The Knob Creek Rescue
By Todd L.
If you ask most people what are some key elements of a good action movie they will likely tell you that it needs at least one amazing gunfight, a helicopter or two, an adrenaline filled chase and of course a daring rescue. The fall 2010 Knob Creek submachine gun nationals competition sponsored by Rainier Ballistics had all of these elements and more. The competitors who shot in this event had the chance to partake in a daring mock rescue mission to save a Knob Creek Gun Range employee who had been taken hostage. Between the large Huey helicopter prop at the final shooting position and the wide variety of targets ranging from falling steel pepper poppers to clay birds strung up on a wire it’s not hard to see why competitors and spectators alike were left saying the event was simply awesome.
The event was held over two days, Oct 8th and 9th 2010, in weather that can only be described as perfect. The temperature was in the low 50’s in the morning and warmed to a high in the mid 80’s during the day. The blue filled sky with white clouds drifting overhead set the scene for what would be some fun and competitive shooting. The Knob Creek gun range is in the hills of West Point Kentucky and the subgun range is down in a small valley between several thickly wooded hills just around the corner from the famous Knob Creek firing line. On both Friday and Saturday many spectators volleyed for shaded seats under the awnings to watch the action unfold as the shadows from the wooded hills moved slowly across the ground as the sun moved West in sky.
The walk-through of the course of fire was intriguing as the safety instructions and rules were read aloud to the competitors. Paul Winters, the match director, read to an attentive group of shooters in the first squad. You will get five second bonus off your time if you shoot all the targets in the first array down in the first position with your first pull of the trigger. He discussed how each shooting position should be shot and they walked the stage together. He then discussed penalties, don’t shoot the red parts of targets… 10 seconds, don’t forget the hostage… 30 seconds, don’t forget to change magazines between shooting positions… 10 seconds. Any questions? There were a few. The excitement and nervousness for what lay before them could be seen on most competitors faces. This was going to be a something different than what most people expected to shoot and it looked like it was going to be a lot of fun.
The competitors started seated with a foot on a helicopter landing skid and after a bust of full auto fire on seven steel plates in a horizontal line they had to rush to the prison entrance and take care of some bad guys in the form of bright orange rectangular steel plates and three paper targets about 20 yards away. Next they had to locate the prisoner in his cell and after a brief battle out of the prison cell window they had to evacuate the hostage through the prison exit and to the waiting helicopter. Prison guards in the form of a several pepper poppers were on the far side of the chopper so the competitors had to lay down cover fire in short bursts from the prone position under the helicopter after the hostage was placed on board.
The task at hand seemed straight forward for the competitors. Engage the correct targets from the five different shooting stages , don’t shoot the no-shoot targets painted red or white paper with red X’s on them and remember to grab the hostage from the prison cell and carry it to the two final shooting positions and get it safely into the rescue chopper. The act of carrying out this task proved to be quite the challenge as more than one competitor left the hostage behind in the heat of the moment. Some simply forgot to pick the hostage dummy back up while rushing to the next shooting position, others forgot the blue suited dummy all together and didn’t realize it until they were at the final shooting position under the helicopter. Competitors had looks on their faces ranging from regret to sheer terror when they realized they left the hostage behind. It was after all a hostage rescue and they just forgot the hostage. The course walk-through clearly stated once you move from a position you may not go back so once forgotten the hostage would have to wait for another rescue attempt to be saved.
So onward competitors went racing to the chopper, most with the hostage, some empty handed, and a few muttering obscenities under their breath as they acknowledged the consequences for their haste. One competitor, Andreas, cursed loudly at himself in German as he realized he forgot the hostage for the second time in a row after leaving it behind in a run earlier that day. An audible “ooohhhh Nooo!could often be heard from the crowd of spectators knowing that the thirty second penalty for forgetting the hostage would most certainly knock the competitor out of contention from what was otherwise an amazing display of shooting skill.
As if carrying the hostage wasn’t enough there were the heavy set targets scattered about seemingly mocking those shooters who would not hit them high enough or with enough rounds to force them to the ground. There were two large arrays of multiple pepper popper targets painted white or yellow with a few of them having their heads painted red. The pepper poppers with red heads were set to be heavier than the others and required on average two to four shot bursts to knock them down. The red areas of the pepper poppers were no-shoots areas which meant all shots had to be placed in the white or yellow painted mid-section of the targets making accuracy in full auto mode necessary to succeed. It was a submachine gun competition after all and there was a lot of full-auto firing needed to get through the course of fire quickly. The painted no-shoot heads seemed to intimidate a few competitors who shot very low on the targets at first and then raised their aim as they realized the lower shots would not send the poppers over.
How the different competitors went about accomplishing the various shooting goals at each position varied as much as the guns used to shoot them. Richard Lage of Lage manufacturing shot his Max-31A prototype that uses Swedish K coffin magazines and Soumi drums. In a single burst he was able to knock the majority of the pepper poppers in an amazing display that had the spectators smiling. Mike Winthrop from Florida had a similar plan shooting his spitfire submachine gun and he had success with his seventy round magazine of 45ACP and a few short bursts.
After the smoke cleared and the scores were calculated at the end of the day magazine capacity seemed to have been less of a factor in success for many competitors as was shot placement and multiple hits on target in single bursts of full-auto fire. The top honors of the match and the Top gun award went without question to Andrew Blaschik from Pompano Beach, Florida. Shooting a suppressed Beretta PM12 Andy blazed past the next closest competitor by more than 15 seconds in a run that was fascinating to watch. In smooth intentional movements he painted the targets with bursts of the right number of rounds in exactly the best spots to defeat them. Those who stayed on Saturday to see this top gun run were not disappointed and his winning run ended in a chorus of applause and whistles from the crowd.
For anyone who has attended the various submachine gun matches across the country, it may be fair to say that few have delivered such balance between full auto bursts and accuracy in such a pleasantly displayed course of fire as the Fall 2010 Knob Creek Rescue stage. The match director Paul Winters, along with the help of Ed Varner, Malcome Davis, numerous range officers and steel re-setters, succeeded in making a safe, fun and consistent event that was both a pleasure to watch and to compete in.
The Knob Creek subgun national match takes place twice a year in the second weekend of every April and October and all full-auto shooters are invited to compete and spectate. This event features five shooting classes, open bolt optics and irons, closed bolt optics and iron sights and the ladies division. Information about the Knob Creek gun range as well as event registration forms for this event can be found at http://www.machinegunshot.com. Videos of this event can be found at http://bullethose.com under the competition Videos section of the forums.