The drinking lamp flickered on sometime around 5 p.m. the next day—six hours and 1,000 miles past deadline. Jet lag, touring the 27 stages more than 700 shooters would invade the next morning and the promise of a cold one bellied me up to the bar.
I'd stumbled into the camp of the Veteran Zombie Hunters, a group of close friends who make this pilgrimage annually. This year they towed in a BBQ, bar, canopies, keg and matching nimble beer mistress to raise money for charity the night before the match. Guns had to be safely stored before you attended, and range personnel checked rule adherence with occasional strolls between Tiki torches and pink flamingoes while music played. The effort attracted a lot of attention—and donations—before a safety-conscious early closing time shuttered the doors.
It was a shooter's version of a tailgater, except there were no arguments, cheeseheads, blitzburgh attitude and the real doomsday defense would hit the range tomorrow morning. No score is kept at Outbreak Omega, so smack talk about inter-conference rivalries was replaced with conversations about the latest optic, new AR or the blonde behind the bar.
More than 1,000 were in attendance at the event, many of them camping out. One competitive shooter drove from Texas, another drove all night from Montana. There were brothers and sisters shooting together, best friends just back from a tour in the Sandbox, four generations of a family sleeping in a MASH-style tent and husbands, wives and kids.
The costumes worn by NFL fans pale in comparison to the game gear donned by these shooters. By dawn (of the dead), tactical gear ruled the range, but it was the accessories that set each "competitor" apart. One guy had a purple Mohawk. Another wore full ghillie all day. Three Mrs. Clever clones, complete with apron, poofy skirts and bouffant hair "competed" as the '60s Housewife Zombie Slayers (although I never did see their mischievous son, Beaver). A handcuffingly stunning SWAT gal attracted swoons, and kilt-wearing shooters, well, let's just say they were there. Here's a closer look at some of the players.
Some of the more interesting stages included the new zombie safari, sort of a road-hunting excursion, sans spotlighting. On another stage you were expected to shoot the zombies, then deliver and axe to noggin of the undead. Coffin-popping zombies, outhouse-attacking zombies, stranded-on-the-beach zombies, jail-breaking zombies….you get the gist. They were everywhere and eagerly awaiting the next lead rainstorm. I'd go on and on, but it's probably best you get the real scoop by visiting the Outbreak Omega 5 website.
There were pierced belly buttons, tattoos, tacos in a bag at the food stations (open a Frito bag, pour in chili, add sour cream and salsa as you like and you eat it with a spoon), firepower aplenty, a full-auto side match that raised money for wounded servicemen and women, a 30-foot talking moose (oddly mute during my visit), riding mowers with machine guns, plenty of parking, ARs, AUGs, SCARs, just about everything a gun guy needs for a fun weekend, including discounted Remington ammo! Sweet.
Topping it all off was the awards ceremony. No score is kept, so special "Zombie Head" trophies are given in recognition to the best-dressed shooters. Then hundreds of prizes, including firearms, optics and gear bags are given away in a random drawing—staying true to the event's fun theme.
Outbreak Omega isn't anything like I expected. Odds are pretty good it's not what you think, either. It's a whole lot more fun than risking your life. I can't wait to go back—sometimes it's good to be expendable.