The KP1 transforms from center-fire to rimfire to muzzleloader.
By Bryce M. Towsley
With Tony Knight at the helm, Knight Rifles transitioned the muzzleloader hunter from the sidelock rifle, a relic of the 1800s, to the modern in-line rifle that dominates the sport today. Tony is retired now, and Knight Rifles is part of a larger conglomerate, but the Knight name has remained synonymous with in-line muzzleloaders, and throughout its 23-year history, Knight’s firearms have always been front-loaders ... until now.
With the introduction of the KP1 rifle, Knight Rifles is officially stepping into the center-fire arena. Actually, with this gun it is pretty much entering all the arenas, center-fire, rimfire and shotgun, simultaneously. The Knight KP1 can metamorphose from a muzzleloader to a center-fire rifle or shotgun simply by changing barrels. With just a bit more time to switch the firing pin location, the KP1 can quickly become a rimfire.
I had an early peek at a non-firing prototype KP1 in December 2006 when I was at the Knight facility in Iowa testing some muzzleloaders in its underground laboratory, but the first time I was able to fire one was on a spring 2007 hunt in Mississippi, where I shot a wild hog with the rifle. In the fall, I used the KP1 while hunting in south Texas to take a nice pronghorn antelope and a great aoudad. Recently, I tried to wear the gun out at the shooting range.
The KP1 is a single-shot, break-action, switch-barrel design. The concept is that one basic action will accept a wide variety of barrels. Because the sights—or scope—remain with their respective barrels, the zeros remain constant when switching back and forth. The action features an external hammer with a built-in, secondary safety. This double safety concept is a Knight trademark that has appeared in other forms on many of its muzzleloaders. On the KP1, the primary safety is the external hammer, which must be physically cocked before shooting. There is also a transfer bar that blocks the hammer from hitting the firing pin by a protrusion on the top of the hammer that contacts the back of the frame. When the hammer is cocked, the transfer bar rises up to fill the gap between the hammer and the firing pin. If the hammer were to fall without pulling the trigger, the gun will not fire. However, pulling the trigger raises the transfer bar. When the hammer is cocked and the trigger is pulled, the hammer strikes the transfer bar, which then contacts the firing pin.
Knight takes the safety concept one step further by adding a secondary manual safety to the hammer. When pushed forward, it withdraws a large pin from the face of the hammer. Without the pin, the hammer is unable to contact the transfer bar. But when the safety is pulled back into the fire position, the pin protrudes 0.060 inches from the face of the hammer. This allows the force of the hammer to strike the transfer bar. The primary reason for this manual safety is that it allows safely decocking a loaded gun.
The hammer is part of a modular trigger group assembly that is easily removed from the rifle by pushing forward on the release catch in front of the trigger and pulling down on the trigger guard, allowing for easy cleaning, maintenance or repair. In any muzzleloader, fouling can accumulate over time in places that are not usually cleaned, like the trigger mechanism. The easy removal of the trigger group aids in and encourages cleaning.
A 0.375-inch-diameter hinge pin locks the barrel into the frame. This removable pin fits through the frame with holes on each side. It slides through a corresponding hole in the barrel lug and is prevented from sliding out of place by the fore-end. The rear of the locking lug under the barrel has an angled flat that, when closed, mates with a radius on the pivoting locking lug on the frame. This system ensures a tight fit, as the locking mechanism simply rolls on the radius until it holds the barrel lug tight. The more pressure applied to the locking lug, the tighter it holds. There is a button on the top of the frame’s top tang, behind the hammer, that opens the gun. Pushing it down actuates a linkage system that pulls back on the pivoting locking lug and releases the barrel so it is free to open....