Visiting officers try out powerful weapons

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Police officers from Alaska, California and even England joined members of the Alaska Machine Gun Association over the weekend at a firearms familiarity course for law enforcement personnel attending a training convention. The gathering was rich in machine gun lore and firepower.

Among the cops was Simon Rogers, one of only 24 officers who carry a sidearm at all times on the 1,200-member Warwickshire police force. A request for some shooting practice from the British constable triggered Saturday's course.

Police in his rural city of about 200,000 don't get much in the way of shooting practice.

Rogers made up for lost time Saturday.

He stepped up to the firing line, readied an HK-51 rifle with its barrel cut to 9 inches. A fireball erupted from the end of the gun, accompanied by a loud staccato burst of gunfire.

The constable grinned.

Before the shooting started, Rogers said he didn't envy his Anchorage counterparts their jobs, given the broad availability of weapons to the general public in Alaska.

''I tip my hat to those guys. They're very brave people,'' Rogers said. ''Every time they go to a call, it's a very dangerous situation. Frankly, we don't have that.''

While the U.S. government banned the sale, import, manufacture or possession of many assault weapons in 1994, civilians can own certain machine guns manufactured before 1986, according to Mike Hawker, president of the machine gun association.

A look down the firing line Saturday provided a rich slice of machine gun history: a 1919 Browning; a 1928 Thompson submachine gun, glorified by Hollywood gangsters; the elegantly simple Sten Gun; an Austrian belt-fed MG-74.

Modern weapons included Israeli and Belgian models and the HK-53s that may replace M-16s currently used by the Anchorage police force.

The point of the course was education and enjoyment, Hawker said.

''It's a public service to the law enforcement community,'' he said.

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