By Frank Iannamico
During August of 2011, an accident occurred on Ritchey Lane, the entrance to the Knob Creek shooting range. A tractor trailer was hauling a load of logs over the bridge and caused it to collapse under the weight. Fortunately no one was seriously injured but the wooden bridge, the primary entrance to the range, was destroyed beyond repair and the fall machine gun shoot was only two months away. A temporary access route to the range was quickly constructed with a couple of culverts and lots of gravel in time for the Fall 2011 machine gun shoot to take place as scheduled. Plans were made to construct a permanent bridge; however construction efforts were hampered due to weather conditions as fall turned into winter. During December a record rainfall in the area of over 65 inches was recorded. The wet weather continued into January and was deemed reason enough to cancel the spring shoot scheduled for April. Although the temporary roadway was still in place, the primary reason for the cancellation was the possibility of the creek that flows across the entrance to the range flooding and washing away the access route. The canceling of the Knob Creek Spring shoot was devastating news for many, who after a long cold winter were looking forward to their first shoot and show of the year. Unfortunately attendees would have to wait another six months.
Bridge construction continued at a slow pace. As the summer of 2012 was ending the bridge was still not completed, causing fear that the fall shoot may be canceled as well. But after a mild, dry weather forecast for the area the decision was made to proceed with the shoot as planned.
The Fall 2012 Event
Finally, the weekend of the shoot in October arrived. There was a light rainfall on Thursday; just enough to keep the infamous Knob Creek dust to a minimum and not enough to create a lot of mud. By Friday morning the weather was beginning to look much better, sunny and mild, and near perfect for the rest of the weekend. By Thursday afternoon the vendors in the show area were nearly finished setting up their tables and the Knob Creek crew had the first targets on the range ready. Representatives from the NFA Branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with the National Firearms Act Trade and Collector’s Association (NFATCA), were on hand to have their scheduled meeting in order to update attending dealers on legal issues and current events. Two subjects of particular interest were the proposed elimination of the law enforcement (CLEO) signature requirement on Form 4s and the Veteran’s Heritage Act, both were reported as “still pending.”
Part of the Knob Creek experience is the smell, sights and sounds encountered as you walk up the entrance road. There is something for everyone at this event with the huge gun show in the pole barn as well as the dealers set up around the main building. As always, the vendors at the gun show had their tables filled with firearms, parts and accessories and the vendors reported that sales were brisk. By Sunday afternoon most of the ammunition offered for sale was gone. Other activities included the subgun and rifle matches and the machine gun rentals on the lower range.
As always, the main range was lined with machine guns of every description, including assault rifles, submachine guns, miniguns and cannon. The frustration from the long hiatus caused by the cancellation of the April shoot was evident by the large volume of fire being put downrange by the shooters. Knob Creek range personal kept the shooters supplied with numerous explosive rigged targets. A cadre of range officers was on hand to keep everyone safe. On Saturday night the sight and sound of machine guns firing tracer, and incendiary rounds at exploding targets was quite a thrilling experience.
Up near the camp ground area, the helicopter crew was back offering attendees a chance to take a flight in their “Huey” helicopter. The official name of the Bell UH-1H helicopter is the Iroquois, but it is better known by its nickname, “Huey” derived from its model designation UH-1 (Utility Helicopter). The sight of the Huey and the unique sound made by the aircraft’s turbine-powered twin-bladed main rotor made it an indelible icon of the Vietnam War.
Although there is a long waiting list to get a spot on the main firing line, there are a number of opportunities for an individual to participate in the activities. The Knob Creek competitions are becoming very popular with shooters and there are different events to accommodate just about any shooter’s interest or firearm. To participate, shooters must sign up well in advance of the event. For more information and entry forms visit the Knob Creek Range website. Eye and ear protection is mandatory to compete.
One of the most popular events is the National Submachine Gun Competition. To even the playing field for open bolt and closed bolt weapons there are several categories.
- Open Bolt Iron Sights: Guns that fire from an open or non-locking type of bolt equipped with iron sights. No type of optical or electronic aid is allowed. First place was taken by Richard Lage using an M11/Nine - Lage MAX 31. Second place was taken by J.L Holden with a Thompson submachine gun.
- Closed Bolt Iron Sights: These are guns that fire from a closed or locking type of bolt fitted with iron sights. No type of optical or electronic aid is allowed. First place winner was Tom Carpenter fielding an MP5. Coming in second was Jeremy Parker also using an MP5.
- Open Bolt Optic Sights: Guns that fire from an open or non-locking type of bolt equipped with a sighting device that enhances the view of the target by using one or more lenses or some type of electronic sight or device. Richard Lage took first place using a M11/Nine - Lage MAX 31; Chris Hipes took second place also using a M11/Nine - MAX 31.
- Closed Bolt Optic Sights: Guns that fire from a closed or locking type of bolt equipped with a sighting device that enhances the view of the target by using one or more lenses or some type of electronic sight or device. First place honors went to J.L. Holden using an HK MP5. Second place was taken by Chris Hipes with a M11/Nine - Lage MAX 31.
- Ladies Division: Women in the Ladies Division may enter and run in each match class, with their single best run ranked for score in this division. Women may choose to either compete in the General Division or the Ladies Division with all of their runs being recorded in the division of their choice. Fastest time was achieved by Joyce Carrere using a Swedish-K, open-bolt optic sight class. Second place winner was Robin Bryant with an MP5 closed bolt, iron sights class.
The crew in charge of the subgun competition had some unique targets set up to challenge the shooters. The speed and skill displayed by many of the shooters competing in the event was impressive, no doubt honed by dedication to the sport and hours of practice. Years ago when the submachine gun competitions were in there infancy, shooters using a Thompson submachine gun usually finished in the top ten. Later shooters using MP5 submachine guns were taking home the honors. Today an unlikely weapon rules the competition, the once cheap, humble SWD M11/Nine (upgraded for competition).
The top overall shooter was Richard Lage with a score of 125.76 using (what else) an M11/Nine submachine gun fitted with Mr. Lage’s popular MAX 31 upper receiver.
The Jungle Walk Competition
The Jungle Walk is a pistol caliber submachine gun event. The course is a walking trail laid out in a wooded setting. The shooter has 50 rounds of ammo and is looking for eighteen metal (enemy) targets to engage in full auto fire. Fourteen of the targets are blended into the surrounding foliage. These targets are to be engaged individually and require at least one hit on each one to score. The remaining four targets are positioned close together and are painted orange. The shooter is to spray the four orange targets with one continuous burst and is scored for area fire. The top shooter is determined by time and the number of targets successfully engaged. For those without a weapon, a rental Uzi is available. Many participants sign up just for the chance to fire the Uzi submachine gun and are not particularly interested in being competitive.
Friday’s top Jungle Walk shooters were John Abbott using an Uzi, and Jeremy Parker with a Sterling submachine gun. Saturday’s winners were Joe White fielding an M11 and George Steedly with a 9mm M16.
The Assault Rifle Match
This course is fired from several shooting positions; off hand standing, sitting and prone, at ranges of 50 to 125 yards. Targets are steel and paper. Competitors participating in the Assault Rifle competition almost exclusively field AR-15 rifles and their many variants. However, the top score was achieved by Mike Markovcy using a semiautomatic version of the U.S. M14, the M1A rifle.
Old Military Bolt Action Rifle Competition
Like the Assault Rifle competition, this event is fired from several shooting positions at steel and paper targets positioned at ranges of 50 to 125 yards. Although there were a number of different weapons fielded in the competition, the U.S. 1903A3 rifles were quite popular. Top score was recorded by Jeremy Parker firing a U.S. 1903A3.
Practical Pistol Match
The pistol match was won by Jason Edwards using a 1911 STI competition pistol.
The shotgun competition was won by Jeremy Parker using a 12 gauge Benelli M2.
Although there are enough sights and sounds at the Knob Creek machinegun shoot to satisfy any firearms enthusiast, for many it’s a chance to see old friends, make a few new ones and talk about common interests.
The Knob Creek shoot and show is a semiannual event held in April and October. If you’re interested in attending there are more details on their website at: www.knobcreekrange.com/ as well as a list of area motels. Be advised that motel reservations need to be made well in advance of the event. The Knob Creek spring shoot is scheduled for April 12, 13 and 14th, 2013. Eye and ear protection is recommended.
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