My Kilo 2020 BDX rangefinder, from Sig Sauer, put the deer 272.3 yards away. Not a record-distance shot by any means, but I wasn’t shooting from a nice, solid table, either. My butt was on the ground, a backpack under my right arm for support, with my rifle resting on shooting sticks. Still, I had two advantages: my Sig Sauer Sierra3 BDX 4.5×14 rifle scope, a digital and Bluetooth masterpiece that “talked” to my Kilo rangefinder to provide the exact holdover point needed for the deer; and, my rifle, the new Paramount HTR .40 caliber muzzleloader from CVA—AKA Connecticut Valley Arms.
I shot, five times in all, with four of my shots placing in the deer’s vitals. Actually, my deer was an imposter, a Pre-Game Splattering Target of a whitetail buck from Birchwood Casey. And the target’s vital zone was roughly only two-thirds the size of that of a real deer. I was satisfied—and impressed with the rifle and optical system.
I’d first used the Paramount HTR six weeks previous at a media event hosted by CVA. There, shooting from a table, I’d hit a steel target four times in a row placing those shots within five inches of each other. The target sat 400 yards away. I kept thinking this performance was a fluke, but person after person replicated my shooting with the CVA Paramount HTR .
Could this really be a 400-yard muzzleloader?
A month and a half after the Texas event, a CVA Paramount HTR arrived at my house for me to use and decide.
I’ve always considered the muzzleloader a fairly primitive firearm, mostly because, well, it is! Comparatively speaking, the range and power of the muzzleloaders I’ve used over the last decade didn’t come close to a standard bolt-action deer rifle. Sure, at 75 to 100 yards, that big, slow moving muzzleloader bullet could knock down a deer or elk. But how much further was it ethical to shoot a black powder rifle if you were hunting?
CVA has been making muzzleloaders for a half century, and several years ago CVA engineers and product managers began working to create a truly long-range muzzleloader. They began with caliber selection. Whereas most muzzleloaders were .50 or .45 caliber, CVA staff figured a smaller diameter bullet, pushed at much higher speeds, could make 400-yard shots. They settled on .40 caliber.
Of course, they needed a stout breech and receiver to handle a full-charge load of black powder. That was relatively easy to manufacture.
But a consistent and complete ignition system was required, too. CVA settled on their VariFlame igniter, a small, metal cylinder holding a large rifle primer that is inserted into the rear of the breech. To hold this all in place, a bolt-action was created. Once the VariFlame is in place, the HTR’s bolt is then pushed forward and rotated, sealing the VariFlame into the primer pocket.
In its testing, CVA determined that Blackhorn 209 powder provided the most consistent power and was also the cleanest powder.
Meanwhile, the staff at sister company PowerBelt designed a very aerodynamic .40 caliber bullet, made of copper and sporting a poly tip, the PowerBelt ELR .40 caliber. It has an unbelievably high-ballistic coefficient (for a black powder bullet) of .360.
When loaded with 105-grains, by weight, of Blackhorn 209, the Paramount HTR launches the 225-grain PowerBelt ELR at approximately 2,700 feet per second. Centerfire speed.
CVA added a 26-inch, stainless-steel barrel made by Bergara of Spain, rifled at fast twist rate (for black powder) of 1:20. CVA free-floated the barrel so that no unnecessary vibrations would affect accuracy, especially at distances.
CVA also built the HTR’s fully adjustable stock with an internal, aluminum chassis for rigidity and to aid in free-floating the barrel.
SIG bdx optics
First launched in 2018, the Sig Optics BDX (Ballistic Date Xchnage) system employs an iPhone or Android app that bonds a SIG rangefinder with a Sig scope using Bluetooth technology. The app also allows the shooter to configure a ballistic profile for specific rounds. Preset ballistic groups are pre-loaded onto all BDX products covering the vast majority of calibers on the market, and the shooter can also load the specific data on their unique load.
Sig Sauer SIERRA3 BDX Rifle Scope, $599.99 – $799.99, basspro.com
Once the BDX system is set up, the shooter simply ranges the target, and the app illuminates the exact holdover point needed on the scope’s reticle.
I downloaded the app onto my iPhone and synced the scope and rangefinder, then added the ballistics of my HTR load.
At my home range, I zeroed my Paramount HTR and the Sierra3, starting the process at 50 yards. My third shot was near enough to the bullseye to stretch out things to 100 yards. A few shots later, I had the rifle zeroed.
On the range with the CVA Paramount HTR
I began shooting for accuracy and discovered that I had a muzzleloader capable of MOA or better. My best group: four rounds into a .75-inch cluster at 100 yards. At which point I got nervous and pulled shot number five an inch wide. But that was on the shooter, not the rifle.
I also consider the 5.5-inch group I shot from my improvised position at the deer target pretty decent. Not great, but with more practice it would likely shrink by one-third the size or more.
An annoying reality of an in-line muzzleloader is that they must be cleaned after every two shots or so. And not just the barrel—the breech plug has to be removed and cleaned, greased, and re-inserted.
At the CVA Texas event, the Paramount HTR was fired nearly two dozen times in a row without a single cleaning, with the rifle as accurate and functional on the last shot as it was on the first.
In my testing, I put over 30 shots through my HTR without a cleaning and without a problem. At some point, I am sure a good scrubbing would be in order for a Paramount HTR. But I wouldn’t worry until at least 50 rounds and maybe many more.
By the way, the HTR’s trigger snapped off crisply at one pound, eight ounces of pull. I’ve used many centerfire rifles that didn’t have a trigger half this crisp and precise.
Downsides to the HTR? It’s not light at 9.6 pounds unloaded. This isn’t the rifle to carry on a mountain goat hunt. And the recoil is significant. Think a bit more than a .308 Win recoil but not all the way to a 30-06.
CVA’s Paramount Series also includes the Paramount Pro, featuring a hand-painted Grayboe camo stock, in either .40 or .45 caliber, and the Paramount in .45 caliber. My Paramount HTR was technically a pre-production model as the plan (disrupted by the Covid pandemic) was to sell the HTR with a stock hydro-dipped in the Realtree Hillside camo pattern. My stock was a simple forest green, though in every other aspect it was and is the HTR.
Which means it’s long-distance accurate and miles beyond its flintlock and even its in-line cousins!
CVA Paramount HTR Specs
– .40 Caliber (as tested)
– Free-Floating Barrel
– 26″ Barrel, Stainless Steel, Nitride Treated
– Twist Rate: 1:20
– Nitride® Treated Stainless Steel
– VariFlame® Breech Plug
– Adjustable Cheek Rest
– Internal Aluminum Chassis
– Carbon Fiber Collapsible Loading Rod
– One-Piece Solid Aluminum Range Rod
– Molle Pouch to store CF Loading Rod
– Includes VariFlames and Priming Kit
– Quake® CLAW® Flush Cup Sling included
– 44” Total Length
– 9.6 lbs. Total Weight
– Scope Not Included
– MSRP: $1,223.95
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