- By Chris Parkin
- 17 Comments
- Last updated: 25/11/2016
Valkyrie Rifles was started by Dave Wylde in January of 2012. After spending years in several manufacturing trades, gunsmithing as well as custom paintwork on all forms of products, a lifelong interest in shooting as well as an eye for detail brought Dave to the decision to fly solo. Concentrating only on rifles using the finest products and materials with no particular desire to work solely on price, his defining visual trademark was often his superb DuraCoat and Cerekote gun finishes. Being based close to me in Yorkshire, my own barrelling work done by Dave has given me 4 years of confidence in his skills, both mechanical and aesthetic. Perhaps my key complaint over some rifle builders is their personally favoured calibres can influence their recommendations, not to mention which are the newest, sharpest chamber reamers in their tooling drawers. Although he has quite defined tastes himself, I have never found Dave to be like this and he has always shown an objective concern towards each customers requirements.
Valkyrie has taken a bold step in designing and manufacturing its own action. As well as standard actions with various bolt/port configurations in repeater and single shot formats, the Valhalla is their premium action, designed and made to compete with anything on offer worldwide. A 416 Stainless action body coupled to a 4140 Chrome Molybdenum bolt has been refined to perhaps its ultimate tolerances, yet with subtle tweaks that avoid some of the failings of its competitors.
The big disadvantage to an action machined to tight tolerances is the bolt shaft can easily bind in fast use and worse still, metallically gall and lock. Although running to tight 0.001” tolerances, Valkyrie have used ‘camlocks’ just behind the bolt lugs that effectively ovalise the bolt shaft so that even though it runs in the relatively loose 0.003” region, upon closure, these cams tighten it radially into the abutments (the section the lugs bear on) giving a final closure tolerance of 0.0005”.
The shaft is helically fluted in a pattern named ‘barley twist’ that can also alleviate dirt problems in use but rifles using these types of actions are normally range queens, treated like newborn babies. The footprint of the action is a Remington 700 clone but the integral recoil lug allows a longer action tenon so switching barrels becomes relatively simple. Tapered ends to the ejection port allow modest opening size yet still allow easy ejection and insertion of rounds into this single shot version, feed being delightfully smooth, even with the stumpy 22BR case ‘thrown’ in.
Both Sako-style extractor and plunger ejector show minimal spring pressures to avoid suspicion of overworking the brass by accuracy paranoid reloaders who aspire to such guns. The firing pin is the small version, ideally suited to the case/primer combo for which this rifle is chambered. Atop the action a 20 MOA rail rests upon 4 stainless steel dowel pins, locked down by M4 cap screws. The action is mirror polished, tolerances are so tight they preclude most coatings but it can be Tufftrided to black which also shows self-lubricating characteristics too.
The round action shows one facetted panel relieved on the left to display the name (which can be customised) and serial number, small details around the ejection port and a multi-facet bolt shroud. Mine had a 0.94” spherical ball to operate the bolt on a well-proportioned 2” handle but others can be specified. Fine thread pitches have been employed on all bolt assemblies which allied to the action tolerances have allowed the bolt to be ‘timed’ to perfection. Bolt lift when ejecting and re-cocking the action is indistinguishable from closure force and leaves you quite delighted. This kind of action ‘feel’ is rarely found aside from a true bench-gun! A small bolt removal catch sits on the rear left of the action with the Jewell trigger supplying a conventional, 2-position safety catch.
CUT, LAPPED AND POLISHED
When no detail has escaped critique in the action, it is only fair to add one of the finest barrels and a 28” Bartlein cut rifled tube was fitted in a Heavy Varmint profile. Similarly mirror polished, it tapers straight, down to 0.9” at the 0° crown. Bottom metal is a simple aluminium blanking plate to fill the pre-cut recess in the stock and unsurprisingly a Jewel trigger controls the firing ping pin, set here at 12 oz.
The Robertson composite stock has an adjustable cheekpiece, butt hook and 14” length of pull, perfectly pillar bedded with Devcon and it fitted my ergonomic tastes well. Listening to the technical description of the paint finish left me for dead (I can’t even draw). A base layer of black DuraCoat for toughness was covered with several layers of marbled silvers, candies and ‘patted’ for textures virtually indescribable to me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what I can say is the finish is flawless and is a showcase for Dave’s artistry which seems at odds with his mechanical finesse?
I WAS WRONG
When I first started shooting in a world of very expensive custom rifles worth five times the value of my Rem 700, I was surprised that nice as they were, I never seemed to envy them. They were unaffordable to me but didn’t seem to tickle my interest anyway? I then shot a lot of high end factory rifles and realised it was the lack of homogeny in the design of the customs that didn’t appeal. They were a collection of parts and not a harmonious system. To me, shooting was about hitting the target; I cared little for ultimate group sizes but THIS GUN HAS CHANGED ME. Firstly, plush as it was, it was destined to be shot from the floor from a bipod, secondly, the barrel was chambered in a small but ballistically efficient cartridge with a ‘no-turn’ neck for simplicity on what is otherwise a wildcat chambering. The supplied ammunition was efficiently specified by a man who I know hates cluttering his reloading bench with tedious tasks and was shooting the 75 grain Hornady A-MAX bullets, a shade below 3000fps for reliable performance. The week before I had the gun, it was used in competition, taking second place with groups as small as an 1.7” at 500 yards, in the middle too!
A Nightforce NF scope was loaned, zeroed on top of the gun and these are a favourite with owners of super-accurate guns due to their 1/8 MOA clicks and fine reticules. Within moments of shooting the gun at 100 yards, I had to find smaller targets to aim at and quickly added elevation from zero to move my bullet impact away from my point of aim. There is no point putting a 1/16 MOA dot onto a dirty black .22 calibre hole and expecting to get results, this was just silly accurate.
At x32 magnification I was aiming at a dot drawn with a biro and straining my eyes but the accuracy on display was painfully addictive. I continually put bullets into a minutely expanding single hole and was frustrated by my eyesight being the weakest link in the system. The gun aimed solidly on a 6-9” Harris with only a rear bag for support, the bipod legs gently loaded from the firers shoulder even shot groups with flyers comfortably under the half inch mark. Small gusts could easily catch the bullets in flight and I twice put four into ONE hole with one of them (not the last shot either time) caught and driven a few tenths of an inch adrift.
I used ALL the ammo provided seeking Nirvana. This is a gun built by a man for himself, clearly exhibiting his skills and components, full details of the endless action options are listed on the comprehensive website. I would have dearly loved to take this gun long range vermin shooting if it had been moderated. Recoil with a 22 BR which is ballistically very similar to a 22-250 is very mild, especially with 17lbs of gun scope and bipod to soak it up. Bullet flight and strike would more than likely be visible in this type of use! Functionally, the gun didn’t exhibit any of the usual bolt bind or stodgy feel of similarly tight tolerance actions although personally I would have adjusted the trigger mechanism and added a few ounces. Bartlein have a superb reputation and the bore retained only a tiny trace of copper after my 60 rounds which was easily patched out. Sighting down the bore was kaleidoscopically mirror-like in finish.