dana and brotherWriter Dana McMahan and her brother Shane at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot
“If you are a serious football fan, you dream about going to the Superbowl to watch your favorite team win. Baseball fan—obviously you want to go to the World Series. For a NASCAR fan, the race to be at is the Daytona 500. What if you are a gun enthusiast? Where is your Superbowl? Where do you go for the ultimate in shooting? You go to Knob Creek Gun Range for the machine gun shoot.”
My brother posted this on his shooting blog after he joined me and my husband at the biannual mega gun event at Knob Creek last fall. As a firearms instructor and gun enthusiast since he was old enough to shoot a BB gun, I wanted his instruction, advice, and support. I’ve always been fearful of guns, despite growing up in a family that loved sport shooting—if by sport shooting we mean a bunch of guys in the family ranging from the youngest cousins to the oldest great uncles and grandpa gathering in some woods of rural southeast Kentucky to camp, shoot whatever targets they can fashion and, I suspect (I never invited myself along; I can’t imagine what the response would have been had I asked), tell bawdy stories. But my brother Shane, on the other hand, is as comfortable with a gun in hand as I am with a book.
He was the perfect person to bring along. This wasn’t my world, but it surely was his. He went on to write on his blog:
“Before you pay your admission at the main gate you can already smell the gun powder and hear the sweet sound of thousands of rounds being sent down range. Through the gate and a short walk up the hill and the firing line is in your site. At this main line is where most of the awesomeness is going on. I saw a cannon, a mini gun and several other belt-fed machine guns pushing lead.
“Past the main firing line and down the hill at the lower range is where most of the machine gun rentals are. We decided to jump in line and take part in all the fun. It was about a two hour wait for us to get to the firing line. The entire time, you’re only feet away from dozens of people taking turns with the rental weapons. Kind of odd standing there in a crowd of people that all share the same interests as you and not being able to talk to them. At the front of the line is a big sign that is a “menu” of what weapons they offer for rent. There were about 30 to choose from. I had to choose three for us. I am fairly indecisive anyway but put me in front of some choices like that and I will really have some trouble.
“I decided to go old school and take a little bite out of history. M1928A1 Tommy gun, M3 Grease gun and MP 40 Schmeisser were my final choices. Once we made it to the firing line my sister went first with the Tommy gun and I followed with the grease gun leaving my brother-in-law with the German piece. Taking aim down range, I had a great choice of targets: cars, household appliances, propane tanks or a boat. Being a boat mechanic by trade I couldn’t resist unloading the magazine in a few bursts on the boat.”
While my brother was a natural, I could tell I made the staff a little nervous. The worker assigned to me when I took my weapon was visibly apprehensive about me—a tiny speck of pink in a sea of large and heavily-armed men—as he took the gun away from me, explained how to stand, handed it back and told me where the trigger was. “I may be wearing pink,” I wanted to say, “but I’m not a dumb girl. I know where the trigger is, I just don’t want to put my finger near it on a machine gun until I’m ready to fire.” (Technically I shot a submachine gun, a weapon popular with 1920s mob types Chicago, but close enough.)
I shot with some trepidation at first, then found it wasn’t so scary after all. In fact, it was kind of fun blasting away at a car, boat, washing machine and drinking fountain out on the range (even if I had no clue if I was hitting my targets). So I fired away for a moment, then wondered what was wrong with the weapon. It wasn’t shooting anymore.
Turns out 40 rounds go extremely fast in an automatic. At $40 to rent it, that was the most expensive per-second entertainment of my life. But the adrenaline jolt was in line with the ticket price. My hands shook and my heart raced as I left the range.
My brother and I haven’t shared a lot in common since growing up and moving out of our parents’ house. The days when we played in the creek and climbed trees and fashioned a clubhouse out of an old chicken coop seem like a long, long time ago. Jobs, families, different interests and lives in different parts of the state mean we see each other mostly on holidays when there’s too much hubbub to really notice each other. I’m glad I set aside my fears of guns, as well as my decidedly different political views on them, to enjoy a day of sport with him. For a few hours, those days that we played together as kids didn’t seem so long ago. Who knows? Maybe the next time the guys in the family head out in the woods to shoot, I may just join them.
Machine Gun Shoot Tips
- Arrive really early. We took our time getting down to the range in the morning, and found a mile-long line of cars waiting to get in. I wanted to try the jungle walk, but if you’re not one of the first few people in line, you’re not going.
- Pack a lunch. The lines for food seemed to be a mile long, too and there were very limited food selections. You could pack a cooler with some goodies and hike (or catch the shuttle bus) back to your vehicle for a tailgating picnic.
- Bring a book, iPod, or something to occupy yourself while you wait in line because there’s a line for everything, often even the port-a-pots. (Bonus tip: the toilets on the lower range often have no line!)
- Bring eye protection. It’s required in some areas and I didn’t see any easily accessible for sale, though earplugs were readily available.
- It’s nearly impossible to communicate while you’re near the firing line. A notepad and pencil could come in handy for “talking” with the folks you attend with.
If you go …
Knob Creek Gun Range's bi-annual event is typically held the second weekend of April and October. For $10 a day admission ($5 for kids younger than 12), attendees—machine gun dealers, collectors and enthusiasts from all around the world—can experience the objective of the event: destroy everything down range. Guests are also invited to “support the second amendment” by attending the Military Gun Show, which brings dealers to buy, sell and trade rifles, pistols, shotguns, and machine guns as well as ammo, military surplus, gun parts and more.
Unlike a typical day on the range, machine guns are permitted. You can see weapons in action like AK-47s, MG-42s, M-16s and more. The Subgun Jungle Walk, for an additional $40 (or $20 with your own firearm) lets you set out into the woods with an Uzi and 50 rounds, and take aim at 18 targets.
There’s lots more; for details visit http://www.knobcreekrange.com/events/featured-events/machine-gun-shoot or call (502) 922-4457. The range is located at 690 Ritchey Lane, West Point, KY.