Northern Arizona Machine Gun Shoot

By Kenton Tucker
Photos by Simon Outhwaite

The largest pure Machine Gun Shoot in the country was recently held by Dry Creek, Inc., in the beautiful badlands of Northern Arizona. This best kept secret has a 22-year history of successful shoots. The 3 day annual event was such a success that future shoots will be extended to 4 days.

Upon arrival, the sheer size of the shoot was overwhelming. Looking down the quarter-mile line was breathtaking. Automatic weapons, ranging from the ordinary to the exotic, bristled from the line, while the 1800-yard range was a machine-gunners dream and an antitank-gunners paradise.

As I walked down the line, the size and concentration of weapons became apparent. The total count for the shoot was 251 crew served weapons plus 12 antitank guns. Out of the 251 crew served weapons, 24 were .50 caliber Brownings. In one section alone, 10 of them were side-by-side, and were all fired on command at specific targets. This mass fire produced spectacular downrange results.

Another point of interest on the line, was the large assemblage of anti-aircraft mounting systems. This was due to the usage of remote controlled airplanes flown as aerial gunnery targets. Twenty-five such airplanes were flown throughout the shoot. Seeing the variety of anti-aircraft systems-from the big M3 .50 caliber to the twin .30 caliber Bell mounts to the twin MG42 AA mounts- and everything in between- was very impressive.

Upon close inspection, I saw that most of the crew served mounts were sand-bagged to provide the most stable and accurate platforms. The 1800-yard range allowed those weapons to be utilized as they were intended and to fulfill their capabilities. It was evident by the expanse of weapons secured that the shooters were very serious in accepting that challenge.

Dry Creek supplied a substantial number of targets throughout the shoot. These provided a real test for the shooters at this machine gunners mecca. Among the targets were 1100 reactive targets, placed from 300-yards out for both day and night fire. In addition, 50 steel gong targets of varied sizes were located throughout the range. Special 3”, 4” and 5” thick armor plates were set up from 800 yards to 1300-yards for the antitank guns. The remote controlled airplanes, flown throughout the shoot, kept the gunners on their toes. Hundreds and hundreds of chem lights attached to the reactive targets at night, created an eerie glow to a surreal scene.

Some of the automatic weapons represented were rare and exotic. The first to get my attention was a Spanish ALFA M-1944 that was producing a steady, sustained rate of fire. I was surprised to see an Italian Breda M-37 being put through its paces. This beautiful gun did everything but make pizzas. Another Italian gun was the odd looking Revelli model 35. I watched a steaming German 1892 MAXIM during a heavy firing session. There was a unique Schwarzlose 07/12 on the line. Enjoyable to watch was a 1914 Colt Potato Digger and a German MG 13. Also drawing attention was a Swedish M36 water-cooled Browning and a belt fed Aircraft Madsen. A rare baby (short) Argentine Vickers that was made to be mounted on the Presidential Guard motorcycle sidecars, was shooting off of an anti-aircraft mount. An unusual sight was the owner of a Japanese Type 100 sub gun challenging the shooter of a German MP 18 submachine gun on the range. After shooting, both carefully policed their rare type 100 Nambu brass.

Throughout the shoot, Dry Creek staged a number of informal shooting competitions. These were strictly fun events. No trophies or ribbons were involved, but the winners held the bragging rights for their weapons and shooting skills. Each competition centered around one type of firearm. Included were matches for Thompson submachine guns, M-3 grease guns, 40m/m grenade launchers, Browning Automatic rifles, suppressors and M-1 Garands. The most popular were those of the Thompson machine guns and the M-1 Garands. Both speed and accuracy were required in the matches. Considerable amounts of ammunition were needed, as rapid reloading was necessary to engage multiple targets. Each match ended with a mass volley fire by all participants. All of these matches were very popular and thoroughly enjoyed by non-participants as well as participants.

Dry Creek made safety a top priority. It was maintained in a very laid-back manner in order to make those attending feel comfortable. I have been to other shoots where the line officers were unbearable. However, this shoot was conducted in an atmosphere that was firm and efficient, but at the same time relaxed and friendly. Each morning, a compulsory shooters’ briefing was held to review regulations and safety. Emergency services were always on hand and available, with persons properly experienced in their use.

Saturday night was the zenith of the shoot. After shooting all day, a mandatory cease-fire was called in order to prepare for a spectacular night shoot. During the break, crews were busy setting out 450 reactive targets with chem lights attached to each, producing a sea of green dots. During this time, dinners were cooked and enjoyed and ammunition supplies were checked. As everyone waited for total darkness, anticipation built to frenzied pitch. Once the command was given to commence fire, the line erupted in a deafening roar as a sea of tracers searched the valley for the reactive targets. The constant “thump” of these targets being hit could be heard over the automatic weapons fire. Often I stopped firing and stepped back to watch the scene as heavy concentrations of tracer fire danced across the range with the ever-present parachute flares falling to the earth. Throughout the evening, flights of remote controlled planes added to the display. They were followed by heavy concentrations of anti-aircraft fire. Determined pilots struggled to make their planes as difficult as possible to hit, as the gunners were equally determined to destroy them. The scene resembled a Gulf War air raid on downtown Baghdad or a kamikaze raid in the Pacific in World War II. This onslaught continued for 3 1/2 hours until finally all targets were neutralized and gunners were exhausted. What a memorable night!

Due to the remoteness of the area, the majority opted to camp out for the duration of the shoot. It was a fantastic experience to be so removed from civilization in such a scenic setting. A certain spirit was generated as persons sat around campfires sharing food and experiences, knowledge and information. This camaraderie was one of the major elements of the entire weekend. The opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones was the highlight. The shoot officially ended after 3 days of excitement at noon Sunday. When departures began, it was evident that a special bond had been forged with everyone looking forward to the next shoot.

For further information contact:

Dry Creek, Inc.

P.O. Box 12403
Scottsdale, AZ 85267
(480) 948-0175/(602) 279-9150

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N11 (August 2002)
and was posted online on January 10, 2014


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