Originally published Monday, October 21, 2019 at 05:21p.m.

The Big Sandy Shoot, the largest machine-gun shoot in the world, welcomed a unique attraction this year – a functioning, restored WWII M4 Sherman tank.

When it started to shoot, it proved to be much louder than other guns around, and covered the crowd with a dust of powder. The audience – mostly men, wearing a lot of Trump 2020 hats – was delighted though, loudly agreeing the bang and the scare was worth the price of admission.

The man who made restored the tank is Scott Rickard, originally from Sidney, Australia. Now, he is working for Battlefield Vegas, a shooting range company in Las Vegas, which owns the tank.

“I first visited Battlefield in January 2018 as a customer,” Rickard said. “I put in my resume and soon got a job as a machine gun range safety officer.”

Soon however, Ron Cheney, of Battlefield co-founders, let him work on the tank they found somewhere on the East Coast. It served there as a range target.

“It was rusted and full of holes,” Rickard said. “It didn’t look anything like this. It was in such a bad shape, they had to use a crane to lift it off the trailer.”

Rickard was fascinated with it from the start. There are not many Sherman tanks left in the world, and of those that are still around, there are maybe five or six authorized tanks that actually shoot. This one comes from the Battle of Iwo Jima, its history was tracked and proved. It is worth about $ 1.5 million.

“You don’t see one of those things rolling anymore,” Rickard said. “But to see one is one thing, but to be part of bringing it back to life… It’s frustrating and challenging. But if you push through it, it is definitely worth the experience.”

Here, in this remote high country, Big Sandy has taken place for close to a decade, preceded by two decades of recreational target shots by members of what now constitutes MC Shooters.

“And no one died, God forbid” assured Louie Piergallini, a cordial, long-haired, happy machine gun owner who comes here twice a year. “Everybody knows me! It is so much fun! Have you ever shot a canon? Do you want to shoot a canon? Are you sure?”

Piergallini, who has experienced some hearing loss from all the shooting he has done, admits the hobby is expensive. Every little “pop” is a dollar, “and this round they just shot was around $200.”

“It is important for the world to know that we are not a bunch of crazies,” he says. “We are good, law-abiding citizens: policemen, lawyers, doctors. Everybody here went through an extensive background check, never did a crime in their life. Someone can ask. ‘Why would you want a machine gun?’ Because I was good my whole life. We deserve to do these things. Would you shoot a machine gun that does ‘bam’ one time? No?! One time!”