Spiraling ammo costs hurt shooters

Mark Endicott takes aim recently during the Eagle Cap Shooters Association's third annual Machine Gun Shoot in Enterprise<br><i>Photo by Hector del Castillo

Pat Murphy's wallet has been taking hits - and he's been the one shooting.

The owner of Oregon Research Labs LLC in Vernonia, near Portland, Murphy spent between $1,000 to $1,500 on ammunition for the 15 weapons he brought June 7 and 8 to the Eagle Cap Shooters Association's third annual Machine Gun Shoot in Enterprise.

"The cost has doubled since last year," Murphy said.

Combined with repeated, breathtaking jumps in gasoline prices, increasing ammo prices had the shooters' association leaders worrying in advance that the event would suffer dismal attendance. Though about 100 participators, spectators and volunteers came to the local range despite a light drizzle, about half of the spaces along the firing line remained vacant. The line faced hills full of spray-painted targets: busted cars and household appliances.

Murphy's spot offered customers the chance to fire AK-47s, M-16s, UZIs or fully automatic pistols. He made up for some of the traveling expense by driving the arsenal in his Jeep across the state and staying at a local hotel. In the past, he made the trek in his fifth-wheel motor home. He insisted he was not in the business to sell, but rather to educate people about machine guns they might assume are illegal.

"Watching a first-time shooter is a blast," Murphy said.

Chuck Riggs, in the tent next to Murphy, had spent about $1,000 on ammo for his three semi-automatics and a Browning 50-caliber machine gun - a thundering weapon he ironically nicknamed "The Silent Destroyer." Each round for the Browning costs between $4 and $5.

Likewise, Mark Endicott's budget online-shopping bill for ammo - about $700 - had doubled over the previous year. In addition to the Eagle Cap event, he visits a handful of other ranges and practices on his own.

But the expense limits his opportunities.

"You could go crazy if you did this every weekend," Endicott said.

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