Adam Weatherby’s Montana black bear was the first game animal ever taken with the new Weatherby 6.5 RPM cartridge. (Weatherby/)
Recent years have seen the introduction of a stunning number of new factory rifle cartridges, with each being heralded as the “The Next Big Thing” for hunting or competitive shooting. This explosion in new-cartridge development was fueled by the phenomenal success of the 6.5 Creedmoor, which led ammomakers to focus on cartridges built around long, heavy-for-caliber, high-B.C. bullets delivering better long-range performance. There was also a demand for better-performing cartridges for AR rifles, again with longer, sleeker bullets. These trends came in response to, and coincided with, a big spike in interest in long-range shooting, creating a perfect storm in new-cartridge development that continues. In fact, several more new factory cartridge designs are on the way.
The last time the shooting world saw so many new cartridges introduced in a relatively short span of time was in the early 2000s, when the short-magnum craze arrived. Since then, with the exception of the .300 WSM, which was arguably the most successful of the short-magnum batch, many of those cartridges proved to be a flash in the pan.
The 6mm Creedmoor shares many of the attributes of its more famous 6.5mm sibling and is wonderfully accurate. (Hornady Ammunition/)
Will today’s newest cartridges follow the same sad market trajectory, or will some of them duplicate the success of the 6.5 Creedmoor? The odds are against it—the 6.5 is likely a once-in-a-generation cartridge that has become a global standard—but some of the newcomers may be poised to do very well. Of course, new cartridges come and go, and only time will tell, but here’s a look at some of the newer cartridges to keep an eye on in the years ahead.
1. .224 Valkyrie
With its heavier bullets, the .224 Valkyrie is a viable deer cartridge, as demonstrated on this Texas whitetail by Federal Ammunition’s JJ Reich. (Federal Ammunition/)
The long-range shortcomings of the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO cartridge have long left AR rifle fans wishing for something better in .22 caliber centerfire. Nosler took a swing at a solution in 2017 with its .22 Nosler, which improved upon .223 Rem. performance by sending bullets of similar weight, initially topping out at 77 grains, downrange faster. In 2018, Federal unveiled its own offering, the .224 Valkyrie, which was essentially built around a long, sleek, high-B.C. 90-grain bullet zipping along at 2,700 fps, and typically fired from rifle barrels with a fast 1:7 twist rate to better stabilize such bullets. That particular load, with a HPBT MatchKing bullet, remains supersonic to about 1,300 yards.