If you have to go out, go out with a BANG. The Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Kentucky, hosted its final machine gun shoot on October 8-9, bringing a half century tradition of full-auto fun to an end.
The Final Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot
The crowds were massive. It took close to three hours, at peak time, to get in by car, but somehow no one complained. Once inside, spectators packed up behind the firing line, easily ten people deep, to watch a hundred shooters blanket their targets with a tsunami of lead hourly.
The combined gunfire boomed so load, it sounded more like thunder than shooting. It was impossible to talk anywhere near the line when it was hot, and darn hard to talk 100 yards from it. When the shooting was heavy, I didn’t even notice the rotor blades of the Vietnam era UH-1 helicopter beating the air into submission as it passed overhead with another load of passengers who ponied up $100 each to enjoy the bird’s eye view. Three World War II, fifteen ton, M5A1 Stuart tanks put in an appearance and fired their 37mm cannon and machine guns into the fast disintegrating old cars, refrigerators, washing machines, and steel drums set down range.
The audience gathered at sundown dwarfed the daytime spectator crowds. There was no place you could stand within fifty feet of the firing line where you weren’t either in contact with, or at most a couple inches away from, other human beings on all sides. Inexplicably, I found a car stalled in the center of the crowd between the fence and the grandstands. Sheriff’s deputies struggled to get it restarted and out of the way when the crowd suddenly started chanting, “Blow it up! Blow it up! Blow it up!” It was funny rather than menacing and laughter spread through the audience.
Machine Gun Madness
When the shooting started, muzzle flashes, red, green and white streaking tracers, explosions and flares, combined with the smoke from burning targets to make an eerily beautiful scene. It could have been from the STAR WARS franchise, with unseen X wings and TIE fighters trading laser bolts in front of a nebula.
While the Knob Creek Gun Range Machine Gun Shoot wasn’t technically the biggest in the world, it was arguably the best by virtue of an incredibly diverse, 800-plus table, military gun show adjacent to the firing line. Just about everyone who was anyone in the machine gun hobby went to the “Creek” twice a year to shoot, shop, and sell. Anything could, and did, turn up for sale, from WWI trophy Spandau machine guns stripped off a shot down German Fokker to contemporary military bullpup assault rifles. It wasn’t just NFA items either. There were plenty of vintage military bolt actions and semi-autos, and countless repair parts and de-milled parts kits to discover. Major AR platform manufactures like DoubleStar and Rock River Arms regularly attended as well as AK importers like Century Arms and specialty shops like AK-Builder.com, which makes tools used by home build hobbyists and professionals.
Like No Other
Machine gun collecting and shooting remains a rich man’s hobby. But one of the things I always liked about the Creek was that you didn’t need to own a machine gun to participate in the shoot. All you needed was a surprisingly small amount of money and the patience to stand in line to rent a machine gun on the lower range or participate in a tactical Jungle Walk where you engaged concealed targets in the woods with an UZI submachine gun.
The Sumner family, who own and operate Knob Creek Gun Range, deserve a lot of credit for putting on such a fine show for so long. While their machine gun shoot days have ended, they continue to operate one of the best gun shops and shooting ranges in the country (knobcreekrange.com).