One of the more interesting perks of business conferences is the extra-curricular activities that go on after the day’s business is over. This afternoon I had the opportunity to head over to The Gun Store in Las Vegas whose principle differentiator from most firing ranges is the ability to rent and fire fully-automatic weapons. The group I was with tried out 4 makes of machine guns, the H & K MP5 SMG 9mm, the Uzi SMG 9mm, the STEN MKII SMG 9mm, and the Thompson M1A1 SMG .45.
The first thing to remember about fully-automatic firing is that you’re never far from an empty magazine. The second thing is, in a true combat situation, full auto firing draws a lot of attention, most of it really, really undesirable. The whole point of renting and shooting these weapons on a range, however, is to be able to really cut loose without worrying about either of those things, so while it was quick it was very fun.
One of the things most people never get by watching machine guns fired in the movies is that the barrel of the weapon really lifts up as you hold down on the trigger. Keeping the weapon pointed at the target is very difficult when it’s busy trying to pry itself out of your hand and point to the ceiling. Accuracy with these weapons is a relative thing. While we were all able to keep the bullets hitting the targets, the tightest grouping any of us was able to perform would have been an area roughly from the waist to the head of your average 6-foot guy. Even then, some of those would still have missed to the sides.
For each of the weapons, I fired off a couple of tight bursts of 2-3 rounds before just emptying the mag. I was curious to see if I could pull off controlled head-shots with them and was pleased to see that I could. (Bear in mind that these targets were standing still and not shooting back, so let’s keep it real.) After that, I’d just lay into it and try to keep the hits in the center mass of the target. Again, pretty good for having never done this before.
Of these 4 weapons, I found the MP5 easiest to shoot and maintain on target. It felt like it had less recoil to me and wouldn’t move off target so easily.
The next, interestingly, was the STEN. Its rate of fire was slower than the MP5 but it was also very smooth. Not bad for a weapon that, frankly, looked like something a plumber put together in his basement. The only complaint was the side-mounted magazine sticking out to the left. It kept making the gun want to roll over and move the sights out of your view. Not hard to keep straight, but it was still something the other weapons didn’t have.
The Uzi was another weapon that really let you feel each and every round going downrange. It was compact and easy to maneuver, however, reflecting the design specification for close-in, possible urban fighting. It was the Hollywood standard machine gun for years so it was the one I was most used to seeing held and fired. Felt like second nature.
Last up was the Thompson. Now, this was the only .45 we fired and you could tell. The barrel really wanted to come up and the recoil made it impossible to keep too much on target when firing full auto. Every one of us found the hits walking up and to the right on the targets we had hung up. Even with all that, it was still very satisfying to see that target just shred up under the fire.
It was quite a bit of fun and I highly recommend it once for everyone even remotely interested in firing a weapon. The expense will keep you from doing it too often, but it’s worth it for the one time.