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[Review] CVA Cascade: Sub $500 Hunting Bolt Rifle?

Looking for an affordable, reliable, and accurate hunting rifle for under $500? We hands-on review the CVA Cascade to see its performance vs its low price.

    In the last few years there seems to have been a revolution of outstanding budget price bolt actions–so can one more make a splash?

    If that one more is the CVA Cascade then my answer is a surprised “Yes, it can”.

    CVA felt cute 2
    CVA Cascade in 6.5 Creedmoor with a SWFA SS Ultralight and a FLARE Mini mood ring.

    A beer budget rifle that shoots way outside of its price range, I have been impressed with the Cascade on almost every level. Options, features, accuracy, function–I got a lot more to say though so let’s get to it!

    Table of Contents


    Wait, Isn’t CVA A Muzzleloader Brand?

    Most of us when we see or hear the name “CVA” we think of their in-line muzzleloaders. If you’re not familiar… well now you are, they make some of the best black powder muzzleloaders and single-shot centerfire rifles on the market.

    pouring propellant
    Black powder, you know like the old days

    But the Cascade is their first centerfire bolt action rifle, and it looks like they knocked one out of the park on the first swing. Granted, they have about 50 years of firearms manufacturing experience to draw on.

    Enter The Cascade

    At SHOT 2019 CVA announced they were entering the centerfire bolt-action market with their Cascade line that they now offer in a wide range of calibers. The one they sent for testing is in 6.5 Creedmoor.

    Their goal was simple: to make the best sub-$600 hunting rifles on the market. Period.

    at Sportsmans Warehouse

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    But that’s a saturated market…

    They were nice enough to send us one for review and here we are.

    Stats, Specs, First Impressions

    Looking at a spec sheet is normally kind of boring, but when you get to read the list of features the Cascade comes with, it does leave you feeling like you’re getting your money’s worth at least.

    Coming in at under 7 pounds every Cascade comes standard with a 70 degree tri-lug bolt, a threaded muzzle, flush magazine, adjustable length of pull, dual swivel studs, a lifetime warranty, and an MOA guarantee.

    (Left to Right) CVA Cascade, Tikka T3x, and Bergara B-14 HMR Bolts

    Something they don’t tell about is the freaking amazing trigger these come with! It’s a little heavy at about 3.5 pounds, but it is the absolute most crisp trigger I’ve ever had on a factory hunting rifle.

    Zero take up, zero creep, just a clean sharp break.

    Range Report

    With all of the ranges closed due to COVID, I packed a few gallons of water and took a trip out to the hell desert wasteland of California.

    Paired with an SWFA SS 2.5-10x Ultralight scope, from start to finish I’ve been really impressed with the Cascade. It’s lightweight, great trigger, and the “soft touch” finish on the stock is really nice.

    CVA and SWFA Ultralight
    CVA Cascade and SWFA Ultralight in the hell desert

    It even does well at not heating up under the suddenly summer sun.

    First rounds out of the rifle were a little all over the place, after about 20 rounds of Hornady American Gunner 140gr ammo the Cascade was shooting a not great 2.1 MOA.

    CVA 2 something MOA
    CVA 2.1 MOA group, American Gunner 140gr ammo, 100 yards

    This continued for another 50 rounds or so until it finally settled down to a more respectable 1.4 MOA.

    CVA 1.4 MOA
    CVA Cascade 1.4 MOA, American Gunner 140gr, 100 yards

    Not the best grouping, but more than enough for game shooting.

    Something I did find was that while being very lightweight is awesome for hiking with, it makes for a rough day at the range. Thankfully, a threaded barrel means you can throw a good brake on this rifle and plink all day.

    Something I really liked was that it uses a tri-lug design bolt with a 70-degree throw.

    CVA markings

    Having the extra clearance between my hand and the scope was really nice, something I’ve gotten used to after shooting Tikka rifles.

    In total, I put about 100 rounds through the Cascade, not a huge round count but more than enough to get to know a hunting rifle. And something I found was that it needs to break-in…

    Break-In Period

    Break-in periods are misunderstood in the firearms community, I think. But what can’t be argued is that the Cascade really did benefit from just being ran and shot for a while.

    Two major things happened around the 50 round mark, one the groups tightened up a lot and two the bolt started to feel much smoother.

    Due to the Cerakoting, it felt like the bolt was sticking a bit when cycling. After being worked back and forth for a while it seemed to work though that issue and started to run smooth.

    I wouldn’t call it butter-smooth like a Tikka, but it didn’t bind and didn’t take a lot of effort to run–so that was good enough. One interesting thing about the bolt is that it is HUGE.

    CVA, Bergara, Tikka bolts 2
    (left to right) CVA Cascade, Bergara B-14 HMR, Tikka T3x bolts — All in 6.5 Creedmoor

    The Cascade is offered in a wide range of calibers and I suspect that CVA uses the same bolt body for almost all of them. If you look closely you can see that the Cascade’s bolt body is nearly the same OD as the bolt lugs.

    Compare that to the Bergara or Tikka bolts with a significantly smaller OD.

    This doesn’t really mean anything, I assume CVA does this as a cost-saving measure and since it doesn’t impact the function of the rifle–it’s a good move. It’s just interesting to see.

    Is That A… Mood Ring?

    No, it isn’t. Well, kind of. Okay, it is.

    CVA barrel mood ring
    Flare Mini on the CVA Cascade

    It’s really a Flare Mini that the guys at Caveman sent me to play with. The Cascade was the fist of several rifles I’ve put them on and… I like it.

    The Flare Mini is a polymer ring that fits over your barrel and changes color when heated. In this case going from a muted OD green to a bright neon green when over 131 degrees.

    Why would you want a mood ring on your rifle?

    First, it lets you know when the barrel is too hot to touch. Also when it’s cool enough to go back in a case so it won’t melt anything.

    Personally, I didn’t think I would find much use for it on the Cascade.

    But it turns out that I did find it handy. Since this is a hunting rifle with a fairly lightweight sporter profile barrel, the barrel does heat quickly.

    With the Flare Mini on it, I had an easy way of seeing when the barrel was hot and I needed to give it a break before more shooting or risk losing precision due to a hot barrel.

    at Amazon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Issues? Nope.

    ***UPDATE*** CVA reached out after publication and informed me that what I thought was a QC miss is probably incorrect.

    The rifle shipped to me had been test-fired before leaving the factory and that included mounting a scope. This likely caused the wear or thinning of the Cerakote that I took to be a QC miss.

    Due to this, the incorrect information has been removed — but the picture remains so that readers can see what it is we’re talking about.

    The explanation does make sense since it is in the exact place I would expect this to occur. Considering how very well made the rest of the rifle is, I find it much more likely that this was a test-fire wear mark instead of a QC miss.

    CVA Cerakoting flaw
    CVA Cerakote worn

    Things I Love

    The QC issue really had me worried about what else I would find once I got to shooting the Cascade, but I’m happy to report that it was the only problem I had.

    Everything else is outstanding.

    Even the little details like the thread protector being metal instead of this cheapass plastic that most brands are using, this actually matters!

    CVA thread protector
    CVA Cascade METAL thread protector

    The trigger is perfect, the stock feels great, the bolt is smooth once it’s broken in.

    The magazine is also really nice to see. This is good, solid, thick plastic. It feels strong, it locks well in the rifle, and loading is easy.

    Another area that we’re seeing some brands skimp on is the mags, but CVA did it right and produced something of quality.

    CVA magazine
    CVA Cascade magazine

    And last but maybe the best part is that it is LIGHT. With the SWFA scope the whole package came in at only 7.5 pounds. Perfect mountain weight!

    By The Numbers

    Reliability: 5/5

    It’s a bolt action, so that’s hard to mess up. But it ran perfectly. Zero issues of any kind and the magazine was very solid. I would absolutely expect this rifle to do just fine long term.

    Ergonomics: 4/5

    I really like the soft-touch stock, it’s… well, soft. It feels great in your hand and on your cheek and is really grippy without being annoying.

    I would like to have some knurling or texture to the bolt handle, but some grip tape will solve that. That might be just me though since my long range rifles have very aggressive bolt knobs.

    CVA markings 2
    Checkering in the “soft touch” stock made for a great gripping surface that didn’t wear on my hand

    Accuracy: 4/5

    1.4 MOA was a bit larger than I would like, but I shoot 5-round groups minimum and was running factory ammo. That said, this is absolutely accurate enough to ethically hunt with.

    Customization: 2/5

    Since this is CVA’s own design, there doesn’t look like much on the market to fit it. While the Cascade takes Savage 110 scope bases, CVA doesn’t mention if the action itself will fit a Savage or someone else’s inlet for stocks and chassis.

    But again this is a hunting rifle and I love the stock it came with.

    It does retain 2 points though since it has a threaded barrel and that opens up a lot of options. Personally, I’m going to throw a muzzle brake on it to help tame the recoil a little since it is so lightweight.

    And it does come with two front swivel studs so you can mount a bipod and a sling at the same time.

    Value: 5/5

    For the price you’re getting a LOT of rifle. It’s good looking, good feeling, the trigger is amazing, and the details like thread protector and magazine are well executed.

    Plus, it has a threaded barrel for a ton of options that way.

    at Sportsmans Warehouse

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Overall: 4/5

    CVA felt cute


    The CVA Cascade is a high-value rifle. Punching way outside of its price point, this rifle simply delivers. While the cosmetic QC could have been better, the functional parts are well-engineered and amazingly executed. I highly recommend the Cascade for a true working or hunting rifle.

    Working in the firearms industry is awesome, the range of firearms I’ve gotten to shoot that I otherwise would have never laid eyes on is one of my favorite parts.

    Sometimes I get asked to review something that I really don’t have much interest in. If I’m honest, the CVA Cascade was one of those. Another budget-minded hunting rifle is… not high on my list of things to take to the range and spend ammo on.

    broke meme

    By the end of using the Cascade I’ve changed my mind, this was actually a real treat to get to use. For the price this is an incredible rifle that feels and functions great.

    The attention to detail is impressive. Good magazines, awesome trigger, short bolt throw, metal thread protector, all of it tells me that this rifle was designed by people that care about their product and that use their product themselves.

    I would absolutely recommend this rifle to anyone looking for a quality hunting rifle.

    What is your go-to budget-friendly hunting rifle? What was the best game you’ve taken with it? Let us know in the comments! If you’re just getting started in hunting, take a look at our Introduction to Deer Hunting. If you need some great glass for your new rifle, the Best Long Range Optics can help!

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    21 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Richard Addison

      Thanks David for your review. I have the cascade 223 sb 18". I'm a senior shooter eye vision is ok like a 50 bell scope. What would recommend. Varmint hunter

      October 27, 2022 8:01 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      David has provided most answers, so let me add to it.

      Does CVA manufacture the rifle? My CVA Cascade actually is stamped made in Spain/Dikar. That piqued my curiosity so I did a search. Dikar is actually the parent company of CVA and Bergara! Since it has been reported that Cascade uses Bergara barrels, well that makes sense. Maybe Bergara and CVA actions are built in separate factories, but I see no reason why at least the barrels wouldn't come off of the same manufacturing line.

      Two or three position safety? Mine is two position, so yes, the bolt will open when on Safe.

      Are the sling studs separate metal studs? They are steel studs that screw into beefed up areas in the stock, but the threads look like wood screws, not machine screw threads. They seem plenty strong enough for bipods and slings.

      Is there a Savage barrel nut, or Remington style barrel screwed directly into the receiver? No barrel nut so make it a Remington! If you really wanted to re-barrel with ease, I just wonder if you couldn't convert to a barrel nut via an Ed Shilen Alternut System. Shilen makes them for Remington 700's, so might be worth looking into.

      Does the barrel free float? Free as can be. I could slide a stack of 20 $1 bills between the forend and barrel, although things got a little tighter near the receiver. As Jack O’Connor once disparagingly remarked when asked what he thought of the "new" post '64 Winchester model 70, he said "a herd of cockroaches could hold a ball below the barrel", and he would probably think the same of the Cascade's barrel clearance!

      How solid/rigid is the stock? As has been said, it is rigid. I wouldn't call it solid, as it sounds very hollow when rapping knuckles on it. It is supposedly fiberglass, not polymer, and very stiff!

      Now for more than was asked for. If no lies were told during the factory tour videos, you could say Bergara/CVA barrels are clones of Ed Shilen barrels, as Dikar asked him for advice on how to build them, and he complied. Plus, it will help to relieve the worries reloaders may have of accidentally overcharging a round here and there, as every centerfire rifle built in Spain is tested at Generalisimo Oliva's Ebar proof house at plus 25% pressures. For my 6.5PRC, that is about 80,000psi. My receiver does have the CIP cartouche stamped on it, and the barrel looks dirty from firing, and since there has been no ammo in my caliber on the shelves yet, it still remains a once fired rifle! In the mentioned videos, note that the Cascade uses chromoly steel, not stainless, but manufacturing procedure will be the same in the Bergara factory.
      No URL's allowed, so just search the "CVA Official" YT channel for the Bergara Barrels Factory Tour Parts 1 and 2 from 2012.

      I have rolled my own ammo after finding some Lapua brass, just now need cooler weather to try it out in the hellish desert wasteland managed by BLM.

      August 30, 2022 7:22 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      graham nelson

      Did you try a heavy bullet or any different ammo ? My friends same gun shoots MOA out to 200 yrds. You were doing something wrong , trigger jerk, wrong ammo or just a lemon barrel. They have a MOA guarantee . Send her back. Thanks

      February 15, 2022 7:36 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      These are excellent rifles and I own two of them, 450 Bushmaster and 350 Legend. 450 is very accurate, 350 was just picked up yesterday and un fired. I have no doubt it will be as accurate as the 450 is which will shoot sub MOA groups. Determining accuracy based on factory ammo is a crap shoot at best. Last year I picked up a CZ 6.5 creedmoor and it came with a box of Remington factory ammo which was grouping a solid 3 inches at 100 yards. If that’s all I had to shoot it would have been on the for sale rack at the shop I just bought it at. I reload though and had some fresh reloads and shot them too. I only fired two groups and they measured .83” and .57”. We fired the rest of the factory ammo so I had some more brass to reload…

      Back to the CVA Cascade…. I’ve been shooting the 450bm a lot with cast bullets to see what it likes and it has become my favorite gun to shoot and there isn’t anything I don’t like about it. I expect the 350 to be the same. Both of them have unbelievably crisp triggers and just feel “right” all the way around. I’m contemplating getting one in 22-250 and 6.5 PRC….

      December 11, 2021 10:17 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Carl N

      Thank you for the informative review. Would you say the barrel taper is a #4 or #5?

      January 3, 2021 11:38 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        I'm not sure, sorry. My guess would be slightly lighter than a normal sporting taper.

        January 3, 2021 12:56 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ray Young

        Probably about a #3. It's not a heavy barrel at all. I was so impressed with the trigger and ergonomics, I'm going to grab one in 7-08 at the LGS and run some Tubbs bullets through it to short cut the break-in process and then slap the new Boyd's stock on it. It will add a bit of weight, no doubt, but this would mitigate any recoil and give it some customized flare. Great product based on my limited hands-on experience, and worthy of upgrading!

        December 13, 2021 9:53 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Thanks for the review. Would you mind a few extra questions?

      Does CVA manufacture the rifle themselves, or is it manufactured by another company and branded and sold by CVA (like Weatherby and Howa, for example)?
      Is the safety two- or three- position?
      Are the sling studs separate metal studs, or are they a cast part of the stock as on several of the other entry level rifles?
      Is there a separate barrel nut, like on a Savage, or does the barrel screw directly into the receiver, like on a Remington?
      Does the barrel free float or is it in contact with the fore-end?
      How solid/rigid is the stock? This is an issue in a lot of sub-$500 rifles with polymer stocks, where there's too much flex in the stock.

      May 7, 2020 4:45 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        I can answer most!

        As far as I know, it is CVA themselves, but I don't have hard confirmation of that.
        The safety is 2 position, the bolt will cycle with it on safe but the trigger will not fire.
        The studs are separate metal studs.
        I don't know about the barrel connection, sorry.
        It is free floated!
        The stock is very solid and rigid. The soft touch outside makes it feel comfy, but the stock itself is very solid. I didn't have any flex issues even when shooting off a bipod.

        May 7, 2020 7:13 pm
        • Commenter Avatar

          Thanks for the answers.

          May 8, 2020 4:21 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Rob Claxton

          I’m pretty sure the barrels are made by Bergara.

          December 20, 2021 1:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John J

      Please share where in California said “wasteland” is...

      May 5, 2020 7:24 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        John Ganshow

        Los Angeles or San Francisco?

        October 31, 2020 11:05 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      D Li

      Doesn't it have an moa guarantee? Why didn't you note that it didn't fulfill that promise?

      May 4, 2020 6:43 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        CVA doesn't provide a standard for what qualifies under that guarantee. What is common in the industry is a 3-round group with match grade ammo. I don't shoot 3-round groups because I do not believe that is enough data points for a reasonable conclusion, I also did not shoot match grade ammo since this is a hunting rifle, and I did not test a wide range of weights and brands like I would if I was seeking maximum potential precision.

        Despite that, several 3-round groups I shot were well within 1 MOA -- thus fulfilling their guarantee. This was repeated across 3 brands of ammo, Hornady American Gunner 140grain, S&B 140grain, and Hornady American Whitetail 129grain.

        I only listed and displayed two of the Hornady American Gunner groups because I forgot to take a picture of the S&B group and I only had a few rounds of the American Whitetail and couldn't shoot what I consider to be a full group.

        All of that to say: I do feel that CVA lived up to their MOA guarantee.

        May 4, 2020 7:15 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Tony Smotherman

        It does have an MOA Guarantee from the Factory.

        May 6, 2020 6:34 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        graham nelson

        Really , I was thinking same thing. My buddies same Rifle witha Vortex Tactical 6x , shoots MOA out to 200 yrds with federal ammo. I think it jerks it ,lol.

        February 15, 2022 7:38 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Gotta love that attention to detail!

      "The attention to detail (accept for the Cerakoting) is impressive. "

      May 4, 2020 6:16 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        David, PPT Editor

        Written by an editor, edited by an editor, double-checked by another editor, still missed it. Sad face.

        May 4, 2020 6:27 pm
        • Commenter Avatar

          LOL! It happens...or it’s one of those Easter egg type inside jokes. Either way loved the article. Thanks for all you do!

          May 4, 2020 7:06 pm
          • Commenter Avatar
            David, PPT Editor

            :D Thanks for pointing it out!

            May 4, 2020 7:18 pm
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