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August 1, 2013

Machine guns, cannons and drones at Arizona's Big Sandy Shoot

(Continued)

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

Kenton Tucker's business partner in MG Shooters LLC is Ed Hope. He's a 71-year-old retired high school teacher who owns about 30 machine guns. He's a Democrat who voted for Barack Obama and a member of the National Rifle Association.

Hope sits in his quad, smiling, taking a break from driving up and down the range to monitor shooters. This shoot is just so much fun, he says. He asks if I've seen "the fish." I have. It's a hollow Volkswagen Beetle-size black-and-white shark-type monster. It has nasty eyes, four upper teeth, and a long, red tongue that licks the ground. When the range is "cold" and no one is allowed to shoot, the fish monster will be loaded with explosives and towed to the target area, where the shooters will blow it up.

Hope and Tucker have been putting on shoots for 25 years, and they know gun guys like to shoot "reactive" targets, meaning targets that explode when you shoot them. Hope and Tucker bought the Big Sandy property, which spans 1 square mile, about 10 years ago, because it is so remote that you can safely shoot and explode as many targets as you want. So far no one has been injured, Hope says. The Big Sandy shoots are a "full-time job" for Tucker and Hope, who won't disclose earnings derived from the shoot. For Big Sandy shoots, they hire 30 people to help monitor the range, direct traffic, and sell tickets. In three days about 600 spectators will pay $25 to watch about 200 shooters, who pay $250 to shoot.

"Most of my shooters are upper-income professionals," Hope says. The monster .50-caliber Browning can cost $25,000, for instance, and all the government regulation is "an incredible pain." It might take six or seven months to complete a machine gun sale, called a "transfer." What's more, Hope says, machine guns are "hungry and you have to feed them ammo."

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