Gun Review: Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie Rifle

Before you ask, no, this is not a mil-spec gun. It is much better than that.

With the MSR-15 Valkyrie, Savage turned their Recon package into a competition-ready, hunt-ready shooter with a fascinating cartridge, the .224 Valkyrie.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The semi-automatic MSR-15 Valkyrie rifle gets its name from the .224 Valkyrie cartridge. The .224 Valkyrie was Federal’s design, essentially a necked-down 6.8 SPC case, topped with a .224 caliber bullet.

Because of the increased case capacity and improved cased geometry, much longer, heavier .224 caliber bullets can be used and still pushed to some very fast speeds, as compared to the 5.56NATO cartridge. If we stick to the lighter 60-ish grain bullets, you’ll see a 300+ fps advantage over the 5.56 NATO in the same gun. Bump that up to a 75gr round and you’ll see a 200 fps advantage over the fastest commercial rounds I can find.

The real show-off is the cartridge’s ability to load 25 rounds of 90gr .224 diameter rounds and push them over 2,600fps.

Left to right: 55gr 5.56 NATO, 90gr 6.8 SPC, 90gr .224 Valkyrie (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Those of you familiar with the long-time King of the Varmints, the .22-250 Remington, should recognize that 60 grain load. The Valkyrie gets within 100 fps of the bolt gun bullet.

That’s impressive, but it got me concerned about barrel life. I don’t have the thousands of rounds it would take on a particular rifle to test throat erosion, but I did ask a few people who did. Several noted their rifles are going strong 4,000, 5,000, and even 6,000 rounds later.

Of course, that depends on the quality of the barrel and how hard you’re pushing the rounds through it. Still, even at the low number, that’s a good amount of barrel life and, since it’s an AR, a barrel swap is extremely simple.

Federal .224 Valkyrie rounds, 60, 75, and 90 grain (left to right) (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Although I’d shot at couple of guns chambered in .224 Valkyrie, I didn’t have any real experience with it until the 12 Hundo in Hondo event this last spring. Several competitors used this cartridge with solid results.

The 75-90 grain projectiles have very high ballistic coefficients, helping to buck the wind, our inconsistent nemesis. Because of the high velocity of the round, with a 200 meter zero, no target would be more than 3 mils of elevation adjustment out to 600 meters. Those ballistics made for very fast target transitions and an increase in the margin of error for the shooter.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie 6.8 SPC bolt carrier group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

You can form .224 Valkyrie brass from 6.8 SPC cases, although you’ll likely need to do it in a couple of steps, and I’m betting some case neck turning is involved. Or you can just buy the cases from Starline. If you want to go with store-bought — and as you’ll see later, there’s no reason you shouldn’t on this gun — you can find several different loads at inexpensive prices.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie magazine well (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The fore-end, upper and lower of the MSR-15 Valkyrie are Cerakoted flat dark earth in color. It’s smooth and even throughout.

There are some minor style embellishments in the lower receiver. You’ll see those as relief cuts in the magazine well, as well as the forward portion of the mag well. Looking closely, you’ll see the curve of the magazine well approximates the same curve of the PRI 6.8 SPC magazine.

Also note that the proximal end of the handguard ends in a round cut that fits neatly over the upper receiver’s carrier channel. These often-overlooked details really help to tie in an overall visual theme to the rifle, and help set it apart from lower-value ARs.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie Hogue pistol grip (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Unlike many companies, Savage chose to mix their furniture up a bit, with a Magpul stock and a Hogue grip. The great thing about the Hogue grip is that it provides a non-slip surface and plenty of real estate to grip. The downside is that many shooters, like me, use that texture and shape to muscle the gun into position, instead of getting proper body alignment in the first place.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie’s collapsible Magpul UBR buttstock (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The MSR’s stock is Magpul’s Gen2 UBR. It gives the shooter plenty of room for a good cheek-stock weld, and the adjustable length of pull is stepped enough to give plenty of options.

Unlike many others, this stock has zero wobble, and maintained a tight fit throughout the review. The small compartments are great for storing ear pro and a little bit of lube.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie fore-end with M-Lok (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The free float handguard is small in diameter; large enough to clear the gas block, but small enough to get a full grip around the handguard.

Long before many of us ever heard the term “C-clamp” referring to a grip style, service members were holding their M4s like this, since that was the easy way to manipulate our IR laser/illuminator mounted to the top rail of our rifles. It’s still very much the grip I prefer when shooting on the move, as it allows for easy access to accessories, as well as a fast start and stop of the gun.

Savage Arms MSR-15 Valkyrie trigger group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Savage’s own two-stage trigger used on this rifle is as good as many of the aftermarket triggers available. This actually surprised me.

The Valkyrie is based on their Recon model, and I was not particularly impressed with that rifle’s trigger. In this competition-focused gun, that heavy, gritty trigger seems to have disappeared. This trigger broke at an ounce north of 3 lbs, with a nice, clean snap.

The Savage Arms MSR-15 Valkyrie’s standard charging handle (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The only disappointment I had with the MSR at all was the standard charging handle. I would much prefer a “big boy” latch, as this small handle gets in the way of scope rings. Of course, I could just move the rings up a notch or two on the Picatinny rail and problem solved.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie barrel (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The heart of any rifle is the barrel. The MSR-15 Valkyrie sports a medium profile 18″ tube with 5R rifling. There’s a lot of history with the 5R rifling, and I’ve been shooting a Remington bolt gun with the same land/groove set-up for well over 5,000 rounds now.

I can’t attest yet that it provides any longer barrel life, but I can tell you that it does, in fact, make cleaning of the barrel easier. (Also, stop cleaning your barrel so much and be careful how you do it.)

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie adjustable gas block (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Savage MSR-15 also comes with an adjustable gas system on a mid-length gas tube. If you are shooting an AR-15 in .5.56 NATO in an un-suppressed “direct impingement” rifle and sticking to the standard NATO offerings of that caliber, an adjustable gas block won’t do you a whole lot of good.

But if you’re shooting projectiles from 60 to 90 grains, shooting suppressed, or if keeping the rifle as still as possible during the recoil cycle is important, an adjustable gas block is a big help. There’s more than a little difference in the gas requirements needed to make the rifle cycle between a 60 grain unsuppressed round and a suppressed 90 grainer.

The Savage adjustable gas block works exactly as it should. I had no issues dialing it to just keep the bolt locked back on an empty magazine with the 60 grain rounds, or doing the same with the 90 grain bullets. Although it is exposed at the front end of the handguard, it’s a little too tight to hand adjust. You’ll need to use a hex key.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie tunable muzzle brake on the 18-inch barrel (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The MSR’s muzzle brake is big and very effective at turning recoil into lots of blast and noise. I hate muzzle brakes on all guns save the magnum calibers on ultralight rifles. Or competition guns. This counts as the later, but if it were mine it would come right off and a silencer would go right on.

According to Savage, this is a “tunable” muzzle brake. Don’t know what they mean by that? Neither did I. It turns out, they mean you can drill the holes out larger if you want to. If that’s the case, every muzzle brake on earth is “tunable.”

For a competition-focused gun like this one, a muzzle brake helps to allow the shooter to watch the bullet trace through the scope for fast calls and corrections on long range targets. For short range work, it helps to keep the muzzle down for rapid follow-ups.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie quick fire (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I tested the rifle — and myself — with one of my favorite drills. Starting from a low kneel, weapon on safe and low, I gave myself 6 seconds to shoot 6 roughly 1-inch targets, left-to-right and top-to-bottom, at 100 yards. I went 4 for 6 and my problem is the same as always. I shot before I completely stopped the muzzle.

Savage provided 320 .224 Valkyrie rounds of ammunition for the review. That wasn’t quite enough so I looked around for more. I was actually surprised to find the ammo pretty easy to come by, both in my local gun stores and online. I guess when both Federal and Hornady produce the line, it distributes quickly.

I picked up an addition 100 rounds, shooting a total of 420 rounds for the review. I was hoping to do some reloading of the cartridge, too as I have many thousands of 6.8SPC cases and .224 bullets of various weights, but everywhere I checked had the sizing dies on back-order.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie with Federal ammo (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Savage shipped the gun dirty, and considering how gummed-up it was, I have to assume it had sat unfired for quite some time. I sprayed a little CLP I keep in my truck on the BCG prior to the review. At no point after did I lube, disassemble, or otherwise provide any maintenance to the rifle whatsoever.

It performed flawlessly. No round of any type failed to fire, eject, or load again. The PRI magazines never failed to load or failed to eject. Overstuffed Magpul 5.56 NATO mags bulged, just like they do with regular 6.8SPC cases, and were difficult to insert, but dropped freely once they were empty.

Federal Premium group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

By the time I got to the bench I had a good idea of how the MSR-15 Valkyrie would perform. I was not disappointed.

Using the supplied ammunition, I shot a 20-round box of each type and averaged the results. Shooting from a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest at 100 yards, the lightest round — the Federal Premium 60gr Nosler Ballistic Tip — scored the best, printing 3/4″ five-round groups.

The American Eagle 75gr total metal jacket round scored 1″ groups, on average. Not bad for a round that sells for under fifty cents per cartridge. The heaviest round — the Federal Premium 90gr soft point moving at over 2,600fps — matched the American Eagle round at 7/8″, but at roughly double the price per round. That would make a fine Texas Hill Country hunting round.

All shooting for this review was done with the Atibal Apex scope mounted on Atibal rings. Groups were shot with the scope on 14X magnification.

Federal AE group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

With three different bullets at three different weights from three different lines, the Savage MSR15 I reviewed averaged groups at 1 MOA or less.

I’ve always been a fan of Savage rifles. Heck, if I were to walk out the door with any one gun, it’d be my very well-proven 1950’s era Savage in .30-06. But I didn’t think I’d be impressed with another AR-15 platform rifle. I am.

The Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie provides precision at 1 MOA or less, is perfectly reliable, comes with an adjustable gas block, and is decent looking (for an AR) to boot.

The $1,500 MSRP proves that good things come with a price. But the street price is far more affordable. Brownells currently sells the rifle for much, much less.

Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications: Savage MSR-15 Valkyrie

Barrel Length (in)/(cm): 18 / 45.7
Barrel Material: Carbon Steel (4140, Melonite Coated)
Caliber: 224 VALKYRIE
Gas System: Mid-Length adjustable
Magazine Capacity: 25 rounds (one supplied)
Magazine: Detachable Box Magazine
Overall Length (in)/(cm): 36.5 – 39 / 92.7
Rate of Twist: 1 in 7″
Muzzle Brake: Tunable muzzle brake with 1/2×28, Class 3 barrel thread
Receiver Color: Elite Series FDE Cerakote
Receiver Material: Aluminum 7075
Weight: (lb)/(kg) 7.88 / 3.57
MSRP $1,529 (about $1,175 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * *
It’s an AR. It’s also an AR with at least some nods to a stylistic theme. There are no obvious tool marks and the FDE Cerakote job is smooth and even throughout.

Customization * * * * *
It’s an AR. This one gets extra credit for the adjustable gas block.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect with every round tested from a gummed-up and poorly-maintained rifle. PMags will run with a dramatically limited capacity. Buy a PRI 6.8 SPC mag and fill ’em up.

Accuracy * * * * *
MOA or better — sometimes much better — with a stock gun and multiple commercial rounds. This is one of the very few guns I wouldn’t bother reloading for.

Overall * * * * *
Yes, a 5-star review for a mid-priced AR-15 rifle. For those of you who read my reviews, you know I look for reasons for a gun to get knocked out of that category. The standard charging handle is the only thing that might have done it, but then it would be a 4.9 star review, and that’s just petty. Savage has made one heck of a gun in a great caliber. Not too many ARs make it on my “to buy” list anymore, but this one just did.

comments

  1. avatar Red in CO says:

    I remember when Savage announced their MSR line a few years ago. Aggressively priced, plenty of features (on paper), and consistently glowing reviews. Yet somehow I haven’t seen a single one in the wild anywhere. Not at any range or any store, and I’ve hardly heard of anyone talking about them either. That’s pretty telling….

    1. avatar Smoke Trail says:

      I’m shocked at how rusty the bolts are on your Caldwell Stinger rest. What’s up with that?

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I assume are asking me, the author.
        That rest has been sitting on my target bench, exposed to the elements, for 2 years now. Oxidation happens.

        1. avatar Smokey Trails says:

          I’ve got a lead sled and a stinger, and neither shows worse for wear except for some paint chipping. The rusty bolts and rusty larger threaded adjustables made me wonder if Caldwell has screwed the pooch on quality fasteners. Are you in Texas?

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          I am. On the Hays/Blanco county line.

      2. avatar DrewN says:

        LOL. My lead sled has been sitting outside on a bench in AZ for about the same time,but looks alot worse than that. Granted, it’s mostly UV damage,but every surface that isn’t metal has returned from whence it came.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      What does it tell?

    3. avatar Michael in AK says:

      I have a “Recon” with a “wylde” barrel. It absolutely HATES .223 ammo (jams like crazy, one case was so stuck I had to send it back to Savage) but seems fine with 5.56 Nato.

  2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Getting under 1 MOA in an auto loader is darned impressive!
    Just might dump my .22-250 bolt gun for this.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Why dump one when you can add-to?

      1. avatar Jack says:

        God bless America!

  3. avatar Dan W says:

    Carbine length gas system? That doesn’t seem right.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Should say mid length.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        JWT: This is off topic, but I just bought a LWRC “Other Firearm” AR-15 12″ barrel. With the velocity loss, what bullet weight range is best for defense purpose? 55, 68, 77?

        I’ve read some use SBR’s for hog hunting inside of 100 yds. with 77 grain OTM loads, does the lower velocity affect the lethality on hogs?

  4. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    good review.
    nice rifle. i could see it.

  5. avatar Brandon says:

    Wow, I haven’t been tempted to buy an off the shelf AR in a long time. This one could change my mind. Is the trigger single or two stage?

    1. avatar Jeep1967 says:

      From the article “Savage’s own two-stage trigger used on this rifle is as good as many of the aftermarket triggers available.”

      Don’t know if that was added after your comment or not.

  6. avatar WI Patriot says:

    IF I want to push .224 pills at extreme velocities, I’ll stick with my .22-250…

  7. avatar WI Patriot says:

    And here’s a link to a full length sizing die for .224Valk…

    https://leeprecision.com/fl-size-die-224-valkyrie.html

  8. avatar Ton E says:

    Has Savage alleviated the issues with the .224 Valk MSRs blowing primers? I know that was an issue when the rifles were released.

  9. avatar Sam Hill says:

    Very good review Mr. Taylor. Anyway you could be enticed to do one on the Rock Island Armory .380 “baby rock” 1911?

  10. avatar Dan W says:

    Garand Daddy review: “I haven’t shot this gun much. I only have about 4000 rounds through it. ”

    All other reviews: “I have used this gun extensively, with over 100 rounds down the pipe.”

    1. avatar ZKahr says:

      Lol you nailed it with the words “extensively” and “down the pipe.” You’ve got the jargon down.

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