Knob Creek Range - Spring 2001: The Thunder South of Louisville
By Rick Cartledge
Pole Barn Adventures
I first went into the Range House to pick up six T-shirts for the Emma Gees in Georgia. Outside I ran into Jim Ballou, whose new book ‘The BAR’ has flown off the shelves. Despite a broken leg, Jim came to Knob Creek to autograph copies of his landmark book on the Browning Automatic Rifle. To say that Jim stayed busy does not describe it. Those who can not come to KCR will find Jim’s monumental work available from Long Mountain Outfitters.
Just inside the pole barn I ran into Mike Westinhouse. Mike proved once again that, no matter how much you have seen, you have not seen it all. Mike reached into his back pocket and produced an awesome shell. This complete round came from a 90 anti-aircraft gun produced right at the end of World War II. One thinks of a 90 as a cannon round. This round more resembles a 50 caliber on steroids. Rounds like this were fired from a unique American gun. For the scholars of anti-aircraft guns, they will find this rare round and even rarer guns referenced in Chinn’s.
After viewing rare munitions, I set out in search of accessories. The Emma Gees in Georgia sent an interesting list. Both the quantity and the quality at this show stood as nothing short of spectacular. I filled the first two orders at MG34.com./Allegheny Arms of Culver City, PA. Greg Souchik displays a number of fine items, both in quantity and quality. One friend wanted post war magazines for the PPSh 41. His three digit gun dates from 1948. I filled his order with six post war magazines and two post war carry pouches. All of them looked NOS.
On the way to the Small Arms Review table, I stopped off at the C & S Metall Werkes tables to see Milton Barnes. I waited as Milton sold a pair of MP-5 drums to two satisfied customers. We shook hands and Milton said he had a surprise coming Sunday about four o’clock. Milton advised this writer to be in attendance on the lower part of the main line at the appointed time. I said that Milton could mark me present and headed for the Small Arms Review tables.
At the SAR tables, Jeff Zimba pointed toward the cover shot for the then upcoming June 2001 issue. Through the crowd around it, I viewed the image of Cuba Gooding Jr. and the twin fifties that graced the cover. This writer, the staff of SAR, and a number of subscribers took a great deal of pride in doing that particular article.
Next I stopped by Dennis Todd’s tables and caught Dennis in a rare moment when he could talk. Dennis proudly showed off the original top drums for the MG - 34 and the newly made attachments. I then picked up a rare magazine for a friend, thanked Dennis, and departed. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Anagnos displayed a huge amount of gear on their tables. From Mr. Anagnos I picked up a book on M-16s from the Rifle M2 to the Carbine M4A1. An M-16 shooter back in Georgia will add this book to his collection.
On the way out of the Pole Barn I found John Ross at the Kent Lomont tables. John had brought copies of his fine book ‘Unintended Consequences’. While autographing books for his many fans, John regaled the assembled throng with a number of amusing stories. A friend in Georgia sent in an order for a copy of John’s book, autographed if possible. Mr. Ross kindly autographed a copy of ‘Unintended Consequences’ to the Georgia Emma Gee.
Just outside the Pole Barn a long time friend came by. He had known of the then upcoming article on ‘Pearl Harbor’. He produced from his pocket a postcard that dated from before World War II. He stated that one might find a great deal of gun history on the picture postcards from the first half of the 20th Century. A couple of weeks before KCR he had found several postcards at an antique show. On one card, an eight man Marine Corps gun crew sights two .50 water-cooled guns on anti-aircraft tripods. The photograph shows the set up of the cooling hoses and even the .50 loading rig in the left rear If one’s wife insists on one’s attendance at an antique show, when one might be more interested in going to a gun show, some R & R and some interesting history for the Emma Gee may be found among the postcards.
This shopping expedition ended about 1:30 on Friday afternoon. Again the quality and quantity of the items rated as nothing short of excellent. The dealers had gone ‘all out’ to supply their customers with fine equipment. Everything that this writer purchased he found in good supply, reasonably priced, and of generally excellent quality. The Emma Gees from Georgia who had sent orders all seemed to be very pleased with the items that came back to them.
Inside the Pole Barn one can find surprising rare examples of otherwise common items. The Vickers tripod shown by Brian Koskey of Mill Creek Armory serves as a case in point. I have viewed a number of British and Turkish tripods and a very rare adjustable height Vickers tripod. Brian stated that he had just finished restoring a very unusual Vickers tripod for Kent Lomont. Brian brought the tripod out to the sunlight in front of the Pole Barn for some serious viewing.
In bright sunlight one could properly view this very rare tripod. The top of the rear leg of the tripod read ‘1915 American’. Beside the nomenclature at the lower left side sat a level that worked as well as the day it was made. The T & E worked differently than any previously observed. The entire upper head turned for elevation. The trajectory came in a similar but smoother manner to the British tripod. Brian had carefully refinished all of the parts. This rare Vickers tripod worked as well as it looked.
I next went to the tables of Long Mountain Outfitters. LMO displayed a large number of guns from the motion picture industry. A beautiful M-60 E-3 with Navy barrel and motion picture history sat on the side table. This one carried a ‘Sold’ tag about 30 minutes after I viewed it. A large number of motion picture AK variants caught everyone’s attention. Among the AK’s one found four Valmets, two side folders and two with AK stocks. I later ran into a friend who has a special appreciation for the Valmets. He immediately headed for the LMO tables. Look for an upcoming article on one of the most famous of LMO’s motion picture Valmet AK variants.
Meanwhile out in the specialty sheds, ammunition could be found in abundance. One found the pricing reasonable on all and a bargain on some. This writer bought three crates of 7.62 x 39 from Tennessee Guns. Knob Creek being Knob Creek, he came home with less than one. I also picked up some 45ACP, 308, and 30-06 from Centerfire Systems. All came at reasonable prices. The venerable 8mm left the ammunition sheds in crate after crate. The ammunition dealers brought quantity and quality. The shooters put a great deal of brass on the ground at the Spring Knob Creek Shoot.
John Ross told this writer to go by the Ohio Ordnance tables and look in the Post 86 rack. John’s suggestion presented an opportunity to view and examine something truly unusual. When I got to Ohio Ordnance, Mike Krotz proudly showed off the KKM-PI-69. Mike unracked this rare AK variant and explained its function. The barrel exited the trunion higher than on a regular AK. No gas tube exited the wooden foregrip. Mike explained the drill on this select fire gun. The rifle fired 22 long rifle from a closed bolt. ‘Karl’ then pulled the magazine. The magazine looked like a regular AK mag whose top necked flat with a 22 mag end exiting in the middle. Then Mike pointed to the button on the side of the magazine. In standard AK size, the magazine held 20 rounds in 22. With a flip of the button, the bottom of the magazine dropped down allowing it to hold 30 rounds of 22 long rifle. These well-crafted magazines began showing up at gun shows more than a year and a half ago. Now we know what they are for.
I dropped by the S&H tables to see Curtis Higgins. S&H displayed a number of suppressed weapons along with some very nice FNC sear conversions. Directly across from S&H stood the tables of John’s Guns. John Tibbetts displayed a number of his fine suppressed weapons. John builds both suppressed pistols and rifles in Palestine, Texas. While examining a fine suppressed .22, a friend dropped by and advised that Mark Mann was unpacking something important. After finishing at the John’s Guns tables, I headed for the LMO tables. At LMO, I turned down the side tables to The Rifleman tables of Mark and David Mann.
David Mann and his son Mark run The Rifleman, a fine gun store in Macon, Georgia. Their well-stocked store carries an inventory of regular and Title 2 weapons. As I came up, they unpacked a truly awesome weapon. There on its Chinese high mount stood a Chinese version of the Russian DSHK 38/46. Mark Mann explained the history of this magnificent machine gun. This gun had seen service in Vietnam. Some .223 rounds had creased the top of the muzzle break. A .308 round had slammed into the right rear D handle. Before or afterward, the gun made its way back to China. After being declared surplus, the heavy weapon made its way to Iraq. There it found a home atop an Iraqi tank. After two days in Desert Storm, the gun again became unemployed. The historic weapon later made its way to America as parts, and had been manufactured pursuant with current law, as part of their Class 2 license research and development for potential future government sales.
‘...Ready on the Firing Line’
I went up to the firing line on a regular basis to put brass on the ground. The shooting proved excellent. The 30 minute breaks between the shooting proved equally intriguing.
I met with Mike Thacker about two weeks before Knob Creek. Mike announced that he had done something interesting with the spare barrel for his Jap 99. Mike had had a talented Georgia gunsmith rechamber the spare Jap 99 barrel to 7.62 x 39. Mike then asked that I contact a gentleman who possessed an original Chinese 7.62 x 39 conversion of the Jap 99. After making that telephone call, I contacted Forbes Mathews. I asked Forbes to bring his calipers to Knob Creek.
Two weeks later on Knob Creek’s main line, Forbes and I met with the gentleman from the Northeast. Forbes examined and measured the rear connecting piece to the Chinese 7.62 x 39 conversion. Two types of short Russian conversions exist. Both conversions use the AK magazine. As you read this, Forbes Mathews and Mike Thacker create an extremely interesting gun. Look for an upcoming article on this intriguing firearm.This conversion makes an extremely accurate distance weapon that produces almost no felt recoil.
I also met with another scholar on the Japanese LMGs, namely Dean Schaub. Dean knows automatic guns well, but is particularly intrigued by the automatic guns of Imperial Japan. Dean and I looked over a Jap 99 made in 1945 and discussed a number of these fine guns. Dean then stated that a summer shoot would occur about three hours drive from his hometown. At that shoot, he would be able to view and photograph several quite rare Japanese automatic guns. Dean was particularly excited that an extremely rare Type 3 in 6.5 mm would be there. Dean vowed to take the photographs. Look for an upcoming article on these fine weapons in a later issue of SAR.
About six slots down I met with Gerald Dorsey early on Saturday evening. From that slot for years, Gerald has fired his fine Argentine version of the 1917 water-cooled. Ramo crafted the gun many years ago from a parts kit fitted with American internals and D handles. Like most Browning guns, the way one makes it quit is to run it out of ammunition. Gerald admits to that happening a couple of times. Though many fine Brownings fire on the Knob Creek Range, the sights on Gerald’s gun make it unique.
A large spider web sight rests in a strap across the water jacket backed by a spike rear sight. This arrangement stands as quite rare. Mounted to the side post at the rear one finds a Zeiss telescopic sight. Gerald explained that Zeiss offered this scope as a commercial option military scope for the 1917 Argentine inter-war water-cooled. One looks down into the scope and sights outward parallel to the barrel. For years, Gerald had the only scope of this type that he knew of. A couple of years ago, another scope surfaced. Gerald bought it for a friend who shoots an identical 1917 water-cooled. Mr. Dorsey’s gun proves that while viewing a very nice weapon one may also turn the pages of history.
Meanwhile down on the far side, Doug Hollberg experienced a stoppage with his 08/15 Maxim. When Manuel Contreras helped Doug run the weapon on Friday, the gun ran fine. On Saturday, after about another 3000 rounds, Doug experienced a case separation. The case split about in half and on an angle. When the line went cold, Doug tore down the gun and a group of Emma Gee’s offered assistance. John Ross quipped, ‘Hit it with a bigger hammer.’ Doug replied, ‘A 15 pound hammer is all that I have.’ Dolf Goldsmith then took a look at it. Dolf employed a ruptured case removal tool but could not budge the split case. Dr. Ed Weitzman took a look and recommended hospitalization. back in Georgia on Monday, and the stubborn 08/15 barrel checked into Forbes Mathews Memorial for a short stay.
A pearl of wisdom goes, ‘If you must pick one night to be at Knob Creek, be there on Saturday night’. The gunners and the staff of Knob Creek Range put on a spectacular Saturday night show. The show began with a fly over and down range shooting by a helicopter. Jay Bazner an SAR regular contributor took photographs from on high. Jay sat strapped in the chopper seat while he caught the action with his camera.
After the fly over and shooting by the helicopter, the gunners advanced to the line positions. Homer Sailor calls the line hot. The rounds poured down range. The KCR range crew had set small explosive charges among the numerous targets down range. A cheer went up from the crowd each time a gunner hit one of the charges. Many of the assembled crowd jockeyed for positions behind the guns that they were interested in.
Some viewed guns that they did not know. During the shooting, they took time to become more familiar with them. The DSHK 38/46 stands as a case in point. Up on the main line stood another ‘Dishka’. Though Chinese and very similar, this gun was not the one described earlier. Many had never seen nor heard the Soviet origin heavy machine gun. To most the Dishka appears only in books. At Knob Creek Range, the Dishka is real. Thunderous does not adequately describe the report of this gun. The 12.7 shell measures slightly longer than that of the John Browning .50. The 12.7 is much more powerful. SAR writer Steve Hyde once described the Dishka’s report as being louder with earmuffs on than the American .50 is with ear muffs off.
After each shooting session the crowd gave applause. During the breaks between, the flame thrower contingent put on a spectacular show. They demonstrated single and multiple actions with the flame-throwers. These skilled men and women lit up the night sky. One could feel the heat from the flames at the firing line. After the final shooting session, the crowd broke out in a thunderous applause. A good time was had by all.
I spent most of Sunday checking notes for this article and putting some brass on the ground. About four o’clock, I gave up shooting a very nice Thompson and headed for the lower part of the main line. There I watched Milton Barnes and the crew from C & S Metall Werkes set up a 37mm M3 anti-tank gun. This World War II gun looked new. Milton wore the black derby hat of the Confederate artillerists in the Bowler Battery. This unit meets in St. Charles, Missouri once a year to fire their 12 pound mobile mountain howitzers. On this day, Milton wore the derby to fire 37mm M3.
Milton set up the gun and fired the first three rounds. Then each man from C & S selected a target and took his turn with the wonderful 37. Viewing these men set and work the M3 anti-tank gun proved to be some of the most enjoyable time spent at the Spring shoot. Each man brought a different method of working the gun. Each selected a different target. Most of them hit what they aimed at. True to the doctrine of Dangerous Dave, these cannoneers saved their empty cases for reloading.
I close with words from a poignant goodbye. The placard honored a man known to many. Above the Little Fat Guy’s slot hung the sign that paid homage to one who could no longer be with us. The white background with blue letters honored Mr. Sid Hartman. Mr. Hartman left us earlier this year. For many years Mr. Hartman worked security on the gunner’s right of the Knob Creek line. We shall miss Sid’s professionalism and his good nature. Mr. Hartman came every spring and every fall- the sign correctly read ‘We Will Miss You Sid 1942 — 2001’. Enough said.
- 1. Shane Coe, Centerfire Systems, 102 Fieldview DR, Versailles, KY 40383 859-873-9544
- 2. Gerald Dorsey, Midwest Firearms, 1905 Ontario DR, Janesville, WI 53545 608-752-3065
- 3. J. Patrick Moore, Summit Ammunition, P. O. Box 946, Gadsden, AL 35902 256-413-7180
- 4. Robert C. Pace, Class 3 and Winchesters, P. O. Box 335, Fruitport, MI 49415 231-865-6355
- 5. Kent Lomont, Lomont Precision Bullets, RR1 Box 34, Salmon, ID 83467 208-756-6819
- 6. Robert Landies, Ohio Ordnance, P. O. Box 687, Chardon, OH 44024 440-285-3481
- 7. Milton Barnes, C & S Metall Werkes, 4025-H Old Hwy 94 S, St. Charles, MO 63304 636-928-1551
- 8. Greg Souchik, Allegheny Arsenal, P. O. Box 161, Culver City, PA 16725 814-362-2642
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