By Dan Shea
Knob Creek Range, West Point, Kentucky; 24 May 1997
Many of the machine gun and small arms enthusiasts from around the world had gathered here for a rousing weekend of shooting events to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Machine Gun News magazine. (Apparently this was also the Swan Song, as MGN disappeared several days later).
The conversation turned to the passing of Eugene Stoner earlier this year, and some of the people who had been at the military ceremony for Mr. Stoner described the Salute that the military had arranged for his memory. There had been an exception made from standard protocol, and in addition to the firing of the M-14 rifles, one soldier fired a full 20 round magazine in his honor.
The participants in that conversation included Vietnam Veterans, Class 2 manufacturers, policemen, gunsmiths, and a number of others whose lives had been touched by Mr. Stoner’s work. We all wanted to honor Eugene Stoner, and most of us felt that the memory would be better served by a true full auto salute with his designs. On Saturday morning, the honor guard volunteered, then gathered for instruction at 13:45. At 14:00, the following events occurred:
I called for the attention of the crowd, and gave a short thanks to Mr. Stoner for his designs and innovations that have affected us all. This was kept to about 90 seconds or so, to keep people’s attention, as well as briefly educate them. Then a moment of silence was called for. At the end of the silence, I asked Mr. Engel to proceed. He called the Honor Guard Volunteers to order (They were at Dress-right-Dress at the orange line on the main range, in front of the firing line)
On his command of “Ready”; “Aim”; “Fire”! They all emptied 20 rounds on full auto. On his command, they all recovered to port arms, then on order reloaded another magazine. Mr. Engel repeated so that there were three repetitions. Mr. Engel then inspected each rifle, turned to the range officer for clearance to leave, and then the Honor Guard left the field to the left.
When the Honor Guard had exited the range, a “Slick” pulled in over our heads. The Huey was from Firelands Museum of Military History, and he was to sit at 100 feet and his door gunner was supposed to work over the treeline at the end of the range with an M60. (We had red smoke, so we just had to do a little recon by fire…..) Unfortunately the slick worked up too much dust and it interfered with visibility, and the pilot called off the mission. This was the right, responsible choice.
When he was gone, I waited to be sure he was not making another pass, then introduced Mr. Reed Knight, with Gene’s Stoner LMG. Reed fired a 200 round belt from one hand in the overhead position, and the LMG just sat there and chugged away, rock steady. The crowd roared approval- the LMG in action is a truly amazing sight.
I thanked all involved, and turned the range back to the Range master. It was my sincere hope that the echo of those volleys will stay in the memory of all who were there to witness it, and that they will continue to honor the genius of Eugene Morrison Stoner.
Honor Guard Captain:
John Whitworth Engel
Honor Guard Volunteers:
Denny Foutch: M4
Allen Kirchner: M16A2 Shorty
Jim Alderman: M4
Dennis Todd: M16 LMG
Dudley Calfee: M16A2
Frank James: M16A1
Mark Layton: M16A2
Craig Arritt: M16A2
Charles Cox: XM177
Mark Serbu: M16A2
Matt Smith: M16 / M4
Vic Petras: M16 9mm
Dan “Kel” Whelan: M16A1
Henning Brown: M16A1
Terry Thomas: M16A1
On 23 November 1997, John Whitworth Engel of Engel Ballistic Research was seriously injured while testing out a new bolt action rifle in .50 BMG. This was not one of his designs, but a new prototype from another manufacturer. The bolt exited to the rear of the receiver and went through his arm. He is hospitalized, and we are presently waiting for word of his recovery. Prognosis is that there will be quite a bit of surgery necessary for him. Our prayers are with Whit and his wife Karen.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N4 (January 1998)