Monday, May 28, 2012

Do You Think Any Company Will Breath New Life Into The .54 Caliber In-Line Rifles?

It's been about 10 years now since Knight Rifles introduced their "new" .52 caliber in-line rifle models. While the company offers several different bullet designs and weights for the bore size, the rifles have actually been truly built around one of those bullets - the big all-copper 375-grain .475" diameter "Red Hot" spitzer hollow point. From the get go, the goal was to make the .52 caliber DISC Extreme the most powerful convenional in-line rifle on the market - to make it the elk hunter's dream muzzleloader.

With that bullet, the .52 is indeed the "Powerhouse of Muzzleloading" today. But, did it really take the introduction of a modern .52 caliber rifle to accomplish that? Many muzzleloading hunters are now wishing the other in-line rifle makers would revamp the old .54 caliber in-line rifles...and give it a facelift to give Knight's .52 a run for the money.

So...what would it take?

First of all, to shoot long all-copper bullets like the Knight 375-grain "Red Hot" bullet, which is produced by Barnes Bullets, it would very likely first entail breaking from the old turn-in-28 inch rifling twist that the vast majorioty of early .54 in-lines featured. Knight rifles found that the older twist, which was standard for both .50 and .54 caliber models, was not snappy enough to stabilize the 1.2" long .475" diameter bullet. So, for the .52 caliber models, the company went with a faster turn-in-26 inches. (I actually have one prototype .52 turn-in-24 inches twist barrel and receiver that shoots the long 375-grain bullet better than the turn-in-26 inches barrel/receiver that came on the rifle.)

And to shoot the .475" diameter bullets would also mean tooling up for an appropriate .54x.475 sabot, and while at it, maybe even a .54x.458 bullet for bullets like the 325 grain Hornady .458 FTX and the Barnes .458 300-grain SOCOM bullet. Another bullet with a lot of promise for a revamped ".54 Express" would be the Barnes 400-grain .458 "Original" spitzer. This bullet has a .389 b.c. - meaning once it gets rolling along it isn't stopping for quite a while. Determinng if the turn-in-26 or 24 rifling twist performed best with the widest range of bullets should be a primary concern. One advantage of the .54 over the .52 is that saboted .50 caliber bullets can be shot out of the .54 - possibly making the old "magnum" of in-line muzzleloading a bit more versatile.

What plagued the .54 caliber 20 years ago was that we really did not have the muzzleloader powders available to produce the speed needed to force heavy petaled .54x.45 sabots to open up, form an air-foil, and pull away from the bullet fast enough to keep from affecting bullet flight - a.k.a. accuracy. Today we do, and with 120- and 130-grain charges of Blackhorn 209 behind big bullets like the 375-grain "Red Hot" bullet just could give the old .54 a new lease on life. Think about the potential knock-down power of of getting a big 400-grain spitzer like the .458 Barnes "Original" out of the muzzle at around 1,900 f.p.s. That's 3,200 foot pounds of muzzle energy. And with that .389 b.c., the bullet would still be flying at around 1,550 f.p.s. at 200 yards, plowing home with 2,132 f.p.e. at that distance. Out at 300 yards, the big bullet would retain close to 1,400 f.p.s. - along with 1,740 f.p.e.!!!

What an elk load! Move over Knight may have some strong compeition coming your way. - Toby Bridges

For more on the revamping of the .54, go to -

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