Will My CVA Muzzleloader Blow Up?

By Randy Wakeman

This is a question asked repeatedly by Guns & Shooting Online readers; a question that many advertising-driven publications would not dare to talk about, much less investigate. It is certainly valid and obviously important to muzzleloading hunters who value their well-being, as well as the health of their family members, neighbors and friends. No one expects their wives to drive them to the emergency room a couple of hours after they buy a new CVA, but that is exactly what has happened in the past with CVA muzzleloaders.

After numerous CVA muzzleloader failures and numerous life-changing personal injuries, a representative sampling of current and recently failed CVA product has been catalogued and sent to several independent facilities for evaluation at great expense and time. I think that their findings will trouble you.

A report from the renowned H. P. White Laboratory, Inc., written on behalf of a plaintiff involved in a suit against CVA and dated January 24, 2007, found when examining a failed recent production CVA rifle that, �The combination of relatively soft steel and tapered threads would have created a dangerous situation. One in which the blow-out of the breech plug was likely.� This report is by Lester W. Roane, H. P. White Laboratory.

Consumers need to know how muzzleloaders compare in materials used. The metal used in CVA guns is relatively soft and weak, too soft and weak to be used in modern inline muzzleloaders, as far as I am concerned. In the same report from H. P. White, the hardness of the steel in CVA rifles was measured. H. P. White reports, �Further, the breech plug [Rb 99] is harder than the barrel [Rb 85] on the Black exemplar. Both of these hardness readings are low for this application." In standard engineering handbooks, the Rockwell "B" scale readings are for Soft Steel and Non-Ferrous Alloys.

The H. P. White report continues, �A U. S. made Thompson Center Arms Renegade rifle [tested] a hardness reading on the barrel of Rc 18. This is more appropriate for the application.�

Dr. William J. Bruchey, of Port Deposit, MD, at the request of another plaintiff analyzed three CVA rifles memorialized in a report dated March 24, 2007. Dr. Bruchey concluded his lengthy report by stating, �Other anomalies, such as tapering of the breech hole, or manufacturing or engineering design defects are a more likely cause and should be pursued further.�

This information should be shared with the muzzleloading hunting community. This is only a small portion of the body of analysis collected; there are more victims and the costly process of independent analysis continues with each additional incident. If this article saves needless pain and suffering, needless 911 calls, it had to be written. It must be publicized.

The number of cases I have evaluated grows regularly. Naturally, the more representative data we have the more pointed my opinions become, based on the most credible evidence we can gather. We have seen that CVA barrels are disquietingly softer than reputable brands of muzzleloaders, including Knight and Thompson, that handle many of the same loads that CVA owners are told that it is safe to use in their owners' manuals, including the three pellet "magnum" load.

It is not plausible that shooter error is a factor in several of these incidents. There is no evidence that CVA ever fired these rifles with so much as recommended loads, much less proof loads, before they were sold to the consumer. CVA rifle owners are misinformed by their instruction manuals that loads developing 25,000 PSI or more (possibly as much as 49,000 PSI with crushed Triple Se7en pellets) are safe to fire in these rifles. Then, sadly, it is too late.

As you read above, quoted from the H. P. White Laboratories report, the CVA inline guns tested were made from inferior, softer and weaker metal than an old Thompson/Center Renegade sidelock. So soft, in fact, that the CVA materials had to be measured on a different scale, the Rockwell �B� scale that is used for soft metals unsuitable for firearms.

Note that the Thompson Renegade is not a �magnum muzzleloader� and is not recommended for use with 150 grain charges. However, the old T/C Renegade is clearly built from stronger material than the CVA inlines tested by H. P. White Laboratory. It should send chills up your spine when H. P. White finds CVA materials hardness as �low for the application� and a T/C sidelock�s materials as �more appropriate for the application.�

It is vital to consider the sources of information. Note, as published by H. P. White: �H.P. White Laboratory, Inc. produces no manufactured item and is in no manner affiliated with any other research organization, manufacturer, agency or end product user. We are, therefore, the only truly independent ballistics laboratory in the United States. This unique independence has enabled the Laboratory to maintain an objectivity difficult to duplicate elsewhere.�

"H. P. White is the most respected independent ballistics laboratory in the United States and has been for decades. H.P. White Laboratory, Inc. was founded in 1936 by Mr. Henry Packard White as a ballistic research and development facility. Since that time, we have become acknowledged as the leading privately owned laboratory engaged in small arms and ammunition research, development and testing."

It is my opinion that, based on the best evidence we have, a �used as directed� CVA muzzleloader may severely injure or destroy body parts that you don�t care to have damaged or destroyed. Regrettably, far too many incidents have already occurred to demonstrate this point.


In August 1997 CVA implemented a Voluntary Recall of In-Line rifle models with serial numbers ending in -95 and -96. If you have a CVA In-Line model with such a serial number, DO NOT USE OR ALLOW ANYONE ELSE TO USE THE GUN. If you have one of these rifles, please call CVA immediately at 770-449-4687 for complete details and a free replacement gun. Example serial numbers: 61-13-XXXXXX-95 or 61-13-XXXXXX-96.

In May 1999 Blackpowder Products, Inc. purchased the assets of Connecticut Valley Arms, Inc. and now operates under the trade name of Connecticut Valley Arms and/or CVA. Any claims relating to the above described Voluntary Recall should be addressed to Connecticut Valley Arms, Inc., not Blackpowder Products, Inc. Blackpowder Products, Inc. assumes no liability for any products manufactured prior to January 1, 1998.

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Copyright 2007, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.