Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 2:11 PM
By: Jared Leone, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
UVALDE, Texas — About two hours west of San Antonio, an 18,000-acre ranch offers a vacation getaway unlike any other.
A portion of the OX Hunting Ranch has been converted into a battlefield, a military buff’s fantasy camp, giving nearly anyone the chance to operate a tank, shoot a flame thrower or fire an artillery or other large gun at DriveTanks.com.
"There's an element of ‘Yeah, let's shoot 'em up and have fun’ but I think even a bigger element is coming out and getting a feel for how these things operate -- the power, the majesty of these systems," owner Todd DeGidio told KTRK.
The experience isn’t cheap. All-day tank packages can cost more than $8,000.
Prices range from $40 to fire a machine gun; $125 to fire a mortar to nearly $3,000 to operate a World War II-era Sherman tank, and fire its 76 mm main gun.
DeGidio gives participants a run-through on the equipment and guides them through the courses, according to ABC News.
The tanks seat up to five people, but there is only one operator. It takes about 15-20 minutes to maneuver through the course. If the tank’s gun is going to be fired, the course can take up to an hour to complete.
Tanks and other tracked vehicles available include an American Sherman tank similar to the one Brad Pitt used in the movie “Fury,” a Russian T-34 tank that saw duty on the Eastern Front in 1945 during World War II and a German Kettenkrad tracked motorcycle that was captured in Belgium in 1944.
There is no age limit. Owners leave that up to the discretion of parents. They have had children as young as 8 shoot and as young as 12 operate a tank.
“We see everyone from single moms bringing their kids for their birthday to the top 1 percent income earners,” DeGidio told the Houston Chronicle. “This allows our demographic to open up to virtually everyone, and we are very happy to have been able to do that.”
He said one group could not get enough and spent $30,000 for the day.
“That’s everything we had and shooting everything we had,” DeGidio told ABC News. “It was even hard for us to keep up with them.”
DeGidio, a former Houston police officer and Green Beret, opened the immersive experience in 2016.
"I think it's important for us to keep this part of our history alive," DeGidio told KTRK.