The Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot: A Homebuilder’s Paradise

I’m reasonably certain that most, if not all, of you reading this have heard about the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. In case there’s someone out there who hasn’t, the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot is the world’s largest gathering of civilian-owned automatic weapons. It’s held twice a year, a short distance away from Elizabethtown, KY and Fort Knox (yes, the Fort Knox). The weapons up on the firing line range from WWI era Maxims to modern M134 miniguns and everything in between. And they’re shooting at junk cars and other targets loaded with Tannerite. They even have a rental range where you can shoot some different weapons, though I’m not going to say that it’s inexpensive. There are usually a couple of UH-1 “Huey” helicopters flying around, and occasionally they’ll do gun runs with the gunship model. There are plenty of YouTube videos if you’re curious as to what it’s all about if you’re not close enough to stop in and check it out. It’s a pretty neat experience, to say the least.

One of the last shoot’s targets greets you as you enter.

There are undoubtedly some of you thinking, “That’s cool and all, but there’s no way I’ll ever be able to afford to own an actual machine gun. So what’s the point?” I, like most veterans from combat elements of the Armed Forces, have spent A LOT of time around real automatic weapons. So, unless it’s something pretty exotic (though these are present in abundance at this event), machine guns are a rather limited novelty to me. There’s another part of the shoot that doesn’t get as much attention as the firing line and it’s why I make the drive it takes to get there twice a year: the gun show.

A smattering of machine guns, rifles, and parts.
This is typical of the sort of things you see for sale at this show. Lots of items for a build, or just plain interesting things to look at.

This gun show isn’t like so many are now, where half of the tables aren’t actually firearms or anything firearms related. This show, in contrast, is almost completely made up of military firearms and items related. If you like military firearms, the vast majority of the tables have something interesting-even if it’s only as a curiosity (it’s not every day that you see a WWI machine gun or a live mortar, let alone for sale). As you can imagine, there are quite a few actual machine guns for sale. Though, these obviously require some real paperwork and fairly deep pockets. In addition, there are quite a few non-NFA firearms for sale as well. There is a lot of ammo for sale as well. Also, there are lots of parts for sale.

This gentleman had a rather interesting assortment of machine guns and other items, M1917A1, AC-556, MG34, M203, Colt LMG, and 2 M16s.
I saw quite a few people selling M60 parts in this show. In case you were wondering; yes, it is possible to build a semi-auto M60 if you have some metalworking skills.

That last sentence might have caught your attention if you’re already a homebuilder. For the rest of you: most of the different models of semi-auto rifles for sale are based upon military designs (M16s, AK-47s, FN FALs, HKs, etc), which obviously were originally select-fire, automatic weapons. Of course, for these rifles to be in a non-NFA regulated format, a number of parts had to be omitted or changed, specifically those related to the automatic firing functions. The rest typically are still the same. A lot of homebuilding these types of re-building “parts kits” in a legal format. These parts kits are typically “demilled” (or destroyed) military weapons. Presently, the “demilling” involves torch cutting the receiver and barrel (since 2005). Fortunately, this leaves a lot of good, usable parts. There are a growing number of companies that now make barrels, receivers, tools, and other conversion parts needed to legally build these rifles. This gun show has lots of all of these, parts, parts kits, and other build parts.

Here is an example of an odd, but buildable parts kit, a DP28. Parts are available to build these in a non-NFA format.
Individual sellers bring all sorts of interesting items to sell at the gun show. P90 build, anyone?

The gun show is fairly large. I’m not going to try and venture a guess at the size of the show area or the number of tables. I can tell you that I typically spend pretty close to a full day going through it, and there are always things I miss. A chunk of the tables are right behind the Knob Creek Gun Shop, in a covered but open building. This is particularly nice when a fall/spring shower arrives during the event. There are usually quite a few people there, and it can be fairly crowded. But I haven’t found that to be overwhelming.

It’s hard to grasp how much stuff is at this show without actually being there. This picture was taken at one corner of the building, looking across the show.

The show draws quite a few of the good sources for parts kits. One of my personal favorites, APEX Gun Parts, always has a good-sized booth. They bring some very interesting items, sometimes one-offs that they don’t want to list on their website. This show they actually had a Soviet flamethrower for sale! They bring an assortment of parts kits and other parts. They always have some pretty good “show specials” on different items, usually well below regular cost. Their booth is usually one of my first stops at the show.

One of my favorite stops at the show, the APEX Gun Parts Tent.
Yes, APEX actually had a flamethrower for sale. I saw a few more for sale on other tables in the show.

Unless you’re looking for a part for something really odd, the odds are pretty good that you’ll find at least one table full of parts or a vendor that specializes in the model you’re looking for. There are probably 2 dozen or more sellers & vendors specializing in AR15 parts. Too many to detail here. But suffice it to say, there isn’t a lot for an AR that you can’t find at the show. Century Arms has a tent outside, and they bring some pretty neat items. Numrich has a rather large display, and they bring a whole bunch of parts. Sarco does as well. All of those companies bring parts kits as well, for those of you looking to start a build.

Numrich brings a lot of parts to the show. It’s always worth a look, especially if you’re looking for small parts.
Want to try some different buffers in your AR build?

 For the “AK crowd”, AK-Builder attends this show. In fact, I’m pretty sure they told me the 2 Knob Creek shoots there are the only 2 shows they do attend. For those unfamiliar with them, AK-Builder produces build tools, barrels, 80% receivers, and various other parts for building different models of AKs. They are more than willing to demonstrate how to use their tools, which is pretty handy especially if you’re just getting started building. Seeing it in person and being able to ask questions is a lot better than just watching a YouTube video. They’re really approachable. If you want to start an AK build, or unsure how to finish one, they’re quite helpful directing you to what parts or tools you may need. They produce a whole line of different AK barrels (since different model AKs use different barrels) and they bring a pretty good selection of them to the show.  

AK-Builder’s booth. They bring lots of neat items if you’re into building AKs.

For folks just getting started in building their own firearms (or those thinking about it), there are lots of interesting vendors and people to meet with. Aside from all of the AR-related vendors, this show I saw a number of vendors selling the Polymer80 frame kits. These are likely within the skill set of many prospective home builders. They do not require a lot of tools, and they’re not particularly difficult to assemble when they’re completed.

There were lots of booths and tables of various AR15 parts, pieces, and accessories, such as Doublestar’s upper halves on display seen here. Not a bad place to start if you’re wanting to build your first rifle.

Individual sellers and small vendors offer some really neat stuff as well. I have purchased a lot of interesting items from those sorts of folks. Of course, you never know what these people will have. Given the nature of this event, a lot of these folks bring machine gun parts of different sorts. Most of these items are usable for non-NFA builds. This time I saw a lot of belt-fed parts of different types. A lot of parts kits as well. If you’re considering some kind of a belt-fed build, this is definitely the place to go.

Want to make your next AR build a bit more challenging? This is a raw upper receiver forging. It was sitting on a table with a bunch of random, unrelated items, such as the PIAT monopod you see here.

The gun show at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot is definitely a unique show, much like the rest of the event. For a home builder, there are lots of opportunities to obtain parts for builds and meet with like-minded people. There aren’t many events where you can get an idea for a build (or builds), find & purchase all of your parts to complete it, and get the specialized tools you need for the job, all in one day. There are parts that will interest every builder, from first-timers to more skilled folks. If you do go, sometime in the day you’re there, stop for a minute and take it all in. Between the machine guns firing on the line, the helicopters flying around, and the stuff you’ll see for sale at the gun show, it will make you proud to be an American.

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About the author: Christopher Mace Christopher Mace enlisted in the US Army as an Infantryman in 2001. He served in the 82nd & 101st Airborne Divisions, with four deployments to Afghanistan & Iraq. Chris started hobby gunsmithing in 2005. After completing his service in 2010, he earned AAS degrees in Machining as well as Welding & Fabrication, and a Gunsmithing Technician Certificate from Trinidad State Junior College. Chris has taken several armorers courses on different firearms, and has built several different types of firearms. He has been collecting & shooting military firearms, old and new since he was 18. Chris enjoys repairing, customizing, building & assembling firearms, as well as different disciplines of competition shooting.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Ricky B. November 12, 2019, 10:47 am

    I’ve always meant to pay a visit to the distillery in Clermont, KY where my favorite bourbon is born. According to the Google, this is just a 30 minute drive from there. Ok, road trip to the wonderful world of wiskey & war weapons is on my calendar for next April… I’ll see y’all there!

  • Alan Robinson November 12, 2019, 9:40 am

    Many years ago I paid to fire a Bofers 20mm on a pick up bed at Knob Creek. That was just plain fun! I was smiling for a week.

  • Rollin L November 11, 2019, 1:32 pm

    Great article, and as a small vendor at the Creek, I appreciate all the promotion the event can get. One detail I noticed in the caption on one of the pictures. Fourth pic from top of the article, the Browning water cooled gun on the table is actually a WWI Model of 1917, not a WWII 1917A1, the significant difference being in the receiver construction. Hope the author doesn’t mind me pointing that out.

    • Brandon November 11, 2019, 9:48 pm

      I couldn’t imagine reading someone’s work and being able to take it serious knowing they did. It’s been “the internet” for well on two decade now, if you’re wrong someone will point it out. Some respectfully as you did, some not so much. Lol. But, I do wonder if it’s not possible that it was said generically, such as picturing any version of the m16 and just calling it M16 vs a1/a2/a4/etc.

  • Ricky Price November 11, 2019, 9:31 am

    Been there and going back.

  • Tim November 11, 2019, 6:19 am

    Wait- Chris Mace from Plymouth-Hoptown? I feel like I know a celebrity !!! Yes- everyone should make to journey to Knob Creek a couple of times!!!

    • Christopher Mace November 11, 2019, 6:11 pm

      Yep, that’d be me.

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