The shambling, decaying form approached in a steady jog, which was unnerving at best. But thanks to countless years of blasting zombies into oblivion, I steeled my nerves, took a breath, looked through the sight and pulled the trigger.
I missed, with my shot pulling off to the right. I tried again and connected, hitting the undead corpse in the chest. A few more deliberately-placed shots and I was rewarded with the wet pop of a headshot.
Yeah, it was just another day killing zombies. Except I was in Las Vegas for CES 2017, shooting a real AR-15 during the MGV Live experience at the Machine Gun Vegas shooting range.
People looking to shoot something other than a digital gun in a video game have several action-packed packages to choose from here, which start at $125. There's Competition, Zombie, Spec Ops and Sniper packages. The first three packages each include 100 rounds of 9mm ammunition, two scenarios and a pair of guns to choose from. The Sniper Package offers 25 rounds of ammo with one scenario.
MORE: Best VR Headsets
Created in conjunction with Mike Halverston, CEO of Shooting Range Industries, LLC (SRI), MGV Live is a one-of-a-kind experience that utilizes a repurposed shipping container lined with 360-degree ballistic-grade, rifle-rated soft walls. That means that the entire interior of the container is completely bulletproof.
The interactive experience relies on MiLo technology, which consists of laser trackers and a real gun with live ammo to create an scenario-based firearms training platform. However, if you're not comfortable around a firearm, you can opt for a harmless laser instead.
To date, MiLo has been used to create training simulations focusing on accuracy or quickly identifying potential threats and whether or not to utilize deadly force. However, since the Machine Gun Vegas primarily serves regular citizens, you can also blast a zombie or two.
MORE: Best VR-Ready Gaming PCs
So what's it like using real firearms to eliminate virtual targets? A little nerve-wracking at first. However, the range safety officers (RSOs) made the experience incredibly comfortable.
John Nettles, a former Green Beret, walked me through proper gun safety and shooting technique, teaching me a "walk, crawl, run" procedure that quickly built up my confidence. His shoot-from-the-hip (pun absolutely intended) humor also helped lighten the mood. Former paratrooper Lucas Thomas served as the second SRO, setting up my digital scenarios and having a quiet chuckle at John's brash demeanor.
After going over basic firearm safety and firing techniques, including positioning my body to counter the barely-there recoil, I started my interactive shoot by firing at a rack of digital plates to get a feel for placing my shots using the laser sight. After hitting a rather dismal 4 out of 10 plates, it was time for some moving targets.
Although I wanted to do a few of the situational scenarios that law-enforcement personnel use for training (such as a school evacuation or a traffic stop), I ultimately fell back on my gamer routines and went for the more familiar zombie experience.
Using a real gun to drop the undead definitely upped the thrill factor. Instead of the point-and-click technique I'm so used to employing on a computer screen, I was forced to be mindful and place my shots. I quickly discovered that 100 rounds of ammo goes quickly, especially once I got the hang of shooting zombies in their desiccated visages.
Overall, MGV Live is a fun and potentially addictive experience, once you get the hang of it. I highly recommend if you're going to be in the Vegas area.