His career in rifle shooting and manufacture,
and the 1948 Olympic British Team's Free Rifle
Plus - five facsimile documents of his 1950 journal "THE MARKSMAN"
John Colin James Knott - photographed in 1947
Probably best known for his involvement in the production of the Centre-Fire High Power rifle used by the British Team in the 1948 Olympic Games,
Knott was a keen sporting shooter, with considerable experience in game shooting and with many rifle types,
but his expertise also ran effectively through the world of small-bore target shooting.
This latter part of his varied shooting career in the U.K. is what brought him to the attention of our research.
His business, known as "John C.J Knott Ltd.", of Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey,
was in premises not far from where he was born in Epsom in 1914,
and the firm assembled rifles in conjunction with his contemporary, S. Broughton,
another successful shooter and member of the Ham & Petersham Rifle Club near London.
The resultant company motif "K-B" is illustrated right.
Over the years of his small-bore rifle production,
Knott used BSA Martini actions and barrels,
as well as Mauser bolt actions.
His specialist stocking brought to his doors those with very
specific requirements in the specifications of their target rifles.
Knott's rifles were not without success in competition,
and he built a significant reputation on that success.
He was, though, reputed to have been something of a ladies' man,
and not all his contemporaries had the highest opinion of his extra-curricular activities;
although it is said that he was of a highly sociable nature,
and he has been described in that endearing way as a "likeable rogue".
The above rifle appears to be a specially stocked BSA Model12/15
It is fitted with a Parker-Hale No.7A rear-sight and their P-H F22 tunnel foresight with exchangeable elements.
The rear-sight is carefully surrounded by the finely figured woodwork.
Details of this sight are to be found on the BSA Mod. 12/15 page via the link above.
In 1950, Knott became one of a small team of shooters cum journalists who ventured into the world of publishing.
Their diminutive magazine "The Marksman" was a short-lived monthly journal which was initially published in mid-1950 as a "Specimen Issue".
It was followed up over a period of only a further four months, until its demise with the final issue No.4 (of Volume 1) in November of that year.
The Editor was M.E. Bradfield, and the Art Editor one E.C. Horner.
Many of the articles were either written, or sourced by, an advisory panel consisting of
Captain E.W.H. Brookes, A.J. Foster, J.B. Leslie and John Knott himself.
Below is an image of the cover of the September 1950 issue - Vol.1 No.2.
Knott advertised his company with a full-page spread, carrying his prominent characature,
in every one of the five numbers before closure. In the represented issue he took the back cover.
The magazine covered a wide variety of issues, including small-bore, full-bore, pistol and clay pigeon shooting.
Shooting and firearms politics were discussed, and there were a number of articles on both historic and otherwise interesting or unusual arms.
There was even an article on a Browning_Machine_Gun-like Automatic Air-Gun, which was powered by a compressed air cylinder.
It was smooth-bored in .177" calibre, and designed to fire steel shot at a rate of fire of up to 350 shots per minute.
We promised to scan all five issues of "The Marksman", and re-publish them here on-site in PDF format.
Our thanks go to John Anderson who loaned the papers, for the purpose, from his archived collection;
indeed posting them from his new home in North America.
Below is the documentation of the first "specimen" issue for May/June 1950
The remaining four copies of the journal are reproduced at the bottom of this page.
Not only are many of the articles tremendously interesting and revealing, but the contemporary advertisements too!
It is a searchable flip-page facsimile of the journal, which may take a few moments to display.
N.B. The remaining four copies of the journal are reproduced at the bottom of this page.
One means of discovering something of an individual's life can be to read an obituary written whilst that life is in recent memory.
Fortunatel we were given a copy of Knotts' obituary published in an unknown newspaper 'on the other side of the pond'.
He had emigrated to North America later in life, and died there at a date yet to be confirmed.
Perhaps then, Knott being none too well-known on that continent, the report could be forgiven for implying,
reading between the lines, that at least one thing about his life of which he had spoken,
to those with whom he liased in his new country of abode, may have been taken with a pinch of salt.
Interestingly, there was still mention of John C.J. Knott Ltd., in The London Gazette of 26th. September 1958.
We still seek copy if you can help.
1948 Olympics Summary
Three-Position 300 Metres Free Rifle
This was the final event of the 1948 shooting competition, contested over two days on 5-6 August.
Each shooter took 120 shots, 40 prone, 40 kneeling, and 40 standing, with any rifle of not more than 9 calibre allowed.
The shooting was done at 300 metres, at a one metre target with a black bullseye of 60 cm., the entire target divided into 10 scoring rings.
Most of the European shooters used a short-action bolt rifle, and 6.5 or 7.5 mm. cartridges.
The event was won comfortably by Switzerlandís Emil Grunig, with a score of 1,120 from 1,200 possible.
He was consistent throughout, with the highest score prone, the second highest score kneeling, and the third highest score shot standing.
Details of the 1948 Olympic competition and final standings can be found here on the OLYMPEDIA site
A Mr. Saunders, to whom John Anderson spoke in 2001 (the latter researcher has assisted greatly with material for this page),
was apprenticed to Knott, or another of his colleagues, in 1950.
As far as he remembered Knott "went bust and left the country around 1955" [1954 - Ed].
He said what he knew about Knott before 1950 came from an article in "Shooting Times & British Sportsman" published 3rd April 1948.
(We have recently located a copy of that article, now shown below as a searchable facsimile).
We have also been kindly afforded photographs, by the fortunate current owner, of one of the 1948 Olympic free-rifles,
and below is the right-hand elevation of this obviously P'14 (Pattern 1914 - Enfield Rifle No.3) based example, with its 3-positional palm rest.
The 300 metre Olympic match in 1948 was a 3-position competition, hence the hand-rest.
Below: the left-hand side
We are advised by its custodian that the rifle weighs in at a significant 17lbs.
To put that in context, a modern target rifle, such as an RPA Quadlock weighs 12.2lbs.
The barrel diameter is 1.25" at the receiver, 1" at the point it exits the stock, and 0.85" at the muzzle.
The stock is packed with wood shims rather than bedded. These can be seen in the following image.
It is not known why a barrel band was thought necessary on a barrel of this magnitude.
This could have been a hangover from service rifle logic, but seems odd in relation to current thinking.
The set trigger is incredibly light - no more than a few ounces - lighter than many smallbore target rifles.
(Indeed, the owner finds it way too light for comfortable use and is seeking some guidance as to how he I might add some weight to it.
At present it seems that the only adjustment offered by the trigger mechanism is to make it even lighter!
It is thought that the trigger is of John Knott's own devising.
At 300m the rifle shoots very well and will comfortably hold the bull on a modern NRA 300m target.
The Birmingham Small Arms Company made a special batch of about 100 barrels, from which the team's half-dozen or so rifles were fitted.
The barrels were not BSA's only contribution, as they were fitted with an otherwise unique fore-sight with exchangeable elements.
This rare, and expensive to manufacture tunnel sight was originally produced for the training/target Lee-Enfield Trials .22" Rifle No.5, the only other usage of which we are aware being on the following experimental .22 Rifle No.6, the precursor to the No.8 trials and issue rifles.
The sight's system of changing elements was probably the quickest and neatest we have ever come across;
The knurled ring is simply rotated through 180 degrees, opening the slot,
when the fitted element can be lifted out and replaced with an alternative, prior to re-locking by turning the ring back.
The trials BSA Enfield rifles were issued with one ring element and one post element.
Sadly, holding collectors of any one of these rare rifles often find
alternative or replacement elements to be akin to hen's teeth; modification of P-H versions being the best recourse.
Compared with the usual BSA or Parker and Parker-Hale method of unscrewing a locking sleeve with half-a-hundred
turns, tipping the rifle to drop out the element and screwing the sleeve back in after the replacement element, this is a delight.
However, later Parker-Hale models did included a similar slot that only required a small number of turns to back off the locking sleeve.
Below: the sight-line of the Olympic Free Rifle, fitted with a standard Parker-Hale No.5B aperture target rear-sight with half-minute clicks.
Again, the parentage of the the rifle is very evident as being the P'14 rifle, with its Mauser-based action.
The vernier scale of the sight is marked " Mark VII" to denote the ammunition for which it is calibrated,
and "PATT. '14" to confirm the rifle for which it was designed.
The double set trigger and its adjustment screw can be clearly seen,
as can the bracket with adjustment holes for fitment of the rather elegantly styled hand rest show earlier.
The British National Rifle Association's Journal carried a contemporary article on the 1948 Olympic free rifle.
The article is replicated in the flip-page representation below.
As already mentioned, the initials "K-B" came from Knott & Broughton.
Broughton was an original partner, but the partnership broke up at some point. Mr. Saunders was not sure why.
At the time Mr. Saunders was working with Knott, most of the rifle actions used were bought in from a German firm. He said the German firm's name sounded like "Gushlof" but again he could not spell it. He remarked that "we have seen Knott rifles also made on pre-war Mauser .22 actions - a great number of these rifles, and maybe actions, were brought into the UK not long after the war, and many were sold by Parker-Hale. We can recall them having a page in a P-H catalogue of around that time. Parker-Hale also made a special aperture sight to fit these rifles."
The stocks were made and finished in-house, mostly made by Mr. Cecil South, who also was a maker of ecclesiastic furniture.
Mr South had a special finishing formula which he kept secret,
making it at home and bringing the materials in to work - the secret was to die with him.
The triggers which, with the stocks, were considered to be the significant advance in the firm's production that generated their market, were also designed and made in house. The parts were sent to a firm in Kingston for cyanide-hardening, and then finished ("stoned square") by Mr. Saunders, who noted that the firm also manufactured their own design of set trigger.
The serial numbers of Knott rifles were understood to represent the date the rifle was finished, but the s/n on the action (left) is probably that of the original BSA Model 12/15. Knott's trigger modification is evident though, with a grub-screw for adjustment.
This is a variation on the theme, a patent trigger pull-off,
originally marketed by A.G. and A.J. Parker and Parker-Hale
We have been kindly affordedphotographs of one of Knott's Mauser-actioned .22 targets rifles.
It is here shown without sights
This rifle's action would bear comparison with the "Deutsche Sportmodell" Mauser style training rifle.
The stocks of Knott's rifles were beautifully made, with fine, practical curved lines and finish.
His stocker is mentioned in the texts further on.
Below: typical barrel marks of Knott's rifle production
Knott favoured the adjustable front bedding ring that had become popular at the time,
and which could also be seen on such as some of the Parker-Hale Dewar rifles,
but did not utilise the additional electrical adjustment system used by some manufacturers,
an example of which is shown on one of the BSA Model 15 or Centurion rifles.
The left image shows the ring, with the two upper adjustment screw studs ................. and on the right is the fitting for the bottom screw
The pistol-grip and trigger arrangement
The bolt, from above and below
The bolt cocking indicator
Another of Knott's .22 bolt-action rifles illustrates a significant change in design.
The receiver is machined to permit loading from either side, and it is believed that the barrelled action
was intended to be sold, with alternative stocking, for either left or right-handed use,
in much the same way as were some of those .22 target rifles produced by M.K. Jurek,
and the most unusual under-lever operated bolt-action Barnett "10X" rifles,
which were barrelled by the Ten-X Manufacturing Company.
The rifle is here shown without sights, and lacking the hooked adjustable alloy butt-plate,
but the sights are illustrated separately lower down this page.
The rear of the action, with the bolt open.
And from above, showing the notably formed cheek-piece design.
The barrelled round action is here removed from the stock,
showing the two hard bars within the bedding section.
And the adjustable trigger mechanism bolted below the receiver.
The bolt, from beneath., showing the sear release.
The bolt-head face, with unusually wide extractor.
The stock's fore-end viewed from underneath, showing the forward bedding bolt,
the inlet "K-B" ivory cartouche, a proprietry hand-stop and accessory rail
such as found on the contemporary BSA Martini International rifles,
the two then tradional wood screw eyes for the sling hooks or swivels,
and, right at the front, the fitting for the lower adjusting screw previously discussed ,
the components for which are illustrated four images down.
The receiver loading platform, and rear-sight mounting block.
The rifle has also been fitted with the dovetail mounting blocks to permit use of a telescopic sight.
The barrel is characteristically marked with the "CUSTOM K-B BUILT" stamping,
underneath which is the company address at that time.
"JOHN C.J. KNOTT Ltd. 73, SURBITON ROAD, KINGSTON, SURREY."
Note the relieving of the fore-end to accommodate the Freeland produced bedding ring.
Which ring is illustrated below
A close-up shot of the forward bedding bolt and the company cartouche.
Finally, we illustrate the sights.
The fore-sight is probably a contemporay product seen used on a number of competitors rifles,
but the rear-sight is of in-house manufacture.
Below we show a cartoon printed in the Autumn 1952 Edition of "The Rifleman"
(which emerged early in the Twentieth Century as the quarterly journal of the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs,
and remains to this day - post November 1947 - the mouthpiece of the National Small-bore Rifle Association).
The cartoon depicts well-known persons seen at the Bisley Small-bore Meeting of that year.
Col. Gould D.S.O., mentioned in Knott's obituary, is present (top right), as is Knott himself,
prominent again (centre) and described as being amongst the "Big Guns".
Another remarkable personage, that of John Hall, is shown (top left).
Hall worked for Eley in their .22 rimfire cartridge manufacture, both testing ammunition in the works and very successfully out on the range.
He appeared in the illustrious company of the highly successful Arthur Traes, Longhurst and A.G. Banks
on a pamphlet published by the S.M.R.C. "A Few Hints on Rifle Shooting" authoured by Capt. T.S. Smith.
He later competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics with the then new prototype of the B.S.A. Martini International - which became the Mark III.
John Knott's expertise in full-bore rifle gunsmithing, as well as small-bore,
is to be found discussed within an article in "The Marksman".
It is about one of his game-shooting clients and her Mannlicher-actioned .303"CF hunting rifle.
Knott's lady customer, Mrs. A.B. Culf of Sale, Cheshire, was evidently a versatile shooter;
also using a Winchester Model 52D .22RF target rifle to some effect during Bisley Week.
John Knott's family in the U.S.A., his two stepsons Ed and Jerry, have kindly provided additional detail and photographs for this article
and we are grateful to be able to add this to the information we have on John's time in the U.K.
Amongst much other material, we have been given photographs of the very last .22RF target rifle built by him,
and used regualarly, usually with either a Unertl or Fecker telescopic sight.
Beautifully stocked, and showing only the 'scope mounts,
the rifle is fitted with a 'five star' barrel by the well-known U.S. maker Eric Johnson *,
and has been serial numbered "1", presumably of type ..........
........... with his usual name engraved on the action.
The family believe that the burn mark was probably made as a result of their stepfather's penchant for cigars!
Knott also built a .280" Magnum calibre rifle, and was much into such 'wildcat' cartridges.
It was an interesting choice of calibre, perhaps influenced by the contemporary thinking
in military circles around that time, with the proposed introduction of such a cartridge, it having been experimented with
The two 4 inch long belted-case cartridges above are each reminiscent of those used for the .55/.303" Boys Anti-Tank Training Rifle
and the .55-inch round for the service issue Boys Anti-Tank Rifle (originally "Stanchion"),
although, the .55" case alone is near 4 inches long, (and the soft-nosed bullet would have been highly unacceptable for other than hunting).
Detail of these cartridges was recently passed to us by John's stepson Ed,
who provided a dimensioned drawing of the .280 Magnum, which they called the "Black Mamba", and wrote as below:
The 1961 article mentioned was found, is very informative, and we have transposed it
into text from a very poor PDF document to make it legible on screen.
Another 1961 Tucson article, just about legible, related only to John Knott, covering the setting up of his new gunshop, and proposed charity work.
Note that the following four photographs are copyright to the family.
Below: Mary Knott, John's wife, in his gunshop.
John shooting an M1 Garand in Mexico.
On a hunting trip in Patagonia (far left).
(May that be his .280 Magnum hunting rifle?)
And with Mary and his stepson on the range in Tucson, Arizona.
THE LAST FOUR EDITIONS of THE MARKSMAN JOURNAL
These are searchable flip-page facsimiles of the journal, which may take a few moments to display.
JULY 1950 - Vol.1 No.1
SEPTEMBER 1950 - Vol.1 No.2
OCTOBER 1950 - Vol.1 No.3
NOVEMBER 1950 - Vol.1 No.4
Their archivist is Rudi Prusok, and for further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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