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Muzzleloading Classics: Knight’s Rolling Block Muzzleloader

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The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe.

The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe.

C5 1 Tony Knight (2)

A composite series of photos of the late Tony Knight.

Over a period of years I came to know Tony Knight, the founder of Knight Rifles. There were several aspects that Tony wanted in all of his rifles. One was that they be what he considered “real rifles” made of steel and wood. He compromised on the wood part and fairly soon substituted synthetic stocks to allow his guns to be more affordable and weather resistant. Another feature of all of his guns was maybe a Midwestern attitude that the guns be as safe as it was reasonably possible for a firearm to be, while still maintaining functionality. All of Knight’s designs that I have seen incorporated two safeties. His rifles were made so that they might fall from a deer stand and not fire when they hit the ground, provided that both safeties were engaged. Partly as a marketing strategy to always keep something new before the public and allow him to continue to have the enjoyment of coming up with new designs, Tony attempted to introduce a new design every year. Some, such as Knight’s T-Bolt,  were not successful because black-powder fouling quickly gummed up the action. The Revolution rifle from which the Knight Rolling block was descended was a falling block design that looked something like a Winchester 1885 falling block, with an action assembly that could be easily detached for cleaning. The year this rifle was introduced I was invited by Tony to hunt with him in Missouri, and I took the largest deer that I have ever killed with a Revolution.

The author's Missouri deer taken on a hunt with the Knight Revolution.

The author’s Missouri deer taken on a hunt with the Knight Revolution.

Knight Rolling Block

Knight Rolling Block

Again, under market pressures and his desire to make something new, he introduced the Knight Rolling Block, which was among his last designs, and arguably the most advanced of these single-shot-cartridge-action-derived guns. True to his instincts, the rolling block action components were steel. The 209 primer holder was a movable piece that slid back-and-forth to seat the primer into the screwed-in breech plug when the “block” of the rolling block was rotated to the rear. The second component of the rolling block system, the hammer, acted as the “lock” on the original system, but now mostly served to fire the gun and mount a second pivoting safely inserted on top of the hammer. This safety rotated the hammer nose that struck the firing pin up and out of battery as the gun was cocked and had to be flipped down again to fire the gun. If this action sounds complicated, it is. There was also a conventional trigger safety activated by a button on the trigger guard and both had to be in the fire position to successfully shoot the gun. This double-safety system once cost me a deer when I was using one of his bolt-action guns and did again this year with the Rolling Block. Several factors are at work. The first is that as a gun writer I shoot almost every deer with a different gun. Unlike the hunter who uses one gun year after year, I seldom use a gun  long enough to train the brain to automatically go through all the pre-firing steps. The second factor is when a deer is moving at a rapid pace by my stand, I get a little excited. What my instincts tell me to do is to cock the hammer, get on the deer and pull the trigger – not worry about the detailed operational characteristics of the gun. Tony sold the company, and by 2009 Knight Rifles was offered for sale by its new owners.  Its assets were purchased by  PI, Inc., and its manufacturing base was moved to Athens, Tennessee. PI, Inc. decided to concentrate on Knight’s striker-fired and bolt-action guns , which were always the company’s best sellers, and their reps told me at subsequent Shot Shows that they had no plans to offer the expensive and relatively slow selling Revolution and Rolling Block rifles – an understandable business decision. Taking advantage of a distressed price sale of a Rolling Block at a gun shop, I purchased one and readied it to go on a hunt in South Carolina. Unfortunately, no deer were seen. The gun languished in my gun rack for several years until this year when I prepped it for an early November hunt on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island and one on Cumberland Island a month later. Although I killed a deer on Ossabaw Island with my Super Walker, no game presented itself before the Rolling Block. Returning home to Central Georgia, the gun’s first opportunity came when a big doe trotted by and I pulled on it, cocked the hammer and CLICK. Before I could re-cock the gun and flip off the safety, it was out of sight.  On a subsequent hunt a week later in early January, I was walking out at dusk and spotted another doe standing in one of my  farm  roads at about 100 yards.  This time I cocked the hammer, flipped the safety into fire position and centered the front member of the fiber-optic sight on the front quarter of the deer.  Although this was an off-hand shot, the gun was stable, the front sight was hanging steady on the deer and exactly in the middle of the two rear fiber-optic elements. I squeezed the trigger, the gun fired and the deer was gone. The load of two pellets of Hodgdon’s Triple7even Powder and a 295 grain Power Belt bullet had been in the gun since November, but the ignition was normal and the shot felt and sounded good. Had the gun been exposed to wet weather I would have changed out the charge, although I had changed primers. I found cut hair in the road,  and I started to look in the vine overgrown cut-over for blood. I did not see any blood on the leaves in the failing light. I also did not find a bullet strike on the road beyond where the deer was standing.  I suspected that the bullet never exited the deer, as is common with Power Belt bullets. The weather was nearly freezing, and I decided to look for the deer the next day. The next morning I returned with my dogs and recovered the deer.  You can see a video of this at: http://youtu.be/a7n4-PFa_dI . The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe. The  295-grain Power Belt bullet penetrated both shoulders, both lungs and was recovered under the hide on the far side of the deer. It had expanded to nearly a 1-inch diameter. Nonetheless, the deer had run about 40-yards before going down. Although there was massive internal bleeding, there was very little blood seen in the first 20 yards and only small amounts thereafter. The weight of the gun’s barrel contributed to my making the equivalent of a “10-ring” offhand shot with the fiber optic sights. The Knight Rolling Block finally had a chance to prove itself and had done well. I dropped out the action’s operating components and took out the breech plug for a through cleaning of the gun before I put it away. Considering the complexity of this muzzleloading rifle, clean-up was very easy.  If you are interested in a high-tech muzzleloader that is a little bit different, the Knight Rolling Block is worthy of consideration.

The Knight Rolling Block made the equivalent of a 10-ring hit on this Georgia doe.

The Knight Rolling Block made the equivalent of a 10-ring hit on this Georgia doe.

. T .

As suspected the Power Belt bullet remained in the deer and was recovered from under the skin after expanding to about an inch in diameter.

As suspected the Power Belt bullet remained in the deer and was recovered from under the skin after expanding to about an inch in diameter.