The Dos Rios was hiding out in an abandoned building isolated out in Laredo, Texas. Their rivals, the Caballeros, were once considered their brothers bonded through the El Suerte Cartel.
But, not anymore.
Engaged in a struggle for control over the region, the Caballeros breached the eerie establishment with automatic rifles in hand. They aimed an at their former cartel members, firing into an all-out frenzy.
Only one catch: This isn’t a description of the actual firefight that escalated between two cartels at war. This was the unfoldings during an 878 Airsoft match shortly after their ribbon cutting ceremony in early October.
Over 170 acres of wild terrain near Waxahachie now includes trails, heavy brush and creeks. 878 Airsoft was opened by owner Chad Hults a few years ago, but he’s owned the property as far back at 2004. A pro-paintball player in the late 90s, Hults took up airsoft when his son got into the game several years ago. After one of their games got canceled, Hults offered up his property as a back up for the match.
He said over 120 people showed up to the first, unofficial event.
“Everybody came up to me and said ‘Dude, you have to open up an airsoft field,’” Hults said. “That’s how it got started.”
With matches lasting two to three hours as 10-man teams compete against each other, Chad said airsoft is a fast-paced and exciting game that gets your adrenaline pumping. In the central office, over 50 airsoft rifles, pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles and grenades are on display and available for rental if players don’t already have the airsoft equipment that they require for a match.
“You can come play a game for the whole weekend, if you don’t own any equipment, don’t own anything, for about $50,” Chad explained. “You can play all day long. That’s gun, gear and ammo. If you own a gun, it’s $25.”
Hults pulled out his consumable stash, which was filled with airsoft grenades, smoke grenades and flashbangs. The projectiles, he explained, fired airsoft pellets out in a 10-foot radius and eliminated anybody caught in the blast. Some of his consumables, he explained, were from Russia.
“This is just sound,” Chad elaborated while pointing to a flashbang. “It’s a huge, loud BOOM. That’s all it is.”
As far as the airsoft firearms go, Chad said that the M4 carbine and the AK-47 were among the most common assault rifles used in airsoft matches.
But Chad explained that airsoft players were not limited to those options by any means.
“Any weapon you can get in the real world is in airsoft,” Chad asserted. “If we don’t have it, we’ll get it.”
It isn’t just the airsoft weaponry that makes 878 Airsoft unique — it’s the vehicles as well.
Upon entrance to the field, players will notice an old school bus and a fire truck near the front of the airsoft park. A little further onto the grounds, Chad revealed an armored BRDM vehicle, which they bought from the Czech Republic and will drive on occasion for special events.
But perhaps one of the more impressive vehicles at the park is the official 878 Humvee, which Chad built from the ground-up. Fitting it with military-grade parts he salvaged across Ellis County, the Humvee is fully operational, equipped with a rotational turret and efficiently rides through the rugged terrain.
Although she loves to ride in the Humvee, Chad’s wife, Kim, conceded that it was an inconvenient inclusion for a time being.
“If you had seen it in our driveway,” Kim said. “Back when the gas prices went super high, he was at the Palmer gas station filling up in the middle of the night. Somebody tweeted his picture, and they were like ‘Oh my God, it’s getting serious.’”
“People would drive off the road trying to get a look at him,” she continued. “Now it’s like, ‘Oh, your husband’s at Walmart.’”
Even though Chad has all of these vehicles that can be used for both practical and tactical uses, he plans to add to the fleet, continually looking for new additions to include in the park.
“On our next list, we’re working on getting a tank,” he remarked.
He wasn’t joking.
Throughout the 170 acres are six “towns,” or shooting ranges, that players hold their matches in. Pointing them out on a map, Chad named out several of the towns on the field, including “Highland Park,” “The Alamo” and “Terrorist’s Town.” Chad said he’s currently working on a seventh town, with more potentially on the way after.
“We’re constantly building stuff,” Chad explained. “When we’re not open, I’m either working out there or working up here.”
One of the two-story buildings rests dead center in the middle of the park. With furniture scattered about, airsoft pellets and nerf darts scattered on the floor and secret doors obscured around the corner, Chad walked through the building and explained how a match might play out in a closed-corridor setting like this.
He also showed off a genuine breaching door, which is dented and locked through a dowel rod that slides in from the interior of the building. Players knock down the breach door with a sledgehammer, which Chad stores nearby.
“The only time we do not play is if there is active lightning or a tornado,” Chad explained. “That is it. Rain or shine, it doesn’t matter how hot or cold. It doesn’t matter.”
Chad estimates that he works 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, continually expanding or adding to his field. Kim said as elaborate as Chad’s setup is, he isn’t even 50 percent done with all the ideas in his head.
“I call this place a time machine because grown men or grown women come in and they are suddenly eight years old,” Kim remarked. ‘They’ll get the gun, they’ll go running outside, they’ve got all these plans. Then they realize they’re not eight years old, then they come back in, and they’re so tired. But they’re happy. It’s the coolest thing.”
878 Airsoft is located at 4020 FM 878 in Waxahachie (though it is closer to Palmer). To book an airsoft match, go online at www.878airsoft.com.