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August 1, 2013

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

(Continued)

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

West of Nothing we pass a biker bar, a barbecue joint, a trailer park and a log furniture store, which pretty much sums up the commercial center of downtown Wikieup, population 133. We're well into Mohave County now, and it feels like militia country. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh hung out with his friend and terrorism accomplice Michael Fortier in Mohave County. Jason Bush, the border vigilante condemned to die for slaughtering a 9-year-old girl and her father during a bloody home invasion, was arrested in Mohave County. About 202,000 people live in the county, which sprawls over 13,470 square miles. It's a good place be a hermit or play war games.

We veer right onto Trout Creek Road, follow the arrow on the white poster board sign that reads "Big Sandy Shoot." Five miles of dusty, up-down, windy dirt road later, we descend into a valley where spectators are allowed to camp and have tailgate parties.

We register at a folding table, then drive a rutted road leading up a steep, rocky bluff to the fabled Big Sandy Range. Camouflage nets separate dozens of shooting stations. Most are equipped with folding tables and chairs, tools, ice chests, metal ammo cans, wooden ammo boxes, and machine guns on tripods.

The machine guns face the target area, a wide, dry wash. Dozens of white barrels — the targets — line the wash. The target area is "backstopped" first by its own eroded bank, and then a cratered hill, and then a mountain. The layers keep rogue rounds from escaping and killing a cow or coyote. Yellow police tape flaps in the wind, marking the boundary between the target area and shooting stations. The shooters have set up campsites a few feet behind their machine guns. Some will sleep in RVs, others in large trucks and tents.

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