Boldly Going Where No Muzzleloader Has Gone Before
By Michael Deming
Long Range and muzzleloader seem to be a bit of a contradictory term, but with everyone wanting bigger, better, and faster with everything they own, it’s not surprising that there is a demand for it. CVA was definitely up to this challenge in delivering a muzzleloader capable of accuracy out to 400 yards and beyond. We jumped at the opportunity to put one of these to the test and prepare it for the upcoming hunting seasons.
When it arrived, I was excited to get my hands on this new smokepole. I had spoken with the company’s CEO Dudley McGarity earlier in the year and knew all the research that had gone into developing such a precision long range muzzleloader, which made the excitement even greater.
When I opened the box, at first glance I thought I had been sent the wrong rifle. This looked a lot more like a bench-rest style bolt gun than a muzzleloader. I had been briefed to make sure I read the entire instruction manual before starting to do anything. Being an old grungy Marine by trade, I’m not big on reading directions. I took heed though and set the gun up on the desk and started reading the manual cover to cover. After completing the task, I understood why reading the manual is essential. This setup is totally different than any muzzleloader you have used before. The manual was written by the folks at CVA, who actually developed this product and it has thorough and valuable instructions on the setup as well as real load data. It is written in simple terms and in a way that even a Marine can understand.
Now that I had an understanding of this rifle, it was time to give it a bit of a once over. The stock is a fully adjustable synthetic stock with an internal aluminum chassis. Adjustment for the length of pull is done with removable spacers and full comb adjustment is fast and easy with loosening one large knob/bolt on the stock. The barrel is a .45 caliber 26” Bergara heavy barrel, which is 416 stainless steel and nitride treated. It is free floated and ready for long range accuracy with its 1:22 twist.
It is a bolt action gun, which makes it very different than most other muzzleloaders you have ever seen. This was designed to eliminate pressure loss with these magnum loads. This bolt setup completely seals the breech making sure this newly designed VariFlame breech plug and magnum rifle primer gives you consistent shots time after time. The action is drilled and tapped to accommodate a Remington 700 short action base and it is recommended that you put on a 20 MOA rail for best long-range results.
Getting prepped for your initial range work is essential. As with all long-range shooting, you are going to need precise loads and your owner’s manual does a great job of spelling this out. CVA recommends using Blackhorn 209 High Performance Muzzleloading Propellant and measuring it out with a scale instead of by volume, as most other muzzleloading setups do. Your rifle comes with three loose powder tubes, but I recommend that you pick up a couple of extra packages of these before you start. They come in packages of six and I added three packages (18 loads) to my kit. I now have 21 and it’s like hitting the range with a full box of ammo. I can just focus on shooting.
This rifle uses the VariFlame adapter and large rifle primers in lieu of a 209 shotgun primer for ignition. This requires you to install these rifle primers into the VariFlame adapter. The rifle comes with the needed items to do this except a small plastic mallet. A plastic bullet puller worked just fine for this process. Your rifle kit comes with 10 of these, but I recommend having at least 10-20 more. You are going to lose a few of them as you are going through the process of setting up and during hunting.
Your rifle comes with one package of 15 Powerbelt .45 caliber, 280 grain ELR (extended long range) series bullets. This was enough to get you started, but you are going to want to have plenty of these on hand. They were specifically designed for this rifle and as you will see by the owner’s manual that they have been well vetted.
With 20-minute rail and scope mounted, and our preparation completed, we headed to the range to see exactly what this rifle was capable of. It is recommended that you sight the muzzleloader in at 200 yards. The 20-minute rail and this sight in distance, will provide you with enough travel in most riflescopes to shoot well past 400 yards. During our testing at 6,000 feet of elevation and 105 grains of Blackhorn 209 measured by weight, we were shooting a consistent 2,320 feet per second. The lows were measured right at 2,315 and a high of 2,332, which is very consistent with what we see shooting regular rifle loads.
My down travel on my riflescope didn’t allow me to sight in at 200 yards and because of this, I opted for a 250 yard zero. A good three shot group and adjustments to windage and elevation and I was dead on. Shooting back at 100 yards put me exactly 7 inches high. It was now time to stretch this thing out and see what it was capable of. I plugged all my ballistics data into my long-range shooting app. The Ballistic Coefficient (BC) of the bullet we are shooting is .452 according to the paperwork in the packaging. This was my only missing data for the app and I was ready to shoot. I made adjustments to my turret and let her rip at 400 yards. The group was excellent, but very low. Several groups later, I had manipulated the real data on my app to reflect a BC of .335 and I was hitting bullseyes every shot. A call to CVA confirmed that they were showing an actual BC of .333.
At 400 yards and everything totally dialed in, I was able to put sub-MOA groups on paper and one measured 2.875 inches, which is extremely impressive for any rifle let alone a muzzleloader. In the owner’s manual, it is recommended to use a scope of at least 18 power and I can see that I needed more scope to get the most out of this gun. I’m sure that we can stretch this muzzleloader out well beyond 500 yards. Sign up for our YouTube channel (sportsmansnewstv) and you will get to see those longer-range shots when we post the video of the entire test.