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Automatic For the People

At the Cu Chi tunnels visitor centre, you can fire guns. Big guns. Admittedly, there are no rocket launchers and live targets, but Cambodia can wait. I’d read a good book about the underground war fought against guerillas in tunnels close to Saigon – most of it talked about crawling with a torch, a handgun, and a piece of rope, and engaging the enemy from short range. It also talked about agent orange, napalm, very big bombs, and very many medium sized bombs. But it never talked about the M60 or the M16. Mainly because the M60 should be mounted on something. Like a helicopter, tank or a Rambo. And as this page points out, you need a lot of bullets, on those natty little over the shoulder numbers.

You pay a dollar a bullet. I get twenty for a go on an M16, and with virtually no training, I am given a big gun, and told to point it at some animal targets a way down a range. Tourists mill around a few yards away. A quick squeeze or five of the trigger on semi-automatic. Lots of noise. A big grin. There is an unarmed attendant, whose role is presumably to prevent any maniac with a gun like the one in my hand from turning round and making hamburgers out of busloads of tourists. He flicks the small lever which instead of pointing to ‘semi’, now points to ‘full’, or ‘pande-f*cking-monium’ as they would have labelled it, if the gun had more room. Barely a second later, my grin has widened considerably, and there aren’t any bullets left.

Predictably, I return for more bullets to the counter marked ‘cashier’. They probably couldn’t have fitted ‘license to print money counter selling one dollar bullets for guns that use several hundred per minute’ on the front of the desk. This time our guide advises me that I can “become a hero, just like Rambo”, and points to the bandoliers of M60 ammo. I get fifty of the bullets, which is half a belt. I proceed, after a quick pose for the camera, to the M60 station. After even less instruction from the attendant than I had before, he loads the belt of bang-bangs into the deadly killing stick. There’s a kind of catch to pull up to make things happen, and there isn’t a label on it. The inscription “noise switch” probably got worn away in the last few decades of abuse. Things get really loud when I use that little switch, and the sand bags above my cheerful tiger-shaped target start to show they’re feeling the fun too. Something at the back of the target starts to glow white hot. Fifty US dollars is gone in a few bursts on the M60. I am positively laughing out loud by the end of this, and Joe remarks that it’s only places like Vietnam and perhaps a few special bars in Bangkok where you can have so much fun spending money so quickly. Gone in far less than 60 seconds.

Regardless of the fact that there was all manner of suffering and misery because of guns and stuff, its wicked fun firing automatic weapons. Remember its not people who kill people. It’s psychopaths with automatic guns that kill people.

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