August 19, 2021
The conditions were nearly perfect. The antelope buck was feeding calmly, and the morning Wyoming wind was virtually nonexistent. It was obvious these pronghorn felt safe and had not been harassed by hunters this season. We crawled until our cover ran out and set up behind a slight rise in the otherwise flat and barren landscape. The range was a little over 300 yards. Just as I pulled the buck into view through the scope, he turned and showed us his backside and began feeding away slowly. When he finally gave me a shoulder, he was over 400 yards away. Such shots are not at all uncommon in antelope hunting—but for one factor: I was hunting with a muzzleloader.
CVA has been a leader in the muzzleloading market since the company was founded 50 years ago. Part of CVA’s more recent success has come thanks to a sister company: Bergara of Spain. Though Bergara is quickly becoming known as a quality brand of rifle, its roots are in barrelmaking. Bergara doesn’t promote it, but the company’s barrels are found on some of the most popular premium U.S. rifle brands. Bergara’s precision-made, button-rifled barrels are a key component of what helped CVA’s rifles achieve a reputation for accuracy.
We know muzzleloaders were used effectively at extremely long ranges in 19th-century combat as well as in matches, but most modern hunters have regarded them as 100-yard tools. That has changed over the past two decades as companies like CVA have pushed the accuracy envelope with inline and scoped designs. In 2019, CVA brushed aside the incremental approach and introduced the Paramount, a purpose-built muzzleloading rifle capable of true long-range accuracy. In 2020, CVA launched the Paramount Pro in .45 and .50 calibers. And now CVA introduces the latest version of the Paramount Pro in .40 caliber.
The Paramount Pro, CVA’s newest muzzleloader, was designed from the ground up for hunting in wide-open country, like the Wyoming sagebrush where I found myself chasing antelope. At its heart is a 26-inch, stainless-steel Bergara barrel. The barrels are black nitride treated, which hardens the steel’s surface and provides excellent corrosion protection inside and outside the bore. Anecdotally, we are learning that this relatively new process can seriously extend the life of a barrel as well, which is always a good thing. Finally, the exterior of the barrels are coated in Cerakote brown, providing yet another layer of protection. The barrel is threaded at the muzzle and comes with a large brake installed. The brake cuts recoil significantly.
The classic bolt-action design allows the user to access the rear of the breech plug. A special magnetic tool included with the rifle makes priming a simple task. A VariFlame primer, which is actually a standard large or large magnum rifle primer rather than the normal No. 209 shotgun cap utilized by many modern muzzleloaders, is used to initiate the propellant. Like the barrel, the action is both nitrided and Cerakoted with the bolt itself left black for a two-tone look. The action comes with a spring-loaded floorplate, which provides a handy home for additional primer storage.
Thanks to the use of a bolt action, CVA has some flexibility when it comes to the rifle’s trigger. Because the action has the same basic footprint as the Remington 700, it is compatible with units from the Canadian company TriggerTech, which has quickly become a dominant force in long-range shooting thanks to its excellent zero-creep triggers. Personally, I have installed TriggerTech triggers on every rifle I’ve built in recent years and have never regretted my decision.
Though I didn’t bring a trigger-pull gauge on this hunt, the adjustable trigger broke very cleanly at what felt like approximately three pounds.
Loading the Paramount Pro isn’t difficult, but the operation is somewhat unique. We used Blackhorn 209 granular powder, a clean-burning blackpowder substitute. Because of the ports on the muzzle brake, a special funnel is included with the Paramount Pro to ensure the entire powder charge makes its way into the bore. To achieve the range and performance the Paramount Pro is capable of, I charged the rifle with 150 grains of powder (by volume). A PowerBelt ELR bullet was loaded on top of the powder charge. This monolithic expanding bullet uses a heat-resistant tip to keep the ballistic coefficient as high as possible and seals to the rifling by way of a snap-on polymer base. This load was very accurate and, for a muzzleloader, very flat-shooting.
The synthetic stock is no cheap injection-molded plastic part, but a solid fiberglass design made by Grayboe. The stock is durable and rigid, providing a solid home for the barreled action. I found the stock comfortable to use both from the bench and in the field. It’s painted in an attractive brown, tan, and black pattern. Overall, the Paramount Pro looks more like something you would find at a precision rifle match than a muzzleloader’s rendezvous.
Far and Flat
I’m not a guy who sets out to take long shots, so I wasn’t crazy about the prospect of taking such an unnecessary poke at an animal. Still, I had seen firsthand the Paramount Pro’s sub-MOA and had both a well-confirmed zero and a dead-steady prone position on the bipod. I held the crosshairs the necessary 24 inches above the buck’s shoulder, exhaled, and began my trigger press. He didn’t take another step.
I know what you’re thinking. And you may be right, but hear me out. A 405-yard shot with a muzzleloader sounds like a stunt, and with most rifles, it would be. For comparison, the PowerBelt bullet from the .40-caliber Paramount Pro drops less than a 180-grain bullet from a .30-06 at the same distance. Would it be unethical to take the same shot from a steady position with an ’06? Not if you’re comfortable with that rifle and the conditions are right.
I like a challenge. These days if I’m hunting with a muzzleloader, nine times out of 10 it’s an iron-sighted flintlock. By hunting with such an anachronism, I am handicapping myself significantly, which I accept. There are times, though, when I don’t want to be handicapped, such as when I’m carrying a tough-to-draw tag in my pocket. For those circumstances, the CVA Paramount Pro would be a game-changer in terms of effectiveness.
The CVA Paramount Pro just might be the most capable muzzleloading rifle ever created. It’s accuracy, trajectory, and lethality are far ahead of the pack. If you’re looking to get the maximum range possible from a hunting muzzleloader, the Paramount Pro is your huckleberry