Manchester Firing Line Range
Manchester Firing Line Range is an indoor shooting range, gun rental range, and firearm dealer, located in Manchester, NH. Here I will only go into details on the range, as I have not purchased any firearms or accessories from MFL. All I will say about the retail portion, for those who live in NH, is that they have a very nice selection of new and used firearms of all types. I can’t speak for prices, as I’ve not compared them.
The indoor range portion of MFL consists of two ranges. There is a member’s range and a guest range. The member’s side has 6 lanes and the guest side has 10. Along with use of the often less crowded member’s range, membership at MFL comes with discounted prices on gun rentals and ammunition, as well as the ability to reserve a lane prior to arrival. This is at the cost of $165 per year. If you think you’ll spend over $1000 in a year in rentals and ammo, or about $2000 in just ammo, it will pay for itself, and some.
I have been to a good few ranges throughout New England, as well as one in PA, and MFL has been my favorite by far. Their selection of rental firearms is beyond satisfactory and, given that it’s an indoor range, you can really get a taste for a huge range of weapons and weapon types. They also allow rental shooters much more freedom to handle the firearms than I’m aware of at most ranges in the area. The way it works is you go in and start by filling out a little card with your information and experience level with pistols, rifles, and shotguns. You read through the range rules, then sign the bottom and hand them the card and your license. Once you’ve done that, you are assigned a lane for your party and you may rent one or two guns at a time as well as purchasing a specified quantity of bullets for each gun, and some paper targets to shoot at. As you rent guns and purchase targets and ammo, the staff keeps a running total for your party and you pay at the end. It’s important to keep track of your total as you may find yourself spending a great deal of money very quickly. I have spent as little as $150 (per person) and as much as $1,200 (per person) in an outing.
Note that your whole party is usually on one lane (and I suggest you do it this way with up to 6 people). This is good because each gun you rent is just rented for your lane and is therefore split between your group in terms of cost. The downside is that everyone must take turns, but its a decent trade off for the lowered cost. (Say you rent a $30 gun in a group of 6. Each person only pays $5 towards the gun and then just pays for the ammo they shoot through it).
Once you’ve selected your first guns, the staff asks you if you’re familiar with how to use the weapon. If you’re unsure they demonstrate all its features and functions so you’re clear, and will answer any questions you have if you’re confused. They give you shooting glasses and ear protection and then you walk through two sliding glass doors, down a hallway, and into the guest range (assuming you’re not a member). They put your unloaded gun(s) and ammunition in a basket for you to carry in with you.
Once in the range, you step up to your stall and can set the gun basket down on the shooting bench at waist height in your stall. There is always a range staff member roaming around to help you with gun use or operation of the electronic target carrier device. The device allows you to plug in a distance (in feet) from 10-60 and the target will move to that distance. Once you’re clear on range and gun use, you can simply go about loading your mags and doing what you want with the gun. So long as you’re being safe, the range staff does not even talk to you unless you ask for help. Personally I very much like this system. You are able to learn how to fully operate each gun on your own and can take your time and relax without a staff member hanging over your shoulder like at some ranges. If you’ve never used a gun before, fear not as staff will help you as much as you need. [See the bottom of this page for a video of shooting at MFL. Skip to 1:45 for a shooter cam.]
Available for rent are many, if not most, of the guns seen often in pop culture, the movies, video games, law enforcement, and even some military weapons. The selection is well suited for someone whose interest in firearms at least originated from some form of pop culture. The guns are mostly modern and include: Glocks, Rugers, Walthers, Colts, SIGs, Berettas, XDs, M&Ps, a plethora of revolvers, and more. On the rental wall are the rifles and sub-machine guns, including popular items such as M4s, SCARs, Tommy guns, AK-47s, MP5s, UZIs, and many many more. With such a large selection, MFL is a great place to go to help you in selecting a concealed carry weapon or home defense weapon (often different choices).
For new shooters, I recommend starting with a .22cal pistol and moving up from there. MFL is a popular spot for first time shooters, sometimes accompanied by shooters with experience and sometimes in a group of first-timers. Below I will list off all the firearms I’ve used at MFL in order of experience required to use them with any degree of comfort – pistols first, then rifles. I will provide a description of what each is like, along with a rating from 1-10 (1 being almost toy-like to operate, and 10 meaning that only a physically stronger individual, with at least moderate experience should even attempt using it). I will also try to recall the rental price and the price of ammunition, but these are subject to change by MFL and I may misremember a few of them.
Beretta U22 Neos (.22LR) – 1/10
The Neos is a strange, modern-looking pistol chambered in the small .22 Long Rifle bullet. When I used this at MFL I was with first time shooters and wanted to start them off with something very small. I asked the staff member behind the counter for the best .22 semi-automatic pistol they had for the novice and that’s what he gave me. Recoil was extremely low and the report (the bang) of the gun was very mild. It was a good gun for the beginner, other than the fact that the grip was a little different than most of the larger handguns. It jammed a good few times during the 200 rounds my group put through it, but this is normal for a .22 pistol. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/100rds
Walther P22 (.22LR) – 1/10
The P22 is a sub-compact semi-automatic pistol chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Where the Beretta U22 uses the same half-slide/fixed-barrel setup as Ruger’s popular .22 pistols, I enjoy the P22 for its standard semi-auto layout. The P22 looks very similar to Walther’s P99, but on a tiny scale. It is extremely ergonomic but its small size may give shooters with larger hands a lot of trouble. I would say that the P22 was so far the best pistol I’ve ever used for training beginners on the fundamentals in play with a semi-automatic pistol. Recoil is extremely mild, and function is simple. For the more experienced shooter, I do actually recommend trying out the P22. I found it extremely enjoyable to shoot, as it has something of an amusing quality to it. Every shot fired makes the P22 feel almost toy-like, and blazing away one-handed can be a lot of fun due to the pistol’s ease of use. Perfect to train beginners and a good laugh for the expert, I’m a fan. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/100
FN Five-seveN (5.7x28mm) – 2/10
Despite being so easy to shoot, I implore you wait until you’ve shot many other guns before coming to the Five-seveN. The Five-seveN is one of, if not the most modern pistol in existence and I was shocked to find it at MFL. Having shot many other conventional pistols first will serve to amplify your experience with the Five-seveN. This gun is large. Quite large, in fact, yet somehow easy for someone with small hands to manipulate. Weighing in at only half that of the metal heavy-weight pistols, the Five-seveN is made of metal innards with a polymer shell all around. It fires the same bullet as the FN P90 sub-machine gun; the 5.7mm mini-rifle round. This little bullet fires at rifle velocities but is small enough to produce very little recoil. Overall it is considered more deadly than a 9mm. When you fire the Five-seveN you will see a large muzzle blast, accompanied by a substantial report. The strange thing about it is that there is almost as little recoil as the Beretta Neos, and with its 20 round magazine you can blaze away and end up with a very nice grouping. Another nice aspect to the gun, unique to the Five-seveN, is the way it ejects spent shells. Most pistols eject their shells at a slightly rearward and upward angle. This is good to get them out of the way in a defense scenario, but in an indoor shooting stall it causes the shells to frequently bounce back and hit you in the head. The Five-seveN ejects its shells 45 degrees forward, and slightly up. This sends them well forward of your stall and most of your shells bounce along the ground, coming to rest about 75ft to your 2-o’clock. Not a one will ever bounce back and hit you. Don’t leave the range without trying this gun. It may have various flaws for real world ownership, such as large size, high price-tag, and questionable defensive ballistics, but as a range pistol it is stunning. Rent: $30 Ammo: ~$27/50rds
Beretta 90twoFS (9mm) – 2.5/10
The Beretta 90twoFS is the lightly modernized version of the famous 92FS (M9), chambered in 9mm. If you’re looking to get your hands on a 92FS model, fear not, as this will provide a near-identical experience. The only difference you’re really going to notice during range use is the slightly more ergonomic grip, which feels less chunky than that of the 92FS (which I’ve fired elsewhere). Being a full-sized pistol of reasonable heft, the 9mm bullet feels extremely mild in the 90twoFS. Due to the new grip, the pistol is also at home in both large and small hands. Recoil is minimal and putting rounds where you want them is easy, thanks in-part to a rather light trigger. I would call the Beretta 92FS the quintessential 9mm pistol and, being the modernized upgrade, the 90twoFS is a must-try. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50 rds
S&W Model 360 (.357 Magnum / .38 Special) – 3/10
This revolver is built to be able to withstand the force of using the .357 Magnum round but can also chamber the .38 Special. Recoil with the .38 Special is substantially more than the Beretta Neos but not very significant in the scheme of things. Make sure you keep your support hand (left, if you’re a righty) behind the front of the rotating cylinder or the hot gasses will burn you. It’s good to give a revolver a try but I personally didn’t bother using one until my 5th outing to the range, during which I had plenty of money to blow (Revolvers just aren’t my cup of tea. Too old). The .357 Magnum in this revolver is quite powerful and generates a borderline unreasonable amount of recoil for such a small gun. Worth trying but maybe only once. Rent: $20 Ammo: Completely forget. Probably around $12/25rds or something like that.
H&K P2000 (9mm) – 3/10
The H&K P2000 is one of the newest pistols to come out of H&K. It is of a compact design and modern style, with similar design cues to the older USPc and newer H&K 45C. Shooters with small and medium hands should find this pistol relatively easy to grip, and those with larger hands should still find the grip large enough to fit their hands on. The pistols is easy to use with a smooth action and a decocker button on the rear of the frame below the hammer, allowing it to be fired from double or single action. Being a 9mm, the P2000 has very manageable recoil, made easier by a fairly ergonomic grip. It’s a high quality compact worth shooting if you are looking for something light-weight in that category, which isn’t a Glock. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50 rds
Glock 17 & Glock 19 (9mm) – 3/10
The Glock 17 and 19 are identical other than the 17 being full-sized and the 19 having Glock’s compact frame. They are both chambered in the well known 9mm. Recoil on these two is pretty reasonable and on the low end for semi-auto pistols. Glocks are something of a benchmark for semi-auto pistols and the lower-powered 9mm is a good starting point. Despite having larger hands I prefer the G19. Most people I’ve shot with report preferring the G17′s size. If you have money to spend, try both. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50rds
SIG P229 Elite (9mm) – 3/10
The truth is that I’m not really a SIG guy. I like Glocks more, however I found this, the most modern SIG pistol, to be rather nice to shoot. Operating the gun wasn’t too hard and its heavier, bulkier frame (as compared to the Glocks) aided in control. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50rds
SIG P228 (9mm) – 3.5/10
Like the Glock 17 and 19, the SIG 228 is chambered in 9mm. The difference is that it has a metal frame (vs the Glock’s polymer composite frame) and all the controls are heavier and harder to operate. Personally, I find the lack of finger grooves in the grip make controlling the gun more difficult. (Though the pictures don’t all show it, all the Glocks at MFL are 3rd generation and have finger grooves like the Glock 21 featured below). Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50rds
Glock 21 & 30 (.45ACP) – 3.75/10
Like the Glock 17 the G21 is a full-sized model, where as the Glock 30 is actually sub-compact. I only give the G21 and G30 a 3.75/10 for difficulty because for most people this can be the case. Personally I would put it at a 2.5/10 because I find the .45ACP to be a pleasure to fire from nearly any gun. Where the 9mm recoil causes the muzzle of the gun to jump up sharply, the .45ACP recoils with more of a rearward push than an upward snap. This aids control. Differently from the Glocks 17 and 19, I actually prefer the full-sized G21 when we’re talking about .45ACP. The G30 uses a magazine that extends below the frame to give you a place for your pinky. I find that it leads to an unsure feel. I’ve watched a young woman who had only ever fired about 50 rounds total in her life, move through a G21 mag about about 1 bullet per second and land all her shots in a tight group. If you want to try a .45ACP in a modern platform, look no further. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50rds
H&K 45C (.45ACP) – 3.75/10
The H&K 45 is among the two newest pistols to come out of H&K and the 45C is just the compact version, similar in size to a compact Glock or a SIG 229. It looks and feels modern, and operates nicely. The .45ACP round feels especially controllable in this pistol, and being on the larger end of compact, those with medium to large hands are likely to enjoy it. The only major differences between the 45 and 45C are that the C has a shorter grip and lacks the ergonomic finger grooves found on the full sized model. I found this gun a pleasure to shoot and a close friend of mind (who has shot all the same pistols I have) has chosen it as his CCW. Being a Glock guy, I always recommend Glocks first, however Glock doesn’t even offer a .45 in this size category. I recommend this pistol highly for novice and experienced shooters. Rent: $21 Ammo: ~$22/50 rds
S&W M&P45 Mid-Sized (.45ACP) – 4/10
The S&W M&P series has become very popular since it was introduced in 2005. They are of modern design and feel and are all quite ergonomic, assuming you’re using a model that fits your hand size. MFL’s .45ACP version of the M&P is the mid sized model. Both the mid and full sized version of the .45 caliber M&P are designated M&P45. The mid-sized version is more of a compact if you compare to Glock sizes and the ‘c’ models are more like sub-compact Glocks in size. The M&P45 is a nice pistol with controllable recoil, typical of the .45ACP. I have no tangible reason not to like it however, unlike most other similar pistols, if I stop focusing on my shooting fundamentals for one second my rounds fly all over the place. I’m personally unable to shoot well with M&Ps at all, but you should try one if you’re interested. Rent: $21 Ammo: ~$22/50 rds
S&W M&P9c (9mm) – 4/10
While not personally a fan of M&P pistols, the 9c is unarguably ergonomic and user friendly. This sub-compact variant of the M&P series has enough grip space for only two of your fingers, leaving your little finger below the grip. It’s 10-round magazine was among the harder I’ve used to load, between a stiff magazine spring and the smaller, hard-to-manipulate 9mm bullets. I didn’t have a ton of trouble with it, but found that female shooters with smaller, less strong fingers have to fight with it. In shooting, the M&P9c exhibits relatively light recoil, typical of a 9mm, though with more muzzle flip than some 9mms due to the short barrel. The crack of the report is also on the loud side due to the short barrel, so I don’t recommend using this as the first ever pistol for a new shooter. I tried putting a first-time female shooter on this first, before moving to the H&K45c and she much preferred the larger grip and less aggressive recoil of the H&K. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50rds
Beretta 84FS Cheetah (.380ACP) – 4/10
The Beretta 84FS ‘Cheetah’ is a compact pistol which could almost be categorized as sub-compact. It is chambered in the .380ACP which is essentially a 9mm bullet, fired from a shorter case. It is therefore less powerful and one would imagine this would make it easier to shoot. This pistol could be called the little brother of the Beretta 90twoF and is similar in design and function. I have large but skinny hands and found the pistol to be a bit too small for me. Something about the grip design also caused a nasty ‘biting’ feeling in the web of my trigger hand during firing. This was very undesirable and was quite uncomfortable after only a few rounds fired. Due to the 84FS’s small size, the .380ACP did not seem as mild as it should have and the recoil was uncomfortable. Those with small hands might find the pistol a little easier to shoot but for me the sum of the experience was not a good one. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$18/50 rds
Ruger P90 (.45ACP) – 4/10
Not to be confused with the sub-machine gun, the FN P90, this is a big, honkin’ pistol. It’s a very meaty design with a meaty, robust feel to it. It’s heavier even than the below 1911 which helps keep felt recoil to a minimum. It is a little archaic in design for my taste, with its full-metal frame and single-stack magazine, but shooting it was a perfectly nice experience. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50rds
Colt 1911 (.45ACP) – 4.25/10
Here you have what the world thinks of as a classic “Colt .45.” This one may not even be made by Colt and either way that’s not the name of the gun. It’s a 1911. A million manufacturers make them and they’re almost all the same. This is a long, thin, all-metal gun, chambered in the iconic .45ACP. Despite being chambered in the same round, everything is different about this gun, as compared to the Glocks in .45ACP. The 1911 is hard and metal with an old look and feel to it. Firing it, its higher weight helps with recoil, but it doesn’t have the same ergonomic grip style as a Glock, making it a little more challenging. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50rds
S&W M&P40c (.40S&W) – 4.25/10
The M&P is a series I’m familiar with, but had never used. This version, the 40c is a sup-compact chambered in .40S&W. Like the Glock 30, the frame actually only has space for two fingers, with your pinky resting on a mag extension contoured for your finger. Unlike the Glock however, the M&P40c feels much more solid like this and I have far less of a gripe with this design element. The feel of the pistol is modern and pleasant, and I find it to be ergonomically superior to the SIGs. This is certainly a very small gun which is only suited to those with skinnier or smaller hands. I have skinny but large hands and it was definitely as small as I’d want to go. The recoil was surprisingly manageable considering it was chambered in .40S&W with a short barrel. I actually found it to be more controllable than the Glock 23 in regards to recoil (my benchmark for .40S&W pistols). In a larger frame I could see an M&P taking second place to Glocks on my preference list.
Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$19/50rds
H&K USP .45 (.45ACP) – 4.25/10
The USP is a gun you see in loads of video games and movies. In reality it’s starting to become a little dated, as H&K has released the H&K45 model to replace it. The USP also fires a .45ACP, but gets a higher difficulty score because of sub-par ergonomics and a bulky grip that can be hard even for those with medium to large hands. This can of course be solved by renting the USPc which I haven’t used. The USP has a polymer frame and is fairly modern in design. Like the 1911 its weight reduces recoil somewhat and overall the gun is controllable. I find the safety, de-cocker, and mag release to be far superior in design and placement compared to a SIG. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50rds
Springfield XD45 Compact – 4.5/10
Like the S&W M&Ps, Springfield’s XD line is quickly becoming more popular in the shooting world. The XD, like the M&P is a platform on which there are many variations including size, features, and calibers including the three usual suspects, as well as 357SIG and .45GAP. This model was the compact XD 45ACP, which I used with the extended 13-round magazine (rather than standard 10). In terms of recoil, I found the XD to be unusually nasty for a .45. There seemed to be more muzzle flip than I’m used to for the caliber, and it almost felt more like a .40 to me. The grip felt awkward but the worst part about it was the takedown lever on the front left of the frame. I use a very common semi-auto grip where my thumbs stack on the frame and point forward, parallel the barrel. I have long thumbs and I found that when the gun recoiled, the take down lever slammed into the tip of my support-hand thumb. All in all I rather hated the gun, finding it much more awkward than other full-sized .45s such as the USP, 1911, and SIG. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50 rds
S&W Model 686 (.357 Magnum / .38 Special) – 4.25/10
The 686 is a 357 Magnum with a 6.5″ barrel. It is a substantial and hefty gun, leading a extremely low recoil if you load it with .38 Special ammunition. Loading it with the more appropriate .357 Magnum rounds, recoil is fairly substantial but not unmanageable by any means. The longer barrel and heavy weight aid in reducing muzzle flip and produce more of a rearward recoil force. Since it is a revolver, there is no reciprocating slide to absorb recoil, so the recoil you do feel is fairly punchy. As with most current revolvers, you can cock the hammer and fire from single-action. When doing this, the trigger must barely be touched to fire the gun, making it easy to be extremely accurate. If you want to just get a feel for what it’s like to use a revolver, this might be the one to try. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$30/50rds
SIG P229 40 (.40S&W) – 4.5/10
The SIG 229 models are the compact variants of the SIG 226 platform. This version was chambered in .40S&W and, although it is considered compact, is chunkier than the Glock 23. I find SIGs to have a fairly vague grip which is harder for those with small and medium hands to hold on to. Interestingly a friend of mine very much liked the SIG 229 40 where he usually hates both compact pistols (as he has huge hands) and .40 caliber pistols. The SIG 229 was definitely a little easier to manage in .40S&W than most other pistols in the same caliber. This likely has much to do with its heavier weight. I don’t think the 229 is all that much ‘fun’ to shoot, however if you are in search of a compact carry gun you may want to give it a go. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$23/50rds
Glock 22 & 23 (.40S&W) – 4.75/10
Yet again, we have two Glocks. A full-sized and a compact, but otherwise the same gun. Like with the G17 and G19, if you ask most shooters they seem to say they prefer the full-sized model. I personally strongly prefer the compact Glock 23. The .40S&W bullet that is fired by these models is notoriously challenging to shoot well without a lot of practice. Where the 9mm has a recoil impulse that snaps up and the .45ACP pushes back, the .40S&W sort of does both in an aggressive way. Most novice shooters have a hard time with .40S&W guns, especially lighter ones like the Glock. This is a good round to challenge yourself with. The gun isn’t going to go flying out of your hand but it will make you think harder before a second shot. (Available in 3rd and 4th Gen) Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$19/50rds
Glock 33 (357SIG) – 5.5/10
The Glock 33, like the G29 and G30 is a sub-compact model, with which your pinky rests on a finger groove on the base of the magazine. I find that this leads to a feeling of lack of control, which is heavily exacerbated by the form of the recoil impulse of the G33. The 357SIG is essentially a .40S&W case, necked down to accept a 9mm bullet. This leads to the 9mm bullet being fired at speeds well in excess of a standard 9mm. The resulting recoil impulse is a sharp upward snap of the barrel which is very hard to control with the short grip of the pistol. I could imagine the full sized G31 (357SIG) being much easier to control however MFL does not keep one. This gun is worth trying once but only if you have money to blow. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$25/50 rds
Glock 20 and 29 (10mm Auto) – 6.5/10
The Glock 20 is a full-sized Glock like the 17, 22, and 21, while the Glock 29 is a sub-compact like the G30. The G20 and G29 are chambered in 10mm Auto. The 10mm Auto is an uncommon pistol round which fires the same bullet as the .40S&W, but from a shell containing much more powder. So much more, in fact, that it produces twice as much energy as the .40S&W. The 10mm Auto is actually the only round found in a somewhat typical semi-auto pistol that is approved for hunting white-tailed deer. This is due to its extreme power. Let me tell you right off that firing a 10mm Auto from a gun as small as the Glock 29 is just dumb. Your pinky rests on the extended mag, which has a groove for you finger, but because the mag is not part of the gun it makes this feel very insecure. I’ve used it twice and hated it both times. The Glock 20 produces a huge white muzzle flash, unlike the yellow-orange flashes of most guns. The report of the 10mm Auto is also quite loud and the recoil goes right along with the audio and visual cues. Like the .40S&W, the 10mm Auto produces both an upward snap and rearward push, however it does so with about twice as much force. The Glock 20 is a tough gun to shoot and a tough gun to adjust to. Most novice shooters will actually have the gun come loose in their hands the first time they fire it. It doesn’t go flying or anything, but it does require that the shooter recompose themselves and reset their grip. Effective shots in quick succession with the Glock 20 are near impossible without a great deal of practice and I don’t recommend attempting it. I highly recommend the Glock 20 but be ready for it. Rent: $20 Ammo: ~$27/50rds
S&W 460 XVR Magnum Revolver (.460 Magnum) – 9/10
To say that the 460 is not for the faint of heart is a severe understatement. It’s not for anyone who hasn’t shot at least 10 other hand guns including a revolver and something as powerful or more than the 10mm Auto. The 460 XVR is the little brother to the 500 Magnum, the most powerful production handgun in the world, and when I say little, I don’t really mean little. Just a bit less powerful. Many have heard of the .50AE Desert Eagle. A gun notorious even amongst those who have never shot a gun for having massive recoil and power. At its muzzle the .50AE Desert Eagle generates 1900J of energy. It’s not really important that you understand what that means, so much as the fact that the 460 XVR produces 3100J! More than 50% more power! Recoil on this revolver is immense and, in terms of handguns, is only trumped by the 500 Magnum, shorter-barreled 460s, and short barreled revolvers chambered in 454 Casull (they do have one of these at MFL). When I used it, I fired 7 rounds through the 460 XVR. First, I’ll tell you that it won’t hurt your wrist so long as your grip is good. The gun is heavy enough and the grip is comfortable enough that it won’t hurt you. Holding on to the gun is a different matter however. You need to have a death grip on this thing or it’s leaving your hand! Firing the 460, the muzzle flash is large enough to completely obstruct your view of the range. The report is tremendously loud and when you fire the gun, most of the people in the range will step back from their stalls to see what on earth just went off. This is quite an experience and I’m thrilled to say I’ve fired one. Just make sure you’re seriously prepared before you attempt it, as there are few handguns in the world that are more challenging. Rent: $30 Ammo: $8/1 bullet or $20 for 5 bullets. (Note: I recommend trying at least two shots, if not more. The sensory overload during firing makes it hard to recall what a single round felt like).
Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan (454 Casull) – 9.5/10
The Super Redhawk could be called the little brother of the 460 Magnum, although they are unrelated revolvers. Where the 460 is the second most powerful production handgun in the world, revolvers chambered in 454 Casull would rank number three. The reason the Super Redhawk gets a higher difficulty ranking is because the Alaskan version has a super-short barrel. This leads to much of the recoil energy going into muzzle flip, rather than pushing back at you like with the 460. Most shooters would agree that aggressive muzzle flip is much harder to handle than a gun of equal power that pushed back. The reason the short barreled Super Redhawk is designated the ‘Alaskan’ is because it’s meant to be carried on one’s person for defense against large animals such as grizzly bears and moose. The 454 Casull round is capable of dispatching a grizzly with as little as a single shot, making this pistol excellent for the role.
The Super Redhawk is undoubtedly more challenging to tame than the 460 Magnum, despite being perceptibly less powerful. The first shot I fired did in fact hurt my wrist despite my good grip on the gun. I fired many of my subsequent rounds with the pistol one-handed, and this is possible if you have big enough hands to fully grip the pistol. Like the 460, the experience is intense enough that you may want to try more than one round so you can remember the experience. My report of the 460 Magnum above was written shortly after my first time using it. The Super Redhawk is definitely more difficult than the 460 overall, if a little less intense. By the time I used the Ruger, I had fired over 15 rounds through a 460 Magnum, so my reaction was not as enthusiastic as it would be for most people. Rent: $30 Ammo: ~$90/20rds
IMI UZI (9mm) – 2/10 or 3.5/10
The UZI is an Israeli designed and built submachine gun which has become something of a pop culture icon. It is chambered in 9x19mm and has a collapsible stock. The first thing you’ll notice, handling the UZI, is that it looks and feels like a hunk of junk. It seems almost like a bunch of scrap metal mashed together to make a gun. That doesn’t however stop if from being as reliable as the Earth’s rotation. The UZI fires from the open-bolt position. This means when you pull the trigger the bolt drops forward. When the bolt reaches the closed position, the round is fired and the bolt returns to the rearward position. What this does is produces a slight rearward push on the gun as the bolt slides forward, followed by the primary recoil as the round is fired. As a result, the recoil of the UZI actually feels ‘sloshy’, making fully automatic fire easy to control. When I first fired a shot I was shocked at how little felt recoil there was. It was then very easy to dump a 25 round mag into the center mass area of a target on full auto. Rent: $48 Ammo: ~$18/50rds
H&K MP5A4 (9mm) – 2/10 or 4/10
The MP5 is a classic still in use today by SWAT, Law Enforcement, special forces, and militarys the world over. It is a blowback operated sub-machine gun chambered in the 9mm pistol round. It has a 30 round magazine and in the case of the A4 model at MFL, a select fire switch. The reason I gave this gun more than one difficulty rating is because it depends what setting you use the gun on. With semi-automatic fire the MP5 is a joy to shoot and although there’s more recoil, it’s not much harder than a .22 rifle. You can fire in quick succession and still keep your rounds tightly on target. Being an SMG, you get the shoulder-fired advantage of a rifle, with the lower recoil of a pistol round. The challenge with this gun comes when you flick to 3-round burst or fully automatic. Those new to automatic weapons will be surprised by the difficulty of keeping your rounds on the paper, never mind in a tight group. With a target at 30ft, most new shooters will shoot for the center of the target on 3-round burst. The first shot will hit center, the second will hit the right shoulder, and the third hits the ceiling at the end of the range. With some practice and a few full mags a novice can master keeping three rounds on target. Moving to full auto, the gun just keeps firing until you release the trigger. Be careful with this. The range staff will not be happy with you if you try this and are unable to control the weapon. Myself I’ve learned to dump a whole 30 round mag into a 12 inch group on full auto but you need to start with a few hundred rounds of burst fire to work up to this. On semi the gun is easy as can be. With burst or auto fire the gun is quite challenging. The only reason it doesn’t get a more challenging rating is because there are so many more challenging rifles/SMGs out there. Rent: $48 Ammo: ~$18/50rds (Ammo disappears fast with burst fire).
FN SCAR-L (5.56mm/.223cal) – 3/10
The SCAR-L is the 5.56mm variant of the SCAR, where as the H is the 7.62mm version. The SCAR-L is a direct competitor to the AR-15 platform and the AR-15-based HK416. I had fired a number of AR-15s prior to my first time using a SCAR-L and had become comfortable with them. I was very surprised the first time I used the L when I found just how much smoother it was than an AR. The SCAR feels well built and modern. Recoil definitely seems to be less than AR-15s chambered in the same round and followup shots are therefore much easier to place accurately. The SCAR was a pleasure to shoot and use and the action was buttery smooth. AR-15s are worth trying because they are an iconic peace of military history, but if you just want to shoot a nice 5.56mm/.223cal rifle, grab the SCAR-L. Rent: $48 Ammo: ~$30/50rds
AR-15 (5.56mm/.223) – 4/10
Here we essentially have your typical AR-15, laid out like the M4 you see in the military (minus the select fire). MFL has a few of them with various optics on them. I haven’t bothered to remember brands as, for rental purposes, it’s all the same. I used one with iron sights a while ago and more recently one with an EO Tech reflex red dot. Get one with optics. It’s just more fun than iron sights. The AR-15 makes a good boom indoors and will get your attention along with most people in the range. The models at MFL are all your basic type AR so they aren’t exactly as ergonomic or smooth to fire as some modern variants and you can definitely tell they’re an older design than something like a SCAR-L. Recoil isn’t tremendous but it’s snappy, making rapid shooting a little more challenging without some practice. The gun is well worth trying if you haven’t fired an AR, but you may be happier with the raw function of another more modern rifle. Rent: $30 Ammo: ~$30/50rds
FN SCAR-H (7.62x51mm/.308cal) – 5/10
Simply, put, the SCAR-H is actually easier to shoot than the AR-15. I only give it a higher difficulty rating because of the substantial increase in recoil. The SCAR-H is the big brother of the SCAR-L and is chambered in the .308 rifle round. Effective to 650 yards, the SCAR-H is effective to a range 30 times that of MFL’s range, making it child’s play to shoot a tight grouping at the range. In my experience, smaller women struggle primarily with the weight and size of the SCAR-H, however most people will find it perfectly manageable. The firing operation of the gun is significantly smoother than the AR-15s at MFL and the recoil is really reasonable for a gun chambered in .308 – still much more than an AR-15, however, since the bullet produces twice as much energy. The SCAR-H is loud and the overpressure wave of the muzzle blast is the most significant thing about firing it. Standing behind the shooter, you will notice a clear thump to your chest from the blast. The gun is very easy to shoot accurately and steadily, especially because of the EO Tech reflex sight on it. If you only have the money to rent one shoulder-fired weapon while you’re at MFL, get the SCAR-H and 20-40 rounds. You’ll be happy. Rent: $48 Ammo: $25/20rds
Springfield M1A SOCOM 16 (7.62x51mm/.308cam) – 5.5/10
Based upon the M14, which entered military service in 1959, the M1A is Springfield’s variant which was designed in 1974. However you slice that, the M1A is of an old school of design. The SOCOM 16, however, has a short 16″ barrel, polymer stock, and a rail on top for mounting optics. In my view this makes the rifle bearably current, if by a small margin. Chambering the .308 rifle round, the SOCOM has the same punch as the SCAR-H, as well as a similar overpressure blast, experienced by spectators standing behind the shooter. The action of the rifle is large and clunky, showing the rifles age, and the muzzle climb, upon firing, is more than that of the SCAR-H. The SOCOM was worth trying once, but unless you have a particular affinity for historic weapons (which I don’t) I’d stick to the SCAR-H as an alternative. It’s just a superior gun to shoot. Rent: $30 Ammo: $25/20rds
Marine Spec. M4 Cabine (5.56mm/.223)- 4/10 or 6/10
This is a real military issue M4 Cabine with semi and 3-round burst. Firing on semi, this is no different than the AR-15s available at MFL. I actually had the privilege of being the first person ever to shoot this gun at MFL and although it’s a bit rough and archaic like the AR-15s, it’s not very often in this part of the country that you get your hands on an automatic (or in this case 3-round burst) rifle. On 3-round burst, the gun actually doesn’t experience any more muzzle rise than the MP5 (maybe even less). It is however hard to keep tight control over since the recoil of the M4 isn’t light. MFL has this model equipped with an EO Tech reflex sight, with a 4x magnified flip-up tube in front of it. My only qualm with this gun isn’t with the gun. It’s with the fact that MFL gives you a 20 round mag instead of 30, so on 3-round burst your ammo disappears fast. Rent: $48 Ammo: ~$30/50rds
Thompson Submachine Gun (.45ACP) – 6/10
The Thompson (colloquially known as the ‘Tommy Gun’) at MFL is the military version of the SMG. It is not the classic “gangster” version seen in the movies, with the wood foregrip and drum magazine. This is the shorter-barreled version, with a 30-round stick-type magazine. Like the UZI, the Tommy gun feels like an old hunk of junk as you would expect. It’s actually considered one of MFLs ‘historic’ guns, causing it to cost $75 to rent, rather than the usual $48 for automatic weapons. I actually never bothered to try the Tommy on semi-automatic, as the only reason to try it in my mind is to unload mags through it. As such, that’s what I did. The Tommy definitely takes your for a ride when you dump a mag and you need to get angry at it to muscle it into place. The Tommy is a historic weapon well worth a try if you’re planning on blowing a bunch of money. Rent: $75 Ammo: ~$21/50rds
M60 (7.62x51mm/.308cal) – 6/10
The M60 is the big guy. The Mac Daddy. The most crazy gun available for rent at MFL. It is available to be fired by appointment only, firing belt-fed .308 ammunition at a cost of $1.00 per round. This gun is neither for the faint of heart, nor the attention shy, as you can be sure every single person on the range will be crowded behind you watching, as you fire. When you use it, a staff member brings the gun onto the range for you, along with one barrel for every 200 rounds you will be firing (they change barrels every 200 rounds to avoid overheating). They get you prepped and send the target carrier to the end of the range at 60ft. The gun sits on its bipod on the shooting bench and you crouch awkwardly behind it so you can use your body weight to control it. A staff member will help you load your belt and will brief you on being conscious of the gun not sliding backwards on the bench as you fire.
You will want to start with a few bursts of increasing length to get a feel for the recoil before moving onto long bursts. In the military you would never fire a burst longer than 10 rounds on a belt-fed machine gun, however you’re most likely not in the military and the reason you’re firing the M60 is for the experience. I recommend finishing your 100-round belt, starting with a few bursts, and then finishing it with 2-3 long presses of the trigger. You want to shoot a long enough burst that you start getting angry to hold the gun in place, and that was everyone’s lasting memory of the gun, in my group.
When I used the M60 I, and each member of my group, used two 100-round belts. Given the high rental cost of the gun, this is likely going to be your inclination. I would advise against it. What I found is that the first belt is overwhelming. It is an extreme, intense, adrenaline-charged experience. The second belt actually serves to lessen your memory of the experience because, by the end of the second belt, you’re actually getting comfortable behind the gun and it doesn’t feel so extreme. Shoot one belt and try to shoot it in as few bursts as possible. You’ll walk away feeling pumped up and accomplished. Rent: $150 Ammo: $100/100rds
AK-74U Krinkov ‘Krink’ (7.62x39mm) – 7/10
Don’t go to MFL looking to use this gun because you can’t. This gun cannot be rented and is awarded as a free treat as seen fit by the management at MFL. Typically if it is awarded, only one member of the group is allowed to shoot a mag through it and the staff surprises you with it rather than telling you that you will get to shoot it. I will leave it a mystery what must be done to qualify.
As for actually shooting the gun, it is one of the most incredible weapons I’ve ever fired. It is the AK-74U Krinkov, nicknamed the “Krink”. The one at MFL has had its flash suppressor hacked off so the concussive force of the muzzle blast is much more powerful and is accompanied by a giant fireball with every shot. The Krink is a fully automatic AK and the whole point of MFL letting you use it is that you dump a whole magazine on full auto. I was given the Krink with a 40-round magazine. I started with one semi-automatic shot to see what it would feel like, then I switched to full auto and fired a quick test burst before letting the other 35 rounds rip. Since the range staff doesn’t know the extent of my comfort with automatic weapons, one of them put his hand against my shoulder to be sure the Krink wouldn’t push me over. My memory of firing it is, however, devoid of this hand on my shoulder, as firing the gun is an overwhelming experience. The muzzle flashes are incredibly bright and the recoil extremely jarring. The overpressure wave created by the muzzle blast also thumps your chest to the beat of the recoil. Since the experience is so intense you aren’t really able to aim down the sights. More-so you just make sure your target – only visible intermittently – stays in the middle of your muzzle flashes. My lasting memory of dumping 35 rounds on the Krink is of the face I felt myself making as I did it. You end up having no choice but to grit your teeth in an angry, contorted face as you muscle the weapon into place. It’s fantastic. Rent: n/a Ammo: n/a
More to come as I rent at Manchester Firing Line Range in future…