Albany R&P Club Saddle Butte MG Shoot
By Dean Roxby
Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC) hosted the 24th annual Saddle Butte Machine Gun Shoot on May 18 and 19, 2013. This is a very well attended full auto shoot that attracts participants from across the western United States. The general public is most welcome, and visitors are encouraged to rent various machine guns from the many vendors.
Just behind the 250 foot long firing line, there were 30 tables set up for the vendors to display a wide variety of guns. Roughly 15 vendors had an estimated 300 full autos available to rent. Of course, the heavier belt-fed weapons stay on the firing line for the most part. As well, at the far right end of the line were two vehicles from the Military Vehicle Collectors Club of Oregon, a local chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. A privately owned Humvee sported an M2 .50 BMG on a pintle, and a “Deuce and a half” 2 1/2 ton truck had both an M2 and an M1919 .30 BMG on the ring above the cab.
This well-run event is put on by the members of ARPC, many of whom volunteer to serve as range officers during the two days. At any given time, there are approximately 25 range officers wearing orange vests all down the line ensuring complete safety. This is vital, as many of the shooters are trying full auto for the first time. Including set-up and clean-up, there are perhaps 70 or more volunteers helping out. Depending on the weather, the attendance ranges from 1,200 to 1,800 visitors each year. The entrance fee is $10 per day and this allows access to the event as a spectator and shooter. Each vendor has signs posted stating the cost per magazine or belt of ammo for each gun they rent. Naturally prices vary greatly depending on ammunition, but most rifle calibers average about one dollar per round. The mighty .50 BMG round was a fair bit more, at $6 or $8 per shot. In light of the recent panic buying and hoarding of ammo in the past months driving up the cost of ammo to record highs, these prices are not unreasonable.
Besides the usual water jugs and balloons, they brought in several old cars from a local auto wrecker. These seemed to attract a lot of attention. Tannerite explosive targets are occasionally set out at the 100 yard line, or beyond. At least once during the event, a 20 pound package of Tannerite was detonated at the 200 yard line.
ARPC used to run a Fall shoot as well, but it had to be cancelled several times due to the extreme fire danger after a long hot summer. Since 2006, there has only been a Spring shoot, always on the third weekend of May.
This event attracts enthusiasts from across the western states, and beyond. One notable full auto collector from Idaho is Dominic Spediacci, who had an astounding array of belt feds on the line on Sunday. Among the treasures he brought were an M1919A6, an M1918 BAR, a Westinghouse-made water-cooled M1917 (rechambered to 8x57), an M1917 Marlin, a Colt-Browning M1895 “Potato digger, and a Frigidaire-made water-cooled M2 .50 BMG. The .50 was mounted on a very rare M3 anti-aircraft pedestal mount, (Mount, M3AA, .50 cal., Water Cooled) commonly referred to as the “Tora Tora” mount, and was fed by the correct 200 round “tombstone” drum magazine. It also had the matching hand-cranked water pump (Chest, Water, Caliber .50, M3). His guns on display would put quite a few military museums to shame. He happened to mention that he had to leave a few others at home, including a 1914 Hotchkiss French heavy machine gun, a 1915 Colt Vickers and a 1917 Marlin piston operated potato digger. He also brought along a 1928 Thompson for friend’s kids to shoot.
Dominic also brought an equally impressive quantity of ammo to feed his toys. This included 2,200 linked rounds of .50 BMG, approx. 6,000 rounds of 8x57 on cloth Browning belts, and 3,000 rounds of .30-06 on belts and in BAR mags, and 1,000 rounds of .45 ACP for the Thompson. By the end of Sunday afternoon, he had turned it into a rather big pile of brass, links, and empty belts. It is truly something to see 200 rounds of .50 BMG go in one continuous burst. He did so several times during the day. Dominic managed to actually saw one car in half with an intense barrage of fire.
Another vendor, Todd Alden, had an intriguing looking item. It was a hand cranked multi barrel gun named Gunzilla, made by Red Jacket Firearms (Yes, the Sons of Guns guys) with another manufacturer, from two Masterpiece Arms 971 guns somehow tied together. Although it appears to have six barrels, only two actually fire. It feeds from two Suomi 71 round drum mags. It is surprising how fast a drum of ammo can be cranked through it. Customers put about 3,000 rounds through it during the event. Todd plans on fitting a laser pointer to one of the false barrels soon, to light up the smoke created by the two real barrels.
On Sunday afternoon, David Statham brought his Viet Nam era OH-6A helicopter. Not just as transportation, but to strafe the targets. Again, the wrecked cars seemed to receive most of the attention. The ‘copter was built in 1967, and used in VN from 1968-72. It was actually shot down twice, and rebuilt twice. It has lots of ground fire damage evidence still, in the form of small patches on the fuselage. David claims that no one died in it though. For the flying demonstration, the rear gunner was Mike Gardner, co-owner of Halo Manufacturing, Eugene, OR, firing an M60. In the front passenger seat was Matt Stoner, owner of Stoner Arms, Keizer, OR. Matt was firing an RPD-44. This demonstration was a real treat for the spectators, and received quite a cheer afterwards. Stoner Arms also had two tables of various guns for rent, and a full staff overseeing it all.
Every so often a cease-fire was called, in order to reset targets. Usually, upon the range going hot again, there would be a “Rolling thunder,” much like a Mad Minute mass burst of fire. However, on several occasions, the range director would call for suppressed guns only. This allowed spectators to see and hear just how effective a good suppressor can be. Certainly there is some noise created, but a normal conversation could be had just behind the firing line without ear protection on; very civil, indeed.
At the other end of the sonic spectrum was Chuck Riggs, a class 3 dealer from Wasco OR, with his “Obnoxinator.” This is an HK-51K with a 5 inch barrel and a copy of the JP Enterprises muzzle brake. Thunderously loud only begins to describe this thing. Chuck mentioned that all he has to do is fire a mag himself and right away there is a crowd of people wanting to rent his gun and make their own thunder. He estimates about 2,500 rounds of .308 went through his gun over the two days.
Albany has a very friendly, West Coast feel to it. This author/photographer really appreciated being able to stand alongside a friend as he shot, rather than being confined well back. As long as all safety issues are complied with, the range offers are quite willing to accommodate such requests. Dominic Spediacci is a veteran of several large MG shoots and speaks highly of Albany. “Albany is one of the bigger shoots out on the west coast, but not as big as Knob Creek or Big Sandy (Wikieup, AZ). However it is well thought out, hosted and staffed. The people are always nice and courteous at these shoots. The nice thing about Albany is you don't have a waiting list to shoot that is booked out for years on end like some other shoots.” Also, it is well attended by women, children, and families. This author noted several well supervised youngsters on the firing line.
Next year’s shoot will be the 25th anniversary, and plans are underway to have some special treats. As always, it will be held on the third weekend of May (May 17 and 18, 2014), one week after Mother’s Day, and one week prior to Memorial Day.
Albany Rifle and Pistol Club
29999 Saddle Butte Rd.
Shedd, OR 97377
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