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Crowds turn out to see a true hotshot

Sun., April 3, 2005, midnight

Tom Knapp is a modern-day shooter who boasts more than a hint of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West showmanship.

On Saturday, adults and kids poised on the edge of their seats as Knapp used manual and semi-automatic shotguns to blast as many as nine hand-tossed clay pigeons out of the air in a single outing.

The exhibition, held at the Spokane Gun Club and sponsored by White Elephant Surplus Stores, attracted hundreds of spectators, who marveled as the world record holding shooter performed one amazing feat after another.

“He’s fabulous. He’s as dynamic in person as he is on TV,” said Jamie Utecht, who traveled from Connell, Wash., for the show.

“It was well worth the time to come and watch him. You learn a lot about different ways of shooting.”

Knapp appears on Shooting USA and other television programs, in addition to doing shows throughout the world.

His version of golf garnered a few rounds of applause as he shot golf balls midair, making them strategically slice to the left and right.

Six kids from the audience tossed raw eggs into the air, which Knapp separated with shots fired in quick succession.

“It was really fun because he actually let kids who have probably never experienced something like this come up and meet him,” said Austin Pruitt, 10, one of the egg-tossing volunteers.

“For me personally, it was a dream come true,” the Greenacres Elementary School student said.

Jim Bergman, of Spokane Valley, came to the show with his father and two sons.

“I saw a trick shooter when I was young many years ago and I thought I’d bring my boys,” Bergman said.

His sons, Carter, 8, and Brady, 10, were chosen to toss eggs for Knapp, a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

Although Bergman started shooting at the age of 10, he couldn’t fathom the skill it takes to shoot with such precision.

When Knapp hand tossed a clay pigeon into the air, quickly loaded a shell in his rifle and then blasted the pigeon before it fell to the ground, he displayed a level of marksmanship few veteran shooters can master.

“You can tell he has done it for years – that’s for sure. It’s just nice to see someone with that kind of skill,” Bergman said.

Bill Murphy brought his son to the show last year, but ended up coming alone because his teenager was under the weather.

The Spokane Valley resident, who joined the club because his son wanted to learn to hunt, said some of the people practicing on the range aspire to earn a living off of shooting.

“Some of these guys are real serious and they spend big bucks on these expensive guns,” Murphy said.

Knapp told the crowd he uses 40,000 shotgun shells each year, while practicing and performing at 100 shows.

Although he started shooting when he was 13, Knapp didn’t become a professional exhibition shooter until age 37, when Benelli Shotguns hired him away from a full-time parks position in Minnesota.

Knapp downplays the amount of practice it took to reach his dream, but contends that other factors contributed to his success.

“Low and behold, I like people and I got lucky.”


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