Phnom Penh Shooting Range

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.

Do you like my film?


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.

Posing at the Phnom Penh Shooting Range

Posing at the Phnom Penh Shooting Range

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.

Holding the Machine Gun

Holding the Machine Gun

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.

Ammo - Just Like Rambo!

Ammo - Just Like Rambo!

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.

The Russian Machine Gun

The Russian Machine Gun

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!

We Did OK in the End!

We Did OK in the End!

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.

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8 Comments on “Phnom Penh Shooting Range

  1. “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”

    And not without reason. I had read about the Killing Fields long before getting there and never once did I think about shooting when in Cambodia. However when in Vietnam there is another opportunity to shoot after visiting the Cu Chi tunnels, with an array of weapons to choose from. It was too expensive, I didn’t do it there either, but what surprised me most by far was the noise fire arms make! Unbelievable!!

    A good post to remember this episode of yours!

    • It is quite an expensive activity! Shooting guns is not something that I’d do on a regular basis, but it was good for the experience.

      I think the driver will have had people back out of the shooting range after seeing the death & genocide sites of Phnom Penh, making him miss out on his opportunity of getting some commission from the guys at the shooting range!

      • Yeah, there is definitely a commission system going on there. My drivers were way too adamant about me shooting some guns. They kept saying “You are in Cambodia! You must shoot gun!” I ended up going with an AK-47, and that puppy had some kick to it.

  2. Do you not find shooting all these weapons in a Country devasted by genocide and war a bit…. wrong?

    • Read my closing lines Pete where I explain some of my feelings that you may have missed.

      I’ve had a couple of people, including other bloggers take a few jabs at me for this post. I’d like to add that visiting the shooting range in Cambodia today does no harm to anyone, it’s simply an experience, a sport, shooting is in the Olympics.

      If anything the shooting range is expensive, therefore it contributes to the economy and puts money in the pocket of people that suffered the war and genocide. Anyone who is as young as 30-40 has lived through it, that includes the guys at the range, who are now making a good living.

      I’ve been around Cambodia twice, I love the people of Cambodia, the culture, the sights and activities they allow us to do. Reading about the history troubles my mind just as it would any other person, I’m just out for the full experience, this is something that I’d heard about and wanted to try it.

      I don’t believe that the people who run the shooting ranges in Cambodia think that westerners will come to see what it’s like in a real life war, you can’t replicate that. The westerners come to make-believe their childhood Rambo fantasies.

      To the Bloggers

      I visited the horrific sights of Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields just like you all did, in addition to the more off the beaten path Killing Caves near Battambang.

      I have not published a post about any of the above. To me, it seems disrespectful to swan around these places taking photographs thinking ‘this will make a good blog post’, then write a load of spiel basically saying how you’re so compassionate.

      Taking a ride on your high horse and attacking the people who visit the shooting range, does not make it right for you to publish photos of human remains and suffering whilst cashing in on it with the ads plastered on the same page.

      But all that is just my opinion of course, everybody is entitled to theirs!

  3. Don’t worry Pete, since you have a problem with the tools that stop genocide and war, its likely you will suffer the consequences of your brainwashed attitude. I wonder how many millions have to die before the most basic right to self defence is respected, instead of uninformed sheep spitting on the graves of the dead, denying even their offspring the most basic dignity and right to defend their life. In an act of pure malicious ignorance and evil the same people have no problem with the worst serial killers aka government having any weapon imaginable

  4. I think it’s difficult to go to a shooting range after visiting the killing fields or S-21; or even when you have in mind that about 30 years ago 2 millions of people were killed in the surrounding. The only time that I needed to use guns was to learn how to shoot in the army. If I hadn’t gone to the killing fields first I probably would have tried the guns also. The thing is the guns not kill people, people kill people, with or without guns. Mostly of the killing 30 years ago was not by shooting guns, but with any kind of anything else. Probably if the people had guns in their homes at that time it wouldn’t had be so easy to Pol Pot put them in forced work or in the killing fields.

  5. Thanks for the enjoyable read. The Russian GP (General Purpose) machine gun that you shot looks to be a PKM, chambered in 7.62mm X 54R. I visited a rental range while in Siem Reap that was located on the grounds of the Cambodian Army’s Fourth Troops Training Center. In the way of ‘full-auto fun’, I fired the AK-47, Czech SA-26 SMG (at the top center of the rack in the first photo), the Russian PPSh-41 (below the row of AK’s in the same photo) and the Russian DP-27 light machine gun; note that as a married man,. automatic weapons was my only option for ‘boom-boom’ while in-country.. Many would say that it’s unthinkable that one would want to fire a ‘weapon or war’ in a country that went through genocide, but I’d say everyone has a right to their own opinion and decisions. As a shooter, I am interested in historic firearms, especially military firearms, and enjoy having the chance to experience firing examples of such arms in places where they are legally available as rentals. In California, such automatic weapons are not available to the general public (i.e., non-military, non-law enforcement) at the local firing ranges as rentals. Many states do have them available, and in the sates of Nevada and Maryland, I have been able to test fire an ever-growing number of these types of weapons (MP5, Uzi, Sten, Thompson M1A, Colt 635 9mm SMG, suppressed MAC-10, suppressed S&W M76, M3 Grease Gun, Madsen M45, Swedish Type-K). From your trailer, it looks like you’ve enjoyed quite a bit of Southeast Asia. Happy travels, and cheers!

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