I’ve been writing a lot recently about the subject of war, in my posts about the bombs in Phonsavan and the Saigon War Museum. I thought it’s the right time to write about when I went to see what it’s like to handle some weapons for myself, at the Phnom Penh shooting range.
Check out the following clip, it’s one of my short movies about travel and contains clips from the gun range, as well as other places in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.
Lower down on the page, you can see the full and uncut video of me and a friend firing the machine gun at the Phnom Penh Shooting Range Thunder Ranch.
We had negotiated with a driver the previous day to take us around the main sights of Phnom Penh, we insisted that we went to the shooting range last, he refused and we didn’t understand why at the time. The driver would not budge and took us to the shoot the guns first.
So we got out of the the Tuk Tuk at the ‘Thunder Ranch Shooting Range’ – which is a little outside Phnom Penh, the first thing we noticed was on the wall, there is a huge array of machine guns, including the M-16 and AK-47 right there in front of us.
They sat us down at a table, got us a beer and handed us the ‘menu’, which was a booklet with all the weapons and the cost of using them. On the menu there was more than just machine guns, there were hand guns, shotguns, grenades – and the RPG rocket launcher that we’d heard was there.
The prices are expensive, especially for backpackers who are traveling on a budget, but we were there and wanted the experience. We made our selections, which were a Ruger Sniper Rifle, an M-16 and a Russian heavy machine gun (I’m not sure of the model).
I’m not some sort of ‘gun-freak’, but being around all these weapons was quite nervy and exciting, there’s nothing like this in the English countryside village where I’m from! We were finally about to find out what firing a machine gun was like.
We fired the sniper rifle and the M-16, they both had a bit of a kick on them, but nothing too shocking. The man from the shooting range made us fire them from a strange wooden table, with the barrel in some wooden support thing which I wasn’t too hot about, I wanted to shoot from the hip like the movies! The rifles were still fun though.
After the rifles, then it was time for the big boy, the people from the range set the heavy machine gun up for us, ready for us to blast away! It was a strange feeling having so much power in your hands, but still a great experience. During the full video (see below) my friend forgets to put his ear protectors back on when we switch and he’s filming me!
It was overall great fun, very expensive, but I’m glad I did it all the same, we spend the rest of the day visiting the other sights of the Cambodia capital. Only after we went to see the Tuol Sleng S-21 Genocide Museum, and the Killing Fields did we understand why our driver wanted to take us shooting first – No way would we feel like playing around with deadly weapons after seeing those horrors.