Most everyone who knows me, knows that I have but three passions in life that can be easily defined. Cars, currency, and firearms. My most recent outing to Manchester Firing Line ran rather heavily in the currency and firearm departments…
My outings to MFL have been getting more and more frequent over the last 18 months and, save for a few, more and more expensive. I went a few months back with a group of four co workers and spent a grand between us, introducing the lot to some pistols and the SCAR-H. Then I went with two friends and we spent $400 a piece, making a name for myself at the range and likely setting the record for per-person rental expense in a day. Now, as my friend Andrew, mentor Tim, and I near time to apply for our Class-A LTC licenses, we decided to organize a shoot for the record books. I suggested we go to Manchester Firing Line and spend $1000 a piece, renting every gun we could possibly hope to.
The plan was to utilize our tax returns sometime in January to fund the expensive trip, however when I lost a bet with Tim for $1000, I decided we might as well empty some of our savings and get to it. We drove up to the range, arriving at 10:30am on a Wednesday. We had all taken the day off, thinking a day right in the middle of the work week would be totally dead. Oddly enough the range ended up being just as busy as I’ve seen it on a Saturday. Thankfully Tim now has a membership at the range so we had reserved two lanes ahead of time and MFL already had a printout of our planned rental list, making us exempt from waits and delays.
The plan was to start with semi-auto pistols, working up to revolvers, then rifles, then automatic weapons. On the list you can see color coding which designated which two pistols were taken out at the same time. I had planned it out carefully so we could compare apples to apples. All three of us were trying pistols with the intention of getting closer to a decision for our future concealed carry weapons, so we payed a great deal of attention to every aspect of the guns (most of which I’d used before).
None of us much like the 9mm as, for defensive purposes it is less effective for a few reasons. We started with the H&K 2000 as a warmup, along with the Beretta 84FS just so we could all try .380ACP for the first time.
That done, we moved into Glocks, being Tim and my likely choice for a future CCW. Tim tends towards the full sized .45cal Glock 21, while I have a strong and long-standing affinity for the Glock 23 (compact .40cal).
Next we used the H&K USP, which I’ve always been a fan of. Tim loved it, as he has huge hands and is generally a fan of anything chambered in .45ACP. I was also thrilled to realize that MFL has an H&K 45C, one of their newest pistols. I enjoyed it a lot, while Andrew liked it so much that he concluded it may be his choice for a CCW.
Next up were two of the classics. We shot the archaic but fun 1911, focusing a lot on one-handed shooting. The 1911 has a left handed spiral to its rifling, imparting a right-hand-roll recoil impulse. Simply put, this makes it easier for a righty to shoot one-handed because the gun won’t tend to recoil off to the left like most pistols. I rather enjoy the 1911 for its light trigger, and opted to use most of my 4 mags to blaze away rather than carefully aiming. This continued as a trend throughout the day, as we all have sound shooting fundamentals and were more looking to experience the guns than shoot tight groups. The other classic we used was the modernized version of the Beretta 92FS, the 90twoFS. At this point pistols were starting to get just a little dull, as we’ve all shot plenty before. We did nonetheless move through the following SIGs and S&W M&Ps with a serious mind on testing the pistols for possible future carry.
Tim liked the SIG 220, but actually liked the SIG 229 .40cal even more. This was uncommon as he usually dislikes compact pistols as well as .40S&W pistols. He determined the SIG 229 40 might be in contention for his future CCW, while I dislike SIGs for their vague grip feel and their tendency not to lock when the mag is empty, due to my thumb placement.
Last of the semi-autos were the M&Ps. We used the M&P45 mid-sized, which I personally couldn’t shoot with for my life unless I really took my time. The M&P40c is a little better but is just too small for me. Andrew likes the 40c a lot and is actually considering it alongside the H&K 45C as a CCW.
After 14 pistols we asked the MFL staff if we could order in lunch and they handed us a menu for a pizza/sub shop down the street that they order from. They paused our range time – not that it really mattered in the scheme of 10 hours – and we took a 30 minute lunch.
When we returned to the range we took out the FN Five-seveN and 200 rounds. Andrew and I had used it before and are huge fans. We let Tim go first on it and he absolutely loved it. He looked like he might try to break my nose, however, when I informed him that the Five-seveN is outlawed in Massachusetts, making it impossible for him to own one (I later found out that it’s not outlawed… just nearly impossible to get, due to red tape, at a cost of over $2000). The Five-seveN is really a special gun to shoot and we alternated between blazing 20-round mags and putting the target out at 50ft for some careful shooting. We were all having so much fun with it that I bought another 150 rounds for us to split.
The Five-seveN concluded semi-auto pistols and it was on to revolvers. I’d only fired three revolvers in my life, including a .38 Special, a snub-nose .38, and the S&W 460 Magnum XVR. Tim and Andrew had never fired one at all. I brought onto the range two revolvers to warm up. A snub-nose S&W 357 Magnum and a 6.5” S&W 357 Magnum, as well as a box of .357 Magnum and a box of .38 Special ammo. The nice thing about 357s is that they can chamber either bullet. To start, I loaded one .38 Special and one .357 Magnum round into the cylinder of the snub-nose. I fired the .38 which I’d done before. The recoil is substantial for a pistol with such a small grip, but nothing crazy. I then cocked the hammer and fired the .357 round. My reaction was something to the effect of “Holy Shit!!!”. It was quite a lot of recoil for such a little gun and I wasn’t inclined to do it again. I then tried one cylinder full of .38 Special in the large revolver and it seemed very mild. For the rest of my share of the ammo I stuck to .38 in the snub-nose and .357 in the large revolver. Though I would never think of considering one as a defensive pistol, I like revolvers in single action because the trigger barely needs to be touched for the gun to go off. This makes extreme accuracy a breeze.
The first two revolvers marked the end of what could be called testing. We had tried all the practical defensive pistols and it was time to move to the big guns. That didn’t, however, have to mean rifles just yet.
I brought onto the range the S&W 460 Magnum XVR and the Ruger Super Redhawk 454 Casull. The second and third most powerful handguns in the world… The 460 I’d used once before, but Tim and Andrew were both anxious and nervous to get their hands on it. I loaded one round into one of the 5 chambers and cocked the gun, taking aim at our silhouette target 30ft away. I nudged the trigger, setting the gun off with a massive boom that caused most people on the range to step back from their stalls to see what just went off. I could hear Tim and Andrew exclaim behind me; an action that was repeated with each of my 5 rounds through the 460. Now Tim stepped up to the line and loaded a round into the 460. He held it out and cocked it. He unleashed his first round with an ‘iffy’ grip on the gun, hurting his hand a little. His subsequent 4 rounds went better. Andrew then stepped up and made some kind of exclamation or gesture after each round fired.
We set the 460 aside and I loaded a round into the 454. The 454 Casull round is 10-15% less powerful than the .460 Magnum however, because of the Ruger’s extremely short barrel, the felt recoil is substantially more, due to muzzle flip. I cocked the revolver, gripped it with two hands, and snapped off the shot. The boom was essentially the same as the 460 but the felt recoil was much more aggressive, hurting my trigger hand a little. I then loaded three rounds into the cylinder in every other chamber (so as not to accidentally bump-fire a round into the ceiling). I cocked the gun one handed and fired the three rounds with one hand. You have to be sure to have a solid hold on the gun, but this is doable. Tim then stepped up to the lane and was about to load the gun when two MFL staff members walked in, toting an AK and three mags.
This was apparently an AK-74U Krinkov, known as the “Krink.” They explained that this is a gun that can’t be rented, but is awarded as a free surprise to the bachelor at bachelor parties and they were going to let us shoot a mag each. They explained that they had removed the flash suppressor so it now makes a massive fireball and much more powerful muzzle blast. They explained that it was also automatic…
I was up first and they gave me the larger 40-round mag for organizing our event. I fired a single round on semi auto first, to see what the gun would do. It made a massive, blinding flash and the recoil wasn’t exactly light. I then switched to full auto and fired a burst to feel the automatic fire. One of the range staff put his hand on my shoulder to make sure the gun didn’t push me back. An understandable precaution, though he was obviously unaware of my comfort level with controlling automatic weapons. I then let the remaining 35 rounds rip in one long trigger pull. I’ve fired a few automatic weapons in the past, but this was my first fully automatic weapon with this much power. Making things much more intense were the muzzle flashes. So bright were they, that aiming with the iron sights was not really possible. Instead you just look between flashes to make sure the silhouette target is staying in the middle of the fireball, and it did. As the adrenaline pumped, time perception shifted. It felt as if it had taken much longer than it did for the mag to empty and I can remember consciously thinking about my facial expression as it changed throughout the mag. I started the mag with a determined grimace on my face and felt it morph to a bearing of my teeth, as I let out an instinctive “Grrrrrrrrrr.” It was incredibly intense and was actually the highlight of my entire day of shooting.
Andrew and Tim followed me on the Krink with 30 round mags. Each of them made the mistake of taking more than one burst before dumping the rest of the mag (which is the staff’s intention when they let you use the gun), leaving them with too few rounds to dump. Nonetheless, they each came away from the gun with shit-eating grins from ear to ear. The Krink really set the tone for the rest of the event.
Tim and Andrew then took their rounds on the 454, which Tim actually found nicer to shoot that the 460. He commented that he could see carrying either one while hiking or backpacking as a large-animal defense weapon and I agree with him.
Finally done with all the pistols it was time to move to rifles. I returned the revolvers and asked for the SCAR-L and SCAR-H. As was the case with all the pistols, the staff member behind the counter would go to explain the gun out of habit, then would say “oh wait I know you know how to use this.” I’d smile and nod every time. This time he put the SCARs on the counter and asked me how much ammo I’d like for each. I said 150 rounds for the L and grabbed me 3 boxes of 50, looking rather surprised. Then he asked me how much .308 I’d like for the SCAR-H. I said 240 rounds. He looked at me for a second, clearly caught completely off guard by my request. He then chuckled and said ok, handing me 12 boxes of .308, containing 20 rounds a piece. Each of these boxes, for reference, is $28. He then helped me by carrying the two rifles in, as the basket of ammo weighed enough that I couldn’t safely hold the rifles. When he walked in, he jokingly informed the staff member currently on duty on the range that we’d just purchased 240 rounds of .308 which, coming from the SCAR-H, is extremely loud. The staff member on duty requested ear plugs to wear underneath his over-ear protection. I have to say that after all 240 rounds, I didn’t blame him.
Andrew, Tim, and I have all used the H before and enjoyed it just as much as always. The rifle is a joy to shoot with the EO Tech sight mounted on it. The SCAR-L turned out to be just as great, without the macho factor of the H. The L was much more refined than an AR-15 and followup shots are very easy to place well. We all ended up agreeing that it’s definitely our favorite semi-automatic rifle chambered in 5.56mm.
Next were automatic weapons. We picked out the UZI and the H&K MP5A4 with 100 rounds for the UZI and 450 for the MP5. I’d never used the UZI before and ended up finding it very easy control on full-auto. The recoil doesn’t feel as snappy as the MP5’s due to the mechanics of firing from an open-bolt position. Andrew also liked the UZI but Tim hated it, mostly because he kept slamming in the mag too hard, causing a double feed. For me it behaved flawlessly.
Both Andrew and I have used the MP5 before and I’ve become rather skilled at holding a hole full-auto mag dump on the center mass area of the target at 30ft. Each of us simply dumped all five 30-round mags we had on the MP5, making it a good warmup for the Tommy gun which I grabbed next.
When I asked for the Tommy gun, the staff member behind the counter went to hand it to me and I asked if he could just show me what’s what. His face lit up and he said “I actually get to show you something! This is exciting!” He demonstrated the safety and the fire control, then I was on my way with that and the M16A2 (3 round burst select-fire).
The Tommy gun was a lot of fun but felt ancient in my hands. Frankly the M16 doesn’t feel much newer. The M16 (which is set up like what one would more accurately call an M4, with a carbine-length barrel and retractable stock) is cool but nothing to write home about. The three round burst is fun but I almost prefer semi-automatic on that rifle. The Tommy gun at MFL is the military version, not the ‘gangster version’ with the fore-grip and drum mag. It’s mostly fun because it requires you to get angry to dump a mag into the target. I actually never fired it on semi-automatic. I just dumped two mags through it on full-auto.
Finally we reached what all this was leading up to. The piece de resistance. We had reserved the M60 belt-fed machine gun. Each one of us would have a fresh barrel and two belts of 100 rounds each. I was first on the M60. It was setup on its bipod on the shooting bench and the shooter would bend over behind it with knees bent to fire. A staff member loaded the belt and told me to let it rip. I fired three bursts of about 3 rounds to get a feel. Then I pulled the trigger and held it down. I hadn’t planned on blowing through the rest of the belt in one go but I just kind of did. I held the trigger and kept going and going. Like with the Krink earlier I felt myself gritting my teeth as about 90 rounds of .308 streamed out the barrel, sparks flying everywhere on the backstop as the rounds hit. I was asked to break up my bursts on the second belt, but it was a memorable experience dumping the whole first one.
Tim and Andrew had a fantastic time on the M60 and it was the highlight of their days. We went to check out and I was not shocked to find that we’d run over our planned $1000 per person. The total was $3518, even with the 15% or so that we saved with the membership (this includes eye and ear protection which we bought, as well as the membership itself). The only downside to it all was that there was nothing left to come back for. We had shot just about everything of interests that is available for rent at Manchester Firing Line, and even one gun that isn’t. Then the owner, Carey, handed me a piece of paper as we were getting ready to leave and said, “for next time.” The paper read ‘PKM’, ‘RPD’, ‘P90’, ‘HK33’, ‘etc’. It was clear that the idea was that we’d spent enough money – and were interested in doing it again – that she was prepared to open up access for us to rent a few things that no one else can. Needless to say we were excited at the idea and plan to take her up on it. The PKM is a belt-fed Russian gun, firing the same bullet as the AK. The RPD is essentially a supersized AK, fed by a drum or AK magazine. The P90 is the super modern submachine gun used by the secret service, which fires the 5.7x28mm bullet, launched from the Five-seveN. We presume the one in question may be automatic. The HK33 basically bridges the gap between the MP5 and the G3. The MP5, HK33, and G3 are all pretty much the same gun, chambered in 9mm, 5.56x45mm, and 7.62x51mm respectively.
Essentially our plan is to keep on going back for more as long as there are more new firearms to shoot. We also might try to shoot things like the M60 again at some point.
Videos to follow!