By Cliff Heseltine
I see a lot of snide comments here and elsewhere on the interwebz about “zombie guns,” “zombie bullets” and “zombie targets.” What exactly is your problem with these artifacts if, in fact, they get people interested in firearms and shooting and survival strategies? Does every bit of training have to be absolutely related to real-world scenarios even if that means people who could otherwise be recruited to the side of liberty and defense of the Second Amendment will be lost to us? Where is the sense in that? A little background, just for fun . . .
In modern fiction zombies are the result of either a naturally occurring catastrophic viral mutation or the intentional creation of an infection agent, extremely virulent, but only transmitted when bitten by a zombie. Once bitten the “infection” can’t be prevented or cured. Incubation may take as much as an hour or more, or symptoms may appear almost immediately, depending on the requirements of the plot. It’s interesting, however, that non-infected humans are often engaged in violent hand-to-hand combat with zombies without regard for blood splatter. In modern zombie myths, the undead may be either fast- or slow-moving, with purported explanations that newly-infected zombies are faster.
It’s generally considered that zombies are extremely difficult to kill. Since they’re are depicted as people who have already died and been re-animated by the disease organism, this might be considered a “reasonable” assumption, but there are some issues:
- In all of history, as we know it, no living thing has ever died and been “re-animated.” Even people declared clinically dead and who fully recover do not come back as zombies.
- No disease vector we are aware of has the ability to create the symptoms usually attributed to “zombies.”
- Zombies are immune to physical pain, heat, cold, loss of limbs or organs, including the heart, and exsanguination. It is a physiological impossibility for any life form to continue to function under those conditions.
- Zombies instinctively attack non-zombie humans in order to eat their internal organs and sometimes specifically their brains, however, they have no digestive functions nor an operational circulatory system with which to distribute nutrients.
- Zombies are not reliant on any physical organ other than their “brain.” They function entirely on instinct to seek non-infected humans. The only way to stop a zombie is to remove its head, which does not “kill” it, but renders the separate parts no longer a hazard. To completely remove the threat a zombie must have its brain removed and/or destroyed.
Now back to our regularly scheduled reality:
Because zombies, as described, are physiologically impossible, it must be understood that the concept of a zombie is purely metaphorical. They are the literary depiction of some inexorable evil in society that must be fought, that’s known and recognized as evil, and that’s socially acceptable to destroy on sight.
In many stories non-zombie characters are introduced for the specific purpose of depicting people who are unwilling to recognize or confront the threat that the zombies pose to mankind. These characters must either die or be lost to the zombie infection due to their refusal to face reality, although in some cases a character may have an epiphany and accept responsibility for their own defense and that of the community.
Down through the years, various antagonists have taken on the metaphoric role of bogeyman depending on sociological fashions. In Nazi Germany it was the Jews. In the Soviet Union it was dissidents, in WW II Allied countries it was fascism. In science fiction they are alien invaders (Starship Troopers), or a genetic experiment gone wrong (Day of the Triffids).
In modern industrial societies many of the younger generation, seeking to make a place for themselves in the world as free individuals, fear the threat of being absorbed into the mass of day-to-day life represented by their regimented parents. Their loss of individuality and absorption into the soulless industrial machine where they will – as they see it – work out their lives mindlessly following the dictates of society, bereft of free will appears to them as a fate worse than death. Think of Star Trek – Next Generation’s Borg: “You WILL be assimilated – resistance is futile.”
The beauty of Nazis, Triffids, the Borg and all zombie analogs is that they are universally recognized as a pure evil and it’s one’s DUTY to fight it. You can work toward their complete physical destruction without any societal approbation. This freedom of moral ambiguity is quite attractive to young people who are seeking to define their morals and ethics in a confusingly grey adult world.
If you look at much (non romance or “chick-flick”) fiction the key plot element is the point at which the protagonist has the self-confidence to take decisive, even deadly, action without fear of condemnation by society. The fictional zombie provides a perfect surrogate for the things in society we fear and wish to destroy unilaterally.
To millions of the younger generation in our urbanized society the traditional methods of passing on the “Manly Arts” of hunting and combat are no longer available. Young men growing up in the cities have little access to the tools or lore of hunting for food and little concept of why doing so would be worth the effort, since everything they need is in the grocery stores. In addition, access to firearms appropriate for hunting or combat is lacking and in too many cases either discouraged or even officially prohibited.
Following the carnage of the Civil War, two world wars, the futile combat in Korea and Viet Nam, and the nearly universal condemnation by public schools, academia, and the Progressive media since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, of military action, many young men fail to understand why military service would be advantageous to them or their country.
In America the only exposure most young men have to firearms is television, movies, and video games, or, unfortunately, urban gangs. The accuracy of the fictional depictions is quite often ludicrous and sometimes even farcical. Even in the best depictions of weapons the tactics employed and their effects on the participants are often entirely unrealistic.
Many first person shooter games include the concept of zombies, usually as easy targets to keep the game interesting. These games also vary widely in their ability or even desire to depict real universe operation of the firearms depicted. Once a gamer’s appetite is whetted, however, why shouldn’t we step in with an option to correct the mis-information and use those weapons and tactics in live, though fictional or even fantastical, scenarios? Why would we, as the people of the gun, willingly throw this opportunity away?
Practical pistol, 3-gun, and other similar competitions are NOT realistic recreations of practical scenarios. They may be closer than standing in one spot and shooting at a bulls-eye, but no one is shooting back at you! CQB training with AirSoft or Simunitions or even paintball may be closer to reality, but those scenarios are often claustrophobic with cramped shoot houses and constrictive safety masks and other equipment.
Zombie Hunts could be created using these same training weapons in order to teach maneuver and tactics, as well as teamwork. Since the zombies would not be shooting back the student would not need facemasks or other protective clothing, and such equipment worn by any “live” zombies encountered would not be an issue. Even though the interactions would be against fictional zombies the lessons learned would be applicable to real world situations as well. The possibilities are endless, educational, and most of all, entertaining. At reasonable prices what young man or group of friends would not abandon the Laser Tag storefront, “Capture the Flag” paintball arenas, or the on-line gaming community to take on these more exciting challenges using convincing replicas of actual firearms?
Once trained it would be important to move on to live weapons and teaching the characteristics, benefits and limitations of each type of firearm in real world situations. The students will already have learned some tactics and movement and teamwork, so variations of competition scenarios could be used. Targets should be life-size simulations of zombies, preferably mannequins, not cardboard cut-outs or steel gongs, and MUST fall when a head shot is scored. There could also be situations such as Team Three Gun where one team member carries the shotgun, one the rifle, and one the pistol. They must work out a safe strategy beforehand and then attack the course in unison to complete the stage. The zombie targets, until knocked down, must continue slowly approaching the shooters. Timing stops when the last zombie falls, but if any zombie reaches a barricade without falling the team would be disqualified. All other 3-gun safety protocols MUST be adhered to!
After fantasy training and competition against phony zombies, what could entice these young shooters to become life-long People of the Gun? A real-life Zombie Hunt, and we have a perfect surrogate infection in America even now – over four million feral pigs in 45 of the 50 states, with the greatest populations in Texas, California, Florida and Oregon, but significant numbers throughout the southeast and through Oklahoma, Arkansas and into Missouri.
Once trained and certified for live-fire new shooters could take the next step. Feral pigs are wary, dangerous enough to get the blood pumping, and there is generally no bag limit or seasonal restriction. All ya got to do is find ‘em and kill ‘em. This sort of field exercise is a perfect opportunity to expose young people to militia style small unit discipline and tactics and squad-level patrolling and ambushes. Contact with the zombie/pigs would be thrilling and instructive, since these targets won’t just stand there and let you shoot them, and they may in fact charge at you instead of away from you, in the manner of “Fast Zombies.” Such a hunt is not entirely without risk, which would make it all but irresistible to young people.
I can really see no downside to promoting the Zombie Apocalypse as a means of recruiting new blood to the shooting sports. Whatever training these people get will have some real world benefits, dispel some myths and outright falsehoods, provide entertainment and excitement and even a little taste of danger, and promote shooting sports and the businesses dependent on new blood to prosper into the future. And there can be no doubt that a certain percentage of these newbies will go on to military careers, mainstream shooting competitions, or man the pro-gun barricades with us.
So let’s stop arguing against zombies as ridiculous fantasies and support to the Zombie Apocalypse!