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Knight Rifles Now Made in Alabama
By DAVID RAINER
Most Alabama hunters who participate in the state’s blackpowder deer season are familiar with Knight Rifles, an innovator in the in-line muzzleloading world.
However, it’s probably a pretty good bet that very few of those aforementioned hunters know that Knight Rifles are now manufactured right here in Alabama.
Knight, which was born in Iowa under founder Tony Knight, has moved its manufacturing operations to Decatur.
“All Knight Rifles firearms are made in Decatur, Alabama, including the new KP1 with interchangeable barrels – centerfire, rimfire, shotgun and muzzleloader,” said Branch Meanley, Knight’s private consultant for product development. “Knight is a Pradco Hunting Group company, along with Summit Tree Stands, Carry Lite decoys, Knight and Hale calls, Code Blue scents and Moultrie Feeders. A lot of the engineering and product development is in the building adjacent to the Summit Tree Stands plant in Decatur. Knight Rifles manufacturing division is in the adjacent building.”
Meanley, a machinist by trade, has a long history in the firearms business, starting the renowned Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Company in 1976. Meanley operated the barrel company until 2001, when he handed it over to his production manager, who continues to run it today. Green Mountain is also a Pradco Hunting Group company.
“We’ve always had a close relationship since the early 90s, where Green Mountain manufactured all their barrels,” Meanley said. “So it was easy to become a part of the Knight Rifles team.”
Meanley said the ultimate determination of a firearm’s worth is in the barrel.
“A quality barrel starts with the correct material, whether it be stainless steel or 4140 or carbon steel alloy,” he said. “It has to be properly stress relieved. The bars have to be straight. The material has to be quenched and tempered. It’s usually double stress relieved. When the rifle barrel is finished internally, for example, when it’s drilled and reamed from a solid, it is stress relieved again. It’s stress relieved once it’s turned. And if any more machining is done on the outside, it is stress relieved once more. So it’s not uncommon for the raw material to be stress relieved twice before you receive it and then three additional stress-relieving processes during the manufacture.”
Meanley explained that stress relieving is a thermal treatment that is usually around 1,050 degrees (Fahrenheit), plus or minus 25 degrees, which normalizes the cell structure of the material after it has been altered or stressed during the manufacturing process.
Although the barrels are made at Green Mountain in Vermont, there is more than just assembly in Decatur, there’s also manufacturing.
“The receiver of the KP1 and the trigger group are machined from investment castings,” Meanley said. “They’re totally machined in Decatur. The internal parts are machined, either in that building or at local job shops, either done from YDEM components or other precision castings and fully machined. The quality control process checks these receivers for critical dimensions 100 percent. So each receiver is checked with a CMM machine to establish interchangeability between all the barrels and all the receivers.
“If certain tolerances are not maintained, you will not have full interchangeability between the different calibers of barrels and the receivers. So during the manufacturing process, there are many quality checks that go on there. For example, every barrel is proof fired with a proof round in a remote-fired proof assembly. Once proofed, the barrel is magnafluxed to check for any structural cracks or any problems that would develop in proofing. It is then finished. Once the barrel and receiver are finished, they are fired together with two service rounds. So each firearm is proofed and function fired to make sure everything is working properly.”
For years, Knight was known as the pioneer in in-line muzzleloading rifles and had stayed with its muzzleloading line. The KP1 is the next step into a modern firearm or cartridge firearm.
“We wanted something that was user friendly and versatile,” Meanley said. “The KP1 was the result of that, having many interchangeable rifle barrels, a muzzleloader barrel, as well as 12- and 20-gauge slug barrels and a 12-gauge muzzleloading shotgun barrel and a 12-gauge 3 ½-inch shotgun barrel with interchangeable chokes, threaded for the Remington-style chokes. We do provide a turkey choke with the barrel, but they will accept any Remington-style choke.”
Rifle calibers include: .17 HMR, .22 LR, .223, .243, .204 Ruger, 22-250, .308, 30-06, .270 Winchester, 300 Winchester Magnum, .45-70, 444 Marlin, .44 magnum and .50 caliber muzzleloader.
“We’ve got anything from big game to varmints, all the way through to blackpowder and shotgun,” Meanley said. “The .45-70 was developed to target the Mississippi muzzleloader season (which allows certain legacy cartridges in addition to blackpowder). And, we understand Louisiana is considering a similar regulation that would allow for the use of .45-70 and 444 Marlin during muzzleloader season.”
Meanley said the accuracy of the firearms is usually determined by the caliber being shot.
“We like to have everything at under two inches (at 100 yards) and many of these barrels will shoot minute- of-angle (MOA), depending on the cartridge that you’re using, some cartridges being inherently more accurate,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of testing with the .45-70 with Hornady ammunition and it is not uncommon to get minute-of-angle or sub minute-of-angle with that rifle. The trigger comes from the factory at between 2 ½ and 4 pounds of pull. It is very clean. It has some initial take-up. Other than that, it breaks very cleanly with no creep. It is fixed at the factory and not adjustable. It is a very good trigger.
“What sets the KP1 apart from the other break-open, single-shot fixed barrel or interchangeable barrel guns is its unique styling and balance – the way it handles. It has a removable trigger module, which allows you to remove the whole trigger mechanism out of the bottom of the gun. If you’re shooting a lot of blackpowder, it makes it very simple to clean. The fore-end removes similar to single-barrel shotguns with a clip on the bottom of the forearm. It comes off the lug. It is fully floated off the barrel lug, so it does not contact the barrel. The main pivot pin is easily removed by removing the extractor from the barrel and pushing the main pivot pin out. So the whole gun is capable of changing from one caliber to another in less than a minute without any tools.”
Meanley had hoped to try the KP1’s shotgun barrel on a Choctaw County wild turkey last week, but the wily bird had a few tricks for the hunter.
“I had the gun pointed in one direction,” he recalled. “The bird circled me just out of sight below a terrace and came up behind me. There was no way to get the gun around. Another lesson learned, but it sure was exciting.”
PHOTOS: Top - Branch Meanley of Knight RIfles patterns a new KP1 gun with a shotgun barrel to prepare for an Alabama turkey hunt.
Bottom - Branch Meanley of Knight Rifles checks a turkey target for pattern consistency and density after firing the new KP1 firearm, which accepts a variety of centerfire, rimfire and shotgun barrels.