No Muzzleloading Standards!

By Randy Wakeman

The CIP, headquartered in Belgium, is the international controlling body for gun proofs. The Birmingham Proof House has information here: All countries that are signatories to the CIP (Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, etc.) accept each other's proof marks, as detailed at that site.

The black powder CIP standards are here, courtesy of the Birmingham Proof House: You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to view this.

In the United States, SAAMI is the governing body, see:

The NEF Huntsman is based on a smokeless rated action, accepts centerfire cartridge barrels, and is a form 4473 firearm as a result. Marlin Firearms (owner of NEF / H&R), Thompson Center, and Savage Arms are all members of SAAMI. It is due to SAAMI specifications and its members, such as Federal Cartridge, Remington, Winchester-Olin, Browning, Bushmaster, Colt, Ruger, Savage, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, USRAC, Weatherby, etc., etc., that there is standardization in ammunition, chamber dimensions, barrel and cartridge tolerances, allowable pressures, etc. Due to SAAMI, you can take a SAAMI member's .270 Winchester or 20 gauge round, and fire it in a SAAMI member's .270 rifle or 20 gauge shotgun.

As stated on the SAAMI site: SAAMI Sets Product Standards for Firearms and Ammunition. Its Technical Committee does the primary work of SAAMI in the setting of industry standards. Two Product Standards Task Forces, one for ammunition and one for firearms, develop product standards. Recommendations of the task forces are submitted for review by the entire Technical Committee.

Other key areas of technical expertise and standardization include pressure measurement, muzzle loading, and working with the Commission Internationale Permanente (CIP) to eventually achieve universal, internationally recognized standards. In Europe, proof houses or testing facilities for firearms and ammunition have set European standards since the 1800s. The CIP is an international association of proof houses. By working together, the CIP and SAAMI are moving toward the development of international standards.

Though various individuals from BPI / CVA muzzleloading have asserted that the genuine House of Eibar proof marks are "not proof marks at all, but generic manufacturing marks," or merely "export marks," this is not true. According to the CIP, Birmingham Proof House, the House of Eibar Proof House and even Traditions Performance Firearms, they are CIP proof marks, period.

These proof marks have also been referred to as "minimum pressure," a bizarre statement. There is no such thing, according to the CIP. My guns are operating at a minimum pressure right now, which is either zero, or 14.7 psi (standard atmospheric pressure), as you prefer.

As lamented, there is no governing body in the United States for black powder arms. They are non-GCA arms, not "firearms" according to the BATF, and have little or nothing in the way of standards. They cannot even agree on something so basic as what ".50 caliber" might be, for example.

As CVA and Traditions are little more than import companies, with no testing facilities or engineering staff in the United States, they probably do not know the limitations of their guns. Hence, they remain unable to state whether their guns are ever tested to 25,000 psi; no problem for the companies that have long ago gone on the public record as answering "yes!" to that question (Austin & Halleck, Knight, Savage, Thompson, White, etc.).

What pressures are CVA / BPI / Traditions guns actually good for? I have no idea. They are the ones selling them; they are taking the American dollars for them, so it is my opinion that they are the ones that need to convince consumers that their products are well-tested and safe to use.

When a powder manufacturer's loud and clear warnings about maximum charges are violated (see the label of every box of Hodgdon Pyrodex or Triple Seven pellets), as is the case when 150 grain pellet loads are recommended, it is incumbent upon the firearm manufacturer to clearly state the parameters under which this should be considered a safe practice.

As independently tested by Lyman, a 3 pellet, 150 grain Pyrodex load pushing a Hornady 240 grain sabot out of a 22" barrel generates 27,000 psi--sparked by a #11 percussion cap rather that a hotter #209 shotgun primer. And neither Traditions nor BPI can publicly state that their barrels are tested to 25,000 PSI. Why the hell not? Their "recommended" loads can exceed that level!

There is no defense for this tragic level of incompetence and unprofessionalism. If a manufacturer selling a firearm recommends loads, in printed manuals, that develops 27,000 psi and cannot clearly state that their product has been tested to that level of pressure, they are both ignorant and inept.

No one is asking for "burst" or dangerous pressure levels here. It is tested and proven safe pressures that were requested. When you muzzleload, you are a reloader. Reloaders need to know a maximum proven safe pressure, so that they can be sure to STAY BELOW IT.

The reloading manuals of every major powder manufacturer are chock full of this information, free for the download, so you can reload safely. SAAMI standards are never exceeded and that has made the firearms industry a safer, better place.

Some do not take this topic seriously, only because their gun did not fail today. When the hospitals are filled with injured shooters, and the only recourse is personal injury lawsuits, then finally some will be satisfied. How compassionate.

Black powder shooters in particular and the firearms industry in general does not need the bad publicity occasioned by a public scandal over defective guns. Needless risk is just that, and to knowingly assume unnecessary risk is amazingly imbecilic. What level of risk do you personally think is "okay"? One incident out of a thousand? Ten thousand? One failure per 1,000,000 shots? One can falsely look to track record as being indicative of safety. Bridgestone / Firestone did precisely that, with "millions of safe miles driven." In the case of the CVA Optima and BPI / Winchester Apex, even the flawed notion of previous track record cannot work, as the barreled actions of these models have been on the market only for months, not years. More damage has already been done to the inline industry by the CVA Apollo than any other company or firearm and more litigation has resulted from personal injury cases against this one company than all other inline companies combined.


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 2003, 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.