It was a crisp December afternoon as Stephen and I packed our bags and made our way down to our lake house, Pelican Point, eager to set out on our next big adventure. As many already know, winter time at Lake Martin is its own unique season. With the water level down and boats stored away until the return of warmer days, this is the perfect opportunity to explore some of the more “off-the-beaten-path” attractions that the lake has to offer. And today, that sense of adventure was bringing us to Lake Martin Machine Gun.
Stephen himself is an experienced firearm shooter, growing up hunting from a young age and an owner of several guns himself. I, on the other hand, had never really actually held a gun before – much less shot one. The idea of going straight from a beginning shooter to firing a machine gun was quite an intimidating thought I have to admit. However, I rarely turn down the opportunity to try something new, especially something this intriguing. As we continued our trip onward towards Eclectic, I really had no idea what to expect on this expedition.
It wasn’t long before we were pulling up to the gravel driveway of our destination. The location was easily spottable from the road, marked by an oversized sign with “Lake Martin Machine Gun” printed clearly across the front. We had passed this sign several times before, usually on our way to the old Harbor Docks restaurant or on a day trip out towards Stillwater. Every time we passed by it however, the sign continuously peaked our interest, more and more.
What is this place? What do they do here? Can you really shoot a machine gun?
Finally, our curiosity had gotten the better of us. We thought, what the heck…we’ll give it a shot. We didn’t know it yet, but as we turned down that gravel driveway, we were about to have one of the most memorable afternoons we had this year.
The driveway wound back through woods, revealing a clearing, parking lot, and a simple building. There was a sense of excitement in the air as we exited our car. Gunshots could be heard in the distance and the suspense was rising. This was it. We had arrived!
As Stephen and I made our way inside, we were instantly greeted with warm welcomes from the Lake Martin Machine Gun owners, David and Jodie McGirt. David enthusiastically gave us a detailed briefing on what we could expect during our trip that day, and what he referred to as the “Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience”.
The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience
The Lake Martin Machine Gun Experience we learned is all about bringing history back to life. Established in 2016, the McGirts were on a mission to set themselves apart from other shooting ranges by creating a fun, safe environment where people can learn and experience history behind these firearms, reconnect with it, and most importantly – have a good time.
David furthered explained the rarity of the guns at LMMG that visitors are able to shoot. Machine guns are highly regulated in the United States, with only a limited amount available to the public. He went on to say many of the firearms in their collection normally would only be available to be viewed from behind a glass case or on a movie screen, but we would have the opportunity to see and handle them first hand. This immediately got our attention! This was already turning out to be so much more than we could have imagined.
The Lake Martin Machine Gun facility is made up of multiple shooting bays, including one specifically for pistols and rifles. The main range itself has a roof covering overhead to shelter visitors from any form of weather. It is also temperature controlled with heating and air conditioning – which I’m told is not always available at other shooting ranges.
Jodie also took us to tour a separate building outside, specifically designed for long range shooting. Here visitors have access to a different set of targets as well as the opportunity to sight in rifles, which especially comes in handy for hunters. However, to access the Long Range a visitor must sign in and out inside the facility, as well as be a known shooter to the staff.
As David and Jodie continued the tour around the facility, I immediately began to feel comfortable with my surroundings. It was growingly apparent that safety is their number one priority.
Machine Gun History 101
If there is one thing that separates this establishment from any other shooting range, it would be the history portion of the experience. David really came to life while he was teaching us about the different types of firearms and the evolution of each of them throughout time.
Listening to David speak was like walking through history itself. He gave the perfect blend of technical knowledge along with vibrant storytelling and historical depictions of the firearms and their uses, such as demonstrating the famous “Tommy Gun” that was commonly known to be used by Bonnie and Clyde. Interestingly enough, we learned that the Tommy Gun was what inspired many of the gun laws that we see still implemented today.
In total, David did an overview of approximately 15 different firearms, including a “British Bren”, the breakaway “PDW” used by Secret Service members, and the “Israeli Uzi” that Chuck Norris was famous for. He even showed us an MP44 from World War II, which is so rare that they are hardly available to even be seen in the world today. The best part? Visitors to Lake Martin Machine Gun have the opportunity to shoot some of these firearms themselves!
The historical aspect of our tour, and knowledge behind the guns we were about to shoot, was definitely a much appreciated addition to our visit. It created a unique twist that added value and awareness of just how cool this experience was that Lake Martin Machine Gun makes available to the public.
Shooting the Machine Guns: Fire Away!
At Lake Martin Machine Gun, the firearms themselves are handled by trained staff members. It seems like common sense, but that was actually quite a relief for me since I had never been to a shooting range before and I didn’t exactly know how all this worked.
The staff does what David referred to as all the “heavy lifting”, as they are all trained and knowledgeable in the handling of each of these firearms and can in turn insure a safe environment. David and one of his staff members loaded in all the ammo, set up the guns, and stood right beside us while we got into position to shoot. All we had to do was relax and have fun!
The first gun we shot was the MP5SD. This was incredibly exciting, as this is the type of gun that Navy Seals and Special Forces use. Very few people in the world actually get to shoot these… and yet here we are! David set the MP5SD up on a wooden platform that was made up of several different levels, with the purpose of stabilizing the gun and to keep us from having to hold up the firearm up ourselves, as some of them proved to actually be really heavy. It sure did give us a new appreciation for all the veterans who had to carry these during their service!
Stephen was up first to shoot. As he approached the firearm, David began to walk him through step by step of the process and what to expect next. Stephen’s first shot was a single bullet, allowing him to get the feel of the gun. Once comfortable, David gave Stephen the go ahead to fire away.
That’s when the fun set it. Bullets flew through the air as Stephen held down the trigger and really let loose! Afterwards he turned around, belly laughing and grinning from ear to ear. David said, “now that’s what we call the machine gun smile!”
After watching the blast Stephen was having, my excitement and adrenaline were running for sure!
David readjusted the firearm and propped the gun up on a level that was comfortable for my height. He continued to instruct me as I placed the gun against my shoulder and got into shooting position. Knowing I was new to all of this, he showed me where to place my hands on the gun and how to look through the scope, as well as coached me on my stance. His continuous instruction definitely made me feel confident and ready for this moment! As I prepared to take my first shot, I could feel my heart begin to race.
I put my finger on the trigger, peered through the scope, pulled back… and BAM! I laughed as I realized I had just shot my first bullet. And believe it or not, I actually hit a target. I was ecstatic. David switched me into position to actually fire off the machine gun and really “let loose”.
Words cannot describe how thrilling those next few seconds were as I shot through my round. It felt a bit like being in the movies. Stepping back, I was laughing just as hard – if not harder- than Stephen. The actual experience was simply exhilarating!
The Ma Deuce
We continued down the line of firearms, shooting several different ones including the famous Tommy Gun and the M60, which is what the troops carried all throughout Vietnam. And then we got to the grand finale and mother of them all – the Ma Deuce.
This iconic Browning .50 caliber machine gun was designed toward the end of World War I, with the official name of M2HB. ”HB” we learned stands for ”heavy barrel” and” M2” is referring to the model of the gun.
David joked, “as all things in the military with numbers, we had to give it a nickname. So this became The Ma Deuce.”
As much fun as we were having with the other firearms, I felt like it was building up to this moment. This one was hands down my favorite to shoot! This particular machine gun is mounted firmly to the ground with a wide open lane to shoot through to specialty targets, specifically designed to handle this caliber of ammo. If you come and only shoot one machine gun, I cannot emphasize enough the rush you will feel while shooting this one. There was no need to get fancy. It was all about letting loose, having fun, and tearing up some targets.
And as you can see, it made for a pretty cool light show too.
Memberships and Corporate Events
Lake Martin Machine Gun is a membership shooting range. David said there are only two rules to being a member at Lake Martin Machine Gun. “Be Safe and Be Nice,” he said in our interview. “If you can do those two things, you’re always going to be welcome here. It gives a nice, safe environment for people to practice and shoot in addition to the Machine Gun Experience – which is what we are most known for.”
The space is also available to rent for things such as corporate events and private parties. The owners said it is always a hoot for bachelors and bachelorettes to come cut loose as well as corporate outings, birthday parties, and everything in between.
The takeaway from all this is that Lake Martin Machine Gun is an experience for everyone. Also, shooting machine guns is an absolute BLAST.
The McGirts go above and beyond to create a safe, fun environment for people of every experience level to come in and confidently enjoy themselves, all while learning some neat history and shooting off rare firearms. Sounds awesome, right?
If you are as curious as we were, do not keep putting this one off. Ladies, grab your friends for a Girls Night Out. Fellas, bring your wife for a spicy date. Go grab Grandpa and bring him to have the time of his life! Simply put, it is a thrilling and unforgettable experience that we cannot recommend enough.
So, what are you waiting for?
Want to see more? Watch the exciting video of our trip to Lake Martin Machine Gun on the Pelican Point Expeditions YouTube channel!