By Vic Fogle
May 18, 1998, dawned dry and bright at the Albany, Oregon, Rifle and Pistol Club range. As the sun rose and quickly burned off patchy fog, numerous small, puffy white clouds appeared. The sun had considerable warmth to it. After a long succession of overcast, showery days, the 18th appeared to be an ideal day for shooting.
Unfortunately, the 18th was the day after Albany’s spring machine gun shoot.
The 16th and 17th, like numerous days before them, were marked by periods of intermittent rain and threatening-looking weather. Not a good time to do anything outdoors. Numerous shooters were apparently unaware of the previous completion of the club’s main range firing line cover and noise suppression structure, of which more later, for attendance was smaller then anticipated. Those who did brave the recurring showers found the usual warm welcome and a multiplicity of targets down range. Scores of water-filled jugs awaited the shooters, as did long strings of gaily-colored, bobbing balloons that were periodically replaced. In addition, there were numerous hanging drum lids at 100 yards for those unsure of their zeroes. (Surely no decent machine gunner would find them to be challenging targets. Surely.)
A survey of the firing line showed that relatively modern machine guns predominated. Of the gun assortment on the main range, the majority were of the World War II era or later. There were numerous M-16s and their clones as well as pieces chambered for the 5.56mm cartridge. Several M-60s could be seen. A wide variety of subguns appeared, especially in 9mm, although many of the subgun shooters remained on the north range where the hotly-contested subgun match raged both days. But the World War I period was also well represented. Long bursts from assorted Brownings turned many heads. There were several Ma Deuces and A4s, plus a couple of A6s and BARs. Most of us are accustomed to Brownings, so the foreign guns were even more interesting. Providing a counterpoise to the familiar Brownings were several Vickers, and one local enthusiast shot an experienced looking Maxim MG 08-15 that was fascinating to see; it had, as they say, a lot of character. Equally appealing was a beautifully turned-out MG 08 that was brought by a gentleman from Nevada. Obviously a man of discerning taste, he also brought Vickers and Browning beltfeds. Several entrepreneurs provided a wide variety of guns for the unarmed venturesome to rent.
Interruptions in the shooting came more often at this event than at the December one because of concurrent firing of an assault rifle competition down on the left end of the range. The falling plates taken down by the assault riflemen required frequent resetting, and shooters made good use of these breaks by hunting down brass and links, loading belts, and going for food. Consequently, it seemed somewhat less formal than other shoots. Periodically, someone would exuberantly dump a magazine or a belt into a mud hole with the express purpose of seeing how high he could get the water to fly.
At this event non-shooters could enjoy watching from close proximity to the firing line and still remain dry, for this was the first machine gun shoot since the spacious new firing line cover was completed. This impressive edifice, measuring 185 feet long by 27 feet deep by approximately 12 feet high at the front and back underneath, is not merely an accommodation to ward off the incessant rain that falls in the Willamette Valley; it has another, equally worth-while purpose. One would think that a range located along a freeway in the middle of a farming valley would be immune from noise complaints. One would be wrong. Therefore, in the interests of being a good neighbor and also in the interests of being able to continue shooting .50 Browning ammo ARPC has installed a handsome combination firing line cover and sound abatement structure.
It is of steel, completely enclosed at the rear, with three access doors, and it reflects sound down range toward the Saddle Butte backstop. Beyond the north end of the firing line the cover continues an additional 35 feet and is partitioned to form a work room and a garage for the club’s fire truck.
It may be of interest to readers everywhere to learn how a private club that does not take in fees from the public during fall sighting in days and is not near a major population center can accomplish such an undertaking. The answer is that the club is a fairly large, very well run organization which fills the needs of the Valley’s population rather than trying to dictate what or how people will shoot.
There are a wide variety of shooting activities to satisfy almost every taste. Rifle shooters can choose among high power at 200 yards, smallbore indoor position, black powder, and benchrest for both smallbore and high power calibers. Handgun programs include metallic silhouette for both smallbore and centerfire, IPSC, and indoor bullseye. Trap is available, as well. Inter-disciplinary programs are old west (rifle, handgun, and shotgun), full-auto (regular monthly shoots are submachine gun plus either handgun or shotgun), and defensive shooting (shotgun and handgun). There are monthly competitions, which are open to all comers, in a number of these shooting disciplines. Competitors are kept abreast of at least some of the activities because, in addition to the club’s regular monthly newsletter and event schedule, individuals in several of the interest groups desk-top publish small, specialized news-letters.
Another reason for the club’s strength is that, unlike many clubs whose focus is inward, ARPC is an outward-looking organization, quick to see needs and opportunities in the surrounding area. A junior program, hunter safety, and two gun shows a year (the last was about 400 tables) are additional club activities. The club allows numerous police and military groups to use some of the club’s facilities on a scheduled basis during the week, thereby providing other sources of support with real political muscle. There is, after all, nothing like providing a public service to justify your existence. Recruitment of NRA members, especially at the gun shows it sponsors, is yet another successful activity of great value both to the club and to the NRA. The result of all this effort is a sizable, diverse club some of whose members live forty miles away. But all can find what they want here.
All revenues from full-auto shooting, less expenses, go straight into the Albany treasury. Consequently, machine gun shooting is the activity that brings in more money than any other. Shooters forgo awards at the monthly matches and instead bask in the psychic glory of having beaten their cohorts. Recognition comes in the monthly Albany Full-Auto, a special interest newsletter published by Bill Berg, Box 3722, Eugene, OR 97403 (541-689-1893). Usually exceeding twenty pages a month, this very useful periodical contains shoot results, course descriptions, occasional guest articles or critiques, political news and commentary, match photos, legislative information, cartoons, internet gleanings, and interesting web sites. A model of what a special interest newsletter can be, it is available to any interested party by subscription.
Albany’s May machine gun shoots appear to be the largest organized automatic weapon shoots held west of the Mississippi, and it is doubtful if there are any unorganized efforts that are larger. Not only Oregonians but also Washingtonians and Californians, who must store their class 3 holdings out of state, come here to enjoy the fellowship of shared interests. Other states are also represented. Anyone with a legally owned machine gun of .50 Browning or smaller is welcome to come and fire it at one of our shoots.
Although there are monthly subgun competitions, the next big non-competitive machine gun shoot is scheduled for December 12, 1998. People are probably loading ammo for it right now!
To get more information on any shooting program or to confirm a match date, contact ARPC at Box 727, Albany, OR 97321. Voice mail is 541-924-5914. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org while the club web site is http://www.proaxis.com/arpc. The club’s property is located along Interstate 5, but unfortunately there are no exits at that point. If approaching from the north, leave I-5 at exit 228, go left (east) 1/2 mile on Oregon 34, and turn right (south) onto Seven Mile Lane. After approximately six miles, turn right (west) onto Boston Mill Road and follow it to the club’s entrance, near the freeway overpass. If approaching from the south, leave I-5 at exit 216 and turn left (west). Follow this road (Oregon 228) 2 1/2 miles to Halsey. At the four-way stop intersection turn right (north) onto U.S. 99 and follow it to Shedd. At Boston Mill Road turn right (east) and go approximately 4 miles, crossing the freeway, and turn right (south) or go straight ahead onto club property. We’ll be looking for you!
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N2 (November 1998)|