Reporting from the World’s Largest Machine Gun Shoot (Part 1)

Welcome to the bi-annual Machine Gun Shoot at Knob Creek Gun Range in Kentucky

BULLITT County, Ky. — About a mile off the Dixie Highway going south out of Louisville, there’s a little slice of 2nd amendment paradise. It’s the bi-annual “Nation’s Largest Machine Gun Shoot” at the Knob Creek Shooting range.

It’s the “nation’s largest,” says Knob Creek Owner Kenny Sumner because, “no one’s really challenged it.”

It’s impossible to see how anyone could challenge it.

The three-day even takes place every spring and fall and attracts roughly 15,000 people from all over the country. There are more than 800 vendors selling everything from guns, manuals and parts to military gear, the newest in high-tech defense and even easy-to-use blow guns.

It’s a family affair that’s been attracting folks for more than 30 years. Senatorial candidate Rand Paul even showed up on Friday.

There’s plenty of food at the concession stand and a few kids following their parents around, heads bobbing with giant noise-cancellation headphones. It’s like a county fair, except with firepower. A lot of firepower.

The list of guns that dealers and enthusiasts have brought to the rally is extensive but all serve the same purpose: pure happiness.

To many outsiders, liberals and reporters unfamiliar with firearms, the place can seem dangerous.

Walking the road that lies just beyond the hollow, black clouds rise above the clear fall air as a military helicopter circles over the area — cutting through the smoke and making shadows on the road.

Like the Twirl-a-Whirl at the local fair, the helicopter’s a festival ride, where participants can strap in at the edge of the chopper’s open door as a trained pilot takes them around a countryside that’s beginning to burst with red and orange.

The billowing smoke is from the range itself, where shooters have just demolished a car, a truck, a refrigerator, a couple washers and countless propane tanks. Everyone’s in a great mood and cracking jokes. Examining a decimated filing cabinet with phone books in it, one participant says to his friend, “Hey, can you look up a number for me?”

At the entrance, security marks all guns brought into the premises and checks for alcohol. One security guard asked a well-built man not carrying anything if he had any guns. The man flexed his arm for inspection.

For the uninitiated, the machine gun shoot can be a little frightening at first. There are more than 10 groups lined up at the range with well over 100 different types of guns. The 7.62mm, ‘Minigun’ has Gatling-style rotating barrels. The gun is externally powered and when they fire up that source, the gun generates a low, grinding noise as as loud as an air-raid siren.

The Barrett 50 cal. has a soundwave so strong it almost pushed TheDC — who was standing more than 10-ft away behind the guarded fence — back into the audience stands.  And don’t forget the tracers. As the sun sets, the shooters add tracer bullets which when shot, are bright red. When they let those tracers fly, it looks like a scene out of Star Wars. One can watch as the bullets hit the 30-ft speed boat target and immediately fly off, up and out of the hollow.

Despite all this firepower, the place is safer than a Miley Cyrus concert. Sumner said there are over 200 employees working the weekend-long event. There are more than 10 professionally trained employees carefully conducting and monitoring the shooting at the range. Many of those working security, in fact, are off-duty deputies from the Bullitt County Sheriff’s department.

Deputy Brent Hall has been coming to the machine gun shoot for the past 11 years. He’s working security again and said that in all that time, he’s only arrested five people – for shoplifting.

Anyone is welcome to give the guns a try. All that is needed is a respect for the tool, good behavior in general and a signed, four-page waiver. Then you can have a blast. Literally.

As the shooters line up on the range, the announcer’s voice booms over the intercom.

Shooters, come up to the line with your eyes and ears on … Shooters on my right, safely lock and load your weapon …. Shooters on my left, safely lock and load your weapon.

After the range security ensures that everyone’s ready, they give the thumbs up to the announcer. He announces the last line a little more umph just before the sound becomes deafening.

This Range is Hot!

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TheDC would like to thank ‘Donovan’ and Brian Tarnowski for picking up strange people hitchhiking the Dixie Highway.

— Originally published Oct. 10, 2010. Read the real thing here.

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