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Rapid fire

Posted by Richard on April 17, 2006

I went to the Ft. Morgan Machine Gun Shoot this past Saturday and spent more than I should have "throwing money downrange quickly." Despite rather unpleasant weather (mostly overcast, off and on drizzle, and way too much wind), I had a great time. I was accompanied by fellow bloggers Jed Baer and Nick Horianopoulos. Both know much more about military weapons than I do, so I learned a lot (and retained a little) by listening to them as best I could with ear protection on.

This was the first time I’d ever fired fully automatic weapons, and let me tell you — it is big-time fun. Nothing puts a grin on your face as quickly as firing a tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine gun at an automobile carcass. It’s not a cheap thrill, unfortunately — $40 for 100 rounds of 7.62mm x 54R, which is maybe 3 or 4 3- to 5-second bursts.

I also tried several hand-held automatic weapons, including an M16, a Thompson submachine gun, and a Glock 18 9mm machine pistol. The latter was actually the most difficult for me to control. Because it’s such a small and light weapon, I had trouble preventing the muzzle from climbing (here’s a slo-mo video of someone doing a much better job than I did). The new 18C with compensator would help, as would a few hundred rounds of practice.

Of course, I had to put some rounds through one of those evil .50 BMG caliber "sniper rifles" that’s become the latest target of the gun banners. The shell is as long as your hand. The AR50 I fired is a single-shot bolt-action rifle about 5 feet long and 35 pounds. At under 3 grand (not including scope), it’s one of the more "affordable" .50 caliber rifles. The guy charged me $2 a round, which was way cheaper than others ($3 to $5). Very accurate. Very loud. The recoil wasn’t as bad as I expected. I shot it from a bench, and the whole rifle moved back several inches when fired, but it was a firm push rather than a sharp smack. I guess that’s the advantage of such a massive weapon.

I also put 10 rounds through a semi-auto version of a .50 BMG tripod-mounted machine gun. This is, of course, the weapon for which the round was created — "BMG" stands for "Browning Machine Gun."

I didn’t fire the most amazing weapon there — too rich for my blood. But if you could afford it, you could fire a minigun — an electrically-powered, modern version of the Gatling gun that fires up to 6000 rounds per minute. If you have a broadband connection, take a look at this video of  a helicopter-mounted minigun in action. The charge for shooting this bad boy ranged from $75 for 100 rounds (about 1.5 seconds) to $550 for 1000 (15 seconds).

Whenever the minigun was about to be fired, they notified the PA guy so he could announce it to the crowd, and people gathered around to watch. Most of the purchases were 100 or 200 rounds, but one guy sprang for a thousand, and I managed to have a pretty good view. That 15 seconds seemed like an eternity. With other automatic weapons — even the Glock, which at 1300 rpm has a higher rate of fire than most — you can hear the individual shots: rat-tat-tat-tat-tat… fast, but each one is distinguishable. With the minigun, the sound is just a continuous roar. And a sheet of flame extends 3 feet from the barrels. Awesome.

There was some other fun-to-watch stuff, too — I saw a couple of 40mm howitzers and a bowling ball mortar being fired. The latter was a home-made black powder device, and it was a hoot.

We didn’t stay for the highlight of the day — they call it the "Mad Minute," when everyone cuts loose with all their weapons for 60 seconds. They’d originally announced that it would happen shortly before the 6 PM dinner break, and we’d planned to stay for it and leave right after. But then they changed the schedule, and moved it to after 7PM. We suspected it might be even later — the sky had cleared, so we figured they might wait until closer to dusk. At 6, we all agreed we were ready to call it a day and make the 50-mile trek back to Denver.

Needless to say, I want to do that again! The next opportunity is only four weeks away, but unfortunately, it’s 185 miles from Denver — a bit much for a day trip, and I’m not sure I want to camp out. I suppose I can wait until September in Ft. Morgan — if I start saving now, maybe I can try the minigun then. 🙂

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