Range Test: Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie
Our full review of one of the first factory ARs chambered for the long-range .224 Valkyrie.
Over the past couple of years, enthusiasm for long(er) range shooting has exploded. Sure, there are competitions that make it structured, but part of the reason for the boundless popularity is that it’s just fun.
Hitting a target at long range requires 50 percent skill, 50 percent science, and 43 percent pure VooDoo. Oh, and 38 percent guess work. If you’re keeping track, that adds up to 181 percent, which seems about right considering the complexity of long-range ballistics.
About a year ago, Federal Premium introduced a new long-range cartridge—the 224 Valkyrie. You can read more about the cartridge itself here. The short answer to the “what’s the big deal” question is this: It’s a great long-range performer that still fits into a standard AR-15 lower receiver configuration.
There are lots of solid long range cartridges like 6.5mm Creedmoor, but most of them require the larger (and less standardized) AR-10 chassis. So, the MSR 15 Valkyrie is truly an “AR-15” platform but with a different chamber, bolt, and magazine.
We’ll come back to those details later. For now, just know the Valkyrie will give you far less drop at long ranges and will buck the wind significantly better than standard 55-, 69-, and 77-grain .223/5.56 loads.
A Quick Tour of the MSR 15 Valkyrie
It took the folks at Savage a little while to get into the Modern Sporting Rifle Business, otherwise known as AR platform rifles, but when they did, they jumped in with both feet. Detractors pontificated that the market was already overcrowded, but I disagree.
No matter how many existing products are on the shelves, there’s always room for one if does things better.
To get right to the “what’s different from any other AR” discussion, I think we have to start with the barrel. The care and attention to detail of barrel making has more to do with performance than any other single factor.
Over many years, Savage has developed a reputation for outstanding accuracy out of the box across their product line, largely as a result of the focus on barrel making. As with their other products, the MSR 15 Valkyrie barrel is made with a button rifling process that results in consistency. The bore diameter is consistent. The pattern of rifling is consistent. The rate of rifling twist (1:7 with 5R rifling in this case) is consistent.
When you translate all of that into range performance you get a barrel that not only shoots precise groups but maintains that ability as the barrel heats during use.
This rifle has an 18-inch long barrel. As this is a longer-than-standard barrel with a beefier cartridge, the company elected to install a mid-length gas system to mellow out recoil as well as wear and tear on the system.
While we’re talking about bore performance, the gas system is adjustable with an exposed “screw” that protrudes just forward of the hand guard. Just insert a punch pin or similar tool into one of the exposed holes and rotate counterclockwise to reduce flow back to the action.
This allows you to do two things. You can tune your rifle to your specific ammunition to ensure that it cycles reliably without over-gassing the system and causing undue wear and tear.
Second, if you use a suppressor, that creates additional back pressure so you can tune the gas flow to make things operate smoothly.
One more thing related to the gas system—the rifle includes a true muzzle brake, not just a flash hider, and it’s also tunable. While the 224 Valkyrie has low recoil, especially compared to other long-range cartridges, the brake helps keep the muzzle on target for quick follow-up shots.
The upper receiver of the MSR 15 Valkyrie is Cerakoted with a Flat Dark Earth finish. It looks great. The top surface of the 13.5-inch hand guard offers a continuous Picatinny rail so you can mount anything you like in virtually any position.
Surrounding the rest of the guard are seven surfaces perforated with M-LOK holes so you can attach accessories to both sides, the bottom, and the four angled areas in between.
The furniture is also premium gear. The stock is a Magpul UBR Gen 2 Buttstock. That gives you a well-rounded check rest surface and a rubber butt pad for starters. It’s got a positive locking system that gives you eight different locking positions to adjust length of pull.
One of the claims to fame of the UBR system is that it’s designed to be as solid as a fixed stock, but with adjustments. The UBR also offers numerous sling options including a single-point sling quick-detach point under the receiver extension, more QD points on both sides, and a standard loop underneath.
There’s also a storage compartment with a reversible door so you can access your stuff from either side. This stock alone carries an MSRP of $199.95 if you buy it on its own, so it’s a great value add in this package.
The MSR 15 Valkyrie also includes a Hogue pistol grip that’s rubberized for non-slip use.
This is a sweet rifle with plenty of high-value extras. Next let’s look at how it performs on the range.
Range Test: Shooting the MSR 15 Valkyrie
Oh, one thing before we get into actual performance of the Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie. You might see different numbers than the ones shown here for velocities, bullet drop, and wind shift. That’s because I’m showing them for my location, which seems to be about 9,384 feet below sea level.
But seriously, I’m about seven feet above sea level here. That’s why they call this area the Lowcountry. As a result, since the air is thick and muggy, I won’t get the same speeds that you thinner air folks above the Tsunami plain will see. Altitude makes a surprisingly big difference in velocity down range.
For example, at 5,000 feet, the 90-grain Federal load we’re testing here will be going about 1,300 feet per second at 1,000 yards.
Where I am, that number is closer to 1,100 because the bullet is bashing into more air molecules while in flight. Yes, it’s a first world problem…
Velocity and Accuracy
The first thing I did was chronograph my test ammo through this rifle to find actual velocity in my area’s atmospheric conditions. Averaging a bunch of shots, I came up with 2,520.7 feet per second using the Federal Premium Gold Medal 90-grain load. This cartridge is topped with a Sierra Matchking bullet.
While the same diameter as any other standard .223 Remington projectile, it’s a heck of a lot longer, heavier, and skinnier, which explains its excellent down range performance.
Next up I set targets at 100 yards both to zero the Burris XTR II 2-10×42 scope and established some basic short range accuracy performance. I should note that after I did this testing, Federal released an ammunition update on this load.
While it shoots minute of angle as you’ll see, the company believes it can do better and is reworking things. Check Federal’s website for updates if you want to shoot this cartridge so you can be sure to get the latest batch. With all that said, shooting multiple five-shot groups at this distance, I averaged group sizes of 1.02 inches.
Going for Long Distance Shots
After zeroing at 100 yards and confirming that five-shot groups were landing at my desired point of impact relative to the crosshairs, I did some quick ballistic prediction math using the Ballistic AE program. This smartphone app takes inputs like bullet type, muzzle velocity, current atmospheric conditions, and spits out bullet drop in inches, minutes of angle, or milliradians.
That allows you to make accurate scope adjustments to hit targets at longer ranges. Here’s the dope that worked out for me.
- 300 Yards: 1.2 mils (4.3-inch drop)
- 600 yards: 4.6 mils (99.9-inch drop)
- 800 yards: 7.8 mils (226.5-inch drop)
Here’s where things got fun as I had targets at all three of those ranges. Again because “fun” I shot at steel, not paper, so I didn’t bother with group measurements in fractions of inches.
The pictures will show you how things performed. At 600 yards, I could cover the four-shot group with the ammo box. At 800 yards, a five-shout group was in the six-inch range. That’s pretty darn good considering the 8 mph wind that day.
The Bottom Line
This rifle retails for $1,499 so you’ll find it on the street for less if you shop. True to Savage reputation, you’ll get a lot of rifle for your dollar. It’s solid in its base form and the premium extra features are well worth the money.
|Magazine Capacity||25 Rounds|
|Length of Pull In||11.75 – 15.125|
|Magazine||Detachable Box Magazine|
|Rate of Twist||7|
|Receiver Color||Elite FDE Cerakote|
|Receiver Material||Aluminum 7075|
|Stock Type||Hogue Pistol Grip|