Editor’s Note: Carlos Vilorio is the long-gun salesman specialist at Ed’s Gun Shop in Vass, North Carolina. Vilorio meticulously works with every gun until he can determine its best powder charge, primer and bullet combination that delivers the best accuracy at varying distances. Vilorio realizes he needs to shoot accurately on the range to shoot more accurately when hunting.
Question: Carlos, you test different guns in various calibers and components for blackpowder rifles. What’s another CVA rifle you’ve recently tested, and what were the results?
Vilorio: Over the last few years, CVA has really been touting the Bergara .45-caliber barrel, so I purchased a CVA .45-caliber Bergara barrel and put it on my Thompson/Center blackpowder rifle. I took it to the range, and I was really impressed with the accuracy of the Bergara barrel. After I saw how accurately the .45-caliber Bergara barrel could shoot, I thought, “If the .45-caliber Bergara barrel shoots this good on a Thompson/Center frame, I wonder how it will shoot on a CVA Optima Elite?” I noticed that the .45-caliber barrel had less recoil than the .50-caliber barrel. I was using 110 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder, the Fiocchi 616 209 shotshell primer and the Harvester polymer-tipped bullet. When I went downrange to check my target, I noticed that the .45-caliber barrel was a much-flatter shooting caliber than the .50-caliber barrel.
Question: What types of groups did you shoot with the CVA Optima Elite with the .45-caliber barrel?
Vilorio: One group was .4390, and another group was .246. The difference in the variation in these two groups happened when I changed bullets to see if I could get tighter groups. The bullet that shot the best was the Harvester Funnel Point polymer-tipped 200 grain. I was shooting Blackhorn powder and the Fiocchi 209 primer.
Question: How else does the .45-caliber Bergara barrel compare with the .50-caliber Bergara barrel?
Vilorio: The .45-caliber barrel has a faster muzzle velocity than the .50-caliber barrel. I shot two strings one day, and the total velocity of the first string was 6413 foot pounds per second (fps) with an average velocity of 2138 fps. The second string total velocity was 6551 fps with an average velocity of 2184 fps pushing a 180-grain bullet. I mentioned this fact to some folks and they said, “Oh, yeah, you’re comparing a 180-grain bullet to a 260-grain bullet. Naturally, you’d expect the muzzle velocity to be faster with a .45-caliber, because it’s pushing a lighter grain bullet.” I felt this was a fair criticism. So, I purchased 260-grain .45-caliber bullets to make a better head-to-head comparison. I learned that the .45-caliber barrel, even pushing a 260-grain bullet, still had a faster muzzle velocity than the .50-caliber barrel pushing the same-sized bullet.
Actually, the .45 caliber was still producing 215 pounds per square inch more muzzle velocity than the .50-caliber pushing the same-grain bullet, which told me that the .45-caliber barrel not only shot flatter than the .50-caliber barrel, but it also had a faster muzzle velocity. There was only 97 fps difference between the .45 caliber and the .50 caliber pushing the same-sized bullet using the same powder charge. So, I’d rather give up 97 fps to increase accuracy, because I wouldn’t be losing that much knockdown power. Shooting the same caliber bullet, the muzzle velocity of the .45-caliber barrel averaged 2033 fps, and the .50-caliber barrel averaged 1892 fps. This comparison was made not only with the same caliber bullet, but also with the same powder charge.
Also, the .45-caliber barrel completely changed my Bushnell DOA 250 scope. This scope has lines inside of it that lets you adjust upward for bullet drops at different distances. I had this scope set-up for my .50-caliber rifle. I shot the .45-caliber barrel with a 200-grain bullet. I learned that you had less bullet drop at 200 yards with a .45-caliber barrel than with a .50-caliber barrel. As a matter of fact, the first time I shot the CVA Optima Elite with a .45-caliber barrel at 200 yards with my Bushnell DOA scope, I completely missed the target. I used the same 200-yard line inside the scope that I used to aim the .50-caliber barrel, and when I went to check my target, there wasn’t a bullet hole in the target. When I saw that target, I said, “Carlos, there’s something wrong here. You don’t shoot this poorly.” So, I loaded-up the .45-caliber barrel again and used the 150-yard line on my Bushnell scope to aim at the 200-yard target. That CVA Optima Elite with a .45-caliber Bergara barrel was dead-on then. That was how I learned for certain that there was less bullet drop at distances greater than 100 yards with a .45-caliber barrel than with a .50-caliber barrel.
Question: Carlos, if I came into your store and said I wanted a blackpowder rifle I could hunt deer with and that would shoot as accurately as possible, what would you recommend?
Vilorio: First, I’d ask if you wanted a Plain-Jane blackpowder rifle or a blackpowder rifle with interchangeable barrels that could take blackpowder barrels as well as conventional barrels. If you told me you wanted a Plain-Jane blackpowder rifle, I’d show you the CVA Optima and then the CVA Accura. Finally, I’d show you the CVA Apex, with its interchangeable barrels. I know CVA guarantees 1-inch groups at 100 yards, but with my customers, if they use the components I recommend, I guarantee a 1/2-inch group at 100 yards, if the customer can shoot accurately off the bench.
Question: Which caliber would you recommend?
Vilorio: I’d highly recommend the .45 caliber, because it’s much flatter shooting than the .50 caliber, still has good knockdown power and has better velocity at the end of the barrel. Some people might say, “Well, bullets and powder for the .45 caliber are hard to find.” But that’s not true. CVA makes .45-caliber bullets and so does Thompson/Center, Harvester, Lehigh and Precision Rifle. I recommend Blackhorn Powder over any other powder on the market. For a deer rifle, the .45 caliber is a much-more accurate deer rifle than the .50 caliber, even at ranges past 200 yards.