How to Sight-In Your Muzzleloader Rifle and Learn the Best Loads and Bullets with CVA’s Technical Guru Mark Hendricks

Question: Mark, muzzleloader rifles can have two-different types of sighting systems: open sights and scope mounts for riflescopes. Let’s talk about how you sight-in an open-sight muzzleloader rifle.

Hendricks: Don’t start off sighting your muzzleloader rifle in at 100 yards. First, set-up the target at 20-25 yards, which is much easier to hit than a target at 100 yards. Even if the sights are off a little bit, the bullet should still hit the paper. The first thing you do is fire two or three percussion caps though the rifle before you put-in your powder and shot.  Shooting those three percussion caps will dry-out the back of the barrel and get rid of any oil or humidity that may be in the barrel. In other words, those three caps will get the barrel ready to shoot. Next, load the powder and shot, sit down at the bench, cock the hammer, let the safety off, and very carefully hit that 20-25 yard target, while gently squeezing the trigger. If you have the correct trigger pull, the gun will go-off without you knowing when it will fire.

Question: Ok, Mark, let’s back-up just a little bit. What load should we load with, and what bullets should we use, and why?

Hendricks : We’ve done quite a bit of testing on the CVA guns, and currently our favorite powder is the IMR White Hots that perform extremely well, are clean shooting and aren’t as corrosive as other muzzleloader pellet substitutes. This powder is the one we recommend in the manual above the other types of powder. This powder substitute is only available in pellets. In primers, we like the Winchester Triple Se7en Primer that’s been developed specifically for inline muzzleloader rifles and works extremely well.

Question: Mark, how much powder should we use in sighting our rifles?

Hendricks: All the CVA rifles are magnum capable, meaning they can shoot 150 grains of powder. But in my opinion, 150 grains of powder is a little excessive in most circumstances, unless you’re hunting moose, elk or bears. When you’re hunting animals that big, you want every bit of power that a muzzleloader gun can produce. However, for typical deer hunting, I feel that three, 50-grain pellets equaling 150 grains of powder is somewhat excessive, since you get so much more recoil and smoke from 150 grains of powder than you do from 100 grains of powder, not to mention the expense of shooting another 50 grain pellet. Two, 50-grain pellets are usually best under almost any other circumstance than the ones I’ve just mentioned. Those two, 50-grain pellets equaling 100 grains of powder will give you good accuracy and plenty of knock-down power out to 200 yards.
Question: What bullets should we use?

Hendricks: The PowerBelt bullet is our favorite. There are three-different types of PowerBelt bullets: the standard PowerBelt, the PowerBelt Platinum and the new PowerBelt Aerolite. The traditional PowerBelt bullet is a good, solid performer. The Platinum PowerBelt bullets have been developed for longer-range shooting and have a longer profile and a reduced ogive on the front of the bullet to increase ballistic coefficiency and accuracy, which makes these bullets better for those long-range shots. The new Aerolite PowerBelt bullet has been specifically designed for 100-grain powder charges and close-range shooting. With a much-bigger hollow cavity and a much-bigger polycarbonate plug at the end of the bullet, these bullets are devastating with 100-grain loads at close to moderate ranges. This bullet is my choice for deer hunting.

Question: Ok, Mark, now that we know what best cap, powder and bullet we need to shoot, if our gun is shooting a little high at 20-25 yards with open sights, what do we need to do to make it shoot more accurately?

Hendricks: You always move your rear sight in the direction you want your bullet to go.  Therefore, if you’re shooting high, and you want that bullet to come down, then move your rear sight down. If you want your bullet’s strike to move to the right, you move your rear sight to the right. This is a very-simple rule of thumb to remember.

Question: How tight a group should we expect to shoot at 50-100 yards?

Hendricks: The tightness of the group primarily depends on the skill level of the shooter – about an inch at 50 yards and 1-1/-2- to 2-inches at 100 yards.

Question: How many times should we shoot a target before we clean the barrel?

Hendricks: I typically like to run a cleaning patch through the barrel after every shot.  You want that patch to be just barely damp. That one patch removes the bulk of the fouling, especially in the chamber area of the barrel, and it preps the barrel for the next shot. When you’re out hunting, and you have to make a fast follow-up shot, you won’t clean the barrel after every shot. But when you’re at the rifle range and trying to shoot tight groups, consistency is very important. Therefore, I tend to run a slightly-damp patch down the barrel between each shot.

Get information on what to do with your muzzleloader rifle at www.cva.com, and see a  free-streaming video called “Muzzleloader Basics” that’s very helpful for any type of muzzleloader.

7 thoughts on “How to Sight-In Your Muzzleloader Rifle and Learn the Best Loads and Bullets with CVA’s Technical Guru Mark Hendricks”

  1. Mark good article, this is my second year of shooting a muzzleloader. I have a cva optima, I have been shooting at 100 yards and I seem to be all over the place, I have been using powerbelts, copper holow points and now lead, been shooting 150 grain will go to 100 as recomended, was not cleaning regularly sometimes after 3 shots sometimes 6 or more would this have a large impact? I love the gun its just my consistency that stinks I will follow your directions above any other tips would be great thanks

  2. I am shooting a cva optima with 100 grains of triple 7 and 245 grain standard powerbelts. I can not shoot more than 3 shots without cleaning. accurace is jut ok.

  3. I recently bought a used cva optima with a Nikon Prostaff 3-9×40 and it shoots groups within a half inch at 35 yards. The down side of the gun has been at 85 yards i struggle to consistantly hit a pie plate. I am using 2 tripple seven pellets with 300 grain powerbelt. I also tried some 250 grain powerbelt’s but had the same issue…i am going to try 3 pellets and/or pyrodex. I also have been shooting 5 shots before running a patch through so i will take your advice and run one each time. Of course i am starting my day at the range with a prestine barrel that i clean with solvent, hot soapy water and finish with very light oil.

    I loved my old school CVA with the octogon barrel from the late 90′s…and still do! but so far I am not impressed with this guns ability to shoot a tight group an any sort of distance.

    What is your prefered CVA for shooting at 100 yards?

  4. First impression of the optima v-2. Bore sighted a simmons 3×9 8 point scope.First shot at 13 yards was 1/2 inch to the right. Moved out to 50 yards shot was 4 inches high and 3 inches right. Adjusted scope accordingly. Ended up shooting 5 shots to get it dead center and 2 inches high , this was done leaning on a truck bed. i ran a wet patch followed by a dry patch after each shot.
    I was shooting 2 – 50 grain pyrodex pellets and a 250 grain shockwave.

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