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August 1, 2013

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

(Continued)

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

The mannequin is dressed like a French Resistance fighter and stands by the shooting station Watson shares with his friends. He got the mannequin from his wife's consignment store and has been bringing her to the shoot for several years, dressing her each year in a different military uniform. Mary Lou is a fixture at the shoot, along with Watson's plastic pink flamingoes and his 1958 Airstream.

To Watson, the Big Sandy Shoot is "Super Bowl, Nascar, and the World Series all wrapped into one." He has been attending the shoots since 2006, and he's recruited friends who share a shooting station, which has a blue-tarp floor covered with spent casings. Their machine guns rest on tripods. Shawn Rhodes, a former paramedic, and Bill Rhodes, a software engineer, both wear beige MG Shooters T-shirts. Another friend, David Stevens, a theater technician (he's a got tattoo that reads "AITA," which stands for "Acceptance Is The Answer"), brought along two semi-automatic rifles that resemble AK-47s.

As we talk, a mini-machine gun, said to cost about $100,000, shoots off thousands of rounds a minute. As the gun fires away in the distance . . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . the men joke about how shooting a mini-machine gun costs as much as a mortgage payment . . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The only food concession at the shoot is the 4-H cook tent, overseen by Linda Olson, who lives in Kingman, some 40 miles west of the range. Her long blond hair is pulled into a ponytail and she wears sunglasses, a baseball cap, jeans, and a T-shirt that reads, "25 years ago we had Ronald Reagan, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Now we have Obama, no cash and no hope."

Olson is 56, an obstetrical nurse at the local hospital, and she is worried about the country because Americans "should be headed towards self-sufficiency, and what I see is people moving the other way."

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