Very Long: Palmetto Arms Ridge Runner 54 Cal Inline Muzzleloader

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by earlthegoat2, Feb 20, 2022.

  1. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    SE GA
    This is a report on a particular ML. It was purchased New Old Stock but had not been imported or on the market for quite some time. These are my thoughts, solutions, and learning experiences relating to this particular rifle and a little bit of inline muzzle loading in general. Basically it was such an interesting ride I decided to reflect upon it and write about it.

    This all started when I wanted to participate in the GA “primitive” firearms season earlier this year. I decided I wanted a low cost of entry inline muzzleloader. I had a CVA Staghorn in the past but that gun got dropped from a tree stand and landed on the muzzle, cracking it. I had good luck with the no frills Staghorn and had confidence that another, low price point, muzzleloader would do well for me.

    I came upon this Palmetto Arms Ridge Runner 54 cal muzzleloader on GunBroker for $99.00 I did some research and found that these were Italian made and a close clone of the Knight MK-85. A close clone of the Knight MK-85, the Knight Wolverine was currently being made in Italy at that time as well. It is suspected they were made by the same manufacturer. I can only imagine the Wolverine was better quality though. I knew the MK-85 was a well regarded, if out dated design, inline muzzleloader. The MK-85 was also the forerunner to the LK-93 and the Knight inline shotgun, the TK2000. I made purchase of the rifle. This was sometime in late spring 2021.

    Upon initial inspection I noted there was finish loss on the barrel just in front of the receiver and the rear sight was loose and would not tighten up in any way. The screw that secured to the barrel was bottomed out in its hole. A few strokes with a file and hitting it with a chamfer tool fixed the issue but the sight still moved a bit which I determined was inherent in its design. It has a hinge and the hinge is too sloppy. I have run into this same problem with a cheap rear sight Remington would put on their 597 rifles. This particular rear sight is a clone of the rear sights T/C often used on their flintlock and percussion MLs, as well as the Black Diamond. T/Cs sights have a tighter hinge though.

    This particular ML came already equipped with the 209 ignition adapter nipple. This was a benefit to me as that is the only ignition type I had used in a ML at that time and I had a healthy supply of 209 primers. The rifle, however, did not come with breech plug tools. I fabricated some with appropriate steel rod and tubing and this was not a huge deal as I have the tools and skills to do this. I made them pretty well but that did not stop the 209 primer adapter from breaking while I loosened it after having snugged it up the first time. It just broke. It was not tight and I had just snugged it so it was not corroded.

    So I ordered a T/C 209 conversion nipple that was made for the Black Diamond rifle. I chose this one because it was available and closely resembled the one the Ridge Runner came with. I also ordered a T/C musket cap nipple while I was at it. That turned out to be back ordered for a few months but we will get back to that later. Also, I ordered the CVA universal breech plug and nipple wrench tool and a CVA Staghorn western breech plug. Folks in the northwest and a few other western states will know that “western” in this instance means a breech plug that will take a musket cap or No 11 cap. 209 ignitions are not legal in some areas of the country and it is predominantly in the west. I read that these would work for the Knight MK/LK/TK/Wolverine series and they do. My homemade contraptions were working but for a few bucks I wanted to try out the commercial version. The CVA breech plug was just something I wanted as insurance. It looked similar to the Palmetto Arms plug so for a few bucks I rolled the dice.


    I had to modify the T/C 209 adapter to fit into the Ridge Runner breech plug. I just turned it down on a lathe so it would fit into the recess on the breech plug. I tested it with the striker and it worked perfectly.

    Another thing to note is the cap on the back of the receiver. It is ultimately retained with a set screw which engages the cap from the side. It is threaded into the side of the receiver all the way to the rear. This set screw stripped its threads immediately upon my initial disassembly of the rifle. Once again, not a huge deal for me as I have the skills and tools to repair this. The original screw was metric and slotted but I replaced it with the net size larger SAE and used a hex drive set screw from Home Depot.


    I also noticed upon initial disassembly that the striker did not want to come out of the receiver. My CVA Staghorn had this problem as well and I believe it is very typical to have to pull the trigger or remove the trigger group to get the striker out smoothly. Well, neither of these things worked. I found a small burr on the opening where the sear comes through the receiver. Either the trigger was slightly too far back or the opening was not big enough but the sear had peened the rear of the opening so a burr formed upwards and into the receiver where the striker travels. This was causing binding. I had to take a few swipes with half round needle file to freshen it up and then a few more strokes on the back of the sear opening to attempt to prevent the same thing from happening again.

    I read on the Modern Muzzleloading Forum that the Knight Wolverine scope bases would work for this rifle so I bought some and they work perfectly. As an aside, there is speculation that many of the Knight Wolverine parts would interchange with the Ridge Runner and some of those were verified on the Modern Muzzleloading Forum in the link below. Since this was turning out to be a most cheaply made rifle I decided on an equally cheap scope. A Bushnell Banner 3-9x40 which I bought for $79. Bases and rings brought the total scope investment up to $100. The same as the rifle cost.


    I chose 2 different bullets to test. The first was the Powerbelt 348 gr full bore 54 cal bullet. Even though I had bad luck with these grouping in the past I figured I would give them a try and attempt to take advantage of the full .54 inches of this bore. The other bullet I chose was the .500 diameter 300 gr Hornady FTX in an MMP purple 54/50 sabot. The .500 Hornady FTXs were available during a time that nearly all reloading components were unavailable so that is a big reason why I chose them. Luckily 54 cal muzzleloading components were more available than 50 cal to make this testing simpler.

    Also at the time, I could only get Pyrodex RS loose powder even though I would have preferred T7 loose powder. Regardless, I don’t think the bullets or the powder were any critical factor in the load testing at the range.

    The first range test showed the sabots grouping slightly better than the Powerbelts. It was about a 2” group at 50 yds. By the time I had tested both bullets however, I was having some odd problems. I spit swab between shots at the range to make loading easier and increase time between cleanings. This was not the problem though. The problem was with the primer. I was getting hit with debris in the face upon ignition and the bottom of my scope, which was exposed to the breech area was getting severely fouled. This was abnormal to my experience with my CVA Staghorn. Eventually the 209 primers would not want to be removed and they sometimes would end up in multiple pieces after firing.

    This is what I learned was called “blowby” and is quite common in rifles like the MK-85 or T/C Black Diamond when they have a 209 adapter nipple. Knight mitigated this problem in the MK-85 with a new breech plug and their proprietary Red Plastic Jacket 209 priming system. T/C and in my instance, Palmetto Arms, did no such thing. They just supplied a 209 adapter and said good luck. So I learned something new and managed not to lose an eye in the process (safety glasses). Luckily, in the meantime, my musket cap had finally arrived.

    The Palmetto Arms breech plug had a severe recess into which the nipple would have to sit. It was so deep that the musket cap would not be able to be engaged with the nipple wrench long enough to snug it up into the plug. So, I tried the CVA breech plug I had bought and it did not work. It threaded too far into the breech and would not be able to be hit by the striker if used. So I modified the Palmetto Arms plug. I took about an 1/8” off of it so the nipple wrench could be used properly.

    It has been presumed that a Knight MK/LK/TK/ Wolverine western breech plug would work. I believe it would have based on my experience then and I am 99% certain it will based on my experience now. There are two different thread pitches you need to watch out for though and make sure you get the right one. Even still though, I neglected to buy one for two reasons. One was price. They were not available from the usual retailers like Midway, Grafs, and Natchez. It was available from Knight though for a reasonable price of about $13. But then they wanted $15 for shipping. I could have got it from Grafs for about $10 and bundled it into my existing shipping charges of which it may have been comped (free shipping) from Grafs in that instance. The other reason was the Knight plug had a metric thread pitch that needed to be modified to the ¼-28. I really didn’t want to buy a brand new plug and have to modify it when I already had modified the Palmetto one to fit the T/C nipples. The T/C nipples are already threaded ¼-28. However, there was the option to buy the Knight nipples as well. I just declined on that as I already had what I needed.


    In the process of cleaning the rifle after the initial range outing I found the trigger wanted to malfunction intermittently. It would not grab the striker in the rearward (cocked) position all of the time. I tried cleaning the trigger group with compressed air and brake cleaner. Tried lubing it. It did not want to work. In the process of trying to manipulate the trigger group into working better I ended up permanently rendering it unusable. Thinking I was pooched on this rifle, I reverted back to its similarities with the Knight MKs. Maybe an MK-85 trigger group would work. Back in the day Timney made the triggers for them and I had heard whispers of them being out there still. In the link below these possibilities are also discussed.

    Well, I gave up on the project for a bit. Maybe a month. I found myself perusing the Modern Muzzleloading Forum’s classified section. I did a search on Knight MK-85s as I was considering maybe buying a higher quality example of my Palmetto Arms Ridge Runner. The search results came up and right on the top was an ad showing MK-85 triggers for sale. Bingo. Turns out there is a fella on the site who had a small stockpile of them somehow. Well I got one from him and it dropped right in and worked perfectly.

    After those modifications were done, I headed back to the range but only with the .500 Hornady 300 gr FTX bullets and sabots for further group testing. I settled on 100 gr of Pyrodex RS ands the sabots grouped about 3” at 100 yds. Very satisfactory.

    I am not trying to disparage this retailer in the least but I bought it from The Gunworks in Oregon. I bring this up because the owner of The Gunworks passed away within a week of my purchase. I made payment and shipping arrangements for the rifle over the phone with his widow. This made me give them a lot of leeway in how this rifle turned out and the problems I had with it. I was not going to contact them for little things like a 209 conversion nipple, a slightly shaky rear sight, or a bit of finish loss. Especially, not when, ultimately, I did not have a use for either of them. I suspect The Gunworks is either out of business or under new ownership since the proprietor passed.

    All in all this was a marvelous learning experience for me. With the intimate knowledge I now have with this rifle, I am quite certain that if I got a larger lathe, I could build a rifle similar to this one from base parts. I should probably try the rifle out with a standard No. 11 ignition as well but I am happy with the musket cap. I also need to try T7 since the Pyrodex RS is kind of a pain to clean up.


    My experience with this rifle caused me to buy another muzzleloader in the midst of it all. This one was a 58 cal percussion Hawken rifle. I bought this rifle because I always wanted a percussion rifle and I was worried that I would not be able to get the Ridge Runner going again. Now I would like a flintlock rifle as well as a muzzleloading shotgun of some flavor. I have become much more involved in muzzleloading as a result. I believe there is plenty of space for users of inline MLs and more traditional MLs to coexist.

    Some background reading on these inline muzzleloaders

    Palmetto inline | Modern Muzzleloader Muzzleloading Forum

    Attached Files:

    robhof likes this.
  2. robhof

    robhof Member

    Oct 18, 2009
    Bowling Green Ky.
    Wow, great experience, I was surprised by my wife many yrs ago with a 54 Investarms kit for Christmas, I wanted a 50 cal barrel for it and found one on Ebay, but it was a 1" and the 54 was 15/16" so I found a 1" stock on Ebay,.. long story short, I now have a flinter T/C and 2 percussion with both 50 and 54 barrels. The T/c barrels, and locks are interchangeable with the Investarms. All pieced together from Ebay parts, except the original kit gun.
    earlthegoat2 likes this.
  3. armoredman

    armoredman Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    proud to be in AZ
    Holy cow...I lack any of your tools and experience and would have tossed the thing in the garbage. Glad you were able to get it to work, but what a pain for a $99 rifle.
    earlthegoat2 likes this.
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