Guns are embedded in our culture, Terry Welburn says. So much so they're reflected in everyday phrases we don't think twice about.
Flash in the pan. Go off half-cocked.
And when it comes to fully automatic weapons, both phrases apply. A bullet clip is gone in a flash, and handling a piece typically issued to military and law enforcement personnel is not something anyone should approach half-cocked.
Still, Welburn, the owner of Welburn Weapons in Central Point and a gun enthusiast since age 6, says if shooting a fully automatic weapon is on your bucket list, don't be intimidated. It's a blast, pun intended.
"What we're about to do is just pure fun," he says, loading bullets into a clip under a gunmetal sky at one of the Jackson County Sports Park's several shooting ranges — the one on the end typically used for law enforcement training. "It's the stuff no one ever gets to play with."
Aspiring owners of these types of guns — Class III weapons — need to spend months getting the proper paperwork in order under the National Firearms Act, Welburn says. They have to have a clean background check, get signed off by local law enforcement, get fingerprinted and get their passport up to date. It's also expensive. Getting started can cost thousands of dollars. Still, many are drawn to the hobby.
"We see a wide range of people who are enthusiasts," Welburn says. "People who mortgage their house, drive a $200 car might own a $12,000 machine gun. Some people are intrigued by the mechanism that makes them function. They're just fascinated by how they operate. From our aspect it's just pure fun. We're not training mercenaries."
Today, Welburn's sporting a Ruger AC-556. If you ever watched the original "A-Team" TV series, it was the team's weapon of choice.
"They would fire thousands of rounds every episode," Welburn says. "Nobody ever got killed or seriously hurt, but they wrecked a lot of cars."
It will be Gold Hill resident Christopher Hudson's first time shooting the Ruger today, but not his first automatic. Hudson's brother, whom he describes as a "major" gun enthusiast, got him into it. They went shooting on weekends up in the hills.
"Once I fired my first machine gun, I realized I had to have one," Hudson says.
He doesn't have his own yet, but it's a goal.
Welburn hands the Ruger to Hudson and stands behind him, a safety measure. Both have earplugs in to dull the soon-to-come volley of sharp cracks.
"Flex on your front knee a little bit," Welburn says, to which Hudson obliges.
Shooters have to balance their weight and dig into the ground while shooting one of these weapons. Even though a clip lasts about two seconds, the unprepared can end up on their heels shooting at the sky if they're not careful. It's different than shooting shotguns or pistols. Taking aim is difficult.
Hudson does as he's instructed, leaning appropriately and digging in, ready to do battle with the target 100 feet or so down range — a bloodthirsty zombie wielding a meat cleaver.
After two quick semi-automatic bursts, Welburn flips the Ruger switch to full-auto mode, and Hudson cuts loose. The clip's gone in an instant. Echoes from the gunfire are swallowed up by the ground.
Welburn does public shoots out at the range for families. The next one is set for Memorial Day. Welburn says these shoots are great experiences for young and old alike.
"The magazine only lasts seconds, but the smile lasts for months," Welburn says.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.