Letting off steam at Koh Samui Shooting Range

By Max Thurlow

Nothing feels like the raw power of an AK47

If you like guns, big guns, then Koh Samui’s shooting range is a must. Whether you opt for a sneaky sniper, a down-to-earth pistol or a fully automatic, the shooting range is a completely legal and fun stress-buster.

Located a short drive from Chaweng, the range is one of the best signposted attractions on the island. On arrival you will be offered a ‘menu’ of weapons, with prices correlating to the size of the gun. You also have the choice of a standard target to shoot at, or a black silhouette of a person.

As all of the ammo is live, supervision is strict, and a member of staff will load the bullets into the gun for you and ensure it is not pointed in any direction but the target!

After spending a week lazing on the beach and propping up various bars across Samui, we decided to do something different. More on activities.

Although the prices were pretty steep – the cheapest option is 300 baht for 10 bullets in a rifle – as we had already rented motorbikes, driven the distance and psyched ourselves up, it seemed like a waste not to do any shooting.

After hearing the term ‘AK-47’ many times over the course of my life, but never being exactly sure what it was, I jumped at the chance to try one out.

The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, which was first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov, who’s name is still often used to describe this gun – AK47 stands for ‘Automatic Kalashnikov 1947’.

Video of the Samui Shooting Range

My first reaction was the sheer weight of the weapon. Even more respect must be paid to the likes of Rambo, who can shoot endless ‘baddies’ brandishing an AK with one hand. More on entertainment.

The rifle was developed in the last year of WWII, and 60 years later it is still the weapon of choice across the world, thanks to its ease of use, durability and cheap manufacturing costs. There are also hundreds of ‘spin-offs’ – in fact the World Bank has claimed that there are more AK-type rifles in existence than all other assault rifles combined.

The average AK-47 will last for 20 to 40 years, depending on the conditions it’s used in. It was designed for massed infantry fire not long-range engagements, and although the target in the shooting range did seem a long way away while I was competing for a bull’s eye, it was actually less than 10 metres – well within the AK’s reach.

I was instructed to insert a loaded magazine into the base of the gun, pull back and release the charging handle, and then aim and fire. It really is that simple. To aim, there is a notched iron sight at the back of the gun, which has to be lined up with another front sight at the front end. Soldiers on the field also have to consider windage and distance, but luckily for me in a shooting range these are not factors that need to be worried about.

There is also the choice of whether to use the AK as a fully-automatic, shooting multiple bullets in short bursts, or as a semi-automatic, requiring the trigger to be pulled every time a bullet is discharged. While fully-automatic is needed to imitate Hollywood action heroes, I only had 10 bullets and was keen to get a higher score than my shooting partner, so boringly opted for the semi-option.

After firing a single bullet, I was shocked by how much recoil plunges back into the shoulder of the shooter. As a bullet moves through the barrel, some of the gas behind it impacts the gas piston, which is driven backwards, forcing the bolt carrier to release the used round, and automatically pushing a new bullet into the chamber.

The gun was initially designed to be operated by Soviet soldiers wearing gloves in arctic conditions, and for this reason it can tolerate a huge amount of foreign matter while still functioning. However this reliability, gained by having a tapered cartridge case and large spaces between moving parts, comes at the cost of accuracy. This was certainly the excuse I should have used when my score was slightly lower than my friends, who was shooting a standard rifle.

The Samui Shooting range is open every day between 09:00-18:00, and is located around 200m south of the Tesco Lotus just off the 4169 ring roads between Bophut and Chaweng. Address: 124/1, Moo 1, Tambon Bo Phut, 84320 Koh Samui.

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