Stefanie Cope

Staff Writer

This weekend was an interesting one for me. Filled with time with my family, friends and some rather amazing sights. At least for me that is.

I started the amazing sights Friday at work where I had the chance to see part of the Claythorn Lodge. I got to take pictures of some of the people getting ready for the upcoming Freedom Cup Shoot.

Seeing the people gear up for this shoot also allowed me to do a little thinking about all the times that I have shot clay, including the competition I got to take part in when I was younger.

I had a chance to participate in the Youth Hunter Education Program one year. It was quite the experience. I had the chance to test my bow skills, my black powder skills, my orienteering skills, and —  my favorite — my sport shooting skills.

I have been shooting since I was 11 or 12. My dad started us young. He has always believed in learning proper gun safety and teaching it to my siblings and I so we were prepared for the guns in our household. I have always felt safe around guns because my dad set us straight early. He made it clear to us that guns can hurt people badly if proper safety is not followed. We learned to hold, carry, and shoot guns in a safe manner.

I remember plenty of times shooting clays at our farm. It was always a fun and rewarding experience. I also remember plenty of hunting trips. Mostly in the wee hours of the morning in the winter. Sitting on a bucket in a pond waiting for geese and ducks. I also remembered the fun I had shooting clay, especially in a competition style.

This led me to a decision I think will be great fun for me and allow me to spend more time bonding with my dad. I told him I wanted to get back into shooting sporting clays and possibly shoot in competition. When I told him, he looked at me for a minute and then replied, “Okay, let’s do it.” A typical answer for dad, never a question of why, just if that is what you want to do, then we can get it accomplished.

I also had another fun adventure with my family this weekend. We decided to take a short trip and go to a full-auto shoot. I do not know how many people have experienced a full-auto shoot, but to put it plainly, lots and lots of machine guns and other guns that shoot really, really fast. I had never heard a sound quite like the sound of hundreds of machine guns, full auto handguns, and .50 caliber guns going off at once. Shooting at cars, plywood signs, and other items on the ground. You could literally feel the sound going through your whole body. It was amazing!

I also got another surprise at that shoot. There were places at the shoot where you could rent a machine gun for so many rounds. So my dad, being the awesome dad that he is, picks a tent and a gun for my sister, her friend, and I to shoot. And ladies and gentlemen you will never guess what he picked, so I will go ahead and tell you. I got to shoot a 1928 full auto Thompson machine gun. That’s right, a Tommy gun. You know it, the famous gangster gun. I got to shoot 50 rounds from that glorious machine and let me tell you what. I felt a little bit like a gangster myself. Fifty rounds goes really fast in a full auto gun, but that is one experience I will never, ever forget. I can imagine it now, me running around in an old time car carrying that gun….well maybe not. It was really heavy and I do not know how long I could lug it around, but it was still fun to shoot.

I have to say, if there is one thing I really love about my family, it is all of the crazy and unique experiences and memories I have with them.

(Stefanie Cope is a staff writer for the Columbus Advocate and the Baxter Springs News. She can be emailed at