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August 6, 2013

Machine guns, cannons and drones at Arizona's Big Sandy Shoot

(Continued)

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

Edwards laughs. He's so happy.

"Are you hooked yet?" he asks.

I'm not, but I'm grateful for his generosity.

The wind has picked up considerably, and Charles Swan's white lab coat looks like an unfurling sail. Swan shoots guns in a lab coat because, like his floppy sun hat, the lab coat protects him from harmful UV rays.

Swan is 28, brown-haired and slender. He works for a major Seattle company that he asks I not name. He came to the Big Sandy Shoot for "cultural exploration," he says, because Burning Man was sold out. "This type of shooting is super-old-white-guy shooting," he says. "The guns they are shooting are like from the fucking '60s or something."

"I came here expecting to see old white guys and I found old white guys, and they're so nice. And usually they have at least two interesting stories to tell, because they've lived so long," he says.

He says one of his objectives is "not to be too disagreeable," so he doesn't say, for instance, that he voted for Obama, although he's become increasingly disenchanted with "all the wars."

He bought his first gun when George W. Bush was president, because Bush began "torturing people" and getting the country into "terrible debt" with "needless expensive wars." Before Bush, he says, he "never thought tyranny could exist in America."

Swan now owns a .50-caliber bolt-action rifle, a water filtration system, and some dried food. But he doesn't view himself as a survivalist.

At lunchtime, when the range is "cold" and there's no shooting, staffers load the fish-monster target sideways on the bed of a cobalt-blue Ram 3500 pickup truck and cart it out to the target area. Its cavernous belly is filled with explosives. It's scheduled for destruction later in the afternoon.

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