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The 30 Round Grin

By Lee Arten

Seven of us were shooting on an outdoor range in Upper Michigan in early spring 2000. There were about three inches of snow on the ground, but there was one bare place to stand, and it had been too long since we got together and much too long since we’d shot outside.

Four of the group were students, two from high school and two from the local university. I was one of three older guys, the father of one of the high schoolers and owner of the three submachine guns, a Reising, an Ingram Model 6, and a Madsen M50 we were there to shoot. The other two “old guys,” Bob and Mike, were shooting buddies. (Sometimes I call them, “The usual suspects.”) They’d already shot the Reising and Mike had also tried the Ingram Model 6. Neither of the collegians had shot full auto before; it was also the first time for Bob’s son, Sam.

I noticed something after each of the newbies had fired their first magazine. After I stepped up and took the gun back, and as I stripped the empty magazine and checked it, they turned around and grinned a huge grin at everyone. I saw the same grin appear again and again that afternoon. Since I was shooting my Madsen M50 for the first time that day, I know that grin appeared on my face periodically too. (I found the M50 reliable, controllable, and slightly reminiscent of the M3, for which I have a fondness. Madsen magazines were remarkably cheap for a while, and before the supply thinned out I had 40 of them.)

Thinking back on this later, I started to call that enthusiastic smile, “The 30 round grin.” The Reising mag only holds 20, the Madsen mag holds 32, and the lone Ingram mag holds 30, so it almost averages out. (If someone in our group had a belt fed I suppose I’d be calling it the 100 round grin.)

That grin is one of the rewards of showing new people the front porch of the NFA world. (One of the others is a lot of empty brass to reload.) I haven’t had my Curio and Relics License and my subguns very long, so I’m still only on the porch myself. I have made myself comfortable there, however. Since my first slow steps onto it, I’ve pulled up a nice, solid rocker, found some back issues of Small Arms Review to read, and a table to hold a cold mug of something to drink. The guys I introduced to the Madsen, the Model 6 and the Reising at the range that day in the spring had really only made it to the front steps. However, most of them seem to have decided almost instantly to come onto the porch to look for a chair, at least.

It’s been a few months since I introduced any new people to NFA through my subguns but next month I’ll get another chance. My parents are having their 50th Wedding Anniversary and my siblings and other relatives are flying in from several points of the compass. The same weekend a friend from years ago, a staunch conservative and new NRA member, is coming back to the area from Virginia for a few days. If I can work it out, both my brothers and my old friend will be down at the range with a subgun and a fully loaded magazine as soon as possible after arrival. I can’t wait to see the three of them break out into “30 round grins”.


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