Rambling Thoughts on the .223 Remington, .22 Nosler, and the .224 Valkyrie
by Greg Ritchie
I can't start this discussion without first talking about the 222 Remington. The Triple Deuce is a handloaders dream. I like the case design, especially the long neck which helps with bullet coincitricity. This long neck will play into my discussion of the 223 Remington / 22 Nosler / 224 Valkyrie. A person could do much worse than the 222 Remington. Unfortunately it has been pretty much killed off by it's bigger brother, the 223 Remington. The 222 is an extremely accurate cartridge. A mite restricted in the velocity department, pushing a 50 grain bullet at 3100 feet per second or so, but entirely adequate for anything from prairie dogs to coyotes, and did I mention it's a very accurate target cartridge to boot?
[.222 Remington - By Arz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9989260]
But I want more. More velocity, more range, more accuracy. And the cartridge has to fit in the AR-15 platform.
Enter the 223 Remington. The cartridge the AR-15 was designed around. And a good cartridge it is too. It's only drawback is it's short neck, which was necessary in order to get the maximum velocity from the cartridge with a 55 grain bullet and still work through the magazine. There are three common chamber variations for 223 Remington rifles. The standard Remington chamber, the NATO hamber, and the Wylde chamber. A short basic description follows. The 223 Remington chamber has a short and tight leade. The 5.56 NATO chamber has a longer loose leade. And the 223 Wylde chamber combines the long leade of the NATO with the tight leade of the Remington. Normally I would prefer the short tight leade as I like to get my bullets right up against the lands of the rifling, but in this case, I prefer the Wylde chamber. I have had good luck with it and see no real reason for the other chamber variations.
[.223 Remington - By Francis Flinch at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5598717]
The 223 Remington will push my preferred 52 grain bullet at a bit over 3300 feet per second. It's a very accurate cartridge. The only concession I make when reloading is that I like to seat any bullets on cartridges intended to be my varmint rounds using an arbor press and seating dies due to the short neck and concentricity issues. But still, I want more!
Enter the 22 Nosler. Ahhhh! A 22-250 out of an AR-15 ! Well, not quite, but still, I am able to push my 52 grain hollow point bullet nearly 300 feet per second faster than I can out of the 223. The 22 Nosler is basically a 6.8 SPC case with a rebated rim necked to hold a .224 caliber bullet. Case length is the same as the 223, but the neck has been lengthened, making this an easier cartridge to reload for. The fatter case holds considerably more powder than the 223. Like the 223, it will handle bullets up to 77 grains in weight, but this is my varmint rifle and I like my 52 grain bullets. It is a very accurate cartridge to boot. My standard is that my varmint rig must put 3 bullets into an inch at 100 yards every time. My 22 Nosler easily surpasses that with 3/4 inch there shot groups.
[22 Nosler (left), .223 Remington (right) - By Hellbus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62700193]
The 22 Nosler is an easy conversion. All you need is a 22 Nosler chambered barrel and a 6.8 SPC magazine. Is there any negatives? I think so. In my opinion they should of kept the 6.8 SPC rim rather than rebate the rim. The point was, I think, to make the ability to switch chambering as easy as possible, but I get case head swipe with the rebated rim. It's not that difficult to swap out the bolt to an SPC bolt. But to be fair, I understand that Nosler changed the design of their case head. They have gone from a square edged rim to a beveled one. This has supposedly fixed the case head swipe issue. But is there a better cartridge?
Enter the 224 Valkyrie. Is it better than the 22 Nosler? Not for my purposes as a Varminter, but that's not what the Valkyrie was designed for. It was designed to be a 6 mm/6.5 Creedmore that will fit into the AR-15 platform, and this it does very well.
I am fortunate to have a friend that has a 224 Valkyrie and I have been able to shoot the 224 Valkyrie alongside the 22 Nosler for a couple of months. The 224 Valkyrie takes the 6.8 SPC case and necks it down to accept .224 bullets leaving the rim a full size 6.8 rim. Sounds exactly like what I asked for, doesn't it? Not quite. They shortened the case to allow the long 90 grain Sierra Matchking bullets to cycle through the magazine and action. This means that the Valkyrie will always be a little slower than the Nosler using the same weight bullets. My favorite 52 grain bullet does not work well in this cartridge. If seated normally, the bullet is too far from the lands and accuracy suffers. There is a 60 grain bullet loaded up in the Valkyrie for varmint hunters, but the 22 Nosler is the better varmint cartridge.
But like I noted earlier, the 224 Valkyrie was not designed to be a varmint cartridge. It was designed to be a long range target cartridge. And this it does very well. It will push the 90 grain Sierra Matchking bullet out of the muzzle at a bit over 2700 feet per second. I actually expect the 224 to put the skids on the popular 6.5 Grendel cartridge, if not make the Grendel obsolete altogether. It is that much better at extended range. I also have a 6.5 Grendel that I have been able to shoot alongside the .224 Valkyrie. If I am going to shoot a buck at 400 yards across a soybean field, I will choose the Grendel, but if I want to punch holes in a piece of paper at 1000:yards, I'll take the Valkyrie please! (Honestly with names like Valkyre and Grendel, I'll take one of each please, and throw in a 50 Beowulf just for good measure!)
[.224 Valkyrie, Federal brand premium line]
In conclusion, which is better? It depends. For the varmint Hunter who shoots a lightweight highly frangible bullet the 22 Nosler gets the nod. For the long range target shooter who shoots the long 90 grain projectiles and does not want to single load, there is no other game than the 224 Valkyrie. The 22 Nosler was designed to get the utmost velocity from the AR-15, whyle the 224 Valkyrie was designed to get the utmost in long range precision.
Does this leave the 223 Remington with nowhere to go? No. Not in my case anyways. My 22 Nosler has somewhere around 3000 rounds through it and it is starting to give up accuracy. Those 3/4" groups are already getting up to around an inch. When they go over an inch, which I figure to happen in the next few months, the 223 Wylde barrel is going back on it. Might not be as good beyond 300 yards as the 22 Nosler, but it looks like the 22 Nosler is going to be a barrel burner. The 223 Wylde, it seems, will give me twice the barrel life and I really don't shoot that much over 300 yards anyway.