by Jeff Johnston - Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Connecticut Valley Arms’ Accura Mountain Rifle (MR) is a .50-caliber, break-open muzzleloader that’s delightful to carry and to wield in a tree. That’s because it only weighs 6 pounds, 3 ounces and measures 40 inches long with its 25-inch fluted Bergara barrel. Although it most closely resembles the company’s popular Apex line, it was placed in the Accura line because it is not a switch-barrel rifle like the Apex. But even exclusively as a muzzleloader it retains the great balance, feel, accuracy and other features that have made the Apex a big seller and proven game taker. Last fall I took it to Iowa for a whitetail hunt with fellow outdoor writer/photographer Judd Cooney. Iowa Trophy Whitetail Outfitters is known for monster free-range bucks in the late season when cold weather forces deer to concentrate on food sources. I sat for hours and hours and even still-hunted with the MR and so I got to know it intimately by the time my week-long hunt ended.
Break-action muzzleloaders completely dominate the market nowadays because they make sense. Muzzleloaders need to be primed and cleaned from the breech end, and a break-open action facilitates this by making the breech end easily accessible as the barrel tilts open from the receiver. Additionally because its barrel is its action, the rifle can be made shorter overall while retaining adequate barrel length.
The MR’s action opens and locks via its pivoting trigger guard. When pulled down with the trigger finger, this under lever releases its bite on an angular steel lug that’s welded to the barrel. The system is simple, strong and quick. When locked there is no accuracy-robbing wiggle between barrel, stock and receiver.
Most significant about the new MR’s design are its aluminum receiver that shaves weight and its baked-on, dun-colored WeatherGuard finish. I’ve taken plenty of wary animals at close range with silvery stainless steel-finished guns, but if I really preferred shiny colors in the woods I’d wear a tinsel scarf. I prefer stainless for its anti-corrosion properties, not its looks. The Accura MR gives me the best of both.
Unlike many other muzzleloaders on the market, its Bergara barrel is made of 416 stainless steel to make it resistant to the extremely corrosive properties of black powder and substitutes, but its exterior is treated with WeatherGuard, a rock-hard ceramic-type finish that, combined with the stainless steel, makes the gun virtually rust-proof inside and out while hiding its natural sheen.
What makes this gun a shooter, however, is not its aesthetics. A muzzleloader’s accuracy depends mainly on its barrel and its trigger. BPI Outdoors, the parent company of CVA, invested heavily in developing its own custom line of barrels that it named Bergara. It hired one of the best competition barrel makers in history—Ed Shilen—to consult, and with CNC machinery that takes each barrel through an automated, five-step process including three phases of honing, the Bergara brand is now selling barrels to major international firearm companies and providing match-grade barrels to custom builders everywhere. Because the process is efficient, Bergara is able to produce barrels cheaper than most others of similar quality. BPI Outdoors CEO Dudley McGarity tells me that its Bergara, Spain, factory is running 24/7 and still can’t keep up with demand. This barrel making business is predicted to soon generate more revenue than the rest of BPI Outdoors' brands, including CVA.
The second factor to superb muzzleloader accuracy is the trigger. Break open guns such as this one incorporate an exposed hammer and such trigger mechanisms are a simple affair. CVA literature says it’s adjustable from 3 to 4.75 pounds, although I plan on leaving mine at the 2-pound, 10-ounce pull weight with which it came. It is truly a satisfying trigger.
Lastly, accuracy is derived from bullets and powder load combinations. CVA recommends PowerBelt bullets, but of course it would because the brand is also owned by BPI Outdoors. The true-to-caliber PowerBelts are incredibly easy to load, and sometimes do prove the most accurate, but I’d encourage you to experiment with various bullets and powders from 90 to 150 grains until you find the optimum combination. I saw one NRA employee shoot 3-inch groups at 300 yards with his Apex muzzleloader because he’s a good shooter who systematically experimented with bullets and charges until he found the optimal one for his rifle.
While not new, there are other features on the MR that, all combined, help make this muzzleloader one of the best values available. Its stock and fore-end are over-molded with Soft Touch, a material that is soft, even slightly sticky, but not mushy. It’s warm and quiet in the woods and I like it. Also notable is the Quick Release Breach Plug (QBRP) that is hand removable. For extended range sessions however, I recommend removing and re-lubing it after every 10 shots or so, to make sure it remains hand removable. This is a handy feature; many times while hunting I’ve experienced a malfunction—normally from moisture in the powder after hunting in the rain—or I simply wanted to unload the gun without shooting it, but I'd forgotten the required tool.
As bonuses, the MR comes with an ambidextrous trigger spur that facilitates cocking with a scope mounted. The rifle also comes with a DuraSight one-piece scope mount that eliminates the hassle of finding and buying matching scope rings and bases that fit the mounting holes. A Quake Claw sling is included and its cheap plastic screw attachments have finally been replaced with metal swivels so I now like it. The MR wears a quality recoil pad. Lastly, CVA developed a “Palm Saver” ramrod attachment that makes loading the gun easy without using your shirt tail or an additional tool for padding. It’s threaded directly onto the cleaning jag, so it can be removed if undesired, but I think you’ll like it. After stalking and before shooting however, be sure that the ramrod hasn’t slid out and rotated, or else your bullet could hit it.
When I write product reviews for this magazine I try to list some dislikes, but sometimes that proves difficult. This is one of those times. Other than lengthening the hammer spur by 1/8 inch, perhaps I’d like to see a little more quality go to the plastic ramrod guide inserts that’ve been known to slip off on past models. But these are minor things. Overall, the Accura MR is a near perfect tool for the muzzleloading season. A muzzleloader is typically a 150-yard-max gun, so I don’t need a long-barreled, bulky rifle. This one feels like a 26-inch-barrel shotgun, and has all the features that make it a great gun for hunting.
I didn’t kill the B&C buck of which I dreamt in Iowa, although I glimpsed one giant and passed up many other decent bucks. I did, however, take a fat doe with one shot from the Accura MR, and to me that’s the best kind of test.
Type: break-action muzzleloading rifle
Barrel: 25"; RH, 1:28" twist
Trigger: single-stage; adjustable
Sights: none; drilled for scope mount
Stock: synthetic; LOP—14"; drop at heel—1.5"; drop at comb—1"
Overall Length: 40"
Weight: 6 lbs., 3 ozs. w/o scope
Metal Finish: WeatherGuard
Accessories: Quake Claw sling, DuraSight scope mount, Palm Saver ramrod
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