for this purpose should you be allowed to use a 22-caliber round for whitetail hunting. The 90-grain Fusion can maintain 1,000 ft-lbs of energy out to 200 yards and provide adequate expansion to ethically harvest medium sized game animals.

But just because you can do a thing, it does not mean that you should. Most states and territories prohibit the use of anything below a 0.243” diameter bullet, so sadly the 224 Valk and 223 Rem are primarily relegated to varmint duty.

When it comes to varmint hunting, it’s hard to say that one cartridge is superior to the other. An argument can be made that the low recoiling 223 Remington is the better choice as it allows for faster follow-up shots. But on the other hand, you could also argue that the flatter trajectory and high ballistic coefficient of the 224 Valkyrie makes it the better choice as it is more forgiving of ranging mistakes and can engage targets at long range.

For most hunters, the 223 will be the better choice as less recoil typically translates to increased accuracy and better shot placement. However, if you’re a hardcore prairie dog hunter and plan on engaging targets out past 800 yards, then the 224 Valk is the better choice.

Ammo and Rifle Cost/Availability

When it comes to ammo cost and availability, the 223 Remington is the clear winner. Even after the ammo crisis of 2020, the 223 Rem is still considered extremely affordable, and you can spend all day at the range without hurting your wallet too much. On average, FMJ plinking ammo will run you around $0.60/round and premium hunting ammo will cost about $1.50/round and up.

In contrast, 224 Valkyrie ammo is a bit more expensive with practice ammo like Federal American Eagle running about $0.90/round with the premium ammo running closer to $2/round. Another aspect to consider is that only Federal Premium, Hornady, Sierra, and Underwood currently have offerings for 224 Valkyrie ammo. Compare that to 223, where virtually every ammo manufacturer on the planet has at least one offering for 223 Remington.

Speaking of overall price per round, buying in bulk is always smart! Make sure to check out our stock of Hornady 224 Valkyrie ammo to compare prices.

The 223 continues its domination when it comes to rifle availability as well, since most firearm manufacturers make rifles chambered in 223. You can easily find a bolt action rifle from Ruger, Savage, Remington, Browning, or Sako chambered in 223.

Buying in bulk is always smart, make sure to check out our stock of 223 bulk ammo.

Furthermore, the most popular semi-automatic sporting rifle in North America, the AR-15, is primarily chambered in 223/5.56 NATO.

Sadly, as the 224 Valk is a relatively new cartridge, there are fewer rifle options for it at this time.

As it was primarily built for use in the AR-15 platform, most 224 Valkyrie rifle options are constrained to this rifle system. Savage offers two excellent AR-15 style options in their Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR) line with the MSR 15 Long Range and MSR 15 Recon LRP. However, if you’d rather convert an AR-15 to 224 Valkyrie, you can do so by changing the barrel, bolt, and using 6.8 SPC magazines.

But for some shooters and hunters, bolt action rifles are what they prefer. Sadly, there are only a few options for 224 Valk bolt-action rifles at the time of writing. Those rifles are the Savage 110 Prairie Hunter, Mossberg MVP Long Range, MasterPiece Arms 224BA.

Reloading

When it comes to handloading your own ammo, it’s hard to beat the availability of powders and projectiles available for the 223 Rem.

You’d be hard pressed to walk onto a range and not find yourself constantly stepping on 223 cases. Acquiring inexpensive 223 cases is extremely simple as there is an ample supply of military surplus and once-fired brass on the secondary market for very reasonable prices.

For projectiles, the world is your oyster with 223 as 55 and 62 gr milsurp bullets are easy to find and extremely affordable. On the other hand, if you want to craft premium hunting ammo you can source the perfect soft point or ballistic tip bullets from virtually every manufacturer.

Now, the savvy reloader might point out that all those inexpensive lightweight bullets can be used for 224 Valkyrie, and that is true in theory. However, the 224 was designed to fire heavy bullets and the 1:7 twist barrel may have difficulty stabilizing 40-55 grain bullets.

This isn’t to say that you can’t handload inexpensive 55 grain bullet plinking ammo for the 224, but if this is your goal it would make more sense to use a 223 platform as components are easier to source. Heavyweight 0.224” bullets (77-90 gr) will generally be more expensive and harder to find than 55 and 62 grain bullets, which is a deterrent for some reloaders.

One other issue to consider is the added cost of acquiring brass cases for 224 Valkyrie. As it is a new cartridge and not in military service, there is no inexpensive avenue in acquiring 224 brass.

This means you are limited to paying a premium for factory new brass or saving your brass from shooting factory ammo. Another option is reforming 6.8 SPC brass to make your own 224 Valkyrie brass, however this is a process that many reloaders rarely choose, as it takes time, effort, and attention to detail to make your own cases. Plus, 6.8 SPC brass isn’t exactly cheap either and it’s hard to justify the extra work when you can just buy new 224 Valkyrie brass.

The simple truth is that heavier 0.224” bullets and 224 Valk brass cases are going to be more expensive than their 223 Remington counterparts. And although reloading does reduce your overall cost basis for shooting 224, it cannot reduce it to the level that reloading for 223 does.

Continue reading the difference between 224 Valkyrie vs 223 ammo here.


Source: https://freedombunker.com/2024/07/02/224-valkyrie-vs-223/


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