I step up to the firing line ... grip the Mac-10 firmly ... brace my feet and
I grin. How very, very, very, very cool on this very hot Whiskey Day.
I refocus on the target, tighten my finger and fire off a couple more bursts. I was scared when I started. Shooting a machine gun??? I don't know about that. But this could get addictive. It doesn't much matter to me that the bullets mostly hit a foot above the target. What matters is Being There. Doing That.
I shoot a 30-round magazine of .45 ACP in three- and four-round bursts. Then, under the watchful eyes of range officer Carty and out-of-towner UnReconstructed (whose firearm and ammo I'm shooting), it's time to go for the Gen-u-ine Rock 'n Roll -- a full 30-round magazine on one trigger pull.
I step up. I brace. I -- ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack! -- stagger to one side, pushed off balance by the force of the rapid fire. I stop and laugh at myself, undone, unable to control the gun.
"Lean into it," says UnReconstructed. "Lean into it."
So, as if I intended to deliver each and every round personally into the target, I push forward, thrusting my weight against the ultimate basic black gun. And this time -- ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack! -- the Mac-10 and I join in a sort of Zen experience.
A very noisy and short-lived Zen experience, for sure. But for those few seconds, I am one with gun, the target, and the universe. And having a lot of fun, besides.
And that was what it was like at the beginning of Hardyville Memorial Machine Gun Shoot and Ice Cream Social.
It got even better from there. And that's even before we started on the ice cream.
But why have a machine-gun shoot? What's the purpose of this little exercise, given that full-auto firearms don't have a lot of use in the everyday world? I mean, you wouldn't want to shoot a deer with a fully automatic weapon. Potting a burglar with one would be the very definition of "overkill." Not to mention the very definition of "lawsuit." Even in combat, for which machine guns were developed, in most cases Our Very Own Government considers short bursts more PC and less wasteful than stereotypical "spray and pray" (as the gun-haters like to put it).
Why do it? Because it's a howling hoot. Because learning to master virtually any shooting skill makes people more self-confident and capable. Because it's a first-class fireworks display (as you see when night falls on the happy machine gunners).
And because these are, after all, real-live military weapons in the hands of American civilians -- where they belong. Serious firepower that's capable of meeting serious firepower if ever there's dire need. Call it an advanced homeland security preparation -- peaceful now, but capable of being used against future "enemies foreign or domestic."
And we do it because this is still, for all its recent downfall, America. And machine guns are as American as the ice cream the slowly thinning Mrs. Nat (with a big pair of shooters' earmuffs over her gray head) is cranking out at the picnic table under the one lone shade tree at the shootin' ground.
Okay, so it was an Italian who first thought of something resembling a machine gun. In fact, it was the usual Italian who thought of everything, Leonardo da Vinci. (Here's his design.) But it was a pair of born Americans, Mr. Gatling and Mr. Maxim who really got things going. And it's another American, John Moses Browning who's still known today as the "patron saint of automatic fire."
The most famous machine gun shoot is held twice a year at Knob Creek, Kentucky. There are others, like Cheyenne Wells, Colorado. The only one I've attended is Hardyville's.
A lot of people are surprised to learn that machine-gun shoots even exist. They've heard the term "illegal machine gun" so often they think that's the only kind of machine gun there is. Although -- sadly -- you have to have a federal permission slip to possess a machine gun outside of Hardyville, full-auto weapons are not illegal in 39 of the freest states of America.
People don't get to do stuff like this in dictatorships. Which -- aside from the fact that certain people simply enjoy things that harmlessly go ack-ack-ack!, whomp!, and boom! -- is all the excuse required for doing it.
"Nobody needs" a machine gun or a machine-gun shoot, as the anti-gunners would be sure to say. But then, "nobody needs" a NASCAR race, snowboarding, X-treme skiing, or mountain climbing, either. So we tell the busybodies to quitcher snoopin' and go mind yr own danged bidness.
Some people, even on our side, are saying that the Second Amendment (the citizens' failsafe against tyranny) is already dead because government has so dramatically outgunned us little citizens that even if some dire day came when we had to shoot back at some would-be rulers, we'd inevitably fail.
But the truth is, the rights behind the Second will never die as long as people have the will to be free. As long as a dedicated few hang on to the knowledge of how to make things go ack-ack-ack!, whomp!, and boom! then we'll have a leg up on regaining freedom, even if some future laws come along that make the Patriot Act look mild and some agencies come along that make the TSA and the ATF look like Victorian ladies at a tea party.
I should say ... we'll have a leg up on regaining freedom as long as we retain the skills and as long as we retain, or regain, the will to have our freedom.
And that, too, is why we do this thing. Just keepin' in practice. And reminding everybody that despite the well-tamed, government-dumbed, and TV-numbed majority, there's a formidable mess of Americans who'd rather not be messed with. Don't tread on us and we won't tread on you.
The great object would be never to have to shoot in anger or in outrage at the loss of freedom. To just have badfolk respect your power and keep away. The rattlesnake, after all, rattles his tail so that he can avoid having to strike. And there's definitely a lot of rattling, here at the Whiskey Day Memorial Machine Gun Shoot and Ice Cream Social.
But now I've yakked more than my share. Night falls on the shooting range. The various mini-competitions held during Whiskey Day come to an end. Prizes are handed out. Ice cream is consumed. But it's hardly the end. No way. The best is yet to come.
In the almost-dark, the shooters stand, or kneel, or lay prone again at the firing line. And that's when the big white plywood house with the pillared portico is set up. And the important-looking domed plywood building. And they're set where they belong, amid the old travel trailers and water heaters -- each one marked with a Cyalume light stick for nighttime visibility and (did I mention?) rigged with explosives. Explosives that go off and make big booms! when struck by sufficient force and firepower.
And Carty calls, "Fire!" And that's when the real fireworks begin.
* Thank you to Thunder and Ian for providing inspiration and links. Thank you to UnReconstructed for Things that Go Boom.
Experience the brand new novel by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman: RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone. It's the story of one boy's dangerous quest to fulfill his dreams in a world where dreams are dulled with prescription drugs and everything, everyone, everywhere, is watched and controlled. First four chapters are online.