Machine gun tourism thrilling Kiwi visitors to Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a holiday destination that's long been associated with gambling, but increasingly it's also regarded as the premiere entertainment capital of the world.

Sure, there's more casinos than you can shake a wad of cash at; but there's also a bunch of permanent Cirque du Soleil shows in custom-built arenas, loads of premiere comedy and arena magic shows, constant massive pop concerts along with diverse adventure tourism options and a whole lot of weird stuff like Zombie Burlesque.

And there are shooting ranges like nowhere else, too.

For people who have always wanted to shoot the guns from their favourite action movies or videogames, Sin City can make that dream come true.

Want to shoot a mounted machine gun from the door of an airborne helicopter, or let loose with a minigun like Schwarzenegger did in Terminator 2? Las Vegas is where you can safely and legally do it.

Machine Guns Vegas (MGV) says it's the best range in Nevada, custom-designed to give tourists the best possible experience.

"We're a tourist gun range - so basically, a carnival ride with guns," says MGV owner Genghis Cohen.

"We don't sell guns, we don't sell ammunition, we're not a regular US gun store. We're specifically designed as a tourist experience."

Cohen is originally from an island far off to the south-west of Vegas called New Zealand. He was born and raised in Auckland, attending Orewa College before joining the military and going to Massey University.

Somehow, he ended up living in Las Vegas, owning a business that thrills around 30,000 people a year with automatic weapon experiences.

There are a variety of packages available from MGV, with the most popular being the Gamers Experience. That includes the Glock 17, M4 carbine, MP5, AK-47 and, for a little extra, the M249 SAW.

"It's probably our most popular package because gaming is just so big, especially first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Battlefield," says Cohen.

Las Vegas is perhaps the ultimate destination for stag and hen parties, known in the US as bachelor and bachelorette parties. Naturally, the local industry has developed around that, alongside the never-ending stream of gamblers.

For a bunch of Kiwi mates in Sin City, shooting automatic firearms could be just one of a bunch of activities to do in order to make it a truly unforgettable trip.

"If you have a group of people and you want to do fun stuff together, we have packages with our partners - luxury sports car racing experiences, dune buggy experiences, helicopter, skydiving, zip-lining. We put all those packages together so you get a big discount," says Cohen.

He reckons in the future, this sort of thing will come to define Las Vegas just as much as gambling has in the past.

Genghis Cohen owns Machine Guns Vegas, the premiere shooting range in Las Vegas.
MGV owner Genhis Cohen Photo credit: Newshub

"Attractions in Las Vegas is where the marketplace is going - I think you're going to see a turn, where the city is going to become a lot more about experiences, entertainment and attractions," says Cohen.

"[Casino] gaming is consistently going down as a source of revenue in Las Vegas every year, but attractions and experiences are continuing to rise."

Recently there's been an upsurge in support for sensible firearm law reform in the US as the country continues to suffer devastating mass shootings.

Cohen says MGV provides firearm enthusiasts the chance to shoot military-grade weaponry in a safe, completely monitored environment - without the need to purchase the weapons.

Still, some people may disagree with gun tourism altogether.

"You're either a gun person, or you're not. I respect either person's point-of-view," says Cohen.

"If you go and watch movies with guns in them, you're supporting the popularity of guns anyway - you're paying money, so people will create more movies with more guns in them."

Whatever eventually happens with firearm laws in the US, gun tourism in Las Vegas is booming, and Kiwis are among the tens of thousands being thrilled at MGV each year.

"Most of the people who come and shoot guns with us come from countries that are difficult to own guns in - Brazil, Mexico, China, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are probably our biggest markets," says Cohen.

"We're providing a unique experience - you can't do this in New Zealand."