As of late, a longgun with interchangeable barrels seems to be the major focus at Black Powder Products, Inc., parent company to CVA Muzzleloading. The brand’s affordable Apex rifle is built as a muzzleloader, then can be adapted to centerfire cartridge use with a quick-change barrel system. It is sleek, well balanced, highly affordable and fast becoming popular.
There have been few stones unturned at CVA in the last two years, however. For example, the popular Accura break-action muzzleloader has been completely restyled to include stainless steel barrels throughout the line, rubber overmolding on the fore-end and grip and a Quick Release Breech Plug that’s finger-removable. When it comes to muzzleloaders, simplicity trumps fancy every time in my book, and that’s why I’ve been so impressed with the company’s affordable Optima line. Similarly to the Accura, the Optima has recently been refined, muzzle to butt.
For starters, each rifle now features a fluted 416 stainless steel barrel of a reasonable 26-inch length (including QRBP breech plug). Other manufacturers have been trending toward longer barrels, resulting in a new breed of gangly muzzleloaders that not only weigh more but cost more too. A 24- to 26-inch barrel is plenty long enough for good results in both balance and ballistics with a muzzleloader using modern black powder substitutes. The Optima’s barrel crown is recessed too, which aids in quick reloading and better alignment when you start a bullet down the bore. Other than requisite fiber-optic sights, there are no additional barrel appendages or annoyances such as porting. While it may tame recoil, porting on muzzleloaders mostly serves to direct white smoke back toward the shooter and make the cleaning process more annoying than it needs to be.
“QRBP” stands for Quick Release Breech Plug, and it’s the real deal. While shooting an Optima test sample several months ago, I checked many times to be sure I could remove it with my fingers. With proper lubrication, it turned loose every time, dirty or clean. The QRBP on a second Optima I shot recently worked just as flawlessly. I suppose given enough neglect, it would be possible to shoot enough to eventually seize a QRBP (or any other manufacturer’s breech plug), but that would be about as productive as running your truck engine dry of oil. Who does that?
A break-action, the Optima breech is accessed by simply squeezing a lever that protrudes from the receiver block at the front of the triggerguard. Traditional stocked models come with fiber optic sights and a comb of modest drop for proper sight alignment. If you prefer a riflescope on your muzzleloader, the thumbhole Optima features a higher comb height to allow for proper eye and scope alignment. To me, it just feels better in the hands, too. I’ve shot both stock designs with scopes and prefer the thumbhole variant by far. Someone who is regulated to using only open sights for their muzzleloader hunting would be well advised to stay away from the thumbhole version.
Overall length on this rifle is 41 inches, and with a riflescope attached it weighs just less than 8 pounds, which is on par with a common deer rifle. The revised Optima also has a very narrow stock with the fore-end being slightly squared to fit nicely in the palm of your hand.
Accuracy has been very reasonable with the two test samples I have shot. While cleaning between shots, the rifles have produced 3-shot groups of 2 inches or less at 100 yards. This is respectable muzzleloader accuracy. Naturally, some rifles will shoot better than others, and varied bullet and powder combinations should be tried in your rifle to come up with the best results.
The made over Optima will retail for less than $300 in its basic dress. You can also get it with a 3-9X KonusPro scope atop DuraSight mounts for an additional $100. Either way, the rifle comes with a limited lifetime warranty. This no doubt will be one of CVA’s best selling muzzleloaders for years to come.