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The Knight Revolution In-line Muzzleloading Rifle

By Randy D. Smith

Knight Revolution
Illustration courtesy of Knight Rifles.

When the new inline muzzleloader rifle emphasis shifted to drop action and break action designs, I was slow to jump on the bandwagon. I liked many of the innovative concepts of these rifles but was put off by what I considered to be the shoddy construction, poor quality, terrible ergonomics, and high prices of the models I examined.

In spite of some scope contamination and cleaning disadvantages, I clung to the bolt action inline for my upscale hunting trips. For a recent plains game safari in South Africa I didn't even consider taking any of the drop action or break action in-lines. Bolt actions universally sported better triggers, much more substantial composition, excellent balance, familiar handling features, and rock solid dependability.

Experience has convinced me that one of the best muzzleloaders to ever grace the in-line market is the Knight DISC, especially the DISC Extreme. I enjoyed excellent performance from an original Knight DISC for two seasons. Although I have never been a big fan of, nor saw the need for, the full plastic jacket ignition system, the overall design and construction of the Knight DISC makes it the standard of excellence for all other companies to try to meet. And certainly, the full plastic jacket makes more sense than some of the awkward and expensive cartridge case conversions that many predict will replace the 209 primer.

I figured I would wait for Knight's solution to these design revisions before I shelled out my money for one of the new designs. By the time Knight came out with the radically different Revolution I was involved in testing some other models and slow to take a look at it. There were at least two new break action designs that I thought were better choices than any of the drop actions other than the Knight. In other words I simply could not see the advantages of paying at least $100 more for a drop action when I was shooting some very well balanced and dependable break action designs such as the Traditions Pursuit Pro.

The Revolution is a groundbreaking design, however. To load the full plastic jacket in the Knight Revolution, simply revolve the action into the open position to access the weatherproof chamber than insert the primed full plastic jacket and lever the action back up into the closed position, which cocks the firing pin on closing.

No external hammers! Some of those tiny plastic and pot metal wonders are simply unsuited for heavy gloves in cold weather hunting conditions.

No screw out secondary safety! In spite of how good the rifles were I have never been contented with Knight's secondary safety system. I consider it to be slow and cumbersome.

The Knight Revolution also features a two-piece stock and bedded barrel for a steel-on-steel connection between barrel and receiver. This also diffuses heat from the barrel to increase the accuracy of its plastic-sabot loads.

This is pretty standard company explanation of the rifle's features and accurately describes the unique features of the Revolution. On the other hand, I had heard through the rumor mill that there were some cleaning and maintenance issues with the Revolution, some ergonomic concerns, and some buyers were put off with the overall appearance of the rifle. Some have expressed feelings that the receiver is unnecessarily heavy and that the rifle is "bulky."

I wasn't put off by the lines or the weight of the Revolution. There is something about metal components and heft that seems much more appropriate on a rifle than plastic, polymer and aluminum.

Being a dedicated fan of the Ruger #1 rifle, I have some real issues about how well many of the drop action muzzleloaders will hold up over several seasons of hard use. They did not appear to be anywhere nearly as strong as the Ruger design. I handled every one of the drop action and break action rifles before I decided that the Revolution was the only higher price level offering that I was interested in testing, and the only current model that presented a serious credible challenge to the better bolt action designs. Otherwise, for normal deer hunting activities, I'd just as soon use a less expensive and thoroughly dependable break action design.

Normally, when I decide to evaluate a muzzleloader I purchase and use it for at least two seasons in all types of hunting conditions. I want to know how that rifle will hold up and I want to be able to put it through its paces in some other venue than the target range. I can be pretty hard on a muzzleloader and extensive field use usually produces weaknesses that are not obvious when the gun is new. After years of reviewing muzzleloaders there are a lot of them that I simply will not waste my time on; I know before I go to the range that they have some characteristics with which I will never be happy.

I ordered a stainless steel Revolution with black polymer stock. Because of commitments to other companies the deer season was almost over before I would have a chance to give the Revolution a fair field test. Even at that I would only have two days of hunting during a special whitetail antlerless only late season to take any big game with the Revolution. At the time I was planning to use another brand for some spring feral hog hunting.

I ordered a silver Bushnell 3-9X32mm Sportsman scope to match the rifle's finish. The Bushnell Sportsman is an excellent, value priced scope and has all the features and solid construction that most hunters will ever need. I have used scopes costing three times as much that I did not like any better. I'm not a scope snob and frankly fail to see the economic advantages that the average hunter can gain when comparing more expensive models to this particular line of scopes.

I've had only one Bushnell scope fail on me and that was after I dropped the rifle on a cement floor. The end of the scope took the full weight of the blow and it bent out of alignment. While Bushnell would not replace the scope, they did offer me a replacement at cost, which was more than fair in my book.

I did not order any of Knight's projectiles other than the few that are sent with the rifle. I wanted to see how the Revolution would compare to some other rifles I've tested using Buffalo SSB sabots, Hevi-shot sabots, Hornady sabots and some White Buckbuster conicals.

When the rifle arrived I opened the box to find an attractively finished .50 caliber with a 27" stainless steel barrel, stainless steel receiver and stainless steel trigger mechanism. The trigger guard and lever is plastic. The Revolution weighed in at nearly 8 pounds with an overall length of 43 1/2" and a twist rate of 1:28".

The rifle balances very similarly to my Ruger #1S in .45-70. Fit and finish were excellent, the stock proportions were comfortable, the forearm was robust, and the fiber optic steel sights were typically excellent. Here was a man-sized rifle able to absorb heavy loads with tolerable recoil.

An excellent manual and instructional DVD answered all the questions I had about the rifle and its maintenance. I was especially impressed with the break down design of the rifle, a real advantage for airline travel. It would be quite easy to place the Revolution in a short case (such as a shotgun case) by breaking it down with a single break down tool rather than traveling with a long and bulky rifle case. Those of you who have battled the airlines and airline terminals as I have will appreciate this feature.

Because time was short I immediately mounted and bore sighted the Bushnell scope, then took the Revolution to the range to test Pyrodex Pellet, Triple Seven Pellet and Pyrodex RS loads. As had been the case with my Knight DISC, I found the Revolution to be very forgiving using a variety of loads. My time at the range convinced me that although the rifle is different and the shooter must adjust to the unique trigger guard and lever design, the adjustment is made very quickly.

I decided that most of the criticism of the Revolution's ergonomics is just plain "nit picking." The cross bolt safety is very user friendly for anyone who is familiar with a pump shotgun and the trigger guard is ample for heavily gloved hands. The trigger pull is adequate with some creep, but it is still superior to the other drop actions.

The drop action design is quick and virtually weather proof, and the rifle is one of the easiest I've ever used to thoroughly clean with a minimum of mess. I could easily break the rifle down, clean it, and have it back together in twenty minutes. The trigger mechanism is easily accessible, the breech plug is easy to remove, and the inside of the breech housing is easily wiped clean with a treated cloth. A simple spray and wipe of the trigger mechanism with a good cleaning solvent has it clean in seconds.

I didn't get a crack at a doe until the second day of hunting with the Revolution. I flushed a nice mature whitetail and a couple of juveniles in CRP grass during a dawn stalk of some walk-in public hunting ground. The grass was extremely heavy in that area and I did not have a shot until they paused on a low hill top one hundred and ten yards out.

With no rest available and the tall grass making is impossible to take a sitting shot, the only option I had was for a standing off hand shot. I screwed the scope to 9X as they ran and waited for them to pull up for a possible long-range standing shot. The Revolution's weight and balance helped create comfortable, steady sighting. As the big doe came about to look back at me, I placed the crosshairs high on her shoulder. The 285-grain Buffalo SSB stuck the doe high in the lung area and about three inches back from where I wanted. She ran over the hill and dropped out of sight but I was certain I had hit her solidly. I found her forty yards away at the base of the draw. There was no exit wound.

The Knight Revolution is what I consider to be a true big game muzzleloader. It is durable and sturdy enough to take on the world's largest game using some extremely heavy loads without undue punishing recoil or a potential component failure. The rifle is easy to clean and maintain. It loads quickly and is virtually impervious to weather extremes. It is tolerant of a wide variety of powder charge levels and will produce good groups with a number of different projectiles. It exhibits traits of superior construction, fit, and finish. I found it to be very well designed and ergonomically superior to anything currently on the market.

Most of all it is flexible. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for small game, predator hunting, or the biggest game in the world under the harshest of conditions. I rate the Revolution to be the best production muzzleloader currently on the market. The Revolution has certainly changed my spring hog hunting plans.

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Copyright 2005 by Randy D. Smith. All rights reserved.