Pass It On Outdoor Mentors benefit that my ten-year-old son Jack and I attended last weekend. Like most fundraisers of the outdoor ilk, there was an obligatory auction featuring some nice fishing and hunting trips, good-looking shotguns, a chance to fly in an open cockpit Stearman airplane, and more.
It was the "more" that caught the attention of me and my son. The winning bidder would receive the chance to shoot a Barrett M82A1 .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle. The .50 BMG cartridge was originally designed about 100 years ago by the esteemed John Browning to take out lightly armored vehicles and airplanes (and any personnel that happened to get in the way). It hurls a 661 grain projectile at a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second. For the non-gun nuts, the average deer rifle shoots a puny 150 grain bullet at more or less the same speed. It remains a mainstay machine gun round that serves allied forces well in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The Barrett, however, is a different beast. Sure, it's the same day-ruining round, but the M82 is, believe it or not, more of a finesse weapon. The military variant is used to take out single Al Qaeda targets and other unsavory types from over a mile away.
So the bidding started. We stayed on the sidelines, and as the auctioneer droned on, Jack whispered to me. "I really want to do this, dad. It would be so awesome to tell my friends about!" I paused. The bid was $50. "Jack, do your friends even know what a Barrett is?" I asked. "Sure they do... from video games."
The bidding had stopped, and the Barrett's owner took the stage, in hopes of raising the stakes. "C'mon, guys, 50 bucks won't even cover the cost of ammo. If you bid this thing up, we'll throw in some Tannerite to shoot at."
And that's when my son's hand went up. Tannerite, for the uninitiated, is a perfectly legal "binary target" that, when mixed together, explodes upon impact by a high-velocity centerfire rifle round. You can drop it, or shoot at it with a handgun round (though I'm not testing this assertion), and it won't go off.
A flurry of bidding ensued, but when the dust settled, Jack and I were proud owners of ten rounds of the largest production centerfire rifle ever manufactured, and a gun to shoot them in.
The next afternoon, after a great round of sporting clays and lunch, it was time to go shooting. We were escorted out to Flint Oak's range, along with 15 or so curious onlookers. Jack was nervous, and even though I knew firsthand that this menacing-looking gun's recoil was about the same as a standard 12 gauge, I was a little nervous for him.
The video below, while amazingly cool, doesn't do it justice. Simply racking a round into this massive gun puts chills down your spine. Bystanders experience a soul-shuddering whoosh of air each time the trigger is pulled. Jack is aiming at a target about 125 yards or so away, and the exploding Tannerite was the size of a small house --- the secondary report from the explosion is even more rattling. See for yourself.
Dad of the year, anyone? It was a teriffic experience for both of us, and I'm glad we got the chance to fire one. At $8500.00, it's not likely I'm buying one anytime soon, and even if I could afford the gun, the ammo is sky-high and I don't have a place that I could shoot it. If you ever get a chance to shoot one of these beasts, by all means, do so.
Scampwalker's common sense disclaimer: I fully support the ownership and legal use of the .50 BMG and Tannerite. Please help keep them legal by using common sense. Don't use them to destroy property that isn't your own, and if you shoot stuff, pick up the junk afterwards. Don't make more noise than is reasonable, and wear hearing protection, for the love of God. Be a good neighbor and an ambassador of our Second Amendment!