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Continued: Dennis Anderson: Knapp a worldwide shooting star

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 24, 2007 - 9:41 AM

Throughout his childhood, Tom Knapp studied the lives and times of America's great shooters, from Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickock, to Phoebe Mozee (aka Annie Oakley), Adams Bogardus and Adolph Topperwin.

But it was Herb Parsons, the great exhibition shooter for Winchester, who really fueled Knapp's imagination.

Parsons was born in Tennessee in 1908 and became a one-man traveling wonder after World War II.

He was the first wingshot to toss seven clay pigeons into the air and break each individually, with seven shots, before they hit the ground. He also could hold a handful of eggs between his legs, drop them, spin around and with a shotgun splatter each separately in the air.

And he was dead-on with a rifle.

Or rifles.

Using a mirror and two single-projectile firearms, or rifles, he could break two targets simultaneously, one in front of him, one behind.

"Throughout my young life, that's what I dreamed about, exhibition shooting," Knapp said. "Later, entering manhood, I still dreamed about it. I couldn't get rid of it."

As Knapp spoke one morning last week, he stood in the back yard of his Twin Cities ex-urban home, shotgun in hand.

He's a big guy with a handlebar mustache and booming voice; personal accoutrements that might not benefit his shooting, but help make him the showman he is -- just as his hero, Herb Parsons, was a showman.

"That was the thing about Parsons, he knew how to put on a show, and he was quick with his wit," Knapp said. "A great entertainer."

Yet whatever Parsons' accomplishments, Knapp seems to have surpassed them. He not only has tossed seven clay pigeons into the air and broken them, one at a time, before they hit the ground.

He's done the same with eight, nine and ... yes, 10 clay targets.

"But remember, Herb Parsons only shot seven because the factory-issue Winchester he used -- a Model 12 -- only held seven shots," Knapp said. "Who knows what he could have done" -- Knapp held up one of a half-dozen Benellis that lay on a table in front of him -- "with one of these?"

•••

Though he lives not far from his boyhood home in Maple Plain, Minn., Knapp has come a long way in his 56 years.

His sponsor list reads like a who's-who of international shotgunning, and includes Twin Cities based Federal Cartridge Co. And he travels the world giving shooting demonstrations for Benelli.

"I just returned from Italy and Bulgaria," he said.

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  • The Tom Knapp file

    Saturday June 23, 2007

    Hometown: Maple Plain, Minn.Present home: Twin CitiesAge: 56World records: Three, all with a shotgun. The only person to break 10...

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