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Range report - CVA Optima pistol with Nikon variable scope

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Range report - CVA Optima pistol with Nikon variable scope

Old 08-19-2017, 09:22 PM
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Default Range report - CVA Optima pistol with Nikon variable scope

This week, I finally upgraded my CVA Optima's scope to a Nikon Force XR 2.5-8x28mm - my preferred scope on all of my other hunting handguns:



Between the heat and a drone flight I had to make, it was late in the afternoon by the time I got everything outside to sight in the Optima. Because it was fairly late, I decided not to set up the chronograph. That would be just another piece of equipment to have to adjust every time I moved the target.

My first order of business was to get the scope dialed in at 25 yards. Once I adjusted my rest to accommodate the Optima, I measured out 80 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder and poured it down the muzzle, then inserted a 200 grain .452" Berry's plated hollowpoint into a Harvester Crushed Rib sabot, which I seated firmly on top of the powder charge. I decided to go with 80 grains because that powder charge worked quite well with the 240 grain XTPs I tried last year. The first shot was quite low and to the left, so I adjusted accordingly. However, my second shot showed I overcorrected the right adjustment and under-adjusted the height. I wanted to fire another shot prior to further adjustment to be sure, but something strange happened.

When I squeezed the trigger, the Optima didn't sound as though it fired, creating only a strange popping noise. I thought my primer had misfired, so I held it firmly on target for a minute to ensure it wasn't a hang fire. When I felt it safe to do so, I removed the primer to see that, yes, it had gone off. Then, when I picked up the Optima, some unburned granules of BH 209 fell out of the muzzle. Puzzled, I removed the breech plug and saw a fair amount of unburned powder along the bottom of the barrel. I also discovered the sabot on the ground about ten feet in front of the table, completely undamaged save for rifling marks on the petals. The bullet was nowhere to be found. I'm still trying to figure out what happened. . . .

Anyway, I swabbed the barrel, reloaded, and fired another shot. This one went off without a hitch, and landed near the previous shot:



Yes, I'm still using the 22 target from last week.

I adjusted the scope back to the left, then set up at 50 yards. The first shot landed below the previous two 25 yard shots, so once again I made some adjustments to the left and up. The second shot went right through the bullseye. Not bad, especially considering that was only the fourth shot I've ever fired at that distance with the Optima:



Now came the real test. I set the target back at 100 yards, this time with the intention of firing a 3-shot group, then making any further scope adjustments based on the group, rather than a single shot that might not be indicative of where the shots are hitting relative to the crosshairs. After three shots, I went to check the target:



That's about a 2" group at 100 yards. Not bad at all with a muzzleloading pistol, and honestly, much of that was probably me rather than the Optima. I haven't been practicing over the last few months, barring last weekend. With much more practice, I could probably tighten that up to 1".

One last adjustment - 1 MOA left, 1.25 MOA up. One last shot:



Grazed the top of the bullseye at 100 yards with a muzzleloading pistol. Heck yeah.



I'm very happy with this set up. Last year, I mentioned that the Optima pistol had a lot of performance potential that was limited by the fixed 2x power Nikon. This afternoon's range session confirmed this for me. I'm fully confident that after a bit more practice, I could easily take a deer at 100 yards with the 200 grain Barnes XPB, possibly even 150 yards if the load is powerful enough.

That brings us to the load's performance. I'm planning to shoot through the chronograph tomorrow to determine how fast 80 grains of BH 209 propels a 200 grain bullet. I know it'll push a 240 grain XTP to 1,480 fps, so the 200 grain bullets should be going well in excess of 1,500 fps.

The recoil seems less severe than with the 240 grain XTP, no doubt due to the lower bullet weight. While it's still not pleasant to shoot like my 221 Fireball Encore, it's at least marginally more comfortable.

Can't wait to shoot it again tomorrow.
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Old 08-19-2017, 10:05 PM
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Did you get the CVA or Western Powders Blackhorn209 breach plug?

What primers are you using and can you post a pic of the fired primers?

Last edited by Gm54-120; 08-19-2017 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 08-19-2017, 10:36 PM
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I'm using the Blackhorn 209 breech plug from CVA and Federal 209 primers. I threw away the used primers already.

What I think happened is either 1.) I let some bore cleaning solution drip into the flash hole while swabbing between shots, or 2.) I somehow forgot to put a bullet into the sabot and didn't realize it.
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Old 08-19-2017, 11:46 PM
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You would have realized it when you went to drive the bullet/sabot down. Without a bullet the sabot would go much easier. We won't ask about how I know that to be fact now will we. I would say either your first solution was the correct one or you may have gotten a bad primer. Also, from what I have observed when my sister is shooting that Blackhorn stuff, it really likes a good heavy seating pressure. It acts up if you don't lean on the rod pretty heavy.
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Old 08-20-2017, 01:59 AM
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I have the CVA and the Western Powders 209 plugs for my Optima pistol. I was curious if there was any performance difference and there isn't really.

I have a couple other CVA long guns that use the quick out plugs and all have been replaced now with the CVA plug. I have 4 factory plugs that I intend to modify as Ron does. I have the bits on order and they should be here next week. I also have the fixings to make a jig similar to the one Ron used for holding the plug while drilling and holding the flat head screws as well. I'm anxious to see if the converted plugs do as well as the CVA 20- plugs or the Western plug. I'll get an up-date in here when I have had a change to work the plugs and loads on paper.
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Old 08-20-2017, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by TN Lone Wolf View Post
I'm using the Blackhorn 209 breech plug from CVA and Federal 209 primers. I threw away the used primers already.

What I think happened is either 1.) I let some bore cleaning solution drip into the flash hole while swabbing between shots, or 2.) I somehow forgot to put a bullet into the sabot and didn't realize it.
First, you don't need to swab between shots with BH209.

What cleaning solution did you use to swab?....Dont use water based solvents with BH209. If you must swab use a 50/50 mix of 91% or better isopropyl and Hoppes#9...ISO-HEET fuel line deicer is nearly pure isopropyl.

The reason i asked to see primers is to see how dirty they look. A good seal makes a huge difference with BH209. I can shoot easy loading projectiles without fail as long as the plug is good and the primers seal well.

If your primers are not coming out this clean after firing, you might want to consider the shim kit from CVA.


CVA sells a firing pin bushing shim kit to correct excessive headspace. Its super simple to install if you have a good way to measure your primers.

Last edited by Gm54-120; 08-20-2017 at 07:01 AM.
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Old 08-20-2017, 03:24 PM
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I always swab between shots for consistency using a cloth patch and T/C's number 13 solution.

While shooting today, I paid attention to my primers. Most were clean, but a few were dirty. I found that if I press them into the primer pocket rather than just dropping them in, they tended to come out cleaner.
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:02 PM
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I tested the Optima's velocity this afternoon. Using 200 grain Berry's plated hollowpoints, Harvester Crushed Rib sabots, Federal 209 primers, and my preferred load of 80 grains of Blackhorn 209, my five shots produced an average velocity of 1,548 fps with a standard deviation of 28 fps. I also decided to test the velocity produced by different charges of Blackhorn 209. Due to time constraints, I was only able to fire one shot of each load (except for 80 grains) through the chronograph. Not a terribly precise way to determine velocity, but at least it puts me in the ballpark.

50 gr. BH 209: 1,193 fps
60 gr. BH 209: 1,250 fps
70 gr. BH 209: 1,330 fps
80 gr. BH 209: 1,548 fps
90 gr. BH 209: 1,629 fps
100 gr. BH 209: 1,705 fps

The recoil produced by the 50 and 60 grain loads was very manageable. I may use 60 grains to practice with in order to conserve my BH 209. On the other hand, the 100 grain charge, while producing quite the kick, wasn't overly unpleasant. It would be a bit more bearable with good shooting gloves, but then again I don't think I need that much power out of my Optima.
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Old 08-20-2017, 05:42 PM
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I've settled on 63 grains weighed [90 grains by volume] under a 240 grain, .44 cal XTP and green crush rib. The load is fired by a CCI mag primer. Its very accurate with a somewhat heavy but manageable recoil. I have always suggested that loads should be the most accurate and as heavy as the shooter can handle, accurately. In a hunting scenario you'll only be using one shot [hopefully]. There are a lot of superbly accurate loads out there that maybe have more recoil than the shooter can handle effectively. If someone is going to flinch at the though of the gun going off then accuracy at any degree is a joke.

The Optima pistol loaded to the max with 209 and pushing a 300 grain bullet is going to deliver recoil in the 454 Casul/460 range. I'm fine with the load I have settled on but the max with a 300 grain bullet is challenging when I like to have a little fun. At reasonable pistol ranges on deer one doesn't need to max things out.

I couldn't believe the damage to the buck deer I got last using the same powder charge but a .452 250 grain XTP. To note, the .44 cal 240 xtp's shoot much tighter that the 250 grainer at 50 yards.

Last edited by ctom; 08-20-2017 at 05:47 PM.
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