Carlos Vilorio Tells Us What Muzzleloading Rifle Tests He’s Conducted and Why He Likes the .45-Caliber Bergara Barrel 33

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.

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33 thoughts on “Carlos Vilorio Tells Us What Muzzleloading Rifle Tests He’s Conducted and Why He Likes the .45-Caliber Bergara Barrel

  • Rick

    This was a very good interview with Carlos and he has become a very good source of information for me in my pursuit of muzzleloader testing. I do look forward to reading more in the future.

  • Jim

    Now I am really confused! Do I want a .50 or .45 cal. gun?
    I am having a hard time finding the Apex. I have the money in my hand and no one to sell me a gun.

  • Dudley McGarity

    Carlos: Great article. The .45 is my favorite ML caliber also. For long range shooting, it cannot be beat. The Blackhorn is indeed a very accurate powder. For those who want the convenience of pellets, I have found that IMR White Hots produce tighter groups than any of the other pellets. Keep up the good shooting. Dudley

  • kylecva

    Jim: Apex .50 cals are shipping to distributors and retailers now, so you should be able to find one. .45 will not be available for another couple of months, and will be harder to find. You will likely have to special order that one. Just have your local Dealer check with his distributors for the gun. Dudley

  • Jonathan Koziol

    Its wise to keep in mind that some states, such as Colorado have caliber limits on elk and moose, The minimum we are allowed on those two animals is .50cal so just keep that in mind.

    Then again…. Its always a good idea to have AT LEAST 2 muzzleloaders… One just in case something happens to the other.

    That excuse works good with the wife/ girl friend but once you get over 5 or 6, You’re on your own!

  • dale

    i have a cva firebolt ultramag.serial no, has a green coating on the barrel and chamber,fluted barrel 26in barrel i bought 2nd hand. also very is 1 in 28in twist.can you tell me the best load for this gun.i shoot great plains 360 bullet with felt wad behind with 100gr tripple 7,it is very accurate,is this ok?can i use 150gr of triple7?what do you recamend?thanks dale.

  • Jonathan Koziol

    Dale, If your rifle is doing well with the 100gr T7 load, keep it! Don’t waste your time with magnum loads, Its just going to kick the snot out of you and eat up your powder supply a lot faster. Most of my rifles shoot 90-110gr blackhorn209 which is about equal with T7 performance. One thing i could recommend though is free floating the barrel. I had an Winchester X-150 some years ago and i cut a couple shims from a pop can, put it under the barrel lugs then visually checked the stock to see where it was rubbing against the barrel. I marked that area’s and used a file to knock down those high spots and accuracy afterwards was simply amazing. Using a 385gr hornady great plains conical with 90gr pyrodex rs, that rifle would shoot 5/8″ groups consistently at 100 yards with open sights.

  • Clyde Reeder

    I am shooting a CVA Optima Mag. 50Cal. I was loading 150grains of pyrodex pellets with a 209 cap and 50 cal. 200 Gr. spire point. Ishot 3 loads cleaned the gun and shot 3 more loads. All 6 shots were keyholed. Any suggestions? I will be hunting elk.

  • cvilorio

    Clyde I would strongly suggest that you switch to BH 209 powder and Barnez T-EZ 250 gr. and load a 110 gr. charge of this powder and use a cci 209 primer or a Fiocchi 616 209 primer. This combination will be all you need for Elk or any thing else you might want to hunt. This powder bullet combo has a muzzle velocity of about 1900 fps and will solve you key hole problem. If you ahve any further question feel free to contact me at any time at

  • Ron

    I am confused. I just bought a used Winchester X150 today that came with a 45 & 50 caliber barrel. I’m trying to figure out what primer it uses. As I read thru all the discussions about the X150… it sounds like it can use either the 209 or the #11 cap. I want to use the 209, how do I make it use that correctly or know what it is currently set up for?

  • Dudley McGarity

    Ron: The gun originally came with two different breech plugs. One accepted a #11 or Musket Cap Nipple. The other has a well to accept a 209. You should be able to tell which is which by looking at the breech plug. If the center cavity is threaded, it is the nipple plug. If not, it is the 209 plug and the 209 inserts directly into the plug. Sounds like you do not have the manual or you’d have found these answers. There is a manual and a video on this gun. You can get both by calling BPI Customer Service at 770-449-4687. Dudley

  • John

    Carlos: I recently purchased a CVA Accura V2 for my daughter for the upcoming gun/muzzleloader season here in Ohio. I’ve been reading about your load work-ups and couldn’t agree more on the Blackhorn 209 powder. I just wanted to ask about the Bushnell DOA 250. Using 110 grains of Blackhorn 209 and the Barnez T-EZ 250 gr. bullet and Fiocchi 209 primer should a person be able to just sight the scope in at 100 yards and have the correct bullet drop for 150, 200, 250 by using this load?

  • cvilorio

    John by sighting in the gun with that load at 100 yrds and you might want to be a 1/2 high the Busnell scope will be on at 150, 200 and 250. I do recommend that you shoo the gun at those distances and double check it the same way I do, but every one I done is usually dead on.

  • John

    Carlos: Just wanted to let you know my daughter and I couldn’t be happier with the Accura V2. I actually enjoy it so much I’ve decided to take my T/C Omega to the local gun shop tomorrow and see if I can’t make a trade. I absolutely love the trigger and break-action! Not to mention the quick release breech plug. I’m hoping all goes well tomorrow and I’ll have a CVA Accura V2 in my hands by the weeks end. Just wanted to give a you a big thank you for all of the info. It’s good hearing it from a “blue-collar man” and not someone who has been paid to promote a companies product. That’s the trap I feel into purchasing my T/C Omega. And boy did it hurt today after using the Accura. CVA definitely won’t have to worry about me wanting my money back! Thanks again!

  • cvilorio

    John I really appreciate you comment and it makes me feel good that I actually helped some one out there. When I first started this I did not realize where it was going to take me and what my intentions were and still are is to help you guys out there get the best product and quality for the money with out having to pay for the celebrities that the other companies pay to push their product. I’m still testing different loads and bullets and posting the info to help the regular guys like me out. John if you need any more help feel free to call on me at any time and I will try my best to solve your problem. Again thanks for you gracious comment and I really appreciated.

  • Leonce

    May I shoot a bullet 405 grains caliber 45 with my CVA Wolf caliber 50, using a sabot.

    Because I have a mold 45 70 GVT making 405 grains bullet.

    If yes, what kind of powder load may I use.

    Thank you Sir.

  • dennis

    The book that you got with your cva wolf states on page 6, NOT to use conical lead bullets weighting more than 400 grains in your cva rifle. Also stated on page 6 it says NOT to use saboted bullets weighing more that 300 grain in your CVA rifle. Always be safe and read your book that come with your guns…

  • Dudley McGarity

    Dennis: I could not have said it any better. Use only recommended loads. People get hurt all the time experimenting with bullets and powder charges that are not intended for the guns. Be is a CVA Muzzleloader, any other brand, or a center-fire, always “go by the book.” Thanks, Dudley

  • cvilorio

    Hi guys how are you doing out, I hope you are enjoying you CVA muzzle loaders and the hunting season as much as I am. I don’t usually post to much on this site, but I thought I better answer this situation where it matter the most. Here lately I have been getting a lot of phone calls about the CVA V2 or the Apex not having the correct breech plug design to use BH 209 and causing the gun to have misfires or delay firing or hesitate when the primers goes off. Well let me clarify this situation. First let me say that there is a lot of muzzle loaders powders out and in there right most of them work great, but compare to BH 209 they are not even close. BH 209 is the best powder on the market for muzzle loaders nothing comes even close. Now as far as the new QRBP design for the new CVA ACCURA and Apex, there is nothing wrong with, it works with BH 209 and any other powder out there. I have personally fire over 500 round thru me ACCURA V2 using BH 209 with out any miss fires or hang fires or delays. Now for you guys out there who have experience this problem let say that it happen to me about two years ago with a TC PRO HUNTER and after studying the situation more closely I found that the problem was a build up of carbon from the primers in the breech plug channel and even though you can still see thru the plug the flash hole channel i s full of carbon. To remedy this situation all you have to do is by a #32 or 3mm drill bit not a 1/32 but a number #32 and T-Handle to clean the flash hole, once you do this and get all the carbon out you will not have any more problems with you gun. Make a habit of doing this every time you use it at the range and you will be trouble free. I don’t know who started this rumor, but I have a pretty good idea, and believe me when I say is not true. The CVA QRBP design is the best I have seen of any other I have work with. Now let me clarify one thing for some of you guys out there that might say ” well he works for CVA” I do nto work for CVA, I work at a gun store near where I live at, but after testing just about all their guns and compare them with the others in the market I do back their product 100 % with out any question and I do believe they have the best muzzle loaders on the market and NO they did not gave me free guns to test I bought them out of my own pocket. If you guys have any questions please feel free to contact me at any time either thru my e-mail or at the store 910-692-7936.

  • John

    Carlos: Just wanted to say thanks for the personal time you take to inform all the owners of CVA Muzzleloaders who have questions about their gun. I just wanted to give you an update and let you know that I was successful in trading my Thompson Center Omega for the Accura V2. I couldn’t be happier. I just recently found a great buy on the Bushnell DOA 250 Scope on eBay. I just had a couple of questions about my gun and hope maybe you could set me straight. I’ve read a couple forums that people have to remove their rear sight on their CVA in order to mount their scope. Just wanted to know if you could comment. Also I didn’t know if you could recommend what type of base and rings I should go with. I had thought about the see-thru one piece rings and base from durasight but everything I hear and read I’ve been told to mount the scope as close as I can to the barrel. My only problem is the majority of my hunting is done in timber and I just worry about those close range shots and not being able to use my iron sights. I do hunt on the edges of a few foodplots though and I know I probably wouldn’t have a problem with needing my iron sights. Any info you could share would be great. I’ve only been into muzzleloading a couple years and appreciate information I can get from anyone, especially from someone like yourself whose spent alot of time with this gun.


  • cvilorio

    John sorry it took me this long to reply to your question, but I worked all weekend at a gun show. To answer your question. When ever I mount a Bushnell DOA 250 and the muzzle loader I usually take the rear sight of and mount it as close as I can to the barrel. I use a DNZ scope mount in medium and if you go to their web site you will see what I’m talking about, to me it is about the best scope mount out there right now. I would not you a see-thru base on it as this will put the scope way to high, as far as where you are hunting, which about the same places I do, I usually put the scope on 3 power for those areas and you should not have any problems with the close up shot. Good hunting and get a big one.

  • Wendell Bowman

    I have a CVA Optima 50 cal & can be sure if the number stamped under the barrell is the serial or not. Can anyone help. The number under the barrell is 61-13-0130-10 is this the serial. I can find no other number on this gun. Thanks Wendell Bowman

  • Larrie

    Say, I’ve just acquired a new, old model 45 cal bergara SS optima pro. Really excited to try this out. This is a NIB 2003 model rifle that I got off of gunbroker recently, and it came with a barrel that had bad galling near the muzzle in the rifling, bummer to experience that I can tell you (and the dealer that I purchased from did not accept returns)!

    Decided NOT to try it out rifling boogered up like it was, and I immediately shipped to CVA and explained the issue. Within 2 weeks, they sent it back with a replacement 29″ bergara SS barrel, WOW (it did NOT have a bergara on it originally). CVA’s customer support could not be better, and they’ve shown me what service means. Anyway, I plan on scoping this optima pro and using it mainly for target, just a fun gun. I expect to use T7 (90-100gr) with 40 cal XTP 200gr in harvester crush rib sabot.

    Just wanted to post something re the new 45 cal rifle, my expected load to work up, and how GREAT CVA customer support is. Oh ya, I almost forgot; support also included in my return rifle box a 30% discount coupon for use on their store’s web site, and I can’t help but have the most pleasent feelings for CVA at this point. I don’t expect that they do this kind of thing for every warranty situation, but I just had to share this first CVA experience of mine.

    Finally, and I can’t believe how that new bergara barrel shines inside. I’ve not seen a mirror finish like it has in any other barrel I’ve ever owned, smokeless or otherwise!


  • Dudley McGarity

    Larrie: I am happy to hear that our CVA Customer Service team served you so well. Let us know how the shooting goes. Best regards, Dudley

  • Sara Magdinec

    I am looking for a low recoil muzzleloader and I considering a .45cal (thinking it will be less than a .50 cal) to hunt whitetails. Can you recommend a model, cal, load and bullet for the lowest recoil possible. How would this compare to a 7mm-08 shooting low recoil bullets? Max distance shooting is 75 yds.

  • Dudley McGarity

    Sara: Recoil will be determined more by bullet weight and the amount of powder than by caliber. A .50 caliber with a the same weight bullet and the same amount of powder will actually kick less than a .45 — because the smaller bore of the .45 will produce more pressure. Most shooters today are using .45 for long range shooting with heavy powder charges. For low recoil, I’d suggest to stay with a .50 caliber but use a light bullet and less powder. Here is the load I’d recommend — 245 Grain PowerBelt AeroTip bullet, 80 grains of Blackhorn or Pyrodex powder, Winchester W-209 primer. This should be fairly light in recoil and will pack plenty of punch for whitetails out to 75 yards. Good luck, Dudley

  • Quentin

    Hay Cvilorio.Iam shooting a cva mag hunter 50cal.iam shooting Hornady sabots and on the box it says 50cal 45-250 GR sst/ml. i dont no how much power to use .i just got the gun and dont have a manaul.if you could help i thank you so much

  • Steven

    I have a CVA Optima Pro 45 cal Nickel barrel and have had trouble getting 2″ groups at 100 yds. Any suggestions? I have tried from 90 to 110 gr of triple7 and 225 gr powerbelts and TC Shockwave 200 gr 40cal sabots. Not sure what i’m doing wrong. I have killed deer with it, but have had substandard impact points beyond 100yds.

  • Gary Lancaster

    Hi I am from South Africa and new to ML, I have just purchased a CVA FIREBOLT ULTRAMAG .45 , although it is a 2002 model it is virtually brand new. I would like to know more or less how long will the breech plug last and the best method to clean it (BP). thanks Gary. also what scope and mountings are recommended.