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The Knight Inline Rifles

Hank Strong

A Test of Knight's Inline Muzzleloading Rifles

The Knight rifles have been around since 1985, and during that time they have developed a following that is akin to the popularity the Hawken rifle gained in the mid 1800's. Why has this rifle taken muzzleloading hunters by storm?

There are a number of reasons for the Knight's popularity. Contrary to popular belief, in-line muzzleloading rifles aren't new. The first in-line percussions were developed back in the early 1800's, which is about the same time the percussion cap was invented. Fast-twist rifling was an accepted fact for "Sugar loaf bullets" by the late 1840's. Even during the late Hawken period a few rifles were made for shooting conicals. They were well received, but the fur trade had played out and the cartridge rifle now represented the latest technology.

Almost every manufacturer of muzzleloading rifles has an inline ignition on the market today. What is the real difference between a Knight and the competition? The Stock! One distinction is the way the Knight rifle fits the hunter when it is moved into shooting position. The handling is nothing less than superb! The rifle is very well balanced and comes to the shoulder beautifully. The pistol grip is slim enough for hunters with small hands to handle the rifle. The distance between the comb and receiver allows ample room for the thumb. The butt of the stock is wider than the majority of other inlines. Most rifle stocks vary from 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" at the base; very few are as thick as the Knight's 1 3/4". This spreads the recoil.

Knight offers its stocks in walnut and hardwood; it also offers laminated and composite ones, which come in a variety of colors. The Grand American, Knight Hawk, and Predator come with a cheek rest. Thumb hole stocks are available for the Grand American and Knight Hawk in both left- or right-hand models. All come with studs for detachable sling swivels. Even the most discriminating customer can find a stock to satisfy their requirements.

The pull length varies from 14.5" to 13.25" for the MK-85, which leaves ample room for the extra clothing a hunter will wear during inclement weather. This length is just about right for the average hunters. Couple this with the slight drop in the stock, which reduces recoil, and you have a fast, comfortable gun in the field.

All the stocks have rubber recoil pads. The MK-85 and Grand American series have a double-ventilated recoil pad, something the competition doesn't offer. Most of the carbines on the market have recoil pads, but only a few are ventilated. Ultimately, however, the bottom line for any rifle is accuracy, and that is where the Knight is a tough competitor. Accuracy and reliability are synonymous with Knight.


The two most important factors influencing their accuracy is the bore design and trigger, not the inline ignition. The relationship between bullet length and bore twist is very important for optimum accuracy. A.C. Gould described this in Modern American Rifles, published in 18921. Simply stated: the faster the twist, the longer the bullet should be for best accuracy. The 1-28" twist is a compromise twist. That allows the hunter to shoot a combination of bullet lengths in sabots and conicals accurately in .44, .45, .50 and .54 caliber. For a hunter this is very important. A target shooter is concerned only with accuracy, but the hunter has to consider not only accuracy but down range energy for a clean kill. The bullet must be matched to the hunt and shooting distance. The Knight's bore design gives the hunter flexibility in bullet selection. It has a 1-28" twist with narrow lands and wide groves. The cut rifling is .005 to .006 deep with eight lands and groves. This unique combination of shallow, fast twist rifling will stabilize a wide cross-section of sabots and conicals at 100 yards.

Tony Knight realized years ago that a long barrel wasn't necessary to burn the powder charge efficiently. By shortening the barrel, the rifle is easier to handle when the going gets tough in thickets or overgrown fields. Knight rifles come in two barrel lengths, 24 and 20 inches. The difference in muzzle velocity between the two barrels is 10 to 15 f.p.s. per inch of barrel lost, which is negligible.

Trigger pull on a rifle can make or break a hunter's ability to shoot accurately. Knight recognized this, so all the rifles have adjustable Timney triggers, which is the same high quality trigger found on some of the better center-fire rifles. They come from the factory with a 2.5 lb. trigger pull that breaks clean and crisp--excellent for target work and hunting. To insure that their high standards are maintained, Knight workers assemble and check each trigger before it is installed.

We examined the fit and finish on ten different Knight rifles, more or less trying to find a defect. We didn't detect a flaw on any of them; even their budget-priced rifles are very good. All the Knight rifles come with adjustable Williams' sights, and they offer a top notch peep sight as an option. The receivers on all the Knight rifles are drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

Scopes and Mounts

On some sidelock rifles, a scope with a large rear ocular bell may interfere with the operation of the hammer. If the front ocular bell is large, the rear sight may have to be removed. The Knight rifles, however, will accommodate a large scope. We put a Simmons 44 MAG scope on the MK-85 using Warne mounts. This system allows the hunter to zero the rifle with open sights and a scope. A .54 cal. MK-85 "HUNTER" were fitted with Quic-Kee disconnect mounts. This was a darn good system that allowed the hunter to use a scope with a large ocular bell without modifying the mounting system.

The reason we selected two different scope mounting systems was the Knight rifles are available in a wide price range. The Quic-Kee mount is new and priced for the hunter on a budget, while the Warne is a high dollar item. Some other differences to consider are: A set of Warne mounts puts the scope slightly lower than Quic-Kee, and comes in stainless steel or blued. Quic-Kee mounts are blued or burnished aluminum. The Warne gives a nice sleek appearance, but the Quic-Kee mount makes it faster and easier to recap the rifle in a hunting situation. Both mounts did very well in the field and at the range. After each session at the range the scopes were removed and the rifles disassembled for cleaning. Both of the systems returned the rifles to zero at a hundred yards.


Often hunters overlook and take for granted the safety on a rifle. Knight didn't! They have two on their rifles, and they even offer the left-handed shooter a model with the thumb safety on the left side. But the difference between the Knight rifle and the competition is the location and operation of the safeties. The Knight thumb safety allows a hunter to move it off safe without upsetting sight alignment--and it is very quiet. The second safety is a knurled nut located on the rear of the hammer assembly. To disengage the safety, you rotate it to the left. This feature allows the hunter to take the rifle off safe while hunting, again in complete silence.

The dual safeties can be used independently or together. If the thumb safety is disengaged and the second safety engaged, it prevents the hammer from striking the nipple. This has an added advantage of allowing the hunter to dry fire the rifle. A hunter can practice sight alignment and trigger squeeze in their home without ever firing a shot!


Disassembly of the rifle for cleaning is simple and straight forward. The rifle comes with two allen wrenches, a combination tool, a cleaning jag, and a handle for the unbreakable ramrod. The ramrod tip is designed to fit the shoulder of most bullets. A large allen screw holds the stock to the barrel. Two allen screws hold the trigger group to the barrel. The small allen wrench is used to remove the lock screw located on the left rear side of the barrel; this allows the hammer assembly to be removed. After loosening the screw and rotating the knurled nut at the rear of the hammer assembly, the whole unit just slides out. Then the combination tool can be used to remove the nipple and breech plug.

Scrub the stainless-steel hammer, nipple, and breech plug in warm soapy water, then dry, oil, and reassemble the rifle. Lithium grease should be placed on the breech plug and nipple before it is replaced, to keep it from seizing. We also used Rusty Duck's grease and Black-off cleaner--excellent products!

Detailed cleaning and maintenance is easy with these and the tools provided. Replacing the hammer assembly can be tricky on some rifles. Not on the Knight, because the hammer spring doesn't have to be compressed. Aside from ease of assembly, the hammer also has a fast lock time; the hammer travel is .384, the shortest we've found.

The stainless steel MK-85 Predator arrived just a few weeks before Kentucky's early deer season in October. During the next few weeks we had an opportunity to test the rifle. To give a general idea of how different shooters would fare with the rifle, two shooters took turns and a third person loaded in rotation. During this time, ten different bullets were fired through the rifle at 100 yards. All the groups were very impressive. No matter which bullet was shot, the group was under 2" at 100 yards!

The Bullet

Bullet selection became a tough call, but I finally settled on a 340 grain cast hollow point bullet from Lyman mold #457122, and a black .45 caliber sabot from Modern Muzzleloading, all with 100 grains of FF blackpowder. This load grouped under 1" at 100 yards, and had 1,011 foot pounds of energy--at 100 yards! I repeat: this is not a muzzle energy figure. This is the energy of the bullet at 100 yards.

As I said earlier, bullet selection for a hunter can be a tough decision, but Knight offers a wide selection of jacketed and lead bullets that range from 180 to 310 grains. A selection wide enough to satisfy most hunters. Prior to hunting season four rifles from other manufactures were zeroed with the Knight bullet/sabot combination. After the season two hunters reported taking deer between 75 and 100 yards. A massive 12 point buck was taken with the 260 grain jacketed bullet; the bullet dropped him at 75 yards and expanded to over .5 inch before exiting. The 310 grain lead bullet dropped a nice six pointer at 100 yards.

Range Test

After deer season testing began in earnest. We fired 24 different bullets in the two rifles. All but five grouped under 3" at 100 yards! And we fired everything from a 225 grain .44 caliber Buffalo sabot to a massive 650 grain conical from Buckskin Bullet. The average group size, counting all the bullets fired, was 2.0", very impressive.

On more than one occasion the same bullet was fired from both two to three different knight rifles. The differences in performance between rifles were minimal, and could be attributed to shooter error, powder, or a combination of the two. The difference between the budget grade rifles and the top of the line MK-85 is cosmetic, not quality or accuracy. If you prefer a rifle with all the bells and whistles, then the MK-85 is your ticket. On the other hand, if you are looking for a lower priced rifle that is accurate and dependable with all the accessories, then the LK-93 Wolverine is your cup of tea. Three different rifles were fired at the range; the a .54 cal. MK-85 HUNTER, the MK-85 PREDATOR and LK 93 Wolverine. The difference in groups between the rifles was negligible.

Only one problem was encountered during the test; after 70 shots, the nipple had to be replaced on the LK-93. The rifle would fail to fire on the first attempt, but on the second try it would.

The Knight Afield

In late October I hunted at Fort Knox, KY. After two days of hunting I decided to change the location of my stand. As I was preparing to lower the MK-85, it slipped and fell 20 feet to the ground. Though I knew that the drop had probably knocked the zero way off, I was too busy during the week to go to the range and check.

That following Saturday morning at 8:15 a doe moved into a small clearing; trailing close behind her was a young spike. The only clear shot I had on him was to the head. I saw that the doe had become nervous, so I centered the cross hairs on the spike and the MK-85 roared. At 76 yards the spike dropped and the doe departed. Before the smoke even cleared, my hunting partner was on the trail, coming up from my rear. While I worked my way down the tree he found the buck and started field dressing him. He couldn't believe I had taken him with a head shot. I just smiled and said "I didn't, the KNIGHT and Simmons 44 MAG did!"

Any adverse comments? No, but I wish there was a channel through the breech and stock that would allow spent caps to fall away. Instead, the shooter has to rotate the rifle on its side to remove the spent cap from the hammer area. That's it for now, remember to wear ear and eye protection when you are at the range and may all your shots be 10X!

1 published in 1892 **1.A.C. Gould. Modern American Rifles. Boston: Bradley Whidden, 1892. Reprinted, Plantersville, S.C.: Thomas G. Samworth, 1946.*

RAMROD: unbreakable anodized aluminum
TRIGGER PULL LENGTH: 14.5" to 13.25"
TWIST: 1-28"
WEIGHT: 6.5 lbs
ACCESSORIES: cleaning jag; handle for cleaning rod; combo tool
OVERALL LENGTH: 40" to 39" depending on model
TRIGGER PULL: 2.5 lbs. single, adjustable
LOCK: Inline ignition w/ coil spring; stainless hammer
STOCK: Hardwood stained walnut, pistol grip; Black composite and formed cheek piece.
BARREL LENGTH: 20" to 24" depending on model Drilled and tapped; Yes
SIGHTS: Rear; Fully adjustable, Front; Ramp mounted beaded
RECOIL PAD: Yes; MK-85 Ventilated
MANUFACTURER: Modern Muzzleloading P.O. Box 130
R.R. 1 Box 234a
Centerville, Iowa 52544
WHERE IT CAN BE PURCHASED: Contact your dealer or manufacturer.

Field Data
CHRONOGRAPH: PACT 1 10 feet from muzzle of rifle
TEMP: 60 - 94 Degrees Fahrenheit
ELEVATION: 450 feet above sea level
HUMIDITY: 40-87%
BENCH REST: Lohman Sight Vise
STANDARDS: Group 3" or less, deliver a minimum of 800 FT. LBS. at 100 yards
KINETIC ENERGY: Was developed by using the V4.0 W.R.FRENCHU computer program.
WIND FLAGS: One every 25 yards out to 100 yards
POWDER MEASURE: Modern Muzzleloading
LUBRICANT: Pyrodex Lube, White Muzzleloading, Hornady
CLEANING: After every shot with with Black Off then swab with dry patches till the last patch a slight streaks of gray.

.165 .510 500 ACRY U 80RS 1183 1.1 1149
.240 .452 #350 ACRY U 90S 1328 1.9 1029
.230 .452 #320 ACRY U 80RS 1185 1.1 837
.170 .430 225 BUFF 100FF 1710 0.9 918
.191 .430 302 BUFF H 90S 1299 1.7 821
.146 .452 250 HRNDY 80S 1316 2.3 632
.184 .452 #300 HRNDY 80RS 1446 2.2 932
.148 .511 385 HRNDY 70RS 1202 1.4 878
.205 .511 410 HRNDY 80RS 1258 1.0 1075
.274 .456 #350 LYM F 100RS 1341 1.5 998
.274 .456 #340 LYM H 100FF 1380 .7 1011
.246 .452 #310 M.M. S 90RS 1498 2.4 1126
.231 .452 #300 M.M. J. 80RS 1417 1.2 1000
.095 .513 *320 REAL 80RS 1246 2.0 652
.215 .503 650 BUCSK 80RS 1066 1.3 1257
.181 .430 302 BUFF 90S 1418 1.9 908 16.1
.146 .452 250 HRNDY 100S 1534 2.2 777 21.4

B.C.= Ballistic coefficient
DIA.= Bullet Diameter
GR. = Bullet weight in Grains
BULLET Name of bullet used;
CHGE.= Grains of Powder measured by volume
MV.= Muzzle Velocity;
100YD= Group at 100 yards in inches
KE.= Kinetic Energy of bullet at 100 yards;

ACRY U.= Accuracy Unlimited Bullet Co. Littleton, Co.
BUFF.= Buffalo Bullet Co. of Santa Fe Springs, CA.
HRNDY.= Hornady Bullet
#.= Sabot was from Modern Muzzleloading
LYM F.= Bullet cast from Lyman mold 457122 resized to .450
LYM H.= Bullet cast from Lyman mold 457122 with pin in resized to .450
M.M. S.= Modern Muzzleloading Bullet swaged from lead
M.M. J.= Modern Muzzleloading Bullet Jacketed lead bullet
REAL= Rifling Engraved At Loading cast conical from Lee Mold
BUCSK = Buckskin Bullet, PO Box 245 Cedar City, Utah

RS = RS Grade Pyrodex@
S = Select Grade Pyrodex@
FF = FF Goex Black Powder