Monday, May 19, 2008

Safety Neal on Zombie Killing

In a previous comment I bashed Max Brooks and his combat suggestions in the Zombie Survival Guide (ZSG).

Perhaps I'm being too harsh since it is a work of satire, but I hate to think some people might be influenced by the questionable advice in the book.

First, the book does make some excellent suggestions such as train your primary weapon (the body), but Mr. Brooks doesn't talk about the survival (or warrior) mindset, which is even more important than being physically fit.

He also suggests (page 28) to stay within the law during an emergency because otherwise you will have to answer to the law when the crisis is over. But he then paradoxically assumes that civilians will have access to fully automatic weapons and he advises against using them because of ammo waste (the tendency to spray and pray). However, most civilians only have access to semi-auto weapons in the United States, so no danger there.

Then Mr. Brooks suggests that one grab a bolt-action rifle such as the Mauser 98k, the Lee Enfield, or the 1903 Springfield... partly because ammo is easily available in these calibers in gun shops around the country.

However, the ammo for the Mauser (8mm) and Lee Enfield (.303 Brit) is uncommon in this country. The 1903 Springfield is a great rifle for killing at a distance, but quite cumbersome and slow at close ranges. The Springfield's ammo is common (.30-06) but incredibly bulky and heavy.

For a semi-automatic rifle, Mr. Brooks favors the M1 Garand or M1 carbine, both used by the US in World War II. Now, the M1 Garand was referred to by General Patton as "the greatest battle implement ever devised," and it was... for a mechanized infantry division fighting a land war in the 1940's.

But Mr. Brooks has probably never caught his thumb in the Garand trying to reload it. It smarts. That's part of the reason the M-14 rifle was developed for higher capacity and easier loading. It also fires the 7.62x51mm NATO round, which has the same ballistics as the Garand's .30-06, but with less bulk and weight.

But both of these are big heavy rifles. His suggestion of a smaller rifle is the M1 Carbine. The M1 carbine is a fun, lightweight plinker and was very popular with troops who carried it, right up until the moment they tried to kill a man with it. It's shoots a very small round that doesn't stop people well, much less zombies.

Mr. Brooks' advice on .22 rifles also makes me wonder. He suggest that a .22 will "bounce around" inside the skull doing great damage. I think he's mixing his metaphors a bit. It is true that a .22 will bounce off of bone, but they tend to enter the rib cage more easily and bounce around there... entering the skull is far more difficult because there are fewer openings and the .22 simply does not have the power to crack the skull on its own most of the time. Also, many headshots (even with high powered weapons) will glance off the thick bones of the skull.

The weapon I would favor for dispatching zombies is downgraded by Mr. Brooks, he ignores the obvious appeal of the shotgun. Shotgun ammo is commonly available around this country and shotguns punch huge holes in targets at medium range (roughly 7-10 meters) and are effective on living targets out to 25 meters according to the Tactical Shotgun: The Best Techniques And Tactics For Employing The Shotgun In Personal Combat by Gabriel Suarez.

I think within 25 meters is the far end of urban combat ranges for zombies. Slugs can reach out to 100 meters and 12 gauge slugs are equivalent to a .70 caliber rifle. The nice thing about a shotgun is that the slugs drop quickly after 100 meters due to mass and air resistance and thus they do not have the overpenetration risk of a high caliber rifle.

Mr. Brooks also complains that shotgun shells are bulky and too much room, displacing other supplies. But 12 gauge (and especially 20 gauge) shells do not take up anywhere near the space of the .30-06 round he seems to adore. Shotgun shells are also relatively light being wrapped in plastic, not in brass. When I go skeet shooting I wear a satchel with 50-75 rounds at a time and it isn't uncomfortable. It might slow me down a bit... but there are other (more tactical) solutions for carrying shotguns shells which Mr. Suarez discusses in the book referenced above.

But don't take my advice, turn to a real combat veteran. One book I enjoyed reading was Secrets of Street Survival - Israeli Style: Staying Alive in a Combat Zone by Eugene Sockut.

Not that I agree with everything he says necessarily, but I have far greater respect for his opinion because he has gone into harm's way, killed people, and lived to tell about it.

Hopefully I will never need to do any of those things. But if the flag goes up, I hope to be ready. At the very least my shotgun and I can fight a rear guard action while the young escape from the zombie hordes.

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