MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —
By 9 a.m. Sunday, many of the shooters and most of the spectators have packed up their gear and headed home. There's still fire in the hole, and the wind slaps at the flying red flag. With only a few shooters, it's not nearly as loud.
Bits and pieces of the fish monster are scattered in the wash, and I realize I missed seeing it explode.
John Ulicki lingers at his campsite, breakfasting on cheese and eggs. I sit down at his table, having redeemed myself somewhat in his eyes by shooting the M16. He absolutely believes that there is a concerted backdoor effort to disarm Americans, and it's called gun control, and the press in general is sympathetic to gun control.
Newtown deeply saddens him, and he can't imagine the grief the parents feel. But it's wrong, he says, to "take away the rights of one group because of the emotions of others."
Before he packs up, he asks me if I want to shoot a 1940 anti-tank Swiss .50-caliber machine gun.
This is the diaphragm-rattling, eardrum-splitting machine gun I've avoided all weekend. But after shooting Edwards' funky World War II Browning and the nefarious M16, I figure I can shoot anything.
The Swiss monster is an enormous black gun anchored to a sandbagged tripod. The cartridges are as long as my hand.
To shoot and sight the gun, I have to lie on my belly in the dirt. I sight the cross hairs on what's left of a target barrel after 19 hours of machine gun shooting, and tighten it.
I pull at the massive trigger, but my fingers aren't strong enough to budge it.
I've still got the gun sighted, so Ulicki leans over, put his big hand over mine and pulls the trigger.