We’ve all seen The Walking Dead, Night of the Living Dead or The Evil Dead. We’ve probably all sat and thought about how awesome we’d be during a zombie apocalypse, and might even have our escape plans, supplies and weapons all picked out and at the ready.
Unfortunately, you’re probably going to die.
Know why? Because the weapons popularized in these – and other – zombie flicks are just not going to be all that effective, at least not if you prefer to stay alive and unbitten. Here’s a few of the ultra-popular choices, and why you shouldn’t be using them.
Alright, we’re starting the list with one that’s almost workable, and probably the most well-known weapon of choice in case of living dead emergencies. The good ol’ shotgun. Whether you prefer full barrel or sawed-off, semi-auto or pump action, everyone has seen them, and everyone will be reaching for them when the rotters come after their nice, juicy brains.
It’s got some positives, sure. They’ve got decent stopping power, at the right range. They’re good for spray-and-pray; precision isn’t their strong point, but for untrained individuals just trying to stay alive, that can be an advantage. For the more educated amongst the survivors, shotgun shells are a hell of a lot easier to manufacture than most other times of ammunition, and can be loaded with just about anything that’s got a bit of weight to it. The spread pattern can be handy in case of multiple skull-biters.
But there’s plenty of downsides. First off, while the spread and ability to use it without precision aiming can be benefits under the right circumstances, if we’re going with traditional zombies – where the head needs to be pumpkin’d or the body needs to be rendered completely immobile – it’s not going to stop them unless you’re at extremely close range with a tight spread. IE: You’re in biting range. Damage from a shotgun typically is from the trauma of blood loss and the shock and pain of having dozens or hundreds of holes blown in you; zombies don’t have to worry about that. Pepper their face with buckshot too far out? Well, he’s got some cool tattoos, now… but he’s still coming. Maybe you were hoping to knock their teeth out?
Second, the kick. Most people aren’t prepared for it. Even those who are, but screw up when they settle the stock, are in for a dislocated or broken shoulder, especially with repeated firing in a short period of time. The folks who hold it away from their shoulder – or worse, try to aim it freehand like they see Arnold doing? Yeah. They’re done. They’re going to land on their ass, probably with a shattered elbow, collarbone or ribs, and be perfect zombie bait.
Third, and coming back to the range issue: If the cause of the zombies is a virus or something else transmittable by bodily fluid, getting close to something and then using a small-scale explosion to blow a big hole in that something, and then being covered by the juicy bits that go flying when that happens just doesn’t seem wise. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem to appear in films that often – you often see the survivors coated with zombie blood and guys, and it doesn’t phase them much – but it’s something to be wary of. Quarantine/REC and 28 Days Later are the only movies I can think of where this was brought up, but it just seems to make sense.
Last thing to consider: Because everyone has seen them, everyone thinks they know how they work, and everyone is going to want one, they’re going to be fairly scarce. Early adopters will get the lion’s share, leaving the latecomers out in the cold.
“I’ll get a sword, then!” you say. “Probably a katana or something! It’ll be awesome” Hold up there, Last Samurai. No. And no, no no. And a “nope” for good measure.
First off, and most obvious among the issues with this one is: Do you even know how to use a katana (or other sword-type weapon)? Unless you’re crazy like me, a martial arts master, or way too into your cosplay or medieval recreation group, the answer to that one is probably a big fat no. At best, you’ll lose a finger or a toe; at worst you’re going to have your own sword sticking out of you as you bleed and scream and otherwise present yourself as a nice big bloody piñata for the zombie hordes. That goes double if you try anything tricky, or try to “look cool” while you’re doing it. Trained swordsmen who have fought for years can hurt themselves doing a simple twirl. You grabbed that thing out of a pawn shop window because you wanted to be cool like Michonne. The odds are not in your favor.
Second, there’s not a big market for real bladed weapons. They’re often either illegal or severely restricted (pretty much anything with a blade longer than 6-8 inches is), so most of what you see is dull, made of cheap or decorative materials instead of weapons-grade steel, and aren’t weighted properly. They’re meant to hang on businessmen’s walls, not actually be used to stab or slice anyone or anything. Even ones that you find that actually are weapons-quality are probably dulled; nobody wants the LARPers cutting their hands off, after all. So the odds are against finding one that’s actually going to do anything useful.
Third, most of what I said about shotguns above applies here. They’re a short range weapon. Even if you somehow managed to lay hands on a sharp, steel, properly made and honed, expertly balanced nodachi and know how to use it – are you a time traveler? – you’re still going to be getting into biting/lunging range with it, and the blood spatter worries are going to be even greater, as the natural arc of the swings is going to be splashing the blood back at you. Of course, you could try just stabbing the rots with it, but that removes the one benefit it is – potential dismemberment – and goes back to “trauma and blood loss are unlikely to bother the walking dead” so unless you skewered it up the nose or in the eyesocket, it’s not bloody likely that this is going to work.
Oh, and for added fun, see how well you can run, jump and climb with three to six feet and 10-50 pounds of steel strapped to your back or hanging off your hip. Unless you’re secretly Conan or the Scorpion King, I don’t see that going well.
Last in our list of completely-impractical-yet-bizarrely-popular weapon choices is the chainsaw, primarily popularized by Ash from the Evil Dead films.
All the fun of trying to use a sword on short notice, with half the length (on average) and all the workplace safety issues of power tools! Plus, you know, that whole “it needs gasoline and/or massive amounts of batteries to work” thing. Also the issues of them not really being designed to cut into a human body – particularly the bones – especially not with anything resembling speed. And that ripcords can be dangerous… I hear Ted Nugent almost lost a leg screwing around with a chainsaw, and he was just cutting a tree, not frantically attempting to get one started – and keep it that way – with cannibalistic undead monsters bearing down on him. And I’m willing to bet you’re not as awesome as The Nuge.
But seriously. They’re very short range. So splatter is an problem, and being within biting distance. Being both mechanical and motorized, they’re prone to breakdowns. They aren’t balanced for being used as a weapon in combat; sure, a serial killer might make it work, but in all likelihood they are dealing with immobilized or panicked victims who suffer from problems like blood loss and terror, neither of which bother zombies one bit. And their primary purpose is typically achieved through slow application of steadily increasing pressure. Are you going to have time for that when something is coming at you, ready to rip your arm off and start a BBQ? Sure, it’s going to cause some damage to the zombie, but they don’t care, as long as they have dinner. Odds are not good that you’ll get something vital, and that’s assuming that it doesn’t smoosh your bodies together and end up gutting you with your own weapon.
They tend to be heavy – at least the ones that might actually cut through a whole human body quickly without stalling out – which lowers the potential user category. And, as noted, they need fuel. What’s one of the supplies that’s going to be roughly as important as gold in a post-zombie world? That’s right. Gas. Because people will be hoarding it, using it for molotovs, trying to keep their cars, boats or even airplanes and helicopters running in hopes of escaping the undead. Good luck finding enough gas to keep it running reliably without killing a few other survivors to get it… or trying to siphon from cars and bikes, hoping the mix won’t gum up the works, and doing it without poisoning yourself or getting eaten while you work.
So, unless you’re Ted Nugent or Ash Williams, chainsaws are not going to be your friends. And even if you are, they probably still won’t be. So don’t do it.
Of course, that begs the question of what would be an effective method of self-defense or zombie-hunting. I might explore that idea later, but just a handful of ideas off the top of my head: Crossbows (penetration and potential stapling. Requires a good eye and a somewhat competent user, however), molotovs/other improvised fire weapons (relatively easy to engineer, downsides are the time they can take to work on something that isn’t going to stop, drop and roll or start running around screaming because its flesh is melting, plus the potential for accidental self-harm if things get out of control), .22 rifles (little to no kick, reasonably lightweight, found almost anywhere and everywhere, will be overlooked by most who want something with more “stopping power,” fairly precise for headshots, long range), or small-caliber handguns (again, lightweight, fairly easy to find and use, good range and precision – though not as good as the rifle).
What about you? What weapon will you want ready when the zombies arrive? Let us know in the box below!