Friday, 1 June 2012

#43 Last Stand on Zombie Island: Why Guns Are Basically Balls During A Zombie Apocalypse

This week I’m turning Chris Writes About The End Of The World into an open forum for debate. Please welcome another Chris Who Writes About The End Of The World, Christopher Eger. Christopher Eger’s new book, Last Stand on Zombie Island, aims to take a more realistic look at the zombie apocalypse. One of the areas Chris is able to be particularly accurate about is the description of guns and the way they’re used, being a self described “recovering gun nut”.

On hearing about this, I asked Chris to respond to the self-evident truth that, should the zombie apocalypse actually happen, guns would actually be totally useless.

Here’s my argument:

Why Guns Would Be Useless During A Zombie Apocalypse
Let’s get one thing clear from the outset. We all know that the double barrelled shotgun is the second coolest weapon for killing zombies, being only just beaten out by the chainsaw. The Bruce-Campbell-Combo is still unmatched in the annals of zombie killing awesomeness.

However like the chainsaw, the double barrel shotgun, and indeed, any firearm, will inevitably get you killed in an actual zombie apocalypse. With the chainsaw, the reasons behind it killing you are obvious- within thirty second you’ll have accidentally chopped your own legs off because you’re an idiot. With firearms it’s a little more complicated.

Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of guns outside of the NERF variety, and the computer generated variety. I live in a country with no second amendment, where the only people with guns are farmers, and farmers’ mums. When I see police officers with guns I get nervous, because historically they’ve not proven completely trustworthy with sticks.

However, all of this is irrelevant to the fact that when law and order breaks down and our neighbours turn into blood thirsty ambulant corpses, even if you’re well trained a gun will get you killed faster than being the optimistic, cheery character who gives the other survivors reason to believe there is still hope in the world. This is for three reasons.

One: Guns Break
Guns have moving parts. Moving parts can go wrong. Even if you clean and maintain your gun properly on a regular basis, every piece of that weapon is going to subject to Murphy’s Law and it’s just waiting for the absolute worst possible moment to go kafooey.

Two: Ammo Runs OutThe reason the zombie apocalypse, and here we’re talking about a true, George Romero zombie apocalypse rather than anything based on “infection”, is that everyone who dies becomes a soldier for the other side. Given that everybody dies, this means that barring destruction of the brain sooner or later every single human being is going to be playing for the other team. Now I’m sure that bullets actually outnumber humans by now, and should we feel the need we could probably all shoot ourselves in the head and leave plenty of bullets left over, but you don’t have that many bullets. However many zombies you kill, more are going to keep coming, and eventually you’re going to have to make a decision about what to do with that last bullet.

Three: Your Gun Is A Dinner BellAs I mentioned, in a zombie apocalypse everyone who isn’t you or your merry band of survivors is probably a zombie. Now zombies are very stupid. They pretty much walk directly towards the nearest thing that’s moving around or making noise.

You know what makes a shitload of noise? A gun going off.  Even say you’re super-well equipped for the zombie apocalypse, and have silencers, you know what a silenced gun sounds like?

You hear that sound a bit like a gun going off right after the sound of the gun going off? That’s an echo.

You kill one zombie with a gun, you’ll attract three. You kill those three, nine more have turned up. Sooner or later you’re going to go back to point two of this list.

So What Should You Do Instead?Which is all very well, but zombies have got to die, right? What sort of hippy, liberal wusspants solution would I suggest? Hugging them to death? Blowing bong smoke in their faces until they need a sit down? That wouldn’t work, it would just give them zombie munchies!

Actually, my solution is very straightforward. The only weapon you need for the zombie apocalypse is a sturdy shovel with a sharpened blade. It never runs out of ammo and there’s far less that can go wrong with it. The lengthy wooden shaft allows you to stay out of arms reach of the zombies, with the handle letting you put some force behind it as you jab it into the necks and faces of the approaching horde. Yes, there is a risk the zombies will simply grab hold of the shovel and start biting it, but if you’re smart enough to bring a spare you can beat the zombies to death with that while they’re chewing your first one.

So that is why when the dead begin to rise you should ignore the hunting and fishing shop and instead head for the garden centre.

Why Guns Would Actually Be Totally Awesome During A Zombie Apocalypse
Thanks to Chris for the invitation to visit your choice of armament against the seething hordes of the shambling and running undead. I agree wholeheartedly that any weapon at all is better than the hippy hug-a-zombie approach. We started hugging the Soviets a few decades ago and you see where that got us! What I do disagree on, is that firearms are the go-to weapon of choice over shovels in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

Let us look briefly at the history of weapons. From prehistoric times to the dystopian future, there have been roughly two types of weapons: melee and ranged

Melee weapons are anything that has to be held and engaged with at extreme close quarters. Examples of these are axes, machete, swords, chainsaw, clubs and bats, brass knuckles, tins of soup, shovels, golf clubs, bayonets, et al. The other Chris is a fan of the melee weapon. Sharpened shovels indeed.

I wish him luck.

I, on the other hand, am a ranged weapon proponent. Ranged weapons are something that can be fired accurately further than a melee weapon can be thrown. Examples of these are bows, flamethrowers, some javelins, and projectile weapons (i.e. firearms)

The advantage of ranged weapons of melee weapons is the key of the reactionary gap. It has long been accepted fact, verified by studies and experiments that there is a '21-foot rule' as far as reactionary gaps. For the record, the 21-Foot Rule, says that in the time it takes the average firearm-equipped law enforcement officer to recognize a threat, draw his sidearm and fire 2 rounds at the center mass of an attacking subject, said average subject charging the officer with a melee edged weapon can cover a distance of 21 feet. If the shooter is slower than the average trained law enforcement officer or the attacker (zombie?) faster, the reactionary gap is more. In short, with a ranged weapon it is possible to engage a zombie from a safe distance.

With a melee weapon, you have to get bad-breath close, which is close enough to infect. In addition, as proven by hundreds of films, books and graphic novels on the undead, zombies tend to congregate in large swarms or hordes. If presented with having to defend against a group of twenty undead with either a shovel or a firearm (with more than twenty rounds,) I would take the firearm all day.

With melee a weapon, their prime advantage is in the short training period required. You can impart the techniques needed to turn a fireplace poker into an effective weapon to the average person in less than a minute. Granted, I would prefer a melee weapon to no weapon at all, but it would not be my first choice if a firearm were available. It should be recognized, however, that with a firearm, you have to give the user basic weapon's nomenclature, safety, and manipulation training, which, even under pressure, cannot be skipped. If you plan on the zombie apocalypse (and who doesn’t, right?) then this training needs to take place before hand.

Classic ranged weapons such as bows and javelins are often not too high up on the list of zombie apocalypse survival tools. It is just too hard to justify becoming efficient enough with a ranged weapon that it is often impossible to carry more than 10-20 projectiles for to justify it. Flamethrowers are just a bad idea (who wants to have flaming zombies running amok?) This leaves the firearm as the superheavyweight champion of ranged weapons.

A melee weapon needs to be wielded by an arguably young and fit person. Both young and old, sick and well, can use a firearm, providing the would-be zombie assassin is trained in its operation. Example given, your 80-year old grandfather may not be able to hold his own against five zombies in his front yard with only a garden hoe. However, this same hardcase, who had spent his youth battling Rommel in North Africa before Germans knew of techno music, could come out on top if he had an old shotgun and a pocketful of shells.

Even in countries with very strict firearms registration laws such as the UK and Australia, it remains possible to own modern shotguns and other firearms with a certificate. According to figures from the Guardian, in 2011 no less than 1.8 million legally held guns were on record just in England and Wales alone. Granted this is still only about 3300 guns per 100,000 populations, but can you guess to reason which 3300 people would be better equipped in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

*For the record Christopher Eger also recommends nuclear depth charges for use against mermaids, weaponized spider monkeys against aliens, and 84mm antitank rockets with hyperbaric warheads against most bigfoot/yeti type creatures, (provided, of course, that the above prove hostile.) Hey, if they ask for it, they get it.

So there you have it, the case for and against guns as the weapon of choice during the zombie apocalypse. Now you have the information, you can make your own mind up that this new, interloping Chris is wrong!

Still, it's worth checking out his book, which you can find here.

Thanks for taking part Chris, and I wish you well before your imminent, painful death at the hands of the Undead.