Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A further guide to Zombie Planning: Melee Weapons, pt.1

Greetings and condolences once again to my readers in the land of the living. If you have been following my H1N1 zombie outbreak watch and have started preparing, this post is for you. Due to the current popularity of the topic of zombie planning, I have again returned to expand on my earlier public service announcement with A Further Guide to Zombie Planning, Although I promised a Firearms part 3, I have decided to leave that a bit longer, this time taking a closer and more in depth look at selecting melee or hand-to-hand combat weapons.

Selecting your weapons.
Before selecting any weapon, the first thing that must be determined is what classification of zombie will you be encountering. In the event you are encountering pseudo, or non-zombies where the afflicted is simply a mortal exhibiting zombie like behavior, disposing of them is as simple as disposing of any mortal human cranked up on meth, as they will not be distracted by pain of injury. Naturally a zombie that cannot be destroyed because of mystical origin or any other reason, and thus cannot be destroyed by conventional weaponry, discussion of weapons would thus bee moot. For the purposes of this discussion we will assume the zombies are of Modern of typical contemporary nature that can only be destroyed by destroying the brain or severing the head.
As this is the first I have written of this, I make mention of it here, as it is pertinent to the destruction of a zombie, but as I further progress in the completion of Macabre’s Guide to Zombie Planning I will re-edit at some point in the future. Really it is imperative that anyone looking to survive a zombie outbreak fully understands the mechanisms of destroying a typical zombie. Naturally the destruction of the brain is self-explanatory. The less gray matter left intact the greater the likelihood of destroying the zombie. But the details of decapitation are not nearly as straight forward. What it is about removing a zombie’s head that destroys it? As removal of any of the other bodily organs including severing the spinal column does nothing other than perhaps reduce mobility? Effective decapitation really is an extension of the former method of destroying the brain. More specifically it is the separation of the brain from the brainstem, or the destruction of said brainstem that bears results. This may simply sound like semantics, but the intricacies of such are quite important. If a zombie is decapitated below the brainstem the head will remain animated and dangerous, and by the same means if a decapitating blow is delivered to the base of the skull complete decapitation is not necessary. This is important to realize as the human neck is very muscular and is not easily severed. Even with the sharpest of edged weapons multiple blows are usually required to fully decapitate a human body, but partial decapitation near the base of the skull is quite possible with one blow.

Melee Weapons:

While a firearms or even multiple firearms should be your first choice as a defensive weapon, (providing you are capable of using them to their potential) it would be foolishness to not include some more basic primitive weapons in your arsenal in the event you must defend yourself without a gun. The reasons for this could be quite numerous, and as this whole planning guide is about being prepared, one must also be prepared for the contingency that you may find yourself without a usable firearm. Much like with firearms, the individual choices are practically limitless, but there are some common traits of certain types that can be examined and considered more closely.

General weapon types

Archery equipment: Lets get this out of the way right from the beginning. Unless you are previously skilled with the use of these weapons they are NOT worth your effort. Although they may present some benefits in being a relatively silent ranged weapon they are not easy to use with the accuracy that would be required to consistently take out a zombie with a well-placed head shot. As a hunting tool, their purpose is not to cause trauma or significant damage but to lacerate vital organs causing death through exsanguination (blood loss) that is obviously not going to affect a zombie. Additionally they are typically long and awkward, usually have very limited amount of ammunition and a very slow reload rate. I say this to you being experienced with archery equipment myself.
While they may be useful as a tool to deliver a form of incendiary over a long distance or into a building, they are not a good choice for a type of weapon. Even crossbows, although they than can be equipped with optical sights and fire much the same as a rifle are too flawed. Firstly a suitably powered crossbow is no more silent than a .22 rifle, possesses only a fraction of the effective range, and lacks the reload rate of even a single shot rifle. Hand crossbows are not a suitable consideration in that they are again relatively inaccurate, are lacking in power, and possess an abysmal range at which you will be lucky to get that one shot off.

Blowguns: Another type of ancient weapons that will prove quite useless against the undead. Don’t even consider these even in the direst of circumstances.

Ancient and Historic Weapons: Now we’re getting down to the meat and potatoes of hand-to-hand weapons, but we’re not quite there yet. Like archery equipment, many ancient weapons require specific training to be properly effective in combat. If you are so trained in their usage you will likely already have a selection of weapons at your disposal. If you are not, acquiring them is going to be difficult short of raiding a museum. Most ancient and historic weapons available are reproductions intended primarily for display purposes only and will not perform in combat as well as a proper weapon would. Most effective historic weapons realistically are reproductions designed and build for the purpose of use, and training by clubs and associations, and you can likely bet that when the time comes they will not be gracious in sharing them with you. Some suitable choices of Ancient and historic weapons however will be discussed a bit later in this topic.

Improvised Weapons: These are going to be among your best choice of hand-to-hand combat weapon come Z Day. Like the ninja, selecting and crafting practical every day implements to be used as weapons is an option that should not be overlooked. Many products available off the rack at your local hardware store require no modification whatsoever to become a lethal weapon. And to their advantage, unlike “fantasy swords” and replicas, they are for the most part designed to be used and abused. Additionally in a post apocalyptic world having the weapon perform as a tool for the purposes it was intended will become invaluable while scavenging and for building and removing blockades and barricades, giving them an edge over many similar historic weapons.

Power tools however are poor choice in improvised weapons for anything beyond a very localized primary outbreak. They are limited to their energy source, be that electrical battery or gasoline motor and tend to be rather noisy which may draw other zombies to your location. In addition they tend to be bulky and heavy using energy better saved for carrying other more valuable equipment and supplies, or simply conserving that energy for later, as exhaustion in battle is equally bad as running out of ammunition. Another significant drawback of motorized rotary weapons, such as chainsaws, lawn edgers, and gas mowers will likely result in infectious splatter that, while looking really cool, presents a considerable health threat to everyone in your party.

Basic primitive weapon types:

Edged Weapons: Edged weapons are traditionally for cutting or slashing. While for the most part their use is intended to be directed towards the torso and vital organs of an opponent, that can still be somewhat effective when used on the living dead. Unless one is utilizing a particularly sharp blade with significant force, decapitation with one blow is unlikely. A decapitating blow aimed to the back of the head if possible will increase your chances for killing with a single blow. If this is not possible it is best to attempt to direct your blow to the side of the skull, hopefully penetrating far enough to damage the brain.

Pointed Weapons: Pointed weapons are designed for piercing blows to the opponent. Like edged weapons they’re traditionally intended to target the torso, however they can still be somewhat effective when directed toward the head as a target. The human head is a fairly hard object designed to protect the brain, and is a relatively small target too. The rounded shape also tends to deflect killing blows from the brain, making a fatal piercing blow rather difficult, but not impossible. When using a pointed weapon there are three targets to aim for providing the attacker is coming straight towards you. The first target would be the eye(s). The skull behind the eyes is noticeably thinner than at the forehead thus far easier to penetrate. The Eye socket will also trap the point of the weapon and direct the following thrust right where it counts most without deflection. The second target is the mouth, again trapping the point of the weapon and directing the blow towards the base of the skull. The third target is the head/neck just below the lower jaw. The wielder will have to direct the piercing blow upwards and back, driving the weapon as to penetrate the back of the skull. This will destroy or sever the brain and or brainstem. In some cases, depending on overall weapon design (usually involving a form of spike), a deliberate piercing blow to the cranium will be the most effective.

Blunt Weapons: Blunt weapons traditionally had two purposes; to wear down an opponent and more significantly deliver a fatal crushing blow to the opponent’s cranium. Wearing down a zombie isn’t going to happen, but then again they really don’t defend themselves well anyway. As the head is the best target when attacking a zombie, a weapon that targets that specifically is a prime candidate for consideration. Blunt weapons usually are constructed in one of two designs, fixed to a handle as a club or hammer or attached to a handle in a pendulous fashion. In either case the user simply directs the blow towards the head of the zombie relying on concussive force to break open the skull and destroy the brain.

In Melee weapons part 2 we will look at some examples of melee weapons. We will also in the near future look at what other supplies and equipment we should look to acquire beyond the weapons.

G. Macabre