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Saturday, August 17, 2013


Steve Cole muses on his list of things to do with the Zombie Apocalypse.

1. You need to have the usual emergency supplies everybody thinks of: food, water (canteen, purification system, bottles), first aid kit, compass (GPS also if you want), combat knife, pocket knife, machete, gun(s), backpack, combat boots, multi-tool, fire-starting stuff (more than one kind), soap, gun cleaning kit, extra clothes, duck tape, backpack, camp stove. The problem is, you cannot carry all of that around with you all the time. You should have a main storage area in your home but a backpack of essentials in your car.

2. Let's talk guns. Zombies mean you need a gun, preferably two or more, those being a good rifle (preferably a semi-auto assault rifle with multiple magazines) and a good pistol (preferably a semi-auto with multiple magazines). The problem is, the optimum weapons will cost you over a thousand dollars. If you don't have lots of money to spend, you can get a good solid used 30-caliber bolt action rifle (e.g., a Mauser or a Mossin-Nagant) for about $100. It might keep you alive if you don't confront too many zombies at once. Another choice might be a twenty-two caliber long-rifle weapon (.22LR) as a semi-auto version can be had for about $100. (Avoid the tube-fed ones as they take forever to reload. Get a magazine-fed version and buy several extra magazines, each with as many rounds as you can find.) For a cheap pistol, get a .380 automatic (maybe $250). A revolver is better than nothing (but takes too long to reload and can be considered just an emergency backup gun). Shotguns are not good anti-zombie weapons. Buckshot is likely to miss the brain and slugs are heavier than rifle bullets. You're better to carry a magazine-fed assault rifle, but if a shotgun is all you have got, use it. Given tons of money, you might consider getting a rifle and pistol that use the same ammo. There are endless 9mm pistols out there and you can get a 9mm carbine or MP5. If you prefer .45acp there is an MP45 that uses that round. A zombie that is more than 50 yards away is not worth shooting, and your odds of a miss or a non-killing hit are too high.

3. Assuming that a .22LR will penetrate a human skull is, however, iffy. Sure, .22LR ammo is cheap, easily available (well, as much as any other ammo you find by ransacking abandoned houses and stores), and you can carry a lot of it, THE problem is that it might or might not penetrate a skull  and then do enough brain damage to put a zombie down. (Shooting for the eyes is harder and might not actually hit the brain.) I'd really have to consider a .22LR to be secondary special weapon. The only way to safely carry it is to have another (bigger) gun to use if the .22LR doesn't work. The only way to safely use it is to only use it when the zombies are far enough apart that you can afford to take a second and maybe third shot at each zombie (or draw your 9mm pistol). While it's complicated to do, one good system might be to have one person carrying a .22LR rifle (and a 9mm pistol) and a second person with heavier (.30 caliber, 5.56mm, 9mm, etc.) firepower. The heavy gunner can protect the light gunner if the .22LR doesn't work. The light gunner does as much of the killing as he can because (see above) the ammo is lightweight and easy to get.

4. For backup weaponry, you need a good combat knife and a sword or machete. The problem with swords is that most of those you'll find in homes or catalogs are cheap reproduction swords not really intended for combat. For every real katana (samurai sword) you find, you'll find a dozen cheap copies that will break (or not cut very well) when you use them. Same thing with no end of knives and other swords. Test them on small numbers of zombies and only when a gun-armed friend is close at hand (or maybe test them on something else like a fence post). Frankly, I think a spear is better than a sword; you have more reach and you don't have to find room to swing it. But carrying a spear and a rifle is clumsy, so I suggest you use a good bayonet on a good rifle. If the bayonet gets stuck in one zombie when another one is coming closer, you can just pull the trigger to get it loose. So don't wait  until you're out of ammo to start stabbing.
 5. Ok, seriously, I love zombies a lot, but zombies are (like vampires) creatures of myth. Will there be a zombie apocalypse? Maybe, but if there is, it may be very different than the movies. What is likely to happen is a pandemic, a widespread, infectious, fatal disease. Those infected will be desperate to get to somewhere they can be cured. Those not infected (or who aren't sure) will be desperate to get out of the infected zone. Does it really make any difference if the crazy neighbor charging at you wants to eat your brains or just steal your car (leaving you in the infected zone, and possibly infected)? The only difference is that its probably not illegal to kill a zombie. (Case law on that is lacking.)

6. The problem with zombie movies (and TV) is that the writers make sure that the number of zombies that show up is the number needed to cause whatever the plot needs. If the writer wants to kill someone, he sends lots of zombies. If the writer just wants to show that the cute blonde chick learned how to shoot, five or six will be plenty. If the director needs the fence to collapse, spend the budget for a hundred "extras" from the Screen Actors' Guild. In a real zombie apocalypse, you don't get much choice. Whatever shows up is whatever you have to deal with. (Ok, you can run away, assuming there is somewhere to go and a path to get there.) How you deal with whatever the number is depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to kill zombies, you want as many as possible but you want them strung out so you only have to kill a few per minute. If that's not practical, you need to create a barrier that stops them in a location you can easily kill them. If you're trying to escape, anything more than dozen of them on a city block is going to start being a challenge even for someone with a rifle, pistol, machete, and knife.

7. Don't let someone you love get eaten just because there is no clear head shot. A sword-chop to the leg will at least slow a zombie down, maybe way down. Chopping off their arms makes it easier to resist their attack. The point is safety. Killing every zombie in sight is a good move, but so is going somewhere with no zombies.

8. When building zombie defenses, remember that no matter what you do, you'll eventually have to leave. Maybe the defenses collapse, or maybe the food runs out, or maybe a big fire is spreading your way. Whatever it is, you need a way out. In a perfect world, the way to do it is to zipline to an adjacent building (one not surrounded by zombies because no one is inside it to attract their attention). Inside that building (where wandering humans cannot loot them) are supplies and vehicles.

9. Here's a perpetual quandary: What do you do or not do to attract and collect other humans? Assuming you want to do that (strength in numbers, after all) you can post signs (or spray paint temporary ones) telling people where to go. Now, if  you're really concerned over security (and you should be) don't send them to your hideout or bastion. Send them to another place where they would be safe. Pick a place that you can observe. (If they look ok, you can go meet them and lead them in. If you attracted a bunch that looks dangerous, just don't contact them, but they know you're somewhere nearby and they'll come looking for you and eventually find you.) Just exactly how dangerous any moving group would be is questionable because nobody knows what the real world situation will be. If the group is that strong, they should build a bastion, not keep moving around, but once a group has a bastion, they have to send strong looting and raiding parties out to gather supplies.

10. Food is a major issue. Let's assume that 98% of the human population are now dead (permanently or otherwise). That leaves 2%. The food chain keeps food flowing to people and (assuming the zombie apocalypse happened quickly) shut down abruptly. Any given house will have about three days of food in it, on average. (This counts only canned and storable food you get to before it spoils.) So, you multiply three by 49 (there are 49 empty houses for every house with a living group) and you can find food for five months. The grocery stores will have about three more days of food and the food warehouses (find them in the phone book) will have three more. That works out to about a year or so of canned food. You can extend that somewhat by finding livestock (cows, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys) and slaughtering one now and then (so nothing spoils). Some food crops in the fields (corn, potatoes, apples) can be harvested, giving you more food. (Fruit trees will produce every year, but corn and wheat have to be planted.) What happens then? Well, before you run out of food, you need to start growing food. That means you're going to have to start actually farming. I, for one, have only the barest of ideas how to do that. Maybe you can find a book about it? Maybe a book about survival agriculture could be added to your emergency stockpile?
11. For that matter, think of everything else you need, starting with gasoline. Whatever there is, you can gather, but gasoline goes bad after a year or two unless treated with some kind of stabilizing agent. After a year, two at most, you're actually going to have to restart an oil well and restart an oil refinery or you won't have gasoline. Maybe somebody smarter than you will do that and trade for your apples?

12. Once your group decides that zombies have to be killed in order to create a safe area and rebuild society, what's the most efficient way? Shooting each one of them is certainly possible (there is more than enough ammo in this country to shoot every citizen a few times) but is that the most efficient way? (Rifles do wear out, but should not be that hard to find.) There has to be some kind of industrial-strength system for handling this, like funneling them all into a sawmill with a high speed bandsaw running horizontally at head-height. (Height isn't that critical as zombies come in all sizes, anything from eye-level to a couple of inches below shoulder level will work just fine.) The bodies could then fall onto a conveyor belt leading to an incinerator. The few zombies that are very short of stature can be handled by a rifleman or swordsman waiting at the end of the conveyor belt.