The Blackpowder Journal

The Blackpowder Journal Icon

...for the blackpowder enthusiast

The Apollo

Hank Strong

Reprinted by permission of the Longhunter Journal of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.

As the smoke drifted across the hardwood bottomland, David Herp quickly reloaded the Apollo in the tree stand. He knew the shot hit the buck, but where was the buck now? The 100 grains of Elephant 2Fg had pushed the .44 caliber 302-grain Buffalo Bullet lead sabot at over 1,500 feet per second; surely the deer didn't run off from that hit.

Unbeknownst to David, the shot knocked the buck down, but then it stood up, staggered a few feet, and collapsed. In the few seconds it took for the smoke to clear David lost sight of the buck. Now it was difficult to locate the downed deer only 100 yards away in the sage field.

David soon caught a glimpse of white; the buck had fallen into a shallow depression. He called for some help, so while I field-dressed the deer, David removed the Tree Lounge stand from the oak and installed the wheels on it so we could haul the buck and equipment back to the truck. After dressing the buck I carefully examined the carcass and found that the entrance wound was surrounded by a large red circlea clear indication of the hydrostatic shock created by the bullet when it hit. Few hunters realize that a saboted bullet from a muzzleloader can create hydrostatic shock when it is pushed fast out of the barrel. Here was proof that a high powder charge could induce this when the right bullet is used at 100 yards or less.

Dave finished tying the deer and equipment onto the Tree Lounge cart while I sipped coffee and wrote down notes about our hunt. After we had carried the seven-pound rifle on two hunting trips and put over 250 rounds through the barrel, both of us were impressed with the Apollo's performance. This rifle series has gone through gradual improvements in the last six years since it was introduced, and those changes should please hunters.

One of several improvements CVA has made was in the striker assembly's design. It is easier to disassemble and clean the newest version of the in-line Apollo because it has fewer parts. Also, the new striker spring is stronger, which helps eliminate chances of a misfire.

The metal finish and barrel-to-stock fit have been improved compared to earlier models. Overall the slim, graceful Apollo has the lines of an expensive centerfire rifle. A black or camo-finished synthetic Duro Grip stock is now available for the Apollo, as well as a more traditional-looking hardwood stock. A thumbhole synthetic stock is also available for 1996 models.

The stock is designed with a cheek-rest that allows the hunter to get down low on the rifle for a solid shooting position with either a scope or iron sights. The schnable fore-end, checkering on the forearm, and pistol grip add just the right touch of class to the rifle. The stock has a low-luster non-glare finish with 1-1/2" drop from the center line of the bore. The butt is 1-1/2" wide with a rubber recoil pad, and the trigger pull length is 14". Sling swivel studs are incorporated into the stock, allowing the hunter to use a sling for ease of carry as well as stable shooting. Overall the 42"-long rifle is well balanced and handles as well as, if not better than, many higher-priced rifles.

In this latest edition of the Apollo, the barrel was shortened from 26" to 24" and a removable breech plug was incorporated. The ramrod ferrule is now welded to the barrel. The barrel has eight lands and grooves and the rifling is .006" to .008" deep on the stainless version and .010" to .012" deep on the blued one. Given a choice in barrels the nod would go to the stainless steel barrel because of the shallow rifling. However, stainless barrels usually require a longer break-in period because the steel is harder. (Incidentally, a big misconception among muzzleloading hunters is that stainless barrels are not susceptible to corrosion and rust. This is not so; blackpowder and Pyrodex can corrode stainless just as easily as blued steel, so keep that rifle clean!)

The Apollo has a box trigger assembly with a hooking tumbler, and it is secured to the barrel by two Allen screws. The trigger broke clean and crisp at 2.8 pounds, but it is not adjustable; in my opinion that is the biggest drawback with the Apollo. Even so, the rifle does offer several features most in-line rifles don't, like an optional foul-weather cover for the breech and an auto-safety system.

CVA's auto-safety system is unusual in the industry, and even though one other rifle (the Peifer TS-93) does have a safe-on-cock system, CVA's is very different from it. For the Apollo rifle, once the stainless-steel hammer is pulled to the rear and cocked, it automatically goes on safe. The safety is conveniently located to the rear of the oversized trigger guard, allowing the hunter to maintain a sight picture and quietly move the safety into firing position.

The unbreakable ramrod is on par with the better in-line muzzleloading rifles. However, the ramrod tip is different; it has a deep-set bulbous tip that allows it to rest on the shoulders of a bullet, thus preventing the projectile's nose from being damaged during loading.

The CVA Apollo's standard front sight is a ramp-mounted bead made from blued steel, while the rear sight is a fully adjustable Williams sight. The hexagon receiver is drilled and tapped to accept the CVA Trophy Peep Sight and Weaver-style scope mounts. On one hunt we used the peep sight because scopes weren't allowed during muzzleloading season in that state. The rear aperture on the Trophy Peep Sight is slightly larger than the normal opening on a peep.

Larger apertures let in more light during low-light conditions and allow easier sight alignment for those quick-action hunting situations. CVA's peep is a quality sight that is fully adjustable, it's an excellent alternative to a scope, and it's superior to open sights.

Prior to testing the Apollo I had heard a few negative comments about it, so I enlisted the help of three other shooters to evaluate and put the rifle through its paces at the range. Two excellent scopes were chosen for the range work. A Leupold 3.5x10 Vari-Power scope first was mounted on the Apollo by using the CVA Rapid Remount system. Then a Simmons 44mm 2.8x10 AeTec scope was mounted on the rifle after the hunt, and it was used for the last 125 test shots. We used the new CVA see-through mount with this scope.

The groups at 100 yards varied between one to three inches, with most around one and a half inches. This is due in no small part to the Leupold and Simmons scopes. Granted, both scopes cost more than the rifle; however, they proved a point made by Ron Regan of Leupold, that quality optics can make or break a rifle. The groups fired by the Apollo were comparable to those from more expensive rifles.

The complaints I'd heard about the rifle may have been due to some common misconceptions about CVA. For example, none of the shooters on the sidelines at the range recognized the rifle as a CVA gun; it just "didn't look like one." In the world of firearms, "inexpensive" is often synonymous with "cheap," and CVA's firearms traditionally have low price tags. Even without considering the company's other offerings, however, I can say that the Apollo is a very good rifle that's well worth the price.

For the first 100 times the bore was cleaned between shots using a patch dampened with Black Off from Rusty Duck. Next we tried CVA's new Sabot Shooter's cleaner for the balance of the shooting. Both products did a superb job of cleaning the bore. We used the following method: A damp patch was run down the bore, then reversed and run down again. Five to six dry patches were put down the bore until it was dry and until a very light streak of gray was left on the last patch. For the record, a normal string of fire at the range consisted of seven to 10 shots.

Four bullets deserve mention. Harvestor's new saboted .45 caliber 330-grain bullet is a hard-cast bullet designed for deep penetration on elk and bear. This is a very good slug for the biggest of North American big game.

Quic-Kee Scope Mounts of Hugo, Oklahoma, has introduced the Trophy Master, a .45 caliber 340-grain bullet that uses the same sabot as the Harvestor bullets. The Trophy Master is absolutely awesome for use on big game, and it turned in one the best groups fired by the Apollo. It has one of the highest ballistic coefficients of any bullet available for a muzzleloader; when this bullet hits, it pole-axes big bucks.

Buffalo Bullet has introduced a new pure lead .44 caliber 240-grain totally copper-plated bullet that should be a winner for those looking for a light bullet and less recoil. It makes a nice load and is an accurate bullet that should find widespread acceptance among deer hunters.

In June 1995 Big Bore Express, Ltd., introduced an entirely new magnum conical with a plastic skirt. Now the company has topped it by introducing a pure lead conical that's totally copper plated. The .0035"-thick copper skin almost eliminates lead in the bore with heavy hunting charges but doesn't stop the base from obturating in the bore and expanding upon impact. If you're looking for an accurate, hard-hitting conical that's easy to load, here is a magnum bullet available in variety of weights for hunting any big game on the continent.

Overall the shooters agreed that the Apollo is a very underrated rifle. So, if you have been looking for an in-line to try but were hesitant about putting up the big bucks, then consider the Apollo. Street price for the rifle is normally much lower than its competition. The rifle is a dream in the field, it's rugged, and it delivers admirable downrange performance. What more could you ask for from a rifle designed for hunters?

Figure 1--Rifle Specifications

Barrel Length: 24" long Drilled and Tapped: For scope and CVA Peep Sight
Bore Diameter: .510" Ramrod: Unbreakable with metal tip
Lands and Grooves: 8 each, wide Depth of Rifling: Blued, .010"-.012"; stainless .006"-.008"
Trigger Pull Length: 14½" Twist: One turn in 32"
Calibers Available: .50 and .54
Ignition: In-line percussion, removable breech plug, stainless CVA Perfect Nipple
Accessories: Cleaning jag Overall Length: 42"
Overall Weight: 7 to 8½ lbs., depending on stock style
Stock: Depends on model--wood, synthetic thumbhole, or Duro Grip synthetic; synthetic stocks have a raised comb and cheekpiece
Sights: Rear Williams fully adjustable; front ramp-mount bead
Suggested Retail Price: $259 to $329
Where to Purchase: See your dealer or contact CVA direct at (800) 251-9412

Figure 2--CVA Apollo Ballistics Chart

.240 .452 350# ACRY U 90 E2F 1403 1.8 1.5 1123
.180 .499 348 BLK BLHPCP 100 FF 1420 1.9 1.3 1031
.209 .452 300* BRNS HP 80 E2F 1435 1.8 1.7 958
.187 .430 240 BUFFHPCP 100 E2F 1560 1.5 1.3 847
.190 .430 302 BUFFHPBT 100 S 1568 1.5 1.2 1084
.148 .510 385 BUFFHPHB 90 FF 1410 2.1 2.9 1065
.195 .450 330$ HARV 90 FF 1420 1.9 2.7 1006
.184 .452 300# HRNDY 100 FF 1520 1.6 1.0 1008
.205 .511 410 HRNDY FB 100 E2F 1380 2.0 1.7 1222
.274 .452 340# LYM HP 110 E2F 1520 1.4 1.0 1301
.274 .452 35O# LYM FN 100 E2F 1496 1.5 2.1 1302
.288 .452 385# LYM RN 90 E2F 1334 2.0 1.6 1186
.160 .508 390* LYM GTPL 100 E2F 1410 2.0 2.2 1110
.246 .452 310# MM LD 100 E2F 1530 1.4 1.3 1164
.206 .429 300# NOSL 100 FF 1531 1.5 1.2 1065
.300 .450 340$ TROPM 100 E2F 1453 1.5 1.0 1227
.230 .429 300# SIERR 100 S 1528 1.5 1.1 1104
.330 .435 435& WHSSHP 90 E2F 1518 1.4 1.6 1744


BC = Ballistic coefficient; DIA = Bullet diameter in inches; GR = Bullet weight in grains; BULLET = Name of bullet used; CHGE = Grains of powder measured by volume; MV = Muzzle velocity, measured in feet per second; 100YD GRP = Group at 100 yards in inches; 100YD KE = Kinetic energy of bullet at 100 yards, measured in foot-pounds of energy; 50YD TRJ = Bullet's rise above line of sight at 50 yards, measured in inches.


ACRY U = Accuracy Unlimited; BLK BLHPCP = Black Belt hollow-point copper-plated bullet from Big Bore Express; BUFFHPCP = Buffalo Bullet hollow-point copper-plated bullet; BUFFHPBT = Buffalo Bullet hollow-point boat-tailed bullet; BUFFHPHB = Buffalo Bullet hollow-point hollow-based bullet; BRNS HP = Barnes Bullet Co. hollow-point; HARV = Harvestor saboted bullets; HRNDY = Hornady Bullet Co. jacketed handgun bullet; HRNDYFB = Hornady Bullet Co. flat-based conical; LYM FN = Lyman Products Corp. flat-nosed bullet; LYM HP = Lyman Products Corp. hollow-point; LYM RN = Lyman Products Corp. round-nosed bullet; LYM GTPL = Lyman Great Plains conical cast from mold no. 508656; MM LD = Modern Muzzleloading lead saboted bullet; NOSLER = Nosler Bullet Co.; TROPM = Quic-Kee Scopes' Trophy Master Bullets; SIERR = Sierra Bullet Co.; WHSSHP = White Systems Shooting Star saboted bullet; & = White Shooting Systems sabot used; # = Modern Muzzleloading sabot used; * = Barnes sabot used; $ = Harvestor sabot used; S = Pyrodex Select grade; FF = GOEX blackpowder in 2Fg granulation; E2F = Elephant blackpowder in 2Fg granulation.

Figure 3--Testing Specifications

Chronograph: PACT 1 positioned 20 feet from muzzle of rifle
Temperature: Varied between 28 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
Elevation: 450 feet above sea level
Humidity: Varied between 47 and 85 percent
Barometric pressure: Varied between 29 and 31.5
Bench rest: Lohman Sight Vise
Standards: Loads must group three inches or less and deliver a minimum of 800 foot-pounds of energy at 100 yards
Kinetic energy: Determined by using Version 4.12 of Drop Kick Ballistics, a computer program by W.R. Frenchu
Wind Flags: One every 25 yards out to 100 yards