CVA's .40 caliber Paramount HTR Muzzleloader Rifle
by Mary and Dr. Jim Clary
The Paramount is the first of its kind. By that, we mean it was designed from day-one as a bolt-action muzzleloader. In other words, this gun was not cobbled together from center fire rifles by modifying the bolts or actions and installing a breech plug in the barrel.
Before we go any further, one might logically ask: Why a bolt action? The answer is more simple than one realizes. The bolt action platform has proven itself in more than a century of service under every condition possible and was (and still is) the most accurate platform for a precision rifle. It was pretty much a “no brainer” to go that route. However, there was a problem that had to be overcome. Most (if not all) of the existing hybrid bolt action muzzleloaders on the market can be converted into centerfire rifles, thus classifying them as a firearm requiring an FFL for transfer. The engineers at CVA were determined to ensure that this new gun would be a “stand-alone” muzzleloader ONLY, that was impossible to convert to any centerfire or even rimfire cartridge.... and they succeeded.
Because this rifle was to be truly original and the first of its kind, they needed a completely new receiver. Call it luck or the product of years of experience, they hit upon a superb design right off the bat. It was unlike anything on the market, anywhere. It was solid, relatively simple and flawless in function. One might think that the hardest part of the design process was over.... not quite.
Still remaining were barrel design with concurrent twist rates and the design of a bullet that would accurately perform at long range. Those are critical issues that could make or break any new gun... and they proved to be a challenge for the engineers in Mark Hendricks' department. He and Dudley McGarity were determined that this gun would be a game-changer in the industry; but the barrel, twist rate and bullet design proved to be major challenges.
We cannot begin to list the number of barrels and various twist rates that were tested. It was truly frustrating, especially when they determined that a completely new bullet design was required, and NOT in the “conventional” .50 caliber range. They tried barrels with twist rates from 1:20 up to the traditional 1:28 in three calibers (,40, .45 & .50), fabricated from different materials and finishes”. Suffice it to say that a lot of powder was burned, an uncounted number of barrels were tested with various twist rates (and discarded). Finally, a completely new bullet was produced that met the design criteria for a true long range muzzleloader.
The end result of two years of rigorous (and sometimes frustrating) testing was the Paramount, a completely new bolt action muzzleloader with a free-floating barrel with a 1:20 twist rate utilizing the new .40 caliber 225 grain ELR Powerbelt bullet. (ELR = extra long range)
They are not kidding when they say “extra long range”. The ballistic coefficient of this new bullet is approximated at 0.360, well above the B.C. of any .50 caliber muzzleloader bullet on the market which range from 0.161 to 0.275. As such, the new ELR Powerbelt will shoot flatter, farther and has just as much knockdown power as a “standard” .50 caliber front loader.
If you were looking closely at the previous paragraph, we mentioned a free-floating barrel. That is another new concept introduced by CVA to the world of muzzleloaders. It has long been accepted by shooters that free-floating barrels are more accurate than bedded ones or ones with attachments such as sling mounts or ramrods. Only tradition has mandated that the ramrod be attached to the barrel, AND the Paramount is definitely NOT traditional.
The engineers had to think outside the box of several hundred years of history. It wasn't as hard as one might imagine. They free-floated the barrel for accuracy and included a collapsible shock-corded ramrod in a belt pouch. Although we were skeptical at first, removing the ramrod from its pouch and deploying the shock-cords was just as fast as removing a conventional ramrod from under the barrel. Not that speed should be a factor, as most muzzleloader hunts are one-shot kills; but, for the sake of comparison, deployment and reloading times were comparable.
This now brings us to the stock of the Paramount. For this, CVA tapped into the experience with their sister company Bergara, and designed a stock similar to the Bergara HMR series with an internal aluminum chassis. That chassis is extremely stable and requires no hand fitting. The result is a solid all-weather stock that will not warp under any conditions.
The stock has an adjustable comb and spacers in front of the recoil pad that can be removed to adjust the length-of-pull, if necessary. The sling mounts are on the left side of the stock which allows the gun to be carried more comfortably in the field.. i.e., the bolt and trigger guard are not bouncing against your back.
And finally, we have the VariFlame ignition system utilizing large rifle primers rather than the conventional Shotgun 209 primers. Is it more efficient? To answer that question we will quote Mark Hendricks, VP of Technical Development at CVA:
“YES! We initially tried the VariFlame because the “super-magnum” loads we were using were causing issues with the 209 swelling in the breechplug and becoming extremely difficult to remove. But what surprised us is the consistency that we obtained. With the 209 primer our extreme velocity spread across 5 shots was frequently over 100 feet per second. This would make little difference at 100 yards, the typical sight-in distance for muzzleloaders. But at 300 or 400 yards the vertical spread on target was huge. Changing to the VariFlame we realized extreme spreads of only 6 to 8 feet per second. This consistency is vital for long-range shooting. This made the VariFlame a vital component in the Paramount system.”
Four extra VariFlame adapters and depriming tool can be stored in the compartment in front of the trigger guard. Very handy on the hunt.
But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We mounted a Vortex Diamondback 4-12x40mm tactical scope using a Weaver-style 20 MOA rail as recommended by CVA. Our powder charge (as referenced above) was the recommended 150 grains by volume (105 grains by weight) of Blackhorn 209. We would like to give special thanks to Rob Behr at Western Powders for providing us with enough powder for our tests.
We fired multiple three shot groups at 100 yards using a Caldwell Lead Sled DFT2 rest to reduce the recoil and provide greater stability. The velocity (f.p.s.) of our loads were determined with the Caldwell G2 Precision Chronograph while the energy (ft. lbs.) was calculated using the EXBAL ballistic program.
The following are the results from the range: Smallest group 0.78”; largest group 1.25” with an average average group size of 0.88”
Muzzle: 2,705 f.p.s. / 3,655 ft. lbs. 100 yards: 2,459 f.p.s. / 3,021 ft. lbs. 150 yards: 2,341 f.p.s. / 2,738 ft. lbs. 200 yards: 2,226 f.p.s. / 2,476 ft. lbs. 300 yards: 2,007 f.p.s. / 2,013 ft. lbs.
Our target groups were very impressive. In fact, they were outstanding by any standard. More than adequate to harvest anything that walks... right into the freezer. The recoil from the 150 grain load was no worse than that of a three-pellet load in a conventional muzzleloader due to the weight of the Paramount. With all of the above being said, this rifle is a game-changer for muzzleloaders. It extends your effective range out to almost 400 yards. That being said, most hunters should NOT take a shot at that distance, as the chance of wounding rather than making a clean-kill increases significantly. However, the Paramount loaded with the 225 grain ELR Powerbelts makes it reasonable for a hunter to take 200 to 300 yard shots with confidence.
The Specifications of the Paramount are:
• .40 caliber – 15 ELR 225 grain Powerbelt bullets included
• 26” free-floating Bergara stainless steel barrel with nitride finish: Threaded 3/4x20 for brake
• Twist Rate - 1:20”
• Overall length – 45”
• Ambidextrous stock with adjustable cheek rest and length of pull: 13 ¼” to 14 ½”
• Sling Attachments: Standard and flush-cups
• Quake Claw flush-cup sling
• Ignition – Large rifle primers in VariFlame adapters
VariFlame priming kit and 10 adapters included
• Blackhorn powder tubes – 3x
• CVA Soft Field Carry Bag – a modern “possibles” bag for powder tubes and bullets
• Collapsible field loading ramrod (shock corded) with Molle belt pouch
• Lifetime one-piece range ramrod
• Breechplug tool
• Bergara HTR style stock with molded in aluminum chassis
• Action drilled and tapped
• Adjustable Trigger – 2 lbs to 4 lbs (preset to 3 lbs)
• Weight – 9.6 pounds
• Detailed instruction manual (concisely written with excellent illustrations)
One last thing to convince you of the beauty of this new gun. Our friend Toby Bridges recently took a 500+ pound black bear in the Montana wilderness......with ONE shot from the .40 caliber Paramount HTR. That about says it all. When our muzzle brake arrives, we will repeat our shooting at 200 yards with 160 gr. Blackhorn 209 loads and append the results to this article.