Tony Knight, founder of Knight Rifles, died yesterday. He was 67.
If you hunt, shoot or have any interest in muzzleloading firearms you owe this gentleman a nod of gratitude. Even dyed-in-the-wool sidelock, flintlock traditionalists should appreciate that Knight made blackpowder shooting and hunting safer for the masses while raising the profile of blackpowder hunting in the process.
Knight was a gunsmith working in northern Missouri when a group of friends traveled to Colorado for that state’s blackpowder elk hunt. The weather was awful and the sidelock guns – virtually all that was available at the time – generally performed badly as a result of the foul weather.
The hunters regrouped at Knight’s gun shop (which he later moved to Iowa to take advantage of that state’s friendlier business climate). The gunsmith knew there had to be a better, safer, more dependable way to shoot blackpowder. He came up with an inline blackpowder rifle – the MK-85 (named for his daughter Michelle Knight and the year it was introduced, 1985). Some traditionalists didn’t like it. It looked and handled like a modern centerfire. Knight eventually won over many of the gun’s critics. Muzzleloader hunting entered the mainstream.
Knight Rifles was eventually sold to PRADCO Outdoor Brands, which later discontinued the line. No matter. Today, the vast majority of muzzleloader deer hunters shoot inline rifles. Tony Knight is the reason.