When it comes to memorable moments on The Texas Bucket List, the sound and reverberation off a Sherman Tank that I got to shoot is something I will never forget. So, we headed back to the Ox Ranch just outside of Uvalde for another chance to see the amazing animals, enjoy the luxurious lodge and dining facilities, and maybe take another tank for a spin.
“It’s hard to describe how nice it is to see people check their bucket list. They accomplished their dreams,” said Tommy Hartman. Hartman has been working at DriveTanks since 2020 and he gets out a kick out of working at one of the most serene hunting ranches in the state. “It’s surreal to say the least. I woke up two days ago and there were two giraffes in my front yard,” Tommy said.
A few years back, Tommy saw an ad on Instagram to come work at DriveTanks and he thought it was too good to be true. “Kind of thought it was a joke, so I sent my resume and now I’m here,” Tommy said. “It’s not work, it’s a dream really.”
DriveTanks prides itself on being a hands-on experience were you can drive, shoot, and experience all sorts of historic military machines and historic arms. Since we last visited in 2017, it’s expanded to offer even more, even a military style barracks for folks to stay on their adventure! “So we’ve added a whole new garage. We’ve probably added right around 10 vehicles, probably a hundred firearms. We got everything from Howitzers, flame throwers, RPGs, all the works,” Tommy said.
Amid the selection of historical weapons was the widely well-known Tommy gun. The Thompson was manufactured originally around 1918, but it was simplified through the years. The particular Thompson that Tommy showed us is the M1928 A1 model, which was one of the first iterations that the US used during World War II. After we figured out it was a little bit too expensive to be issuing to a whole lot of soldiers, we tried to simplify it and that’s where you see the famous M1 version that you see in like Saving Private Ryan and other like video games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Last time we were here we did the flamethrower. That was exciting. “Oh yeah. The flamethrower is one of those weapons that I always recommend. Because when you see a flamethrower in a movie or a TV show, you’re like, ‘wow, that looks hot.’ But you can’t grasp how hot it is.”
Since I already had a chance to feel the heat, there was another antique firearm that’s been on my bucket list for a long time—the M1 Garand. General George Patton called this rifle “the greatest battle implement ever devised” and it was used extensively in World War II. “This one was actually manufactured in 1944, so it’s pretty likely that this thing actually did see some combat because we made millions of these things during in the war, and they saw the world over, especially after the war. And then they came back, and they found their way into civilian hands,” Tommy explained.
We headed to the range with the Thompson and the M1 Garand, and I couldn’t wait to test my marksmanship with the M1. “You have eight shots, and as we talked about earlier, when you run out of ammo, you’ll hear that historic ping,” Tommy said.
My first target was at 100 yard. I nailed it! Several times in row! That’s when I spotted a target way out at the end of the shooting range. I lined up, took the shot and a split second later you could here the ping of the target 300 yards away!
After finishing the clip, it was time to move onto the Tommy gun. “So, this is the M1928 A1, like we were talking about earlier. This we’re going to be shooting full auto only. So, we’re shooting 45 ACP out of these magazines right here, exactly what they were using in World War II,” Tommy explained. This rapid fire machine gun made popular by old mafia movies made you truly appriciate the brave soldiers who had to use it in combat.
After being home down on the range, we headed back to the barn to get a look at a few new tanks they have on hand. Tommy showed us the M 41 Walker Bulldog. “This tank was produced in the early ’50s. Believe it or not, this one was actually manufactured by Cadillac. It actually says inside on the data plate,” Tommy said. “This one was manufactured in January of 1954.”
Surprisingly many tanks were built by car companies throughout history. “A lot of your German car manufacturers that are common today, those actually manufactured a lot of military vehicles. So, the tank was actually designed by Porsche and manufactured by MTU, which is an element of Mercedes. So, it is quite literally you’re driving a Benz,” Tommy explained.
I’d be taking a spin on the Walker Bulldog. Once fired up, the beast was ready to be ridden. With Tommy taking the wheel, I settled in the commander position to take ride around the Ox Ranch.
Being able to ride these beasts and experience the tools that the veterans of World War II wielded is more than just an opportunity to do something fun. It’s a chance to learn the history of the greatest generation that ever lived. “I grew up just hearing a couple of World War II stories. Luckily, I was lucky enough to meet a D-Day veteran and he was on wave one and he was really the one who instilled all this passion within me. And I was like, ‘You went through this, and I don’t hear the story being told a lot, why not?’ And so, I kind of took it upon myself to pretty much devote all my time to that field, just so I can tell their story. That way, what they went through hopefully doesn’t happen again.”