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Zombie Warfare Preparation: Up Close and Personal
You are face to face with a zombie - What do you do?
It's your worst nightmare come true.
It's the zombie apocalypse. You are surrounded by a group of the living dead who'd like nothing more than to feast on your entrails. If you're lucky, you will escape. If you're really lucky, you've escaped without a scratch, bite, or anything else that will get you infected.
In an undead infestation, you may find yourself face to face with a zombie. It happens. You've taken all the precautions of remaining undetected but you find yourself needing to leave the safety of your home or fortification to gather food, weapons, ammo, or medical supplies. While you're on this mission, you encounter one or more zombies.
What do you do?
In any combat situation, it's best to first assess your threat, assess your opponent, take inventory of your assets, and look at your options. We know that your options for even being outside of your home were a necessary decision. One doesn't go for a stroll during a zombie invasion. Your options were either stay in your home and die OR take your chances outside to gather what you need to survive.
You opponent is a living corpse with no emotions and only one working organ. It does not respond to pain and will function just as well with a hole in its chest as it would a missing tooth.
It is a walking virus. From all written accounts, we understand that this virus seems to be communicable through either a bite or a scratch. Should you be bitten or scratched, you will essentially have a 24 hour death sentence which will involve fever, coma, death, and undeath.
It's vitally important to not get infected at all. So you really don't want to touch them. And, let's face it, who would want to touch a rotting stinking pile of feral meat?
It's an Automation
Your opponent has no emotions. You can not psyche out the living dead. If you show them your incredibly large gun or knife, it won't intimidate them. They'll come at you just as fast as if you had nothing. It will not respond to faints, fakes, or standard martial arts tricks used to deceive an opponent. It's working on offensive instinct.
Here's the good news. Despite your opponent having a working brain, it does not have a thinking brain. It does not reason. It is not working with intelligence. The concept of a doorknob is beyond it's faculties. It can only work with the knowledge that you are within its senses.
The brain is the key. Destroy the brain or separate the brain from the body and you've stopped the zombie.
Here's more good news. Your chances of escape are inversely proportional to your zombie's age.
What do I mean by that?
If your zombie is "fresh" or "recently risen", they are now at the peak of their mobility and speed. Rigor mortis will set in a zombie after about three to four hours after death. Muscles will reach maximum stiffness after 12 hours.
That means that while they probably won't run to you, they will certainly walk quickly and have the fastest attacks. Another piece of good news is that once they've made their fastest most powerful attack, each subsequent attack will get progressively slower.
Why is this?
As living beings, we are constantly ripping and rebuilding muscle tissue. The living dead do not have this repair process. So if you look at a zombie as an automation with working pulleys and levers (a muscular system), each pulley gets more and more frayed until it can't work anymore.
Therefore older zombies are slower than younger ones. And younger ones are only really a physical threat for about three or four hours after they first rise.
Hand to Hand Combat
No. Don't even think it. Swallow your own testosterone driven macho-ness.
If you don't have a weapon, just consider running away. Use the adrenaline in your system and route it to your legs. Punching, kicking, boxing, wrestling, karate, judo, and/or kung fu will only have a limited effect on zombies. They have no pressure points to manipulate and touching them is almost a sure way to get infected.
The only way to destroy these stinking bags of putrescence is to destroy their brains.
Yes, I can hear it now. "I'm a black belt and I can break three boards with my fist." That's nice. Have a cookie.
Can you do it over and over again? Barehanded? Right the first time through the thickest, hardest, bone structure in the human body? And destroy the right part of the brain?
Hell, I have five years of martial arts training and I wouldn't even consider it. I'd run (and scream) like a little girl being chased by Godzilla.
You'll need a weapon.
Best Weapons of Choice in Zombie Warfare
Before I go on, you should know that in this situation that any weapon is better than no weapon. If all you can get to is a large stick, use it to hit a zombie down and then run.
And speaking about running (Did I mention running? It's a good idea), very much like Shane's strategy in The Walking Dead and the old joke about running away from a bear, you don't have to outrun the zombie, you just have to outrun whoever is slowest in your party. I know, it's terrible, but true. A group of zombies will happily feast on one squirming bag of meat than go after another 30 feet away.
Always have an exit plan.
But I digress.
Let's look at some practical choices before we look at the best ones. Beggars can't be choosers. If you don't have access to the ideal weapons consider going simple.
- Axe - The perfect simple weapon for this sort of thing. Decapitation works almost as well as a bullet to a zombie's brain. I recommend decapitation over chopping into the skull. Hollywood does a good job of showing that a skull can easily be chopped into by an axe. Hitting any non-stationary hard object may not work the first time on bone. It might be easier to slice through a spinal chord than break a skull. Plus you may need some practice using an axe. It's not as easy as it looks. Chop a tree down one day and you'll know.
Should you choose to decapitate, be mindful that the head is still functioning afterward and can bite. Either smash the head or mark it for cremation when things are safer. You certainly don't want it lying around. A bite on the ankle is just as bad as a bite on the shoulder.
- Long Handled Sledgehammer - Now, we're talking. A sledgehammer on a three foot handle can be used to break concrete cinder blocks with minimal effort. Used properly, you can smash through a cranium with the ease of a chain gang member. Once again, practice first on something. If you hit a zombie upside the head with a sledgehammer, you may even take the head from the shoulders. If you get a zombie on the ground, smash the skull with the hammer. Just be careful to not get anything... on you.
- Baseball Bat (or Cricket Bat for you Shaun of the Dead fans) - There is nothing more inbred into the hearts of the American athlete than using a baseball bat. The natural swing and the targeted head make ease of use a dream. The same goes for a tire iron, crowbar, lead pipe, or iron bar. If it's heavy enough and will break a cranium and then smash it, you're gold.
- Handgun - This is a weapon of last resort. Use any weapon that you don't have to rely on ammunition to use. Yes, there will be a time where you are trapped and need to get a zombie or two out of the way. However, guns make noise... which attract more zombies. Also, guns run out of bullets. If your gun runs out of bullets, all you have is a funny shaped hammer.
Don't get me wrong. Guns are a good choice when you're cornered and have no other option. However, it should be a last resort.
- Bow and Arrow - Unless you are a crack shot or a modern day Robin Hood, this weapon is really only good from long distances at places where you can retrieve your arrows (like a farm). Should you choose this as your weapon of choice (which I recommend against) use a compound bow and always go for an eye shot. The strength and power needed to get through a cranium may be beyond the average archer.
- Fire or Flame Thrower - Worst idea ever. Ideally fire will burn away the skin and outer flesh of a zombie. It won't kill it. Plus, now there's a walking Molotov Cocktail after you. If you're indoors, it will burn down the building by it just walking around. If it touches you while on fire, you'll burn as well.
Contrary to some accounts, zombies are not afraid of fire. They are actually not afraid of anything. They don't have the reasoning capacity to have any emotion. Leave that theory with 1950s B-movie horror stories. I'm sure it worked on Frankenstein's monster while Boris Karloff limped around on a sound stage. But, it won't work here.
- Sawed Off Shotgun - Max Brooks said there is nothing better than the pure stopping power of a shotgun... against people. Against the living dead, they are only good at close range and have a limit of two to four shots. Any shot you make should always be directed at the head. For the weight and bulkiness, you are better off using something else.
- Machine Gun or Automatic Weapons - Bad idea and a waste of ammunition. One shot to the head. Body shots don't count. The temptation to "rock and roll" will work against you.
- Semi Automatic Gun - This weapon is only good if you can switch it to single shot. Once again, don't waste ammo.
- Broadsword - It takes some practice. However, like an axe, there is nothing better for decapitation. If you have access to a "real battle tested" sword, learn to use it. Should you become proficient with one, you will be the envy of your survival party.
- Pitchfork or Spear - With its long range to keep a zombie far enough away from spreading an infection, a spear or pitchfork can be used to go through the soft layer of an eye socket and right to the brain. It is a surprisingly good and primitive weapon.
Zombie Fighting on Amazon
When considering a weapon to use against the undead, consider the following:
- Effectiveness in decapitation or smashing the brain - That's the name of the game and the only way to stop a zombie.
- Ease of use - A weapon that can't be used is a useless weapon.
- Repeatability - If you need to reload, you'll need to reload it with something. Weapons that don't require ammunition are best.
- Availability or accessibility - It's easier to get a weapon from a Home Depot or sporting goods store than it is from a specialty shop on the internet during a zombie apocalypse.
- Weight - The weight and heaviness of a weapon will affect how quickly you can escape a zombie horde.
- Practicality - A chainsaw will work for Bruce Campbell when mounted on his wrist but carrying one around could be problematic and hard to start in the clutch.
You can not fight a zombie with just your hands. You need a weapon. Choose wisely.