January 29, 2019
Federal's .224 Valkyrie was designed to fit, feed, and fire in the popular AR-15 platform. Demonstrating a solid commitment to a successful debut of the new cartridge, Federal introduced four different factory loads with the Nosler 60-grain Ballistic Tip, American Eagle 75-grain TMJ, Fusion 90-grain SoftPoint, and Sierra 90-grain MatchKing. Those loads have factory-rated muzzle velocities of 3,300 fps, 3,000 fps, 2,700 fps, and 2,700 fps respectively.
I set about acquiring an AR-style and a bolt-action rifle chambered for the new cartridge so that I could work up some handloads. For more about the new round, see Steve Gash’s full-length review beginning on page 56 of this issue of Shooting Times.
I decided to rebarrel two of my guns, and Lothar-Walther USA provided two stainless-steel barrels chambered for the new round. One is a 24-inch, heavyweight, target barrel configured for my “switch-barrel” DRD Tactical CDR-15 AR. The other is a 22-inch tube that is threaded and profiled to replace the factory barrel of my CZ-USA Model 527 bolt-action rifle that’s chambered for the 7.62x39mm. There was no additional work needed to use the AR barrel, and gunsmith John Gallagher performed the needed modifications to the CZ 527.
I obtained several boxes of Federal’s 90-grain match ammo and a hundred pieces of new, primed brass. Starline and Hornady are also offering .224 Valkyrie, so I obtained 50 pieces of Starline brass and several boxes of Hornady ELD-Match ammo. I had plenty of component cases to load.
The .224 Valkyrie operates at its best with sleek, high-ballistic-coefficient (BC) bullets weighing up to 90 grains to achieve optimal, long-range ballistic performance. Sierra offers several heavy .22-caliber match bullets, including the 90-grain MatchKing HPBT that Federal loads in its match ammo. Hornady developed a new 88-grain ELD Match bullet specifically to meet the Valkyrie’s performance requirements. Berger also offers several suitable, high-BC target bullets.
I acquired a set of Redding competition dies that includes both full-length-sizing and neck-sizing dies and a micrometer-adjustment seating die. Because I was reloading for an autoloader, I chose to full-length size every case to ensure it would function reliably. And since I would be reloading several hundred rounds, I decided to use a spray lubricant to speed up the process.
Things went south immediately.
I repeatedly experienced lube dents in most of the first batch of cases I resized. I tried wiping off excess lube before sizing and removed too much on one case and it seized in the sizer die. Fortunately, I had a stuck-case-remover kit on hand and was able to undo my mistake. I switched back to applying just a dab of Redding’s Imperial case wax to the lower body, and the rate of dented shoulders dropped to just an occasional occurrence. The rest of the process typified reloading any other bottlenecked rifle case.
The different brands of brass weighed almost exactly the same, so I didn’t need to adjust charge weights to accommodate capacity differences. Because Valkyrie ammo is primarily intended for autoloading rifles, Hornady lightly stakes the primer in place. They were easy to decap while resizing, but you must remove the crimp before you can reprime them. Fortunately, this is a one-time step in the reloading process.
I routinely use RCBS and Lyman powered case-prep tools and their primer pocket uniform accessories to clean every pocket when reloading a batch of ammo. I hoped performing that step would also fully prep the Hornady once-fired primer pockets. No such luck. I still had to use the RCBS Trim Mate crimp remover so the primers could be properly seated later without damage.
As you can see in the performance chart, I test-fired factory ammo and handloads topped with only the heavier .22-caliber bullets. I was able to duplicate factory velocities without any problems; however, I have no way of measuring pressures, so use the data cautiously, i.e., reduce start loads at least 5 percent. At this time, only Federal and Sierra have published load data for the .224 Valkyrie. Sierra’s data covers the broad range of its extensive product line, and Federal’s recipes are limited but appear somewhat more aggressive.
Of all of the propellants I tried, several Alliant choices performed well, as did Hodgdon and IMR selections. Reloder 15 and Power Pro 2000-MR propellants provided optimal load densities compatible with the .224 Valkyrie’s case capacity.