UVALDE, TX (KTRK) -- In Uvlade, Texas on a sprawling 18,000 acre hunting ranch, sits the home of a living military museum. A portion of the land has been turned into a simulated battlefield where World War II-era and newer tanks, more often than not, are driven by those who have never spent a day in the service.
Opened six months ago, DriveTanks co-founder Todd DeGidio says it's the only place in the world where you can drive a tank and blow things up without ever enlisting.
"I think it's important for us to keep this part of our history alive," said DeGidio.
A former US Army Green Beret, as well as former Houston Police Department helicopter pilot and ABC13 SkyEye pilot, DeGidio and his team at DriveTanks collect and restore the vehicles you can drive when you arrive at the ranch. There's a Russian T-32, the German Kettenkrad, the British Chieftan and others including the U.S. Sherman tank. DeGidio says the Sherman is the only functional Sherman tank left in the world and the only one you can actually fire.
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"There's a high cool factor, getting a piece of history and actually operating it the way our soldiers did, firing it the way our soldiers did," said DeGidio of the tank and its 76 millimeter, 15-pound projectile that can cover about 2,500 feet per second. "It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, I know it does me every time and I know it does our clients."
DeGidio considers the DriveTanks experience an immersive session of living history, truly experienced first-hand, with some of the most significant weapons in military used since World War II.
"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," said DeGidio.
Visitors to DriveTanks can shoot historic and rare anti-tank guns and machine guns and fire off mortars and flamethrowers.
Price points for the experiences range from $40 to shoot machine guns to more than $8,000 for all-day tank packages.
As for the clientele, DeGidio says it varies greatly, too. DriveTanks isn't just visited by gun enthusiasts. Soccer moms treating their teenagers to explosive birthdays also mix with the one-percenters willing to drop a grand or two for a ride in a tank.
"I think we cross over all lines in that respect -- people want to see history," said DeGidio. "They want to feel it and live it."
If you're looking to dive in to the adventure, we have you covered. The following is a sample of the packages and weapons offered:
$625 per 350 rounds
*M2 Machine Gun
$100 per 20 rounds
*M1919 Machine Gun
$50 per 20 rounds
*M249 Squad Automatic Weapon Machine Gun
$40 per 20 rounds
*M3 Grease Gun MG
$35 per 20 rounds
TANK AND MACHINE GUN SAMPLER PACKAGE: $650
THE GERMAN "PAK ATTACK" PACKAGE: $2,395
THE SHERMAN "UNLEASH THE FURY" PACKAGE: $2,999
THE WWII "ALLIES AND AXIS" ALL DAY EXPERIENCE: $8,250
On Drive Tanks' website, you can see a full list and compare each package.
DriveTanks living military museum offers explosive excitement with real tanks and live artillery