With this thought was born a trip that proved very fun. I stumbled across a thread on www.subguns.com about VA / WV shoots. www.thunderinthehillsshoot.net is driving distance so I bought a lane and signed up. Based on the list of recommended supplies I stocked up on ammunition, gathered up some stuff I thought would help and picked up some tracers for the night shoot. "His Tacticalness" at http://www.mrs-tech.net/nova/ came along. This reminded me I still had some 7.62x39mm tracer, and specialty 12 gauge ammo. We had been joking about modifying how golf was played for a long time and the Bloom Automatic golf ball launcher. At HT's suggestion I contacted Frank, Thunder in the Hills organizer to make sure this stuff was ok. His response was "I don't see why not, we have one guy bringing a bowling ball cannon"...
The site of the parking lot, coordinates are posted on the site, is a nondescript construction site entrance. and the path back to the shooting area is pretty muddy. It had rained on the way out, so it's a good thing we had all wheel drive. I saw a couple of cars back there but I wouldn't have wanted to get stuck... We got there about 0840, about 20 minutes before the posted start time. Fortunately, nobody was in a rush. First off, we found the 'camping' area first. We met up with a couple of BCR's, and found out that this wasn't the shoot site, that was further down the muddy path... It wasn't terrible... When we got there Frank wasn't around, so we didn't know where our lane was supposed to be. Eventually, after chatting it up with a few fellow shooters we were directed to the far end of the range on the right. There are no real bad positions to have here. This actually turned out to be correct and we hooked up with some other Virginia guys- Gary, Marvin & late arriving Mark. They had a good selection of some pretty nice small arms. We were set up next to a group of German MG enthusiasts with a double sized, tent covered position, a large hi-cube truck FULL of supplies and a generator. They were all wearing German uniforms or surplus of some sort. These guys were really nice... I'm betting if my wife came they would have called her 'fraulein' though... Our friends from Virginia brought stuff I didn't think was needed, but turned out to be darn smart. A big tarp and a Wal-Mart tent for shelter. They came with a truck bed full of stuff!
Let's get this party started!
A thunderous BOOM followed by the very ... unusual... sight of a bowling ball lumbering through the air, and cratering the side of the hill signaled the start of the festivities. It got pretty loud at times with the stacatto of rapid fire going off all around. There were varying targets to shoot including some appliances and tire stacks. The German contingent had brought some exploding targets which they affixed to tires and rolled down the hill next to our line position during the shoot. It's very satisfying to pop these things. We let fly magazine after magazine through the Mac10... The FNC was popular, and sponsored guest shooters periodically throughout the day. I'm happy to report that our friend Gary provided us some free Wolf ammo to try out, which went without a hitch through the FNC. I'd been awaiting some first hand experience and Gary poured Wolf through his various guns... at least the .223 was without incident...
DUDE!? Where's my sear?
So about mid day, after one of the guest shooters, His Tacticalness reports the FNC is not firing automatic. I shrugged and agreed to check it after unloading with the Mac10. Sure enough, he was right. When I offloaded the magazine and chamber, I noticed a pin sticking out of the left side of the gun... I decided it wasn't sticking out significantly and could easily be put back. I mis-pronounced the problem as likely a broken firing pin, for which I had spares. I cased the FNC and went back to the truck. I broke the FNC down and pulled the bolt... Hmm... firing pin is still there, and in one piece. It's not chipped, bent, the spring is still there... Got to be something else. I break the front slide pin loose and separate the lower to grab a look at what may be happening...
For those wondering what's the big deal, the FNC is what is called a "sear gun". It is a semi automatic "host" rifle that is made fully automatic by a registered sear. The BATFE decided years ago that these sears "in and of themselves constituted a machine gun by statute" and thus this tiny, less than 1 inch long piece of metal, shaped like the letter "L" is the actual part registered under NFA, NOT the rifle. Here's a couple of pictures of what the sear is and how it's oriented.
That "L" shaped piece of metal held by the spring is the registered sear.
Here's a top view of the fire control parts including the sear. I implemented a 'barrio fix' to keep the sear pin in place (duct tape)
So after I separate the lower and upper receivers, I note that the sear is not visible. THIS... is a move away from goodness. The spring is still on the sear pin, which is only partially seated. At this point I took a mental inventory of the FNC's EXACT location from the last time it fired in full auto, and begin to evaluate if I need to shut down our lane to find it. After this, I checked the lower and found the sear had fallen under the fire control mechanism. Well, this made my day much, much better. However... One thing I didn't bring, and had totally forgotten - how the auto-sear was oriented when installed. It took about 2 minutes to figure this out, and about this time His Tacticalness joined me at the truck. It's a good thing too because it took 4 hands to correcty seat that spring. With His Tacticalness's help, I got the sear re-seated and correctly engaging the fire control, I reassembled the FNC, cased it and headed back to the line... Right after duct taping both sides of the sear pin !
A quick test verified our work was top notch. All things considered, it wasn't too bad, especially given the HK which shed it's cocking handle, and the Bren with it's spontaneously disassembling magazine...
What's with the flying tires?
In addition to the German contingent rolling explosive laden tire targets, the 'crew' set up some targets during the cease fires. One of which was in the middle of the target area; a stack of tires. Someone hit it with a belt fed, and the next thing you knew, 3 tires were launching skyward to the tree line - this had to be 70 - 80 feet minimum. Wow.
Did someone say "fire"?
Not mentioning any names to protect the innocent, someone fired some of those "incindiary" 12 guage rounds, commonly known as the 'dragon's breath' or 3 second flamethrower... Not that this was really going to be a problem, after all, it rained heavily the night before...
What's a little burnt foliage among friends?
... So much for that heavy rain... A couple of guys put the fire out at the next cease fire.
I went over to talk to the cannon guy, and he offered to let me shoot it. WOULDN'T YOU KNOW... the one time the darn thing misfires is when I pull the pin... Oh well... It was cool anyway. Among the other interesting line positions was the gentleman with the 1919 which produced a substantial muzzle blast. Anybody who knows me knows that is high praise coming from me. The tracer show at the night shoot was pretty fun too. Someone - again not mentioning any names, launched some of those 'flame thrower' rounds again, to the 'oohs' and 'ahh's of onlookers. The night shoot started a little before dusk and we were still shooting at 10 after 9 PM. We finished up our loaded magazines and helped our friends as we could, picked up our stuff and set off for the hotel.
If you've never been to a machine gun shoot, you're missing out. You meet the nicest people there, and the common theme was "you're welcome to some trigger time if you have ammunition". There were no gun snobs, range commandos or idiots. The shoot was well run with minimal need for supervision because everyone was well behaved.
Here's what the FNC looked like after about 3200 rounds with no cleaning...
There's not supposed to be any parts left over after reassembly... The part pictured to the right has worked itself loose and is currently looking for a home. This could've happened at Thunder in the Hills. I found this out by a subsequent range trip on 10 June. The selector locked up, and this was lodged in it. I was messing with the selector because I wanted to use the 3 round burst, but was only getting a single shot. Automatic worked as designed.
Neither machine gun performed flawlessly, but I would rate the performance of both the Mac10 and the FNC as excellent. Ironically, the Mac had the most trouble with loads with a decent FMJ bullet; the ranier plated 230 grainers worked a little better. I never bothered with the suppressor. Towards the end of the day I got a couple, inconsistent, ejection failures, but it went right back to running the next time.
The FNC had perhaps 10 or so problems; many of them were magazines overloaded by 1 round; not chambering or dragging the bolt like that after being inserted. Only a few AR mags would tolerate the extra round. Of course there was the sear pin walking out... Towards the end of the day I was shooting 62 grain and I had 3 or so failures to feed correctly. I upped the gas setting and that seemed to take care of it. In retrospect, I probably should've broken the gun down and at least oiled some moving parts, but I wanted to test the gun and I'd say it performed very, very well.
As I'm fond of pointing out, when you shoot as much as some of us do, every gun malfunctions, even the AK. By comparison I'd say the FNC stacked up very well against other MG's at the shoot. It took a whole lot of rounds - well in excess of 2,000 before I had to move the gas setting and kept running strong through the end of the shoot.