Connecticutt Valley Arms began in the late 1960s or early 1970s, as I recall. So, your rifle isn't very old.
I bought a CVA Mountain Rifle, new, in 1981. At that time, CVA guns were still made in the U.S.A.
Later, CVA had their guns made in Spain. Quality suffered. This occurred about 1985 or a few years later, I believe.
Sorry to be so fuzzy on details, but it's difficult to pin down exact dates. Folks just didn't pay much notice or keep track.
In any case, the USA-made guns are almost always better quality than their Spanish counterparts. That said, CVA guns don't bring much money on the resale table.
Today, the popularity of inline guns has pushed aside the traditional rifle, unless you have a handmade, traditional rifle of exceptional quality that is an exacting reproduction. Or an original rifle. Your CVA is neither.
Nonetheless, it can be a fine shooter and would nicely introduce you into the world of black powder shooting. No need to grieve if you accidentally put a scratch in the stock or a ding in the metal.
If your CVA is the Made in USA variety (it should say so on the barrel) then you have a fine shooter. If it's made in Spain, not so high a quality but still a good intro-rifle. As long as you use black powder or Pyrodex, it will hold the pressures quite nicely -- as long as it's in good shape.
BEFORE YOU SHOOT IT ... Check to see if it's still loaded! Don't laugh, a lot of people are surprised to find that a muzzleloading rifle still contains powder and projectile.
To check, remove the ramrod under the barrel and push it down the barrel until it stops solid. Now, make a tiny mark on the ramrod at the end of the muzzle. Remove the ramrod and lay it alongside the barrel, with your tiny mark matched up to the muzzle.
If there's a gap or 2 inches or more between the end of the ramrod and the nipple (percussion) or touchhole (flintlock) then chances are it's still loaded.
It's not unknown to find an old, original rifle with a load still in it that may be century or two old. And yes, black powder is still active even after centuries.
IF IT IS STILL LOADED, treat it as such. Ensure there is no copper cap on the nipple or remove the powder from the flintlock's pan. Then, call your local gunsmith and ask if he can remove the load.
I don't suggest you shoot it out, because the bore may have rusted heavily since it was loaded. The friction of a rusted, pitted bore can raise pressures. Plus, you have NO idea what the load is.
Alernatively, you can buy a screw that threads into the end of your ramrod, called a worm. You can push this down the bore, turn the screw so it bites and embeds itself deeply into the lead ball, then drag out the ball.
To make this easier, squirt a little WD-40 or other penetrating oil down the bore and let the rifle sit overnight upright. This will loosen the load, probably deaden the powder, and make removal of the ball and patch easier.
It sounds easy but for a beginner it may be best to spend a few bucks and have a gunsmith remove the load. That way, he can look over the gun and determine if it's safe to fire.
Of course, if you find that the rifle is unloaded, all of the above is interesting, but moot!
If the rifle's in good shape, consider it an opportunity to enter a fascinating hobby. For the .45-caliber rifle, you'll need:
- Lead balls of .440 inch diameter.
- Patch material - an old, thin 100% cotton T-shirt works or you can buy pre-made patches. Don't use any material with polyester (plastic) in it.
- Patch grease - saliva works, but I prefer grease because it won't rust the barrel if the load is left in there too long.
- Gun powder -- Black powder of FFG is best, followed by FFFG grade black powder. Or use Pyrodex black powder substitute of RS grade. Avoid pellets, they're more expensive and won't give you the option of trying varying powder charges to determine which is most accurate in your rifle.
- Powder measure, to accurately measure your powder at the range. Consistency = accuracy. Someone's going to tell you, "Just put a ball in your hand and pour powder over it until the ball is completely covered." Avoid him; he'll pump you full of other misinformation.
- Percussion caps, No. 11. I like Remington, but CCI will work fine.
- A good book on muzzleloading rifles. For starters, order the Dixie Gun Works catalog. It's only $5 and is fascinating reading. Instructions for muzzleloading rifles will be found at the back of the book. Perhaps the best, modern book is the Lyman Black Powder Handbook & Loading Manual. A little pricey at about $20, but it covers ALL types of black powder shooting and side topics such as casting your own lead bullets and balls. It will be a lifetime source.
- A small notebook to write down your findings. Memory is unreliable. Take good notes as to how each load performs, listing the powder, amount, ball size, composition of patch, type of lubriant, etc. This will lead you to the most accurate load, eventually.
Of course, if you're not interested in shooting the rifle, you can give it a good oiling and use it for a wall-hanger. Selling it, you'd get $100 to $150. Not much demand for the old CVAs, though the American-made ones are very nice guns.
I have a CVA Mountain Rifle, .50-caliber, patterned after the Hawken rifle. It's very accurate out to 100 yards. At 50 yards, it will put five balls into a silver dollar, from a benchrest.
I suspect that folks will soon wake up to these American-made CVAs in the years ahead, realizing that these rifles are a bargain if in good shape.
Unless you need the money, hang onto that rifle as a nice keepsake of your grandfather. Run a lightly oiled rag over the metal, and a lightly oiled patch down the bore, and rust will be held at bay.
Perhaps one of your kids will eventually want to shoot it. It's not a valuable rifle, monetarily, but perhaps someday it will be wealthy with family memories.