A while back we sadly reported that the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot would have its final dates set for October of this year. Having never been to one previously, I really wanted to get out there and attempt to get the full experience. As most of you know, the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot was a yearly event that is basically half gun show and half machine gun range day. The event normally brings in tens of thousands of people but this being its final year, those previous attendance numbers were blown out of the water and gun enthusiasts from all across the country gathered to give the annual event a proper sendoff. Today I’ll share with you some of my experiences from the Last Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot and hopefully, this article will serve as a memoir to what has to be one of the most unique firearms events on the planet.
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End of an Era: Experiencing the Last Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot
Since I live just a couple of hours away, I decided to drive on down the morning of the event which started on October the 8th. I arrived in the general area right around 8am, however, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I drove up to – 3 miles of traffic. Despite attempting to arrive early, traffic was already at a standstill and it would be another 4 hours before I even made it to the gates to buy my wristband for the event.
According to some returning attendees and locals, this was actually out of character for the event but it was definitely the worst it had ever been. Previous years featured better traffic marshaling and much fewer attendees which made getting a parking spot an easier affair. However, I was determined to sit things through, and after about 3 hours of sitting in traffic, I was able to secure a parking spot in the lower parking area. After that there was an additional hour I spent in line to pick up my tickets, this part wasn’t so bad as there was a line of M3 Stuart tanks as well a handful of other military surplus vehicles to look at while you waited in line.
The weather forecast for the day was pretty mild with a few occasional showers that forced everyone either to tough out the rain or duck inside the pole barn at the Knob Creek Gun Range. Aside from being stuck in traffic for a long time, I really don’t have any complaints about the event and in my opinion, it was well worth the wait. So what is there to do at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot?
The Gun Show
A large part of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot is the gun show. Like any local gun show, there is a mix of larger manufactures, ammo distributors, and resellers as well as some smaller and local gunshops bringing out their wares for everyone to take a look at. It’s here you’ll find your typical gun show staples such as beef jerky vendors, taser and knife sellers as well as random attendees with rifles for sale on their backs. What is unique about Knob Creek is the sheer amount of surplus firearms parts there are. At one point I was walking through one of the smaller booths and found an entire pallet full of LWRC barrels ranging from pencil profile barrels to MK18 barrels – pretty much anything you could want for any clone build you want.
In addition to the standard M4 and AK parts, there were also a ton of machine gun parts kits and even complete machine guns for sale at many of the booths. Pricing of course was about what you’d expect for a transferrable machinegun but it’s cool to just be able to walk up to the guys at the booth and ask them questions about their collections for sale. Of particular interest to me were a handful of beautifully restored or preserved Model 1904 Vickers machine guns complete with their tripods. Such beautiful pieces of machinery.
Finally, as you’d expect, there were plenty of food vendors at the show and the food was your typical fare of hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, and bratwurst. No surprises there. As a final sideshow, there was also an opportunity to see two Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) helicopters brought to the event by American Huey 369 Events which is associated with the National American Huey History Museum. This non-profit brings their working helicopters to the event and even allows people to take rides in them for $100 per person (weather permitting). The helicopter rides took place both days and lasted from the beginning of the event well into the evening as it started to get dark. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a ticket to take a ride as all the reservations had been booked – a testament to the number of attendees and the popularity of the attraction.
The Machine Gun SHoot
The main event, the machine gun shoot, is what everyone is there for. Starting pretty early in the morning as I was still waiting in line in traffic, the distant sound of machinegun fire and large explosions could be heard with a suitable black smoke cloud rising from beyond the tree line where the range was. As the Knob Creek Gun Range used to be an artillery testing range, a wide variety of ordinance can be used and shot during the event. Everything from standard ball ammo, 20mm cannons, and even a large black powder cannon which turned out to be a big crowd-pleaser during each course of fire.
Each volley of fire commenced at the top of the hour and lasted for around 30-minutes or so. The shooters on the line are made up of both the owners of the firearms themselves as well as attendees who signed up to participate in the machine gun shoot. I was unable to get a spot on the main machine gun range but I was able to watch several of the volleys and it truly is something worth witnessing in person. Each volley of fire starts out with a rigorous safety check with each range safety officer coordinating with large orange flags to indicate that their specific booth is ready to rock and roll. After the command to “lock and load” was given, the RSO’s gave the ready signal and the instant the announcer called “fire” a cacophony of machinegun fire, cannon fire, and subsequent explosions overtook the range. Witness.
What do you aim at while shooting on the main range? Everything. The showrunners bring out barrels, old cars, shopping carts bowling pins, and explosive charges that the machine gun shooters can hit throughout the 30-minute course of fire. Despite the sheer amount of lead being sent downrange, more and more explosive targets are found as the shooting goes on and it’s always a real treat to see a random explosion go off downrange that shakes you to your bones. It’s also really cool to see APIT, and explosive ammunition being used in person and small satisfying explosions and flashes can be seen even during the day.
The Lower Range and Night Shoot
I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to shoot a machine gun at Knob Creek. Although I would have preferred to shoot the MG42, at the time it was out of commission while it was being repaired (the owner of the MG42 was busy up at the gun show attempting to source replacement parts for this and this is apparently common practice for the event). Instead, I was able to get my hands on both a Glock 18 carbine as well as an RPD belt-fed machine gun. The lower machine gun range is a much easier way to get to shoot machine guns at Knob Creek as the sign-up process is much shorter and there are also no explosive targets to shoot at, but you still get to light-up cars and old dishwashers.
In between each course of fire when new targets are being set up, spectators are allowed out onto the firing range to pick up stray bullets, shrapnel and also take a closer look at the machine guns that are on the firing line. I took this opportunity to get a closer look at one of the M3 Stuart tanks as well as snap some photos of the carnage that was brought on by the first volley.
The Last Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot terminated with the final nighttime shoot which is a sight to behold and dare I say an almost religious experience. Witnessing this is almost life-changing. It amazes me just how much ammunition is being sent down range during each 30-minute session and the nighttime shoot just makes it even more amazing as tracers are used generously throughout the evening shoots. The nighttime shoot is so famous in fact that a certain news agency attempted to use footage taken at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot and attempted to spin it as footage from Syria. Nonetheless, the nighttime shoot is a wild experience and there really is nothing else quite like it on the planet.
End of an Era: The Last Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot
Although I had fun, it was a bittersweet experience knowing that this would be the final shoot hosted at Knob Creek. The owner of the Knob Creek Gun Range – Kenny Sumner stated that although the 50-year run of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot had been great, old age and no heirs willing to take up the mantle of running the show meant that it sadly had to come to an end.
Some attendees on the main firing line had stated that it was sad that this had to be the last machine gun shoot as they felt that the lack of attendance combined with ammunition shortages in previous years had helped drive the decision to end the shoot during its 50th year. However, with a turnout of over 20,000 attendees on both days, new people have been introduced to the event and will no doubt want more of the same in the following years. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case.
All in all, I had a great time at the Last Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. I had some good food, looked at some awesome guns, met up with a few TFB and TFBTV fans and Patreon/Subscribe Star supporters, and was also able to participate in the festivities. My only lingering hope from this experience is that someone somewhere will organize something similar to let the legacy of Knob Creek live on for other 2nd Amendment enthusiasts to enjoy.