Ask muzzleloader hunters what their maximum range is and most will tell you 200 yards is pushing it. And whether they admit it, all of them wish their smokepoles could match the performance of centerfire rifles. Now, CVA, a company renowned for its Accura line of muzzleloading rifles, can help with that. The company has produced a blackpowder rifle that stands closer to centerfire performance, delivering rifle-like ballistics: the Paramount rifle.
To get the most out of this new rifle, CVA worked with PowerBelt to create an entirely new, ballistically efficient .45-caliber projectile specifically for the Paramount. But before we dive into the astounding performance capabilities of this combination, let’s look at the modern updates CVA’s Paramount takes advantage of to make muzzleloading magic.
At first glance, the Paramount looks like your average bolt-action rifle, which in and of itself bucks traditional muzzleloader trends. However, the Paramount’s bolt only serves as a method to open and close the breech, which houses the first of the rifle’s upgrades, a VariFlame breech plug. The VariFlame plug utilizes a large rifle primer and a VariFlame primer casing—as opposed to the standard 209 shotshell primer—to ignite the powder charge. The large-rifle primer burns hotter and more consistently, which in turn delivers a more consistent bullet trajectory. The bolt face is spring-loaded to tightly seat the primer casing, creating, in theory, perfect headspace every time, and increasing the muzzleloader’s accuracy potential even more.
For the barrel, CVA used a free-floating, fluted 26-inch Bergara barrel made from 416 stainless steel with a 1:22-inch twist, specifically designed to stabilize the new .45-caliber PowerBelt projectile. Not only are Bergara barrels some of the most accurate in the world, but CVA makes the Paramount barrel nearly impervious to weather and corrosion by giving it a black nitride finish.
The target-style stock with its pistol grip echoes current trends in long-range shooting. It’s built around an internal aluminum chassis that supports the barreled action. Customization of fit is permitted via stock-spacer inserts for length of pull and an adjustable comb height with a quick locking dial. The stock also features multiple sling attachment points: right- and left-side QD mounts front and back, and three sling swivel studs (perfect for mounting a bipod, which can further increase the Paramount’s potential accuracy and range). The stock also includes a tool and accessory housing built into the fore-end. This “toolbox” is designed to house four loaded VariFlame primer casings and the VariFlame insertion tool (both included) so hunters always have a primer at the ready.
My claim that this muzzleloader closes the gap with centerfire-rifle performance is no exaggeration. CVA tested a lot of different bullets, powders and charges, and came up with a unique “recipe” to get the most from the Paramount. As the user manual states, “Although several performed well, it was determined that the Blackhorn 209 by Western Powders gave the highest muzzle velocities for comparable charge volumes, as well as the most consistent long-range accuracy.” The recommended load is a 140-grain charge (by volume; 98 grains by weight if you’re looking for the utmost accuracy) of Blackhorn 209.
That load propels the .45-caliber, 280-grain PowerBelt ELR bullet to velocities of 2200 fps. Other powders and bullets may work, but CVA already found the most accurate load. Trust their recipe.
While that velocity might not sound competitive by itself, the ELR bullet has a ballistic coefficient (BC) of .452. A BC that high isn’t just a slight increase over most of the leading manufacturers’ .45-caliber hunting bullets; it’s a few tenths, which makes an incredible difference in long-range trajectory and energy. So what does that translate to in the real world?
The Paramount’s range capabilities are on par with most centerfire rifles out to 300 yards, and at that distance the PowerBelt ELR still has more than 2,000 ft.-lbs. of energy, surpassing the threshold for what most consider necessary for lethal penetration on elk or similar-sized game. It’s also only dropping around a foot (using a 200-yard zero) at 300 yards. That’s the same point of impact as some 6.5 Creedmoor rounds when zeroed at the standard 100-yard mark. Wind drift out at 300 yards is roughly half a foot. And my accuracy results bore that out. Benchrest groups using the 280-grain bullet were much better than I anticipated, considering even the largest was still sub-MOA. For more consistency, I weighed each charge rather than use the measured tubes, but in a pinch, those would work fine. In the field, I made a heart shot on a pronghorn at 150 yards, and watched as another hunter dropped one at nearly double that distance. I’d say PowerBelt produced a projectile in the ELR bullet that’s nothing short of remarkable.
Accessories shipped with the Paramount include a set of 10 VariFlame primer casings, primer-case loading tools, a brass cleaning jag and loading tip, a Quake sling, solid aluminum cleaning/range rod, collapsible field-loading rod and holster, an accessories pouch, 15 PowerBelt ELR bullets and Blackhorn loading tubes. All this for $1,000.
Needless to say, the CVA Paramount is far more than your average blackpowder rifle. It delivers the performance of a centerfire rifle in a gun that can be used during practically every season except bow season. What’s not to like?
• Type: bolt-action, in-line muzzleloader
• Caliber: .45
• Barrel: 26ʺ; 416 stainless steel; 1:22ʺ RH; fluted; free-floated
• Trigger: single-stage; 2.7 lb. pull weight
• Sights: none; drilled and tapped for Rem. 700 SA bases
• Safety: two-position toggle
• Stock: synthetic, adjustable comb height; adjustable LOP 13ʺ-14.5ʺ; internal compartment w/ priming tool and 4 VariFlame primer casing slots
• Metal Finish: black nitride
• Overall Length: 45ʺ
• Weight: 10.2 lbs.
• Accessories: 10 VariFlame primer casings, primer case loading tool, brass cleaning jag and loading tip, breech plug wrench, Quake sling, cleaning/range rod, collapsible field rod and holster, accessories pouch, PowerBelt ELR bullets, Blackhorn loading tubes
• MSRP: $1,062.95; cva.com