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At 10:00 on Sunday morning, the airspace above Marine Corps Base Quantico was closed. The reason? I had just stepped to the firing line with my ArmaLite AR-50 chambered in 50 BMG (using Magtech 624gr M33 ammunition provided by Range control decided that I might be a danger to airplanes and so diverted air traffic while I had some fun competing in a modified Palma match. It was my first time shooting a 50 cal, and let me give you some of my impressions.

Before firing the first shot I watched some videos online of other people shooting the same rifle, and there was a pattern. Knowing 50 cal owner invites newbie to shoot the 50. Newbie hesitantly gets behind the gun. Loud explosion. Newbie laughs and complains about the recoil. It led me to believe that the experience wouldn’t be one I’d want to repeat very often.

When I pulled the trigger for the first time, I was pleasantly suprised at how mild the recoil felt and how quiet the report was to me. I was expecting a punishing kick that would leave my shoulder red for weeks but instead it was more like a gentle shove, less than an M44 Mosin Nagant’s recoil. Even the sound of the rifle going off was quieter than I expected. For the first two stages I had foam earplugs with earmuffs over them, but when we got back to 1,000 yards I decided that the earmuffs were actually overkill.

While the experience may be more or less pleasant for the shooter, the same cannot necessarily be said for the observers. Just like the RSO (who wants my “deck gun” as far away from him as possible), most people stayed away from my firing point. The match director even put a couple empty lanes between me and the next competitor. Even the people on the shotgun range down the road seemed to think the report was more than a little obnoxious.

Looking back at my scores, an interesting trend develops.

  • 800 Yards, 15 rounds – 124 0x
  • 900 Yards, 15 rounds – 125 0x
  • 1,000 Yards, 20 rounds – 161 4x

The further back I go, the better my score gets. This I think I can attribute to getting used to the gun, as by the end of the day I was nice and comfortable behind that mammoth rifle.

What’s really interesting (and I’ll go into this a little bit more when I write my review of this gun) is that even with machine gun quality ammo, ammunition which wasn’t really intended for accurate shooting, I was able to consistently hit in and around a dinner plate sized scoring ring from 1,000 yards.

On Saturday, everything seemed to go wrong at once. On Sunday, with the 50 cal at 1,000 yards, all seemed right with the world once more. Hopefully some nice ammunition supplier will throw me enough ammo to use this in the 50 BMG match on Father’s Day.

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  1. I had the same experience shooting a 45-70. Everyone I talked to that owned one says they kick like a mule. Got to shoot one at a work range day trip (I work the gun counter in a small retail chain in the inter-mountain west), and I was waiting for some wicked recoil out of the Marlin non ported guide gun I was going to shoot. Felt less than a 12 gauge to me and I loved shooting it. Thought it was funny that you could shoot at the 200 yard gong, pull the gun off your shoulder and still have time to spare before hearing the BONG. Man those things are big, slow bullets!

  2. I find shooting it relives all sinus pressure and kind of makes you think you have a nasty head cold or the flu for a second. It must have sucked for those around you, but glad you were having fun!

  3. If you were Hitting a dinner plate sized area at a 1000 yards on a F-class target all shots would have been in the 10 ring. …….. on a Palma Target the X-ring is 10″ at a 1000 yards….LOL @ around the target is more what you done!!!LOL

  4. It was nice to have you shooting with us. Too bad we did not get to chat after the match. I am in full agreement with your conclusion about the ammo NOT being the match grade which affected the consistency. Mostly, the variations in the bullet weight, powder load and their surface roughness are to blame, as both can be significant for the large projectiles.
    To give an idea of the distance, a shooter actually has time to fire a round, re-sight the rifle, count to one and see the bullet impact the birm behind the target.
    Additionally, in order to give your readers a reference scale, the X-ring for this type match is 5” (or 0.5 MOA @ 1000 yds), 10-ring is 10” (1 MOA @ 1000), and the largest “in the black” ring is 7, which is 36” (3.6MOA @ 1000).
    Was nice meeting you and we hope to see you again soon!

    PS the Postrer above has an outdated info, as NRA rules changed the X-ring to 5″, and the rest of the rings are correspondingly smaller. And I’m not saying this to get in the argument, but rather to make sure the poster uses the right number of clicks when HE joins us for a match 🙂

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