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.
We personally know many of the folks at CVA and have a pretty good idea as to how the Paramount came to be. Their design engineers, management and marketing personnel get together each year for what can be called a “big idea” meeting off-site. It was at one such meeting that the concept of the Paramount was suggested and discussed in detail.
Following the meeting, engineers started on the design, while the marketing personnel delved into market research to determine if there was a reasonable market for a true long-range muzzleloader. From the time the idea for the Paramount was first broached, it was a full two years before the first one came off the production line..... but, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
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 two calibers (.45 and .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 1:22 twist rate utilizing the new .45 caliber 280 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 0.366, 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.
The Paramount is obviously a well designed rifle. But, is it accurate? The answer to that question is Yes! It is very accurate. Our friend, Toby Bridges in Montana (North America Muzzleloader Hunting), shot a three-shot group at 100 yards that measured 0.550”. And Dudley McGarity,former CEO of BPI, punched out a 3” group at 400 yards back in Georgia. And, on our trips to the range, we consistently shot groups just under 2” at 200 yards with 140 grains of Blackhorn 209.
But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We mounted a Meopta Optika6 3-18x50 scope on the Paramount using a Weaver-style 20 MOA rail as recommended by CVA. And, to ensure the best possible accuracy, we shot from the Caldwell Lead Sled DFT2 to reduce the expected recoil. Our powder charge (as referenced above) was the recommended 140 grains by volume (98 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.
The recoil from the 140 grain load has been reported to be no worse than that of a three-pellet load in a conventional muzzleloader due to the weight of the Paramount. We have to disagree. The recoil was brutal, comparable to that of a 300 Win Mag, even though the gun weighs in at over ten pounds with a scope. That kind of recoil will cause a lot of folks to flinch. Therefore, we recommend that CVA give serious consideration to equipping these rifles with a muzzlebrake which would reduce the “pain” to an acceptable level.
After considerable thought (and at Mary's suggestion), we decided to find out if this gun would accurately shoot the 280 grain ELR Powerbelt with a reduced load. After all, there are some hunting scenarios where only close range shots are possible. Under those conditions, one would not need the long range capability of the Paramount (or the recoil)... but, most Paramount owners would still want to use it. With that in mind, we loaded forty-eight powder tubes with 100 grains of Blackhorn 209 by volume (70 grains by weight) and headed to the range.
We fired twenty-four rounds at 100 yards. The target below illustrates a typical three-shot group measuring ¾ “ center-to-center. OK, Toby got a tighter group, but he lets the barrel cool down between shots and we don't.... not to mention that he is just a better shot.
We then moved the targets out to 150 yards and fired another twenty-four rounds. The typical three-shot group at that range measured 1¼“ center-to-center, very good considering that (again) we did not let the barrel cool down between shots. (we do let the barrel cool down after each three-shot string)
150 Yard Target
The bottom line is: Whether you load the Paramount with the recommended “long range” loads or reduced loads, it drives the 280 grain ELR Powerbelt bullet home with consistent accuracy.
We did encounter a minor irritant with the Paramount. The superb design of the bolt action, which satisfied the ridiculous AFT regulations concerning firearm design, presented a new challenge. The small chamber when the bolt is opened makes it difficult to remove or insert the Variflame adapters. If you have a gloved hand, large fingers or it's cold and you are shivering, you will have a problem. For the record, this is a common problem with most bolt-action muzzleloaders. However, the engineers at CVA solved the problem. They developed a Variflame magnetic capping tool that makes removing the fired Variflame adapter quick and installing a “fresh” one a breeze. Not sure at this point whether they will be included in the Paramount package, but they should be. The Variflame Magnetic Capper makes loading and unloading the gun fast and easy (even with gloves).
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 280 grain ELR Powerbelts makes it reasonable for a hunter to take 200 to 300 yard shots with confidence.
The Specifications of the Paramount are:
.45 caliber – 15 ELR 280 grain Powerbelt bullets included
26” free-floating Bergara stainless steel barrel with nitride finish
Twist Rate - 1:22”
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
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
Bergara HMR style stock with molded in aluminum chassis
Action drilled and tapped for Remington 700 SA scope mounts
Adjustable Trigger – 2 lbs to 4 lbs (preset to 3 lbs)
Weight – 9.8 pounds
Detailed instruction manual (concisely written with excellent illustrations)
2019 MSRP: $999.95
Authors' final note: A friend of ours took a 6x6 bull elk at 240 yards with a “regular” CVA Accura LR this year .... so, don't give up your “regular” CVA, just add the Paramount to your inventory.