By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2022

“My CVA Wolf…did everything that I asked of it. Not only is it lightweight and easy to carry, but it worked without fail. I hunted in some nasty conditions: pouring-down rain, snow, and bitterly-cold temperatures. Even under the worst of conditions, the CVA Wolf…always treated me well. Every time I pulled the trigger, the gun fired, and it always hit where I was aiming. What else do you need from a hunting rifle?”

— John McAdams, The Big-Game

Hunting Blog, September 2014.

Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA) of Lawrenceville, Georgia (not anti-gun Connecticut), according to their own website, “Was founded way back in 1971, specializing in traditional…muzzleloading rifles…with the best values available. Today, our product line has expanded to include the most technically-advanced, modern, inline muzzleloaders on the market…CVA has now been America’s #1-selling, muzzleloader brand for over a decade…continually developing the technical innovations that redefine consumer expectations, and at prices that they can afford. All of our guns are designed and assembled in our state-of-the art, production facility located in the little town of Bergara, in (far) northern Spain, a region that has been famous for gun-making for hundreds of years.

“CVA is able to consistently produce guns with greater accuracy, more features, and better quality for the dollar than any…other brand. Bottom line, it’s just a better gun…The Wolf has been substantially upgraded over the years, and provides more desired features than any other entry-level muzzleloader on the market today. This commitment to quality and value…ultimately gives you a rifle that you can count on when you’re presented with the shot of a lifetime.”

The CVA Wolf is currently produced in at least a dozen versions, either with a black, synthetic stock or a Realtree Hardwoods, green-camouflaged, synthetic stock, both fully ambidextrous, and a 24-inch, blued carbon-steel, stainless-steel, or Nitride-treated, stainless-steel barrel, with prices ranging from a very-affordable $205 to $391. Options include DuraSight fiber-optic, iron sights, or a DuraSight Dead-On, one-piece, scope mount, and even scopes and gun cases are available. All Wolf models are a compact 39 inches long, weigh 6.25 pounds, and have a 14-inch length of pull.

Standard features include a break-action, breech configuration and quick-release breech plug (QRBP), the only truly tool-free, removal breech plug on the market today, easily removed by hand. This enables quick disassembly, and greatly facilitates cleaning. There’s also a reversible hammer spur for ease in cocking the hammer when a scope is mounted, a solid-aluminum, PalmSaver ramrod, a recessed muzzle opening for easy reloading, and a CrushZone recoil pad that absorbs about 40 percent of felt recoil forces.

The Wolf is a .50-caliber, magnum rifle, with 1:28-inch rifling twist and true, .500-inch bore, so it will safely fire either standard loads of a 100-grain, powder charge, or magnum loads of 150 grains. The CVA Wolf manual specifically recommends IMR White Hots pelletized propellant, in conjunction with PowerBelt bullets for the best-possible performance, with 209 shotshell primers.

As a military retiree and avid hunter, I really appreciated the camouflaged model with the black, Nitride barrel. CVA explains it this way: “This genuine, Bergara 416 stainless-steel barrel has been treated with a process known as ‘Salt Bath Ferritic Nitrocarburizing.’ Widely used in modern, military weapons, this steel treatment actually hardens the outer layers of steel, substantially increasing corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and lubricity.

“Nitride-treated, barrel surfaces will not chip, peel, or scratch, and, unlike painted-on, exterior finishes, it also protects the inside of the barrel, forming a barrier in the bore that is impenetrable to rust. Any surface rust that does develop in the barrel will wipe away easily with a bore swab. In fact, our Nitride-treated barrels are so tough that they are guaranteed for life against rust pitting. If your barrel ever develops permanent damage due to corrosion, just return it to us, and we will replace it for FREE.”

The Wolf manual states that, “The ‘Nitride process’ is a treatment that is applied to stainless-steel barrels of several CVA models…bringing the carbon within the steel to the outermost layers of the barrel. The Nitride process turns the stainless steel a rich, black color and makes the internal and external surfaces so hard that rust cannot penetrate. Therefore, all CVA muzzleloaders with the Nitride-treated barrel have a lifetime guarantee against permanent, rust damage to the inside (bore) or outside of the barrel.”

I purchased my CVA Wolf Nitride with open sights (#PR2115N, no longer offered in this specific configuration) from in July 2017 for a mere $279, which seemed like quite a good deal. There was no sling included, but I kept the old, Quake Claw sling in OD green from my previous, bolt-action, CVA Elkhorn Magnum, and ordered the recommended, DuraSight Z2-alloy, one-piece, scope mount for $33.

The PalmSaver aluminum ramrod was okay, but its black finish scraped off very rapidly, and the large, round cap tended to snag on things, so I replaced it with a black, CVA custom-fit, fiberglass ramrod for just $13, and capped it with a solid-brass, .50-caliber, Barnes MZ Aligner Tool (for guiding ballistic-tip bullets) for an additional $11.

A decent-quality, Bushnell Banner 1-4x32mm scope (made in free and democratic South Korea, not communist China) cost only $59, and I recently (January 2022) replaced the standard, CrushZone recoil pad with a new-and-improved, Limbsaver AirTech #10830 recoil pad for $50, absorbing 70 percent of felt recoil, to handle magnum loads, and bringing my total, muzzleloader investment to an extremely affordable $445, including all shipping charges.

Using a nearly-identical, Limbsaver AirTech #10805 recoil pad on the evening of Saturday, January 8, 2022, on my powerful, Remington 700 rifle in .30-06, I took an eight-point buck at 70 yards, dropping him straight down.  Between the superb cushioning of the new, Limbsaver pad, my thick, winter clothing (it was 27 frosty degrees in the snow-covered forest), and the sheer excitement of the moment, I don’t remember feeling the substantial recoil at all. The Limbsaver AirTech pad should certainly work equally as well on my CVA Wolf muzzleloader.

I’ve always found it to be astounding that muzzleloaders are not considered to be “real” weapons, since they were real enough during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. There is currently no paperwork to be filled out, no fingerprinting, no licensing requirements, no fees, and no required registration with the state or the police. They simply don’t care how powerful, accurate, and deadly these rifles are. What apparently matters to the police, and the state (mine is very “blue”), is how quickly you can reload, and how many rounds you can fire in rapid succession.

With a muzzleloader, the definitive answer is ONE. You get just one shot, so take your time and make it count. Reloading takes about one minute, if you know what you’re doing, or much longer for novices. So, there you have it. You can take wild game (or almost anything else) with it, but it’s not classified as a “real” weapon. Go figure!

John McAdams wrote for The Big-Game Hunting Blog in September 2014 that, “The Wolf is CVA’s entry-level, break-action muzzleloader…one of the best muzzleloaders currently manufactured…reasonably-priced…I was immediately impressed by the obvious quality in the workmanship exhibited…The Wolf fit me nicely, and was lightweight, quick to mount, and pointed very well. The breech opened easily and smoothly by simply depressing the lever on the trigger guard. The trigger…was still pretty smooth, and broke cleanly with (just) three pounds of pressure.

“CVA recommends using 80 to 120 grains of black powder (100 grains is optimum) for best accuracy. With the accuracy I was achieving with…PowerBelts, I’m comfortable with taking a shot out to around 150 yards on a deer…and I feel comfortable taking a 100-yard shot on an elk…The CVA Wolf…will work perfectly for the vast majority of muzzleloader hunters, one of the best-selling, inline muzzleloaders in the United States for good reason: it’s well-designed, user-friendly, reliable, and accurate.”

My own preferred, hunting load for the CVA Wolf is the PowerBelt Aerolite 250-grain, ballistic-tip, .50-caliber bullet, over two 50-grain pellets of Alliant Blue MZ pelletized powder. I had previously used IMR White Hots, as recommended, which are basically the same composition of pelletized powder, but the Blue MZ pellets (50-percent potassium nitrate, and 25-percent potassium perchlorate) seem to be just a tiny bit larger, and have a higher advertised, muzzle velocity with this particular bullet, at 1,726 feet per second for Blue MZ, versus 1,648 feet per second for White Hots. The two powder loads are otherwise nearly identical, very clean-burning and efficient, but I’ll gladly accept the extra 78 fps (4.7-percent faster) for basically the same cost.

In my state, muzzleloader hunting season for whitetail deer lasts only 25 total days per year, with 10 days (but only three days for bucks) in October, followed by 15 more days (for all deer) in December, to about January 1st, so I must make the most of that limited time period. Since I purchased the Wolf rifle, I’ve taken five deer with it (four in 2018 alone) at 50 yards or less: two does, one antlerless buck (in December 2020), and two eight-point bucks, all with the PowerBelt/Blue MZ load described above. Both does went straight down on the spot. The three bucks were a little more energetic, but none of them ran more than 100 yards. A .50-caliber rifle does the job pretty quickly and efficiently, and the Wolf is accurate enough that I can usually hit a 1.5-inch bullseye at 100 yards.

Overall, I love my CVA Wolf Nitride muzzleloader! It has very-high-quality workmanship, the black, Nitride-treated barrel is practically indestructible, and it’s extremely rugged, reliable, lightweight, compact, camouflaged, and powerful enough to handle almost any North American game, especially with a magnum load. Now that muzzleloader season for deer hunting in my region has ended, however, my trusty CVA Wolf will wait patiently inside its gun safe until this coming October, when black-powder season opens once again, and the whitetail deer disappear deeper into the forests!

Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: