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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

Knapp holds three world shooting records. One, set in 2000 when he tossed eight clay targets into the air and broke them individually, was accomplished with a pump shotgun. The other, involving the 10 broken clays, was completed with a semi-auto scattergun.

But Knapp wasn't always "A Shooting Star," as he is now billed.

For 25 years, he worked for Hennepin County Parks, mostly in maintenance, all the while nursing his shooting dreams.

Back then, the cost of pushing as many as 150,000 rounds a year through his shotgun, some for practice, some for show, was his alone to pay.

"I traveled around, giving un-sponsored shooting shows for seven years," he said. "Those were pretty hard times, financially."

But Knapp had just enough of Parsons-the-showman in him to figure out that the media -- TV in particular -- could help him get where he wanted to go.

"I had a lot of TV guys come out to film me, some of them reluctantly at first," he said. "I remember Tom Ryther, the sportscaster, came out quite a few years ago. I broke clays in the air, vegetables, everything. Then, at the very end, I shot a gallon of gas I had rigged with a detonator. That got him excited."

On the road, Knapp often called a local TV station to tell them "you might want to send a cameraman" to his show.

When he had amassed enough video clips, Knapp packaged them for potential sponsors.

He caught a break in 1989 when Federal said it would supply him with shotgun shells. In 1991, Winchester offered the same booty, plus a little cash.

Knapp rode a bigger updraft still a couple of years later, when Benelli took him on. And he's now back with Federal.

These days, he travels nearly every weekend, leaving from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday mornings, or sometimes Thursday nights, flying to California, New York, and everywhere in between.

Accompanying him are four shotguns, a patch-laden shooting vest, a pair of amber shooting glasses, special hearing protection -- and a knack for busting clay targets.

"Most weekend shooting exhibitions involve Benelli dealers advertising ahead of time that I'm coming to town," Knapp said. "I come in, put on an exhibition, and the dealers have shotguns for everyone to try."

In Italy, he said, he's considered by many shooters to be a modern American John Wayne. Recently at the Italian Game Fair, he was mobbed by people trying to get his autograph.

"I was pushed up against a tractor," he said. "Finally, the only way I could escape was to crawl underneath the tractor and get out the other side,"

Minnesota kids who grow up with a knack for shooting usually also are hunters. Knapp is no different. The owner of two Labrador retrievers, he loves to chase birds, a fitting interest now that he is also host of "Benelli's American Bird Hunter," a TV show that airs weekly on the Outdoor Channel.

"We do 26 episodes, and when we begin filming in the fall, I arrange to film on the Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday after I do a shooting exhibition," he said. "Then I fly home, change clothes, and fly out again."

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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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