A Good Knight's Day:
The tested example is the Knight .50 caliber Disc Elite rifle, featuring a tapered stainless steel barrel accompanied by a hardwoods camouflage synthetic stock. I'll take the liberty of comparing this gun to a Knight "Disc Extreme" stainless / laminated .50 caliber that has been shot extensively over the last several months, and was examined thoroughly on a recently released videotape. Both guns feature Knight's "full plastic jacket" 209 primer holder, and Knight's "non C-Tool" bolt, which allows for finger only disassembly after removing the hex-head bolt stop screw. There is no sane reason for a bolt stop on this rifle that is not finger removable.
Both guns share the identical bolt-action and breech plug design, and are 209-fired only. There is also no reason for the "secondary safety" on either the Extreme or Elite, as the action quickly jacks out the primed red plastic jacket and immobilizes the gun. The rattle-prone "secondary safety" likes to engage on its own, and is an annoying waste of threads on these two models. A drop of low strength green Loctite, which is called "small screw threadlocker," is the fix.
In the past I've paid homage to Tony Knight, for no one can hold a modern inline muzzleloader in their hands without saying a big "thank you" to Tony Knight. When the original Knight Dual Ignition System Concept (DISC) rifle was singled out by the BATF and classified as a GCA firearm, Tony Knight took them on essentially alone, and won. All subsequent makers of 209-primed inlines have reaped the benefits. Tony Knight, together with Del Ramsey, made the inline and saboted projectile the most popular and fastest growing segments of muzzleloading rifles in the last fifteen years.
The Knight catalog boasts that the Elite is "1/2 pound lighter," and lists its weight at 7 pounds 5 ounces vs. the catalog weight of the Extreme at 7 pounds 14 ounces. According to my Lyman electronic trigger gauge, that just isn't so. Both guns are virtually identical in weight, a touch over 8 lbs. with scope bases installed, but sans ramrods. The answer is that the Knight laminated stocks are lighter than their more substantial synthetic offerings. Additionally, the barrel weight saving is more pronounced in .45 caliber models. Finally, the beefier forked recoil lug adds weight to the barrel assembly, but in a far better place. For all intents and purposes, the .50 caliber models of the Elite and Extreme are in the same weight class, around 8 pound guns.
I've never considered the Knight Extreme to be a poor handling gun, but the Elite really shines in comparison. The tapered barrel of the Elite, which comes without iron sights, makes the Elite a neutrally balanced gun. The Extreme is nose heavy by comparison. Yes, the Elite feels "that" good, like an entirely different gun!
Normally I don't get too terribly impressed with camo stocks. However, the Elite's hardwoods camouflage stock is strikingly handsome: the best looking synthetic stock I've seen on a muzzleloader. The molded checkering is functional as opposed to the "for show only" stippling arrangement on the laminated example. The recoil pad is generous, and well fitted in both cases. As many can attest, stock swelling is still an issue with laminated stocks, not so with quality synthetic stocks. The real world consideration has much to do with where you live and hunt.
One thing that has always impressed me about Knight Rifles is their customer service and tech support. Both Knight and Thompson are standouts in that regard. One of the benefits of owning a Knight is that a new Knight customer can ship their trigger to Knight, and Knight Rifles will adjust it to your specifications, normally shipping it back to you within 24 hours, at no charge. They ship back to the customer the same way you ship it to them: if you "next day air" it, they "next day air" it back. "Priority Mail" it, that's the way it is shipped back. I asked for a 3 pound trigger and they came very close, a 3 pound 3 oz. repeatable break with almost no take-up. Easily the best trigger I've ever pulled on a Knight, and one of the very best on any muzzleloader.
The gun was outfitted with Weaver "Grand Slam" steel bases, Warne QD medium height rings, and a Bushnell Elite 3200 3 x 9 x 40mm scope. The initial sight in took two shots at 25 yards, and the third shot was on the paper at 105 laser-verified yards. As was the case with the Extreme, the Knight Elite did not handle the standard 295 grain Powerbelt HP or Aero-tip Powerbelts well. The best I could ever get out of the Extreme was 4-1/4" groups or so. No matter what I tried with the Elite, I could get no tighter than 3-1/4" groups. Better than the Extreme, but remarkably unremarkable.
So, after 7 or 8 three-shot attempts, I went to the 405 grain Powerbelts. Bingo! The groups instantly shrunk to sub 1", and stayed there. As a point of comparison, trying most every combination I could think of over several months, the Knight Extreme hit the wall at about 2". The Knight Elite sliced that by half, first day out. Triple 7 pellets or loose powder, it made no difference. Consistent MOA groups at 105 yards became the norm, with no barrel swabbing through 100 consecutive shots. I had brought out several other rifles to test, but I was having so much fun with the Knight Elite that I shot it exclusively until well after sunset.
There have been several subsequent all-day shoots. I've been able to shoot the "Knight Powerbelts," which feature the Knight-only 260 grain bullet weight and a slightly modified gas check. Other than those differences, they are Powerbelt Aerotips with a red nose and a black gas check. Grouping at about 1-3/4 inches, they are a substantial improvement over the standard 245 grain and 295 grain Powerbelts in this rifle, which have never made it to 3 inches. However, they are distinctly inferior to the regular CVA-marketed 348 and 405 grain Powerbelts, which have given consistent 1 inch no swab groups at 100 yards.
The Knight Elite was a good candidate for Cecil Epp's "Dead Center" sabots, which are astonishingly good. These high ballistic coefficient (.325) orange saboted 220 grain beauties are the easiest loading sabots I've ever used. For comparison, a 405 grain Powerbelt has a B.C. of .257. Though conventional wisdom has suggested that thicker sabots can stick to the bullet and affect accuracy, that is not the case with Cecil's .40 caliber bullets. The sabots quickly flower and fall away, and ended up in a neat pile approximately 30 feet from the muzzle.
Following Cecil's instructions, a fouling shot was fired first, with one lone spit patch between shots. Through several days of testing, the Dead Centers have not failed to group 1/2 inch or slightly better in this rifle, making them by far the most accurate bullets I have ever used, period. With moderate 100 grain Triple Seven pellet charges, the recoil is extremely mild, feeling similar to my old Marlin "Camp 9" 9x19 centerfire carbine. Yet these loads chronographed at approximately 1800 fps. We were able to push these bullets all the way up to 2300 fps, but blown sabots were the result. The Dead Centers retained this level of accuracy up to over 2100 fps before starting to drop off. Congratulations to Cecil Epp and his boys for making believers out of all of us. "Dead Center" is exactly what they do, as Ralph Lermayer dubbed them.
The Knight Extreme that I've shot so hard in the past has never failed to leave a thin scope coat of residue. After all this shooting with the Elite, I was amazed that though there was certainly blowback residue in the action, there was just a small fraction of what the Knight Extreme produced. I switched from Federal to Winchester to Remington primers, with no discernable scope residue. Thinking that Knight had hardened the plastic jackets somewhat, I used the remainder of the earliest red plastic jackets I had, still no residue. Checking with Knight, I was assured that there has been no running production change. There are cumulative tolerances here, in both plastic jacket and nipple / breech plug. Call it "luck of the draw."
As for the accuracy improvement, the Knight 2003 catalog says the Elite "has a unique bedded action for added accuracy." The action is in no way bedded that I can fathom, it is a forked recoil lug lying on plastic. However, the Knight press release of December 2002 is a bit more descriptive, mentioning the new cantilevered lug that allows the barrel to be "nearly free-floating." The Elite's barrel does pass the "dollar bill test," exhibiting no contact from the muzzle down to where the barrel taper ends. When you tighten down the lone recoil lug, you can watch the barrel lift up and away from the stock. So, the fork attached to the recoil lug does indeed help with its larger footprint, and I suspect that offers the primary reason for the Elite's better accuracy. The Extreme, on the other hand, has very heavy stock contact on one side of the barrel towards the muzzle, a wide gap on the other side. This uneven pressure can't help.
The Knight Disc Elite is the most accurate, best handling Knight Rifle I've ever fired. A true 1" shooter out of the box with 348 grain or 405 grain Powerbelts with no swabbing, it consistently shoots 1/2" or better with 220 grain "Dead Center" sabots. The combination of the Elite and Precision Rifle's "Dead Center" bullets makes this the most consistently accurate gun I've ever tested.
I'm impressed with the look, feel, accuracy, trigger, and contoured barrel of the Disc Elite. The longer, forked "cantilevered recoil lug" addresses, at least in part, what I have long felt was the Knight's primary deficiency, a barreled action flaccidly attached to the stock by one wimpy lug and screw. While unorthodox, the results seem clear enough: It brings the Knight bolt action rifle up to a whole new level. This is the first Knight I can really wax enthusiastic about. It is the finest, best handling, most accurate Knight Rifle I've seen. As far as I'm concerned, the Knight Disc Elite .50 caliber is easily Knight's best effort to date, and the rifle that finally deserves to have Tony Knight's name on the side.
The Disc Elite receives my highest recommendation. If you shoot one, I think you'll be a believer as well.
Copyright 2003 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.