A railroad man from the backwoods of northern Missouri, Tony Knight had a great job, according to family and friends. After 17 years working on the railroad all the live long day, Tony wanted something different. He opened a small archery and gun shop in the garage of his house on the family farm. Not long after, Tony and some of his farmer friends hunted the Colorado elk season and found that the muzzleloaders they used were less than reliable. Shortly thereafter, Tony went back to his garage/workshop/gun shop and started building a “new” muzzleloader. Tony started toying with a few actions, including the Mauser 98 bolt-action system. Employing his machining experience, Tony perfected, developed and patented the legendary in-line muzzleloading MK85.
Named for his daughter, Michelle, the first MK85s were made in Tony’s garage, but he eventually opened a manufacturing facility in Lancaster, Missouri, that soon moved to nearby Centerville, Iowa. Business boomed, and the Knight Modern Muzzleloader revolutionized that part of the firearms business. It wasn’t very many years later that I first met this jovial man with a drive to not only achieve manufacturing excellence but change muzzleloader hunting laws one state at a time.
I first met Tony Knight at an industry trade show, and we quickly struck up a friendship. It was funny that even though his business centered on hunting rifles for furry big game, our common bond was a love for spring turkey hunting.Shortly thereafter, Tony helped me acquire an Iowa spring gobbler tag. A few weeks later, we began chasing turkeys on his farms in Iowa and Missouri. Tony’s camps, spring and fall, were a special affair. All season long, a continuous stream of truly famous hunters joined in the fun. I was relatively a kid at the time, and I was just glad to be part of the festivities.
I recall with fondness the spring hunts that Tony and I shared together for “The Ostrich,” a huge gobbler that refused to come to a call. On our first encounter, Tony and I sat through a May thunderstorm and waited for this huge gobbler and a pair of subordinate toms. This massive bird called Tony’s Iowa farm home, and was so fat that he had to climb a hill and fly down onto his roost limb. If the behemoth bird didn’t weigh 35 pounds, I’ll eat my hat. After chasing the bird in vain for four seasons, I finally relented and killed one of the smaller gobblers that kept The Ostrich company. The bird I killed was nearly a foot shorter than the legendary bird, and still tipped the scales at more than 27 pounds.