Tank fan Gerald Hay upon the M18 Hellcat tank destroyer.
By Dean Roxby
Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC) hosted the 25th annual full auto machine gun shoot on May 17 and 18, 2014.
Well organized and attended, this year’s event was a complete success. As it is open to the public, many people were able to experience the thrill of full auto for the first time. Vendors from across Oregon and several other western states had tables of firearms available to rent. The range of guns was impressive from historic World War I classics to modern day technology.
The weather had threatened to be an issue leading up to the weekend. However, the first day, Saturday, turned out to be a very pleasant day. Most participants were dressed in light T-shirts or similar. Sunday exhibited more mixed weather. As is common on the “wet coast,” we had a bit of rain. Fortunately, it came in short bursts, and then quickly dried up again. Several times the rain seemed to be coming down at a 45 degree angle. However, the ARPC range has a large covered area that happens to be behind the yellow safety line, so all was good.
Unfortunately, the overcast did keep one of the displays from attending. It was hoped that David Statham would bring his Viet Nam era OH-6A helicopter, as he did last year.
While the OH-6A did not attend, military vehicle collector Steve Preston did bring his fully restored M18 Hellcat tank destroyer named “Rachel” (after his wife) on Sunday. He had a M2HB .50 cal. Browning machine gun mounted atop the tank, available for anyone wishing to experience the mighty .50 Browning machine gun.
Steve started the day with a demo run around the ARPC grounds, to the delight of armor enthusiasts. One such tank fan, Gerald Hay, happened to be sitting upon the vehicle chatting to the maintenance crew-member when Steve fired up “Rachel.” As a result, Gerald found himself going for an unscheduled tank ride. “Rachel” and crew raced across the right edge of the range, plowing through brush and hillside before stopping briefly at center stage, much to the delight of the many spectators. Afterwards, Gerald described the ride as “a definite highlight in my life” and himself as “the happiest man there.”
By “fully restored,” please note that the main gun, a 76mm cannon, is now functional as well. Steve has managed to acquire a new breech ring and has actually fired the gun three times. However, the firing pin was broken at this time, so no main gun demo this weekend. “Rachel” was built by the Buick division of GM in 1944, one of 2,507 such Hellcats produced by Buick.
Each day at ARPC starts with a very thorough safety briefing for all the ARPC volunteer staff, as well as all the vendors. This attention to safety has paid off, as they have never had a gunshot injury during the 25 year history. Following the safety briefing is the Pledge of Allegiance and a short prayer offering thanks for the enjoyment and freedoms everyone is about to take part in.
At 9:00 AM the range goes hot, and the fun begins. With roughly 40 tables worth of guns available for rent from the various vendors, there was much fun to be had. Among the firearms noted were submachine guns such as Stens, MP40s and HK MP5s, numerous M16 and AK variants, and quite a few belt-fed guns including several of the mighty .50 BMG M2HB.
A good number of the belt-feds belonged to serious collector Dominic Spediacci, from Idaho. He had a fine array of guns last year and apparently that was not all of his collection as he brought a few different guns this time. Among the treasures featured this year were:
Model of 1914 French Hotchkiss
Model of 1917 Marlin aircraft gun, based on the M1895/14 “potato digger” design
Model of 1917 .30 cal. water-cooled made by Westinghouse
.50 BMG M2HB on tripod, made by
Model of 1917 by Remington Arms that came out of San Quentin prison
Browning M1919A4, made by Buffalo Arms
Additionally, there was a Winchester made 1918A1 BAR, and an Auto Ordnance 1928A1 Thompson.
At the 100 yard line were six scrap cars donated by a local auto wrecker. These make for much more interesting targets than paper. Consequently, they attract a lot of fire. Not content with simply laying down a steady stream of ball ammo from his belt-feds into the car targets, Dominic dumped several belts of API (Armor Piercing Incendiary) ammo from his M2HB.
During the “Great Ammo Shortage” of 2013, prices seemed a bit inflated last year. With some sense of normality returning to ammo prices, the cost to rent seemed a bit more affordable in 2014. Naturally, a wise consumer needs to shop around still. Several vendors had 100 round Beta C-Mag deals for use in their guns. Prices noted ranged from $100 per 100 rounds of 5.56×45 to a much more moderate $45 for 100 rounds through an M16. The same vendor, Limitless Tactical of Springfield, Oregon, also had a 30-round mag and suppressed FN F2000 package for a very fair $14.
Targets on the range included an assortment of plastic jugs, long strings of party balloons, the cars mentioned above, and the always popular binary explosive targets. Tannerite is the name most often associated with binary explosives, but there are other makers as well. This year, targets were supplied by both Tannerite and Master Blaster. On Sunday, Master Blaster supplied a 16 pound target. A satisfying boom was enjoyed by all.
Each year, a new design for a T-shirt is created. These are available for purchase through ARPC volunteer vendors. They are a very popular souvenir, as they generally sell out each year. It is interesting to spot the previous designs being worn by those that have attended past years events.
This event is always held on the weekend following Mother’s Day, and the weekend prior to Memorial Day. For 2015, this will be May 16 and 17. Check their website for more information and confirmation of times and dates.
Albany Rifle and Pistol Club
29999 Saddle Butte Road
Shedd, OR 97377
Office: (541) 491-3755
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N2 (March 2015)|