November 01, 2013
Gunfight Friday: Austin & Halleck 420 vs Knight LK-93
By Phil Bourjaily
Today’s fight is between a pair of inline muzzleloaders: the original modern inline, the Knight Rifle, and probably the best-looking inline ever made, the Austin & Halleck 420. Tony Knight, who died recently, took an old, obscure muzzleloading concept—inline ignition—and revolutionized black powder-hunting. Side-hammer purists disliked Knight’s rifles but for the rest of us, who only wanted a trouble-free rifle that would extend our hunting seasons, the inline was the answer. It always went off; its removable breech plug made it easy to clean; and with saboted bullets, it extended the range of a muzzleloader out past the distance where round balls fear to tread.
Tim Platt’s rifle is the LK-93, a budget version of the original MK-85. It was a bargain, but it also shot very accurately. Steven Horney’s 420 is a very nice example of what Austin & Halleck could produce before it closed its doors in 2006. A&H made beautiful, bolt-action inline rifles that also happened to shoot extremely well. Here they are:
Steven Horney’s Austin & Halleck 420
This isn't a side-hammer muzzleloader, but you might find it interesting for the Gun Nuts competition anyway. The Austin & Halleck 420 is probably the nicest looking muzzleloader ever made. I loved the maple stock, the fleur-de-lis checkering, and the bolt-action feel of the rifle. That fact that it's quite accurate doesn't hurt either! I have a conversion unit to change it to a 209-primer system, but I find it functions well enough with caps and 777—and no crud ring with that combo. [Ed. Note: The “crud ring” refers to a ring of fouling near the breech that occurs when a 209 primer pushes pelletized powder down the bore a short distance before it ignites—like a bathtub ring, but with powder fouling.]
Tim Platt’s Knight LK-93
This is an old LK-93 Knight inline with a Swift 3-9X40 scope and Weaver mounts. I still use Pyrodex RS, not the pellets, and Hornady XTP .44 caliber bullets in a Hornady sabot. I have killed more deer with this gun than any other—at least 20. I have never oiled the bore or soaped it up. It has lived on bore butter for many, many years.
There’s your matchup. As Horney pointed out, his rifle is not the side-hammer I requested to put up against Platt’s inline. If someone sends me a picture of traditionally styled muzzeloading deer rifle, I’ll put it up against Platt’s inline in a future fight just to get a good traditional vs. inline argument started. In the meantime, vote for your favorite, comment, and send your pictures to email@example.com.