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« PRODUCT REVIEW: THE SPRINGFIELD ARMORY XD9103 | Main | A Question »

May 22, 2004

U.F.B. (Unidentified Flying Brass)

Machine gun shoots are too much fun to keep quiet about.

Last week end was the Rocky Mountain Fifty Caliber Shooters Association's 6th annual .50 BMG Rifle & Machine Gun shoot. Much to the disappointment of Sarah Brady & Michael Moore this did not mean machine guns & .50 caliber rifles were the targets. To further their bad mood, no one attempted to "go postal". Funny how several dozen armed people (well armed I might add) seems to deter those with mass murder on their minds.

There were a few casualties. A condemned mobile home, several junked out cars & numerous 55 gallon drums fell victim to this display of the militia's firepower. There were even a few radio controlled planes that are no longer with us because they (purposefully) flew too close to the firing line.

Here we have a small sampling of what was available for rent. Of course I thought it was blasphemous to have those poodle shooting jam-o-matics in the presence of a J.M.B. creation, but to each his own. I'm not exactly sure what the firearm is between the two poodle shooters so feel free to tell me if you know.

(Click on the pics for a larger version or right click the pics & open them in a new window for the full sized images)

Here we have a more appropriate setting, one that shows two J.M.B. designs in all their beauty.

Here's one for the ladies, specifically Miss Annika. (Click here to find out why this pic would interest our lovely [& talented] conservative poet trapped behind enemy lines.)

& don't think that .50 was the biggest offerings available. 14mm, 20mm & up was there for your renting pleasure, though you'd have to part with $10 a shot for the 20mm & the price increases with the barrel diameter. I think the most expensive I saw was $200 or so for 1 shot from a 57mm.

Below is a 14mm (.55 caliber) Boys anti-tank rifle on a pedestal mount with a cannon of uncertain size (though probably a 37mm) beside it.


Here's a (slightly) better view of one of the smaller field pieces they had.

For those on a more limited budget or who just couldn't get past the idea of the recoil involved with a 20mm there were many other options available..

This next series requires a bit of an explanation:

The girlfriend & I got there late in the afternoon on Saturday & had to spend some time looking around so I didn't get to shoot until late in the day. There were a few people who had BAR's for rent but we gravitated towards one section where a few people in colonial period attire were shooting black powder guns. In addition to a few muzzle loading rifles (including a Brown Bess replica) they had a half scale model of a 6 pounder from the late 1700's. The smoke after the shot was noticeable to say the least. But curiously they also had a BAR. Not just any BAR mind you, but a 1918 BAR made in November of 1918 by Winchester. In WW2 & Korea our military used the 1918A2 Bar which had some differences from the original model. Most notable was the selector. On a 1918A2 the selector has 3 positions: safe, 450 RPM (rounds per minute) & 650 RPM. On the 1918 the selector had 3 positions: safe, full auto (around 650 rounds per minute) & semi-auto. There are a few other minor differences but the selector settings were the most interesting to me. (The last two links are to pics of two semi-automatic only models of the BAR made & sold by Ohio Ordnance Works. They'll run ya three to four grand & are only semi-auto, but it's a great way to own a BAR without going through the federal paperwork. Compared to the cost of the finite supply of full auto BAR's it's a helluva lot cheaper as well.)

So I laid down $15 for a 20 round magazine of ball ammo. The first pic is of the owner of the BAR explaining to me the basic operation of it (well, in between my questions about the cyclic rate, gas chamber pressure, sight settings & so on)

Next is me firing the 18.5 pound rifle from the standing position

Another one of me firing from the standing

In case you're wondering why you don't see a stream of empty brass flying let me explain something to you: this is not an MP5 in 9mm! Despite its almost 19 pound heft I was holding a machine gun that fires the manly .30-06 Springfield cartridge. The recoil for each shot would have been mild had I flipped the switch to "semi" but don't think there's no force being imparted on the shoulder of anyone who fires the BAR. I shot in small bursts rather than trying to run the mag out in the least time possible. If I would have held the trigger down until it was empty the first shot or three would have hit the 55 gallon drum I was aiming at (which was close to 100 yards distant) but the rest of the rounds would have went sailing way over the top of anything closer than 600 yards. This next pic will show you the muzzle climb that a machine gun in '06 has (as well as showing that getting your balance together before you pull the trigger is a good thing)

I could have continued in the standing position (no really - it wasn't that heavy) but I wanted to see how it was from the kneeling position. Unfortunately I didn't have enough experience with the three hook sling that the BAR had to get properly slung up, so it was a semi-supported position.

In some of the pics you might be able to see the target I was firing at. It was a 55 gallon drum which should appear as the closest bluish blob thatís a bit larger than the white blobs beside it. I did hit the thing once I got used to the sights but there wasn't anything other than dirt clouds directly behind it to verify that. The girlfriend was concentrating more on taking my pic as she had trouble figuring out what I was aiming at.

It was a more pleasant experience than I imagined. As long as you caress the trigger (i.e. fire short bursts) rather than holding the thing down it's surprisingly controllable. I can't speak one way or another on the accuracy other than to say a first timer like me can hit a 55 gallon barrel at around 100 yards with no trouble at all. It'd be interesting to see what it'd do on paper, but unfortunately time & cash were limited as was the choice of targets.

My girlfriend is not a gun nut by any stretch. Oddly enough she doesn't particularly like them, so going to the machine gun shoot (& other shooting events) is her way of paying me back for the art shows she drags me (kicking & screaming) to. (Not that I have anything against art, it's just that I'd rather listen to a good band.)

But one thing she does like is the tracer shoot they have just after dark. We were getting ready to leave & not many people had been shooting tracers yet (it wasn't quite dark enough) so being the noble & self sacrificing boyfriend that I am I volunteered to shoot a clip full of tracers through a Garand. (Yes, at a machine gun shoot I wanted to shoot a Garand. Shocking, isn't it?) As luck would have it I paid for my clip of tracers right before they had a 20 minute cease fire so we had to wait a little while before I could shoot them. It was close to dark before I got to shoot the tracers & we ended up staying for a while after that because everyone else started shooting their tracers. But more on that in another post.

Again I'm in a kneeling position minus being slung up properly. This is because the Garand I rented (at a rather reasonable $6 for a clip of tracers) just didn't have a sling. I was a bit upset about this but one has to make do sometimes. The target I was firing at was a 55 gallon barrel about 400 yards away. At least I think. I've always been horrible at range estimation. The girlfriend says it seemed like 500 or 600 yards but I was thinking it was a more modest 400.


Here's one where you can see the target I'm aiming at, though just barely. I think. One of the tracers (the little red dots) is mine after it hit the 55 gallon barrel. I think. It's damn hard to tell since I wasn't paying that much attention to when my girlfriend was snapping the pics as I was trying to focus on my sight picture in less than perfect lighting conditions.

But a 55 gallon drums at damn near any range less than 600 yards arenít too hard to hit with an average Garand. If you doubt me then buy a Garand & then set up a barrel at around 500 yards. Go on. I dare ya.

I'll post more pics later on (after I've cleaned them up a bit) so if shooting things at medium to long range with fully automatic firearms interests you, then stay tuned.

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