The Zombie Apocalypse, Part 3: How do we kill them?

frontier wars 728x90 KS

How do you kill what’s already dead?

Jonathan Glazer, 28 August 2015

Z-ammunition-magazines-400x294The last column touched briefly on how to end the career of a Zed.  Now I will get more granular and detailed.  It is too simple to say something like “shoot them in the head”.  If it were just that simple, this column would not be necessary.  In reality, we tend to get overwhelmed by biters very easily.  During an outbreak, their numbers swell quickly and one’s position can be overrun in a matter of moments.  The problem is that they do not have a sense of fear.  Suppressive fire from heavy weapons makes normal people want to get out of the way and hide, which allows a flanking force to maneuver closer, set up fire lanes and lay down their own volume of suppressive fire.  This allows the first team to move into place and the process continues until both fire teams achieve their objective.  This is known as “Fire and Maneuver”.   Walkers do not respond to suppressive fire.  They simply wander into the withering wall of bullets and fall over (hopefully) allowing the ones behind them to do the same.  The problem is that the machine gunners eventually have to reload, or change overheated barrels or have a snickers.  And the undead hordes keep on moving closer.

Full automatic fire is often thought of as the means for handling a herd of biting undead ghouls.  As can be seen from the preceding paragraph, full automatic fire is wasteful and not efficient enough to be effective against this threat.  Aimed accurate fire is the best use of ordnance against the wall of undead souls.  Full scale outbreaks can easily consist of thousands of zombies.  Fully automatic fire into a massed enemy is certainly devastating, but it also has an extremely high ratio of bullets to kills.  In the best case scenario (which is quite implausible), aimed machine gun fire at head level of the wave of inhumanity can’t deliver less than 5 rounds per head.  Of course they won’t be at the same level, so you see how the best case scenario could never be achieved.  Multiply 1,000 zombies by 5 rounds apiece and you have the expenditure of 5,000 rounds.  Do you know how much 5,000 rounds of the lightest military caliber weighs?  It is too much for one or two people to carry.  Add in real world variables such as varied heights and imperfect aim and you are talking about 100,000 rounds for that attack.  This is beyond the service life of most military weapons without at least a depot level overhaul and it is certainly not possible in one engagement.

A team of skilled sharpshooters working together can handle a throng like that given enough advance notice to put shooters and ammo runners in place.  And this would be at a greatly reduced ammo expenditure.  1,000 walkers can be conservatively dropped with 1,300 rounds (using the US Military’s 1.3 rounds per kill by snipers in Vietnam) and in any caliber, this amount of ammunition can be carried by a few team members.

Aimed accurate fire is clearly superior over fully automatic fire for the undead.  How about the still living?  Having spoken to many operators back from the sandbox, they will tell you that most engagements against live human targets using their (true, select fire) Assault Rifles occur with the selector switch on semi auto.  Full auto is useful for breaking ambushes and suppressive fire, but the need and desirability of something capable of firing fully automatically is not huge.  Semi auto rifles certainly have the advantage over manually operated bolt action rifles, but the latter still have a lot of utility in engaging the living or formerly living, especially from a distance.


Magazine capacity deserves a mention here as well.  Is bigger and more always better?  Not necessarily.  Those looking to ban firearms based on their destructive capabilities talk about not needing high capacity magazines for sporting use.  Defensive use may not be diametrically opposed to this belief.  The US Military model M16 was originally designed by Eugene Stoner with a 20 round magazine.  Towards the end of the Vietnam war, 30 round capacity was introduced to mixed results.  Brushing aside the well known teething problems with the M16 platform in Vietnam, the higher capacity magazine had a greater tendency to malfunction.  Eventually, advances in design of the magazine made them more reliable, however the idea that bigger isn’t always better can begin to be understood.  50 and 100 round magazines and drums are available for many platforms.  Most operators disdain these higher capacity devices as reliability, which is the highest concern regarding firearm function, tends to be an issue.  Several criminals have attempted to use 100 round drums while perpetuating mayhem only to have the drums malfunction and have to be discarded in combat.  Drums also present balance and other ergonomic issues as the overall handling of the weapon was not designed with using a bulky drum in mind.  Some high capacity drums can impede the user from reaching some controls on the gun or even from entering into a comfortable firing position.  Even extended magazines for handguns present utility issues in that they protrude from the handgrip and compromise concealability, portability and can be used as a hand hold to wrench the handgun away from the user by someone in close quarters.   It is safe to say that the operator should stick to the size and shape magazine which was originally conceived during the design of the weapon in order to maximize reliability and operational comfort and utility.

To sum up this discussion, semi automatic firearms are the preferred choice of slayers of the undead for many reasons.  Manually operated weapons, such as bolt action or lever action rifles can also be a good choice depending on the circumstances you will be encountering.  We have not spoken about the utility of shotguns or handguns.  Those will be covered in my next column, as will be selection of ammunition.  I think we have covered enough details to make a zombie’s head spin.


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