The Big Guns of Liberty

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The Colorado Freedom

The Big Guns of Liberty

by Ari Armstrong, May 18, 2006

When my wife and I recently walked through the armament exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, everything was locked away in glass displays, inoperable. The first rule was, Don't Touch.

You can do more than touch at the big-gun shoots sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fifty Caliber Shooting Association. You can shoot vintage and modern firearms and canons, peer inside restored military vehicles, and talk with the people who made the restorations and keep the equipment in perfectly useable condition. It amounts to an open-air, interactive, hands-on museum. But, unlike the specimens in a museum, the machines at the shoot -- and the skills required to use and maintain them -- are kept alive, a part of the culture, and a part of America's national defense.

View a short Quicktime movie displaying some of the guns at the shoot.

The proceeds from the shoot held May 12-14 near Cheyenne Wells will go to the local fire department, as they did last year.

American flags lined the path behind the shooters. Families and groups of friends wandered the line, observed the shooting, and occasionally took part in it. Food venders served grilled fare and sandwiches. The announcer maintained line safety and announced raffles and special displays.

A few wore themed T-shirts. "My gun is bigger than your gun." "Got .50?" "Politicians love disarmed peasants." "What part of 'infringed' don't you understand?"

One fellow said jokingly, "If you want to shoot semi-auto, then stay home."

Somebody asked one of the guys from Damage what it's like to shoot the group's big cannon. "Like you died." Don't scare the little ones, somebody chided. He qualified, "No, really it shocks your senses, so it's like you're reborn every time you shoot it."

(Readers should be aware that many of the guns at the shoot can only be legally purchased, produced, or transferred by paying a special federal tax and obtaining a federal license. For example, as has probably been made clear to a Colorado firefighter, if somebody asks you to sell a fully automatic gun without the required taxes and licensing, the person is very likely an agent of the FBI or ATF attempting an entrapment. As a general rule, anything fully automatic and/or larger than .50 caliber is subject to more stringent controls. Readers are strongly advised to check with a competent legal authority regarding any question pertaining to firearms and the law.)

I interviewed several of the participants and collected their comments in an mp3 audio file. The comments roughly correspond with the photographs below.

Stuart Ruben and Jerry Tarbel of Wyoming discuss the popular multi-barrel "mini" gun and the vehicle shown.

Dan Emich describes the scooter that was dropped from airplanes in World War II.

Bob Bigando and Tanner Hunsaker display their big three-inch fifty, originally mounted on a Liberty Ship. Bob also discusses his automatic.

Troy Tuggle describes his Hummer and mounted .50 caliber gun.

Dean Klingensmith displays his canon and "little" 20 millimeter gun.

Gilbert Friedmann demonstrates his .50 caliber and M-16.

At this point in the audio recording, Ruben describes several guns for which, unfortunately, photographs are not provided. The canon Ruben describes is shown in the video.

Jerry Lovik shows his Browning 1919s and other guns.

Jim Walters brought his World War II-era transport truck.

Ted Hutton restored a 1942 Ford jeep.

Lon Laufman discusses his canons and large rifles.

The Colorado Freedom