Tony Knight, the founder of Knight Rifles muzzleloaders and a passionate advocate for muzzleloader hunting and shooting sports, died Monday in Iowa.
Knight was 67. He was born Dec. 21, 1945, in Kirksville, Mo. Knight was a veteran of the United States Army and served during the Vietnam War.
Knight’s legacy includes a deep passion for muzzleloading and hunting, and encouragement of hunters young and old around the world. Knight was a gunsmith in Missouri when, in 1985, he founded Knight Rifles and created the modern muzzleloader with the MK-85. The company, which was moved to and headquartered in Centerville, Iowa, was one of the hunting and firearms industry’s great success stories as hunters discovered improved accuracy and more options for ammunition and powder, helping spawn other innovations still being improved upon today.
Knight Rifles was purchased by Pradco Outdoor Brands and manufactured for years under the POB umbrella. But in 2009, the company announced it was ceasing manufacturing due to economic problems. The news was shocking but, given the economic climate, not entirely surprising given the competition from other companies and an overall decline in the hunting industry at the time. However, in 2010, Knight Rifles was purchased by Plastic Industries, Inc., based in Athens, Tenn., and continues to manufacture and sell Knight Rifles.
“Tony had a tenacious drive to make the world of muzzleloading better for hunters,” said Mike Mattly, public relations director for Pradco Outdoor Brands-Hunting. “He started by making guns that were accurate, safe and reliable, then focused on improving muzzleloading hunting seasons in every state. If you have ever hunted with an inline muzzleloader of any kind, you have Tony Knight to thank.”
Knight passionately lobbied openly and behind the scenes in numerous states for inclusion of his “inline rifle” for hunting seasons and for special muzzleloader-only seasons. He visited conservation board meetings, talked with state wildlife officials and legislators, and was available to writers and hunters for advice on muzzleloading information.
Similar to when compound bows began ushering in a new era in the hunting industry in the 1960s and 1970s, Knight’s modern muzzleloader and its components did the same. From the days of loose powder, caplocks and flintlocks to his easy-loading rifles, improved bullets and pellet powder charges, hunters found an easier way to enjoy “smoke poles” when pursuing big game. State agencies began adding in-line rifles to hunting seasons and today they’re just as much a part of hunting as camouflage and campfire tales.
Knight offered some insight to his history in this interview.
Knight is survived by his wife; Rose Knight of Plano, two children: Bill (Cyndee) Knight of Centerville, Michelle (Patrick) Robinson of Pella, four grandchildren, who were his greatest joy: Anthony, Grace and Gavin Knight of Centerville, Jack Robinson of Pella, brother; John (Patty) Knight of East Peoria, Illinois, sister; Bea (Jim) Hamilton of Kirksville, Missouri and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members.
We at Deer & Deer Hunting extend our sympathies to the Knight family, and offer our thanks and appreciation to Knight for his contributions to hunting.
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— Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor