By Jeff W. Zimba
Billed as the Hiram Maxim Millennium Machine Gun Shoot, the 2001 event in the town of Dover-Foxcroft Maine was the largest event yet. Emma-Gees from all corners of the Country as well as places all over the world filtered into the tiny community for the annual shoot on July 20th – 22nd 2001.
Once again, I had the pleasure of running “The Tower” overlooking an ensemble of some of the best and most professional class three shooters in the entire country. For any of you who have never attended this shoot let me describe the scene. The firing line is approximately 250 feet in length and filled with every type of belt-fed machine gun imaginable. A walk along the HMHS firing line can produce well over 100 years of firearms history and innovation. One position may have a Maxim MG08 on a sled mount slowly churning out old 8mm casings, while four positions away an M249 is spreading 5.56 NATO brass towards the ground. It is pretty tough to attend an event such as this and not find yourself becoming a historian of some sort.
The diversity of the firing line is certainly not limited to the age of firearm designs. Imagine an American 180 tearing at the backstop with a virtual hailstorm of .22lr at over 2000 rounds per minute, and a quad .50 just a few positions away opening up with all four barrels. If that is still not enough lead going in one direction at once, it should be known that the line is usually opened with a volley of artillery fire from a US-M1 57mm piece. If a six-pound projectile traveling at approximately the same speed as an average 30-06 doesn’t get your interest than this probably isn’t the place for you.
The firing line is between 100 and 150 yards from the point of impact. The impact area is packed with automobiles whose better years are long forgotten as well as an occasional appliance or bathroom accessory. Oh yeah, there is some dynamite there too. Lots of dynamite! Much to the pleasure of the substantial crowd of both shooters and spectators the explosives are not spared and are usually placed on the heavy side. This takes time to do correctly and safely as several safety sweeps take place in the impact area during the day. From my vantage point on the tower I am often asked what is going on downrange and when the line will open up again. When I relay it is the dynamite crew checking for unexpanded ordnance and placing fresh charges you can almost hear the smiles coming on.
There is absolutely nothing to prepare a shooting enthusiast who spends an occasional weekend at the local range and suddenly walks into the world of a well-organized national level event such as this. It is a complete overload for the senses. The sounds are very different from those encountered during a regular day on the range. If you are used to having four or five pals with you at the range or in the local gravel pit it will sound like silence compared to 62 roaring belt-fed machine guns all belted up and shooting in unison during the opening “mad minute” of each volley. If you bring out an occasional reactive target or two when you usually meet at the range, you will be eternally spoiled by the rapid explosions of 60% nitro sticks being impacted by the bullets of the shooters. When the first few rounds hit their mark and the thunderous percussion waves over the crowd it is a certain bulls-eye with everyone there. The percussion is so intense that it often sets off the car alarms of those new to the shoot. Those who have “been there and done that” know better than to arm their alarm if parked anywhere in close proximity to the line.
If you like the smell of gunpowder your nose is in for a sensation like nothing ever imagined. Over 32,000 rounds per minute will be going downrange at the opening of the volley and that produces a gunpowder smell like nothing else.
The sights of the occasional flame-thrower firing between volleys are extremely visually stimulating. The fire is bright and intense. The smoke is dark and thick. Above everything else, they throw a lot of heat. It is quite amazing to be standing 50 yards from this device pointed in the opposite direction, and still be able to feel the tremendous heat on your skin.
If being up close and personal on the line is more than you can stand for long periods you can spend some time browsing in the dealer tents. There you will find the people who make these shoots their business and supply the shooters and collectors with their prized possessions and the ammo to feed them. Many of these folks travel all around the country to shoots and shows, and bring a lot of inventory and experience with them. It is not uncommon to find nationally recognized authors doing research, selling their books or just relaxing and enjoying the company of fellow shooters here either. It is a family atmosphere and is well attended by many families.
The Hundred Mom Marchers draw attention to the shoot.
All in all, the 2001 shoot was business as usual with the exception of some unexpected helpers bringing a flurry of media coverage to the event just as it was getting underway. It seems that the local chapter of the so-called Million Mom March (now officially affiliated with Sarah Brady’s Brady Campaign) had issued a press release asking people not to attend the function, claiming it “….sent the wrong message to children.” When the associated press picked up on this, phones started ringing. The anti-gun group was so concerned that they never contacted anyone connected with the shoot and it looked like they were just trying to earn a little free publicity from the high profile of the annual event. It was reported by a local newspaper that their spokeswomen made a statement claiming that the so called “Million Moms” were going to protest the event but “felt threatened” and did not do so. The boogeyman of scary black guns raises his head again.
What a joke. If they had voiced an interest to anyone actually connected with the event they would have been given a booth just to let them see their misconceptions were wrong. All in all we don’t know if they damaged the attendance of the event, but we do know they caused things to be a little more hectic for the organizers than they needed to be at the time.
The dates for the 2002 shoot are July 19, 20 & 21. The place is the same as it has been since 1996. Take I-95 North to exit 39 (Newport Exit) and take Rt. 7 North to Dover-Foxcroft. The signs will bring you to the shoot. Admission is $6.00 per day for adults and $4.00 per day for children. Children must be under immediate adult supervision at all times. Shooter passes are $30.00 per day or $45.00 for the weekend. You can reach the club at (207) 465-2336 or on the web at www.hirammaxim.com. If you have a little vacation time you can use this summer, think about taking a trip to “Vacationland” the third weekend in July and visiting some of the best friends you have yet to meet. See you at the shoot!