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 Issues with reloading for CVA Optima Elite
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heetor
New Member

USA
22 Posts

Posted - Mar 23 2012 :  12:31:51  Show Profile Send heetor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hey guys I have been using this site as a valuable source of information for the past year, but never posted, (Rookie reloader so didn't have much to say). I have hunted extensively for the past 25 years, and average about 5 big game animals a year, (moose, bear, deer, hog, and turkey). I hunt archery a lot, but I wanted to get more into shooting for the range, and reloading makes a great hobby to fill the spring-fall gap. Anyway I just went through a four month ordeal with a CVA Optima Elite and wanted to share some feedback before someone made the same mistake as me.

First of all I am not a CVA hater, I have had great experiences with the company and their products in black powder, I have been a customer since I bought my first muzzle loader, and I don't want to knock those that reload for them with success. I wish I had better luck with the Optima Elite, but it was a tough lesson and I feel it is worth sharing so that people go into that rifle with their eyes open.

I have a fair collection of rifles in different makes and calibers, mostly American except for my Tikka T3 in 338 WM, but I was very interested in the TC and CVA concept of a single shot rifle with low cost interchangeable center fire barrels. I have a CVA Optima black powder, and it has been great to me, so I went with the Optima Elite. My thought was that for 150 dollars I could buy a new barrel if I wanted to try a new caliber, and if I liked it I could eventually shell out for a higher end rifle in that caliber.

My first barrel for the CVA was the 45-70, no good reason other than I didn't have one and it looked like a fun caliber to play with, besides some day I might go bison hunting :) Just like my experience with their black powder it shot pretty well, (hornady Leverevolution 325 grain). About 1.5" at 100 yards, not great but if I were shooting at a bison it would get it done :)

I next bought a 270 win barel for it and ran a few boxes of Federal Fusion through it, (as much to empty the brass as to get a feel for it). It shot average, maybe a little worse than the 45-70, but I had troubles with flyers about 1 in 10 shots.

I loaded some speer 130 grain soft points and H1000 61 - 63 grain, federal brass, and CCI250 primers. It shot much better and could shoot 1" groups at 100 yards, but the primers were flat with bad dimples and double strikes.

I reloaded a few more in the 61 grain min load to see if the results where the same, and I had 4 of the 5 case heads separate, (this was now the third time I fired the brass 1 factory fusion and twice as reloads with h1000). This scared me a little being a rookie reloader, and at min charge I figured I would try another powder.

I loaded a couple fo boxes with Win 760, and exactly the same pattern. Case head separations and ugly primers. Then I tried the lowest velocity load I could find, and ended up with reloader 17 behind a hornady 130 grain GMX using a WLRM Primer. Same problems as the other loads.

after months of fooling around with my reloads, and on the advice of some friends who are into the sport, I figured there had to be a problem with the rifle and I took it to a local gunsmith. This is a real quality guy, who has no problem spending an hour schooling rookies on issues if you are willing to listen. He told me you can't reload for a CVA Optima Elite, they only like factory amo. The way he explained it is that with a break action single shot there is a little slop in the receiver mating so they have to add a lot more headspace in the barrel design. It will fire factory amo fairly well, and any rounds that head space on the rim. This was kind of disappointing as I had read a few posts about reloading for this rifle before I bought it and hadn't heard this mentioned. He suggested I send it back to CVA and have them call him if they wanted to discuss the rifle, but maybe the hed space was worse than usual on this barrel and they would replace it.

I talked to a CVA technician on the phone, and he was a great guy, but gave me the same story as the gun smith. Not only are you not supposed to fire reloads in an Optima Elite, it voids your warranty, he pointed out that it clearly says so in the owners manual. Whoops I guess I missed that one. I figured I could still save the rifle by getting a barrel in something more useful than 45-70 that head spaced on the rim. Unfortunately they only make barrels for one caliber that fits this description, 45-70.

Anyway this is the condensed version of a four month saga, but in all the searching I did on the internet I could not find this information as I was going through it. Of course I should have looked to an issue with the rifle a lot sooner, but it was my first crack at reloading, and it shot factory amo fairly well. I was positive it had to be something I was doing wrong on the reloading bench and spent months tinkering and trying different combos to figure it out. pretty discouraging first time out as a reloader and I was pretty close to throwing in the towel, but glad I didn't.

After wrestling with the decision for some time, I broke down and bought a new Rifle. Browning X Bolt in 270 WSM, that should keep me busy at the bench for a while. To keep at it while I am waiting to get all of the pieces in to get the Browning ready for the range. I have been loading in .338 WM for my Tikka and 30-06 for my Remington, and so far so good.

A couple of lessons from a Rookie, if I may be so bold. Don't assume the issue has to be on your bench, don't be afraid to look to the gun, and reach out to forums like this to get advice from the guys that have been there before. Also a warning on using the CVA Optima Elite for reloading, some say they have no trouble with it but I have learnt my lesson the hard way, I am sticking to bolt actions!!

Onondaga
Advanced Member



USA
2213 Posts

Posted - Mar 23 2012 :  16:15:14  Show Profile Send Onondaga a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Your case head separations with the .270 in the single shot rifle is a solvable problem. The mention of reloads with CVA was , yes , a rookie mistake and the smithie didn't want to be responsible either.

Here is some tips: Do you really need loads that hot? H4350 has a wonderful reputation as the best powder for .270 for many decades for every bullet weight in .270. The powder has moderate pressures and burn rate.

A specifically adjusted full length size die or collet neck sizing die on fired brass in either type of sizing will end the brass slam back and case head separation on firing reloaded ammo.

If your brass was sized with a bottomed out FL sizing die and brass shoulder was not contacting the chamber, you will get case head separation with moderate loads sometimes and often with hot loads. Re-adjust your FL die by using marker ink on your brass before adjusting your die. Start with the die two turns out of contact with your shell holder. size and look where the ink has been scoured. Adjust in 1/4 turn and size again and look at the ink. Keep going till the shoulder is scoured or just touched lightly. That will be the adjustment for that particular rifle and the brass will head-space on the shoulder and the case head will be just touching the breech face for that particular rifle. Last, ink a dummy round with no powder and check that it does head-space on the shoulder and touch the breech-face in your rifle. You may need a fine adjustment.

Regarding action "Slop" in single shot rifles. If your action has slop you can see it and feel it without even using any gauges at all. Your friendly gunsmith should have showed you how to check that yourself and he didn't.

The appearance of what you describe as "double strikes " on the primers is a sure sign of an improperly adjusted sizing die for the particular rifle and the pushed back shoulder of the brass that has been over-sized too short of head-space allows the brass to jump back and be hit by the firing pin again. This is not the fault of the rifle. Your brass doesn't fit because of the way you sized it.

The bright side of this is that I really doubt your action is sloppy, but even if it is, a correctly adjusted sizing die will compensate for that and solve your problem.

Do not use ammo perfectly sized for that specific rifle in another firearm. It would be unsafe and likely too long to head-space in a different firearm.


Gary

Fine rifles are never really owned.

Edited by - Onondaga on Apr 01 2012 14:17:36
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heetor
New Member

USA
22 Posts

Posted - Mar 25 2012 :  13:48:15  Show Profile Send heetor a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the pointers, I gave this a try this weekend with mixed results. I used brass that had not been resized since the last time it was fired, I marked the case necks with a sharpie and adjusted the die as you suggested so it stopped marking the ink at exactly where the shoulder radius started. Took a bit of trial and error but I got it. I also made the dummy round you suggested, and it seemed to fit well, but when I closed the bullet in the rifle I could not tell if it was tight against the breech face or not, though there was no issue in closing the action.

I loaded up 10 rounds in cases that had been sized with this setup at min charge with 50 grains of Win 760 powder and a 130 grain Speer soft points, and took them to the range to test fire.

Of the 10 I only had 1 case head separation which is a lot better than before, and I checked the fired cases with a bent paperclip to see if there was a weak spot at the case head after firing, they seemed fine other than the one that separated. Unfortunately the primers were still pretty bad on all of them, double marks or elongated dimples on all of them, so it appears there is an improvement but still too much head space.

I wasn't sure if I should lower the die or raise it a bit on the next try, it seems to me that the shoulder must still be getting pushed too far down so I was thinking of moving the die up a little, but wasn't sure if this was the best next step.

As for slop in the chamber there is some movement after the barrel is locked close, possibly I have damaged the receiver?

I will also try the next batch with H3450, thanks for the tip, I didn't have any on hand so I couldn't try it this weekend. I don't have any need for loading the rounds hot, this is White Tail deer load I am working on for tree stand hunting in the Tennessee bush, so realistically any shots will be under 100 yards. If I can find a reasonable velocity load that shoots well I would be more than happy with it.

Anyway I appreciate the feedback, I had given up hope on ever firing reloads from this rifle, but I would be very pleased if I could find a setup that worked.
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Onondaga
Advanced Member



USA
2213 Posts

Posted - Mar 25 2012 :  15:20:20  Show Profile Send Onondaga a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If you are getting double marks on the primers you are still over-sizing the brass and it is jumping. You can ink the flat of the case head or better yet put a tiny wax booger on the case head and close the action to check if the case head is bearing on the breech face. Wax should be completely flattened to less than .001" upon closing the action. Your problem is completely solvable, don't give up.You are headed in the right direction.

If you have damaged your action it is safer with a tight fitting brass case than a loose fitting one and the case separation will stop when your brass is long enough to stop the wobble.

Gary

Fine rifles are never really owned.

Edited by - Onondaga on Mar 25 2012 15:28:10
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RafterBob
Average Member

USA
131 Posts

Posted - Mar 31 2012 :  21:25:22  Show Profile Send RafterBob a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Your Smith is wrong! The beak actions have their quirks but they can and do shoot great. Go here and see the fixes http://www.bellmtcs.com

Happy Trails

Edited by - RafterBob on Mar 31 2012 21:26:30
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