Knight Shadow .50 Caliber Muzzleloader

By Randy Wakeman

Knight Shadow .50 Caliber Muzzleloader
Illustration courtesy of Knight Rifles.

A quick check of the Knight offerings over the last several years shows that we can invariably count on Knight to both introduce more muzzleloading rifles and discontinue more muzzleloading rifles every year than other manufacturers combined. Follows of Knight might reasonably expect the clumsy Knight Vision to fade away, along with the overly proprietary .52 caliber offerings. Though Knight has had it share of flops, some of their new offerings (the KP1 Utility Rifle, for example) show great potential even if that potential is not yet fully realized. There is a bit of irony in Knight�s break-open Shadow, a type of action that Knight has long avoided.

It was the accidental success of the T/C Encore, as a muzzleloader, that inspired the notion that a break-open action is desirable in a muzzleloader. With the success of the Encore muzzleloader, it was not long until CVA and then Traditions tried to pass off their pot-metal Encore look-alikes as being similar to the Encore. They are not and never have been in the same league, of course. Knight has long resisted the urge to follow T/C�s lead, clinging to the idea of discs and full red plastic jackets that fewer people want to fuss with every year. In any case, the Shadow is here, Knight�s first dedicated break-action muzzleloader.

Intended to compete at an entry-level price point, a few obvious compromises were made to reduce the production cost of the Shadow. The receiver is alloy, for example. A reasonable area to focus on, as the receiver of a muzzleloader does not have to deal with cartridge back thrust. The only thing blowing back is a primer. The omnipresent flimsy, plastic Knight ramrod, of course, comes with this rifle and the synthetic stock (plastic the way I look at it) is adequate, even if the poorly fitted generic recoil pad shows a lack of assembly care. The cheap ramrod is held in place by a single plastic ferule. The iron sights are the common Williams fiber optic units that work well.

Pulling in on an alloy block-shaped button that protrudes from the front of the trigger guard unlocks the action. It is not effortless, not nearly as easy to use as an Encore or Knight KP1, but it is functional. I used steel Weaver S45 bases and high Warne Maxima QR rings to mount a Burris Fullfield II 2-7x35mm scope. There is adequate hammer clearance, but just barely. Many folks would likely use the hammer spur even with high scope bases. It was a bit of a hassle to cock, in my cold weather shooting, but still workable without a spur. Bulkier gloves would necessitate hammer spur use. Scoped as described, the Shadow weighs about 8-3/4 pounds.

The Knight Shadow�s non-adjustable trigger was poor, suffering from a lengthy initial take-up and then a gritty pull before eventually breaking at about 6-3/4 pounds. It was a pain to fight at the bench, particularly when compared a T/C Omega�s far superior trigger. The Knight Shadow was noisy to cock, emitting an annoyingly loud click that was many times louder than the Omega. It is irritating at best. I don�t think it is particularly suitable for the quiet woods hunting, although at the range it hardly mattered.

Initially, I shot the Knight Shadow with Blackhorn 209 powder without ignition issues. The Burris Fullfield ran out of left windage adjustment during preliminary sight-in, something that was an unpleasant surprise and had never been an issue on other muzzleloaders. This indicates that the holes drilled for the scope bases are not properly aligned with the bore. (This problem is becoming more prevalent industry wide due to sloppy manufacturing and quality control. -Ed.) I like the Burris Fullfield II 2-7x scope and its 60 inches of internal adjustment should be adequate for any properly aligned rifle, but it was not for this Knight Shadow. It appears that the Shadow can be problematic in this department. Such was not the case on the Knight KP1 for example, where the same scope had no internal adjustment range issues.

Despite properly fitting sabots and using Federal 209A primers, I had hangfires with the Knight during my cold weather shooting. The problem is the very poor Knight breechplug design that sprays primer residue all over the outside of the breechplug and inside the action, enough to foul the bottom of my scope. The Knight breechplug is recessed so far that the breechblock does not come close to supporting it. Rather than properly encapsulating the primer, as the Omega does, the 209 primer is held in its sloppy breech plug pocket by a magnet. Upon ignition, due to the sloppy fit and lacking any piloting support from an extractor, or support from the back of the action, the 209 primer is free to propel itself backwards, spewing its residue everywhere. Everyplace except where it is all supposed to go, that is, which is through the breechplug to ignite the powder. Why only Savage Arms and Thompson/Center can design an efficient breechplug is a mystery. Only in muzzleloading are consumers asked to tolerate this level of unnecessary blowback. We shouldn�t have to.

The Knight Shadow shot adequately, but vertically strung its shots. Still, it managed to record 75 yard groups, under poor range conditions, inside two inches while I fought its creepy trigger and intermittent hangfires. Sadly, the unreliable Shadow, despite its attractive price, is simply a failboat. I cannot recommend this latest Knight rifle.

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Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.