Outbreak Training: Zombie Hunters

Whether you’re arming yourself for the coming zombie apocalypse or just the next civilization-ending Kardashian-spinoff reality show, be sure to take a trip to Minnesota to test your mettle in advance. On June 23, nearly 1,200 shooters and guests descended on Ahlman’s Gun Store and Range in Morristown, MN to do just that at the annual Outbreak Omega event organized by DPMS Firearms/Panther Arms.

For five years DPMS, based in nearby St. Cloud, has organized this unique and inspired one-day shooting extravaganza. According to DPMS Product Manager Adam Ballard, this is the “original, largest, and most well-attended recreational ‘zombie shoot’ in the world.”

Outbreak Recon

Ahlman’s Gun Shop and Range, which has been in business since 1943, stocks over 5,000 firearms. Larry Ahlman, the owner, has built an impressive facility with dozens of ranges, two full cowboy villages, a police range and a frontier fort—plus camping areas covering over 100 acres. During Omega Outbreak, these cowboy villages and ranges become infested with the undead, and shooters come prepared to dispense eternal rest once and for all. Shooters come in all age groups, men and women and children. Entire families attend, all geared up in their tactical best and toting carts full of guns and ammo.
Ahlman’s goes all out to zombify the range. Among the many props were several junked cars which had been left flipped over on the side of the road on the way to the event. This elicited more than one panicked 9-1-1 call among passing motorists.

Each of the 12 shooting stages also present different and unique challenges to the shooters, as well as the opportunity to do the type of shooting they may never get to do at any other range. Each stage includes fighting scenarios that involve transitioning between rifle, pistol and shotgun, although some stages are specific to only one weapon.

At least two stages involved cars, either shooting at or shooting from. In the first such stage, zombies pop up from inside a vehicle, and the shooter must engage them in a limited time period with a pistol. In the second scenario, zombies are approaching, and the shooter must engage them first with a shotgun before running to an abandoned vehicle with its hood up and firing a pistol through the windshield and under the gap of the raised hood to dispense the remaining undead. Things only get worse when yet another zombie pops up beside the passenger-side window.

One extremely popular stage was the Jungle Safari, where shooters board an ATV for a drive through zombie infested woods. They must engage multiple targets from the ATV using a pistol and, after disembarking from the ATV, retrieve their rifle and continue to engage more zombies at longer ranges before returning to base.

While there is no competition, time limits, or any awards, there are lots of prizes thanks to the event’s many co-sponsors. Indeed, this was the largest prize table to date: It included almost 24 firearms and mountains of range bags, optics and other gear—nearly $100,000 worth of items in total, all of it given away by raffle. The cost of admission gave every participant a better than average chance at walking away with a piece of equipment more valuable price-wise than his or her ticket. Besides DPMS, other sponsors included Remington, Bushmaster, AAC, Para Ordnance, EO Tech, Sig Sauer, Magpul, Troy Industries, 5.11, Trijicon, ATK and many others.

Zombie Firepower

Shooters are encouraged and welcome to bring anything that will shoot, from the .22 LR to granddad’s break-open single-shot shotgun to a belt-fed M1919 Browning machine gun converted to semi-auto and re-chambered in .308 Winchester. This particular gun I saw mounted on a riding lawnmower. In terms of rifles, the AR-15 is still king, I am glad to report, but it was by no means alone. I saw shooters armed with a hodgepodge of modern semi-autos, including many AK variants, the FN 2000, several Sig Sauer models, Steyr AUGs, MIAs, M1 Garands and carbines, and a lot more. However fun, there was a practical side to the event, too. John Flores is a gun-dealer, Marine and an IDPA competitor from Houston, Texas. “I wanted to get into 3-gun competition and thought this would be a good and fun way to get a feel for it,” he said. Like many shooters, Flores has accumulated a lot of tactical gear over the years, including a vest and gas mask, which he wore while shooting. “This really helps you test out your gear to see what works and what doesn’t.”

As every shooter knows, it is far better to test out gear and equipment before you need them than for the first time when you need them, and as anyone who has had to train with protective gear like a gas mask will attest, it really does change your sight picture and approach. Tactical gear also benefits from a good airing, and shooters quickly learn what holds up and remains comfortable and accessible.
Getting the right gear that’s up to the zombie-taking tasks at hand is also a big part of Outbreak Omega, and hunting outfits run the gamut from a chicken costume (really!) to the latest and greatest. Still, the most important determinant in gear selection seems to be fun, and there were many zombie- and action-themed shooting outfits, some taken from popular TV shows and movies, others downright quirky.

It is said that in Haiti, whose inhabitants have had a serious zombie problem for quite some time, they cure the undead with salt—much like a Christmas ham. But folks in Minnesota aren’t interested in preserving their zombies, and the only cure they use involves lots of lead. As Ballard put it, “We’ve been killing zombies since before it was cool.”

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