By Alex C.
I woke up a couple of Saturdays ago to an unwelcome alarm. As someone who rarely gets enough sleep during the week, I was not happy. I picked up my phone to shut off the beeping and read “MACHINE GUN SHOOT TODAY!” on the screen. The grogginess was instantly swept away by excitement and confusion, I could not believe I had forgotten. I don’t keep an updated calendar, I know I should, but I don’t. I don’t even remember setting that alert, perhaps the ghost of John Browning set it, knowing how badly I wanted to shoot his BAR. More likely my amazing (and much more responsible) fiancé set it for me. Either way, I was grateful . . .
I got ready as fast as I could and hopped in the car. I drove towards the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club in Shedd, Oregon, home to a very wide and beautiful 200 yd. outdoor range. The event was free for club members and $10 a person to the public. The gates opened at 9, but I didn’t manage to get there until closer to 11. By then the line of parked cars was at least 150 long, but I found a spot eventually. I walked up the range and couldn’t hear a thing. I was doubled up on hearing protection, but still I was perplexed. Where was the constant report of machine gun fire I craved?
Maybe I was too late. Maybe they had already burned through all the ammo! As I neared the door I heard the crackle of a megaphone, I couldn’t make out what the guy was saying at first, but then he started counting down, and I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. When he reached zero an armisonant eruption like I had never heard before blasted through the air. I dashed through the doors as quickly as I could, but most of the magazines had already run dry. The megaphone came back on proclaiming “Now that’s what we call full auto!” The range was packed to the gills and there were smiles and cheers in all directions. It turns out I was right on time.
I spent the next hour or so getting the lay of the land. I didn’t have a lot to spend so I had to pick what I wanted to shoot carefully. There were probably 10 vendors there, each with a seriously impressive collection of machine guns, SBR’s, SBS’s, suppressors, you name it. Certainly the biggest collection of NFA items I’ve ever seen, all available to shoot provided you could afford the ammo.
I rented an M-16 at an indoor range several years earlier, and while it was a great time, I wanted to try some new guns. I was hoping to find a 10/22, an Uzi, a Thompson submachine gun, and of course a BAR. I also would have been more than happy to shoot a GLOCK 18, a Galil, and an AK-47 if I couldn’t find some of the others.
I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I saw all of the above and much more, with prices at or below what I was expecting. Nevertheless, I did some math, and decided I was only going to be able to shoot the four I was most excited about. I particularly enjoyed watching other people shoot the GLOCK 18. Nobody could control that thing, but it looked like a ton of fun. Finally it was time to shoot. I decided to start small and work my way up.
First was the Ruger 10/22, suppressed. There was only one there, and after doing some research, I believe it had a Norrell trigger pack installed. The rifle fired from an open bolt and lacked any sights whatsoever. I paid $10 to shoot a single BX-25 mag and tried not to think about the cost per round throughout the day, as I knew I was really just paying for the experience.
I got my eye as close to the barrel as I could and “aimed” at one of the donated cars down range. Boom, click, jam on the second round…FTF, whatever. I dropped the mag, safety on, the guy hands me a new one, I load it up, safety off, “aim,” pull the trigger, and it was over. At about 1600 rounds per minute it fired all 25 in less than a second. Totally awesome. That was going to be a tough act to follow.
Then I had to choose between several Uzis, some with stocks, some without, some full size, some minis, some micros. I don’t know much about Uzis, so I picked the one that didn’t have a line. I honestly don’t know what it was. I do know that it was $15 for a 32 round 9mm stick mag.
This one had a stock, but it was a metal wire stock (pretty common I think), so there really wasn’t any way to get my head down, and without a secure cheek weld the irons seemed almost useless to me. Anyway, I didn’t really care if I hit anything, I just wanted to feel the action cycling, make some noise, and smell a fresh cloud of gunsmoke.
Once again I took “aim” at one of the cars, pulled the trigger, boom, click, jam on the second round, not sure what happened this time, but the vendor fixed it quickly, and the rest went off flawlessly. Wikipedia says the rate of fire is 600 rpm, and I believe it. A lot slower than the 10/22, but far from slow. Again it was awesome. What else can I say, machine guns are sweet.
Third up was the venerable .45ACP Tommy Gun, I had four to choose from, two with the older (20’s gangster) style vertical foregrip, and two with the later horizontal (GI) style forend. Both had their appeal, but I went with the vertical foregrip. It ran $25 for a 20 round stick mag. Next year I might need to spring for the drum.
It had really nice sights (finally something I felt like I could aim!), and the balance and ergonomics were a thing of beauty. The gun functioned perfectly. I think I may have even hit the car this time. I believe this was a Model 1921, which means it fired at 850 rpm and felt faster than the Uzi to me. Seriously a fantastic firearm, I can’t believe you used to be able to order these out of a catalog, I would have bought two.
Last, but certainly not least, the gun that got me out of bed that morning — the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). I only saw one there, but that was enough for me. I eagerly handed over my $25 to put 20 rounds of .30-06 down the tube and decided to shoot it prone. It had some nice sights on it, and I wanted to use them. I really couldn’t say definitively what model I was shooting. I guess I was too excited to even pay attention. It was definitely the slowest cycling gun of the day, so I think it was a 1918A2 (potentially as low as 300 rpm). It ran without a hiccup, and being prone I finally got to see my rounds shredding those cars. The perfect end to a wonderful day at the range.
Next year, I’ll hopefully have some more disposable income to spend at the shoot. I’d like to get behind an AK and a Galil for sure. There were also some very cool SAW type MG’s in .50 and .30 caliber that were mounted to a 1945 deuce and half — only $7 a round!