April 2007

In-Line Ri?es: Knight Revolution Rates A+ as .50-Caliber Choice

The Knight Revolution II and Remington’s Genesis showed outstanding accuracy with proprietary bullets and 150-grain loads. The Traditions Pursuit XLT wasn’t in the same league.

There are those who’ll tell you that the era of modern muzzleloadingwas spawned in the wave of patriotism and revived historical interest engendered by the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.

You will indeed find that many of the popular sidelock reproduction muzzleloaders were first introduced in that general timeframe and states’ special blackpowder/primitive weapons hunting seasons started soon thereafter.

But the true birth of "modern muzzleloading" — considering the fact that 97 percent of all muzzleloaders purchased for hunting today are in-line rifles — was in the mid-1980s. That’s when a theretofore unknown Midwestern railroad employee/gunsmith named Tony Knight got the financial backing to produce his futuristic in-line (enclosed hammer as opposed to sidehammer) muzzleloading rifle.

Knight’s company was, in fact, named Modern Muzzleloading. The first modern (there were in-line designs back in the 18th century) in-line muzzleloader was actually a bolt-action rifle receiver fitted with a screw-out-and-pull-to-cock bolt and a breech plug in the barrel where a chamber would normally be situated in a centerfire design. The enclosed hammer hit a firing pin of sorts that struck the percussion cap, igniting the powder.

The guns were streamlined, lighter and less cumbersome than sidelocks, used faster-twist rifling and, eventually, saboted slugs rather than conical bullets or patched round balls. They felt and shot like rifles; a big factor in their appeal to hunters interested in expanding their hunting opportunities without messing with the primitive aspects of the sidelock guns.

New propellants, synthetic blackpowders, were formulated — later in pellet form of specific weights, new sabot styles designed, and new riflestyles emerged as the market grew. Knight was one of the first to design a gun to accept shotgun primers for ignition rather than percussion or musket caps, and further developed that technology to encase the cap in proprietary plastic disk that made it easier to handle and load.

In the late 1990s Remington brought out a bolt-action rifle, the Model 700ML (actually a Model 700 centerfire receiver and bolt fitted with a muzzleloading barrel and breech plug) that provided easy access to the ignition system while also enclosing it against the weather. Virtually all other manufacturers jumped on the bolt-action bandwagon.

Simplicity then became the goal, since muzzleloading can be a complex and messy. And few years later two stalwart muzzleloading companies, CVA and Thompson Center, introduced simpler exposed-hammer dropping-block designs where a squeeze on the rear of the trigger guard dropped the rear of the action open, exposing the touch hole and primer position.

Soon thereafter companies redesigned the single-shot concept with break-action designs (there had been previous versions in budget guns) where the barrel was actually hinged to the lower aspect of the receiver and dropped open to expose the ignition seat.

We tested three state-of-the-art .50-caliber modern in-lines: The break-action Traditions Pursuit XLT, the modified dropping block Knight Revolution II and the hinged-block Remington Genesis.

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