Monday, July 07, 2008

Melee Combat Weapons

My weapon of choice when facing the undead -- especially when on the run -- is the M1 Carbine. But firearms may not be enough, particularly in close-combat situations such as clearing a building, moving room-to-room. Or, alternatively, after you've run out of ammunition, which is an inevitability in a full-scale zombie apocalypse.

So you'll want to have a melee combat weapon accessible. Max Books of The Zombie Survival Guide is a firm supporter of the popular monk's spade, a polearm of Chinese origin. Here is a demonstration:

[YouTube Link]

This weapon can be used (at either end) for decapitation strikes against zombies while maintaining a distance from their hands or teeth. Although it does not actually kill a zombie, I think that decapitation is the proper goal, as it is far easier than the two other ways to access and destroy a zombie's brain: (1) pierce the eye socket and reach the brain or (2) puncture the skull and crack open the brain directly. A severed zombie head is still a threat, but it is a greatly diminished threat, as it lacks mobility.

My problem with the monk's spade stems from its primary advantage. The length and weight of the weapon will slow and fatigue its user, as well as prevent one from carrying and using a rifle. I prefer to think of a melee weapon as a backup, but the sheer size of the monk's spade prevents that approach.

That's why I prefer the daito, the Japanese longsword. Invented by Miyamoto Musashi, it is a few inches longer than the traditional katana, giving the zombie fighter additional distance from his opponent while making horizontal slashing strikes. At under four feet in length and three pounds in weight, it is imminently portable by a rifleman.

Jeff the Baptist has noted his preference for axes:

The Shaolin spade is a Brooks thing. Like most polearms, it's pretty heavy. If you want something simple and useful, go with an axe or tomahawk. Good stuff and useful for more than skull splitting.

If you want to get fancy, I'm wondering if a dedicated thrusting blade (like a small sword or rapier) would penetrate the eyesocket into the brain and do some good scrambling. They'd make a lighter and more effective sidearm than a lot of the melee weapons I see suggested for the same jobs. Plus they have more reach than a knife or kukri.

I agree that a thrusting blade, such as a rapier, is probably a good choice, but I think that using an axe is asking for trouble. Cracking open a zombie's skull will permanently eliminate it as a threat, but I'd be very concerned that the blade might become lodged in the skull.

What is your preferred anti-zombie melee weapon?


John of the Dead said...

Thrusting blades are just asking for trouble. They don't have any penetrating power, so you have to hit through a soft target - the eye. You will not penetrate the skull with a rapier, so you're forced to try a very difficult stab through the eye. Have you tried to hit a one-inch diameter wobbling target with a slender, flexible rod at arm's length? It's pretty tough. No, thanks. Not for me.

As you point out, chopping weapons like axes, hatches, and machetes run the risk of getting lodged in the skull. Then what? They do have the advantage of possible dual use, both chopping and being used as a slicing weapon by aiming at the neck, but it's a potentially awkward motion, especially an ax.

I would much prefer some sort of crushing blow. With decapitation, you have to re-sweep the area and find all the heads. Hammers, maces, and flails are great at delivering a very power blow, guaranteed to crush the skull and the brain therein. The downside is that those are all pretty heavy, and require lots of upper body strength to use well, plus incredible stamina if confronted by more than a handful of ghouls. They're also single-use tools. There's not much you can do with a mace besides crush bones.

That's why I compromise: a good, old-fashioned crowbar . It's compact, capable of delivering consistent crushing blows in close quarters, and has tons of practical applications in non-combat situations. Can you pry open a door with a katana? The caveat is you have to make certain to strike with the back of the crowbar, avoiding the point. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting it lodged in the skull, much like an ax.

the reverend mommy said...

I've actually been training with a sword (not much, only about once a week) -- with the intent of doing the first form in Tangsudo. I've also done some work with the Bo Staff -- still working on a spinning block/spin.

Hard work. A bullet takes less finesse.

Stresspenguin said...

The problem with most Asian martial art weapons is that they're just collector junk. Made correctly from high-carbon "combat steel", these pole-based weapons are incredibility light, sharp, and flexible.

pudao - wide chopping and slicing blade about two feet long with a 3 foot long handle weighing in at about 2.5 lbs.

kwandao - like a pudao, but with a four foot long handle and a nine inch spear tip at the end. Only 4 lbs.

The Monk spade is only 3 lbs at 6.5 feet.

So, despite its disadvantages, I'm an expert shot with a M-4 carbine, so I'd go with that as a primary. I'd want a M-203 40 mm grenade launcher attached to it, as well. I know that explosives aren't as effective against the undead as a direct shot to the head, but it'll slow 'em down a bit when overwhelmed.

Additionally, I'd go with a pudao or kwandao. I'm above average strength, so I figure I could go a while with a pole weapon. I'd also like a katana, a Chinese broadsword, or a scimitar for close combat--mainly for their curved blades designed specifically not to get stuck in the flesh of your enemy.

Crowbars are handy, yes, but require you to get too close, can get stuck in a skull, and requires an extraordinary amount of strength to fatally crack Zed's skull.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Please stop picking up sword info from marketing websites. "Daito" is not something Musashi invented. It means "long sword" and is any sword more than 2 feet of blade length. Next you'll be going on about the wonderful blood grooves on the blade or something...

Anyway I have issues with decapitation:

(1) You wind up with zombie heads that are still "alive."

(2) Standard zombie posture is shambling towards you with their arms raised at about shoulder level. If you are their target, it will actually be quite difficult to get a clean neck strike without hitting an arm or shoulder.

(3) You need lots of room for the horizontal swing. No way you can do that in a household hallway.

Because of (1) you want a weapon that attacks the brain directly by doing head trauma. Because of (2&3) you want something you can swing overhead and/or thrust in front of you in confined spaces.

I like a three to four foot long axe/hammer/spear polearm. Cleave or crush heads with the axe and hammer, thrust with the spear if room is an issue. Not to short, but not too long. It has a bunch of uses outside of combat as well.

If I want something lighter I'd probably go tomahawk or a sharpened entrenching spade. Also multipurpose and combat ready.

Tom Jackson said...

This may be of interest, if you're decorating your garden:

John Wilks said...

Chainsaw mounted to my arm.

wes said...

I have to say given the choice I would opt for one of the farm tools I grew up with for instance a well kept spade. There are many different head varieties that can be kept razor sharp for when needed. Also if you use some of the newer heavy plastic poles you don't have to worry about breakage and can use the pole itself to do some serious bashing. Of course if I was on the farm my initial option would be to start up the tractor...that would be fun.

Stresspenguin said...

I think what we're seeing is a trend toward the weapon the individual is most comfortable and familiar with. I'm sure my friend from seminary who used to fence on Duke's fencing team would tear up Zed with well placed thrusts into the eye socket.

Wes likes his farm tools, I like my M-4 carbine. These are instruments that already act as an extension of our natural bodies. John Wilks goes the next step and actually makes his weapon a part of his body.

I think the fatal mistake is to pick a weapon that is awkward or beyond the skill level of its user. I'm sure that a skilled practitioner of the Monk's Spade could use it effectively in a closed hallway. But give a man a rifle whose never even played duck hunt, then its practically useless.

John said...

Good points by all, except for John Wilks. Depending upon eye-punctures is high risk, particularly of the combatant in fatigued. And it's true that zombie arms could interfere with horizontal slashing blows.

But a chainsaw? It may work in the movies, but not in real life.

Jason the Hockey Player said...

Though they're slightly heavier than something such as a katana or combat spade, I'd choose to have a nice, sharp machete at my side during a zombie apocalypse. It's got much more blade area than a typical axe. It's also heavy enough to be used as a cleaving weapon, but still light enough to swing around without using too much energy.