Knight's New .52 Caliber Rifles Could Be
By Toby Bridges, Host of High Performance Muzzleloading
With so much interest in hunting with today's modern muzzle-loaded in-line ignition big-game rifles, more and more Eastern and Midwestern hunters are now heading into the West with hopes of tagging an elk with the same .50 caliber rifle most have used successfully to hunt deer. And for the added knockdown power they'll need for an animal that is two...three...even four times larger than the deer they hunt, their first order of business is usually to work up a harder hitting load, and that means loading with a bit more powder and going to a heavier bullet of at least 300 grains.
Well, Knight Rifles, of Centerville, Iowa offers an entirely different approach for the muzzleloading hunter who looks to go after everything from a 50-pound javelina to a 1,200 pound bull moose or big bear. Their solution is to hunt everything with a Knight rifle that features the company's new .52 caliber bore.
Introduced a few seasons back, Knight Rifles' unique new .52 caliber bore-size is just now beginning to catch the attention of the serious muzzleloading big-game hunter looking for all of the knockdown power possible with a muzzle-loaded rifle. And with the company's maximum recommended powder charge behind a huge saboted 375-grain all-copper .475" diameter spitzer-style hollow-point bullet designed specifically for the .52 caliber bore, these rifles are definitely the new "King of Wallop" when it comes to muzzleloader performance.
For the past two seasons, I have done considerable shooting with one of the .52 caliber Knight DISC Extreme rifles, and will admit that I have been thoroughly impressed. One feature that caught my attention immediately was the design of a new breech plug that Knight has developed specifically for the .52 caliber rifles. And what sets this breech plug apart from that installed in the company's .50 and .45 caliber rifles is that the .52 breech plug features a 1 1/2-inch long tube that extends from the face of the plug. Knight Rifles refers to this as a "Power Stem". And the idea is to actually ignite a magnum 150-grain charge of loose grain FFg Triple Seven near the front of the charge rather than at the rear. The result is a more efficient and complete burn of that much powder, resulting in as much as a 10-percent increase in velocity.
Fortunately, the standard Knight non-stemmed breech plug also fits the .52 caliber rifles, giving me a chance to actually check out the difference in performance. Knight Rifles lists a velocity of 1,938 f.p.s. with a 150-grain charge of FFg Triple Seven and the 375-grain .475" Knight "Red Hot" bullet when using the stemmed plug. I got 1,924 f.p.s. with the same charge and bullet. Not enough difference to really be significant. Shooting the same load ahead of the non-stemmed breech plug, my velocity reading was just 1,803 f.p.s. While the 121 f.p.s. difference does not equate to 10-percent, it is nonetheless a significant difference.
At 1,924 f.p.s., the big, long and sleek sharp-fronted 375-grain hollow-point all-copper bullet generates a whopping 3,075 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. And due to the aerodynamics of this bullet, it is still flying at just over 1,500 f.p.s. at 200 yards, where it will drive home with close to 1,900 foot-pounds of retained energy. And at that distance, I've managed to shoot a number of 2 to 3 inch groups. All the way out at 300 yards, a 150-grain charge of FFg Triple Seven will continue to deliver the 375-grain bullet with around 1,400 f.p.e. Talk about an elk load!
Knight Rifles also offers a saboted 350-grain .458" diameter all-copper hollow-point bullet and a saboted all-copper 275-grain .475" hollow-point bullet for their .52 caliber rifle models. And it is the lighter "Red Hot" bullet offering that turns the .52 caliber DISC Extreme rifle I've been shooting into one very deadly whitetail rifle. Now, I'm not always into shooting massive 150-grain charges of powder, but I do like muzzle velocities to get up over 1,900 f.p.s. to produce the knockdown power I also seek. And the first charge I tried ahead of the non-stemmed breech plug proved to be exactly what I was hoping to find.
With a volume-measured 120-grain charge of FFg Triple Seven, I found that the .52 DISC Extreme would get the 275-grain saboted Barnes produced Knight "Red Hot" bullet out of the muzzle at 1,978 f.p.s. And at 100 yards, the rifle and load proved fully capable of punching solid 1 1/2-inch groups. And since this big bullet features a huge hollow-point nose design, I knew it would drop a little more than some of the more aerodynamic spitzer and spire-point designs now favored by most .50 caliber in-line rifle shooters. Still, several sessions on the 200-yard range revealed that drop at that distance was just over 13 inches. And with the rifle sighted to print the load a full 3 inches high at 100 yards, I packed it on a whitetail hunt in one of my favorite deer hunting hotspots - the open and rolling ridges of northern Nebraska's river country.
On the third day of the hunt, I spotted a nice chocolate brown horned nine-point buck cold trailing a doe. The deer was on a distant ridge, so I guessed where I could intercept the buck, and close to 15 minutes later, I popped up over the crest just in time to catch the deer walking past at about 175 yards. The crosshairs of my old Zeiss 3-9x scope settled just below the top of the shoulder and the trigger came back. As the rifle barked, a cloud of smoke momentarily blocked my target from sight. But as the gentle late afternoon breeze thinned the self-inflicted smoke screen, there lay my buck. Right where the deer had been standing at the shot. That big 275-grain hollow-point had anchored the 250-pound whitetail on the spot.
The rifle has since been used on a number of other deer hunts, shooting a variety of saboted bullets. For those shooters who prefer a jacketed lead-core bullet design, one bullet that has performed extremely well is the 300-grain .458" semi-sptizer "Original" that Barnes Bullets offers for the big .45-70 single-shot rifles. This is a somewhat aerodynamic bullet with a fairly sharp exposed lead nose, giving the bullet a .291 ballistic coefficient. And loaded with the .52x.458" sabot Knight has developed for the .52 caliber bore, the bullet is accurate and deadly on big game.
Loaded ahead of 120-grains of FFg Triple Seven (using the non-stemmed breech plug), the bullet leaves the muzzle of the .52's 26-inch Green Mountain barrel at 1,889 f.p.s., with 2,376 f.p.e. Thanks to the sharp frontal shape of the bullet, it retains velocity well down range. At 200 yards, the bullet is still moving at close to 1,400 f.p.s. and will hit its target with around 1,300 foot-pounds of retained energy. This would be a great "do everything" load, with the versatility to take everything from deer to elk.
A new caliber, like Knight's .52 bore size, can take a while to catch on. Not every muzzleloading hunter rushes right out to buy something brand new, especially when it requires loading with new and often hard-to-find loading components. Slowly, Knight's .52 caliber is beginning to catch on. And all who have experienced the seemingly inherent accuracy, versatility and punch of the new bore size tend to remain impressed.
Copyright 2006 by Toby Bridges. All rights reserved.