Episode 626 – Left Behind

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Keeping the Door Unlocked

One of the driving needs in a zombie survival scenario is locating new sources of supplies. The important thing to keep in mind is that, unless you are extremely lucky, finding one cache of supplies is only going to help you for a short period of time. And that’s assuming those supplies cover all of your needs. It’s great to find a huge cache of medical supplies, but that won’t do you much good if you’re starving to death.

Because of this, there’s a constant cycle of putting yourself in danger to secure the things you need to survive. Obviously, writers love this, because that cycle makes for writing new conflicts pretty simple. Just substitute in new locations and some random obstacles and you’ve got another story arc. Just like that.

Of course, there are more dangers than just getting killed and zombified while you’re on a supply run. If you’re careful and lucky, you can get in and out without getting murdered. Score one for you. But what happens if, after taking that considerable risk, you return home to find your safe house has been taken over by still more zombies? Well, that’s no good, obviously. And that’s exactly why it’s usually a good idea to leave at least one person behind to ensure that your safe house stays just that: safe.

About this Episode:

Someone mentioned it in the comments last time around, but I think it bears being pointed out: Sam is still armed, but Tara has put down her weapon. But why did she do this? Is she just that confident? Has she not seen enough of the nastiness of the new world to understand the importance of always being armed?

Discussion Question: Shotguns?

Discussion of weapons come up an awful lot when it comes to zombie stories. Second only to perhaps the katana (that I hate) is the shotgun when it comes to effectiveness. Some people say they’re the perfect zombie defense weapon, while others say they’re ill suited. What do you guys think? Is the extra weight and bulky ammunition worthwhile?

24 thoughts on “Episode 626 – Left Behind”

  1. Apart from “worth while” possibly being better off changed to “worthwhile”, at the end of the Discussion Question paragraph, there don’t seem to be any typos today, and I’m not even sure I care about that one. 😀

    Reported so Dave can do whatever with it! 😉

    • Yeah, that’s a good call. I fixed it.

  2. The problem with weapons, be it a shotgun, katana, or any improvised weapon, is that one has to find the time to make such weapons, or ammunition for guns, in that case. One also has to find a secure place, and appropriate tools, supplies, and machinery with which to make any kind of weapon be it improvised or manufactured. Sure, there’s going to be a large time period where weapons will be readily available at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but as time progress further along the apocalyptic path, even weapons will degrade and become faulty to the state where they are either not repairable or require even more significant time, resources, and secure locations to repair back to a serviceable condition.

    To sum up: Short term, and given plenty of available ammunition, guns that are procurable are good, if you’re good at shooting targets with them, and likewise goes for katanas.

    Long term, however, it might be a very wise idea indeed to find a thriving community where you can get your weapon repaired because there are the proper resources needed to do so, or you may as well bludgeon the zombies with the now useless gun.

    • And the more complicated the weapon, the faster it’s going to go to hell if you can’t continue maintaining it.

      • The other thing I rarely see addressed in any sort of apocalyptic scenario is weapon availability. What happens if the only weapons of any sort are locked up in a vault that’s like Fort Knox, and will take a huge amount of time and effort to penetrate, and will generate noise that’ll attract zombies? Most sensible people will probably try for the improvisation until they can finally crack into that kind of cache or find easier to loot weapons. I can imagine a lot of the better armed caches are going to be very difficult to get into.

        This is one of those things that rarely seems to be addressed in movies, most of the time if weapons are needed, they’re practically handed out, or there is some cache conveniently located where it’s needed, when it’s needed, for the plot’s sake! 😀

        • That’s a very good point. It always annoys me when I see characters in zombie stories using weapons (fully automatic assault rifles, machine guns, grenades, etc) that aren’t generally available without explanation.

          On another level, I think this is very much a cultural thing. We have lots of guns in America.

  3. I you are defending a static position, a good weapon with a lot of stopping power is key to hold zombies off. I one is simply running into a building for a smash and grab, a shotgun is also well suited to put a hole in something or, if rushing, having the ability to blast the lock out of a door is helpful. Shotguns are used as breaching weapons by the army and police for a reason. You can clear a room with one shot, rather than wasting a bullet per zombie. Thee are only a couple downfalls to a shotgun: bulky ammunition, which makes it hard to carry, but the sheer availability of 12 gauge shells in homes and military/police locations alike. The other downfall is noise. Shotguns are so absurdly loud, that they should be strictly used as emergency weapons in the city, though in the country they can be used freely.

    • Ease of use is another huge plus. I’m not a great marksman, but I can hit stuff with a shotgun.

  4. Honestly, I think every zombie story should have scene where a character blows zombies up with a shotgun (after all, it’s a classic), but I wouldn’t rely on it for daily protection. A shotgun is hard to reload, weighs a lot, has limited range and its spread doesn’t allow for accurate shots, plus it’s noisy as all hell.

    • It’s definitely a classic, and it looks awesome in zombie movies. I loved Andy’s exploding head in the Dawn of the Dead remake.

      Also: spoilers for an 11 year old movie.

  5. Guess it depends. Are we dealing with “undead” zombies which need to be shot in the head or are we dealing with the “live” zombies. (which are effectively just brain damaged or derangeg humans and susceptible to destruction by conventional means)

    For the latter a shotgun would be handy to have. They have a ton of stopping power and can create some truly horrific wounds that result in a lot of massive blood loss. They are versatile and relatively light. A lot of ammo is out there and most of your pump-action types are as reliable as the sunrise. The disadvantages are of course, the bulk and weight of the ammo (6 shotshells are roughly the same size and weight as a loaded 20round AR-15 magazine), the slow reloading speed, and a recoil that can be downright intimidating. Range is also an issue, if your target is much farther then 40yards out, you might as well throw rocks at it.

    You have two basic ammo options, the first is buckshot, which comes in a variety of types the most common of which is 00 (pronounced double ought) Buck. The 00 Buck shotshell contains 8 led pellets approximately .33in in diameter. Fired from a typical shotgun the pellets spread out into a patterns of about 4.5in at 5 yards, 12.1in at 15yards and 21.5in at 25yards. As you can see from these numbers, the whole multi-kill legend that has been built up around shotguns is pretty much a myth. Unless your targets are REALLY close together or overlapping then you aren’t going to kill two with one shot. The pattern is designed to provide an advantage on moving targets or relatively small ones, not to hit multiple targets at once. There are special chokes available that are designed to spread the shot pattern into a more linear pattern as opposed to the circular one, but they are rare and their effectiveness is questionable. And “sawed-off” shotguns are a Hollywood thing. Yes you get a very rapid spread of the shot into a large pattern, but you also loose projectile velocity and energy. Its also a common misconception that each of the 8 projectiles is equivalent to a .330 caliber bullet. They don’t have the same speed or the same penetration. I wont go into details here, but I know of a bizarre hunting accident where an escaped cow was accidentally shot with 00Buck at a range of about 30yards and survived because the pellets didn’t penetrate such a large animal effectively.

    The second option, commonly known as a “deer slug” is extrememly powerful. I personally have harvested dozens of deer and one 300lb black bear using these. But its advantage lies in its stopping power and huge energy. Its still a single projectile and needs to be aimed just like a rifle.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love shotguns and there are many home defense and tactical situations where they are the best option hands down. But as a primary weapon against “undead” zombies, no way. Id rather have the Python, and we all know how I feel about that thing.

    • Excellent write up as always, Damage. I’m glad to see you tackled the “multi-kill” myth. I was going to address it, but I don’t have nearly the knowledge and experience that you do.

  6. I’ll pick full body armor over fire weapon. Of course they are not so suitable (imagine wearing those in hot weather or having to cross a river), and you’d better be suited up when the Z arrive. Or you’re done. I thought about it while thinking about Glenn of the Walking Dead, leaving the prison…

    • So you’d arm up and have a bludgeon or a blade? Interesting strategy. You don’t need to reload, but if you get stuck or mobbed, you’d still be screwed.

  7. Shotguns are a weapon Hollywood loves and are very readily available but like ALL weapons require training to use. Giving any type of weapon to an untrained person is more likely to get your side hurt then the zeds. Think like this: How many of you are going to let the 12 year Amish boy you saved drive the Hummer so you can get a nap?

    @pi3rk Forget trying to find police riot gear during the zed apocalypse. It is very rare and most do not cover the face or hands very well. Try Firefighter turn out gear instead. While still pretty hot it is easier to leave open when not immediately needed and designed to be put on in under a minute. Bigger plus Fire Departments are everywhere and usually have spare gear around. I recommend removing the inner liners to make them lighter and cooler. No zed is going to bite through the outer coat and pants. Air tank should not be needed either.

    • Thanks for the advice 😉 . BTW I’m most of the time miles away from realistic answers about Dave’s questions, I just try to throw the coolest answer I have in mind…. Body armor… What was I thinking?… LOL

      • Nothing wrong with going for the cool approach. This is fiction, after all.

    • Excellent point. Of course, the shotgun is a bit more forgiving than other firearms when it comes to a lack of training (assuming it’s shooting shot instead of a slug). Granted, the user still needs a solid understanding of safety, loading, and other techniques before they’d be worth a damn.

  8. Another thing to consider before dashing out the door into the zombie horde is one, how good are you actually firing a weapon or using a sword?

    Two, contamination.

    Remember. Blades need to be cleaned so they don’t rust and after a full day of showing off your super awesome samuri skills on a zombie horde you have to be even more carefull not to cut yourself on a blade soaked in contaminated Zombie juices.

    Same goes with guns actually. We see in the comic several places where the heroes are pinned to the floor by a zombie and are rescued at the last moment by tbeir buddies blasting the creature off of them in a splattering explosion of contaminated zombie goo. You can imagine the effect that would have on you if you had a cut…or your mouth open while screaming in blind panic, “NUUUU! It’s going to eat mai face!” D:

    One last thing to consider. Swords don’t cut like they do in the movies. They don’t neatly slice through all the meaty bits as neatly as hollywood leads us to believe. Not unless you actually know how to use a katana. Otherwise you might just end up slaying zombies ineffectivly and tiring yourself out or worse, end up breqking the blade.

    Yes. Katanas Break. As does any weapon that is not used propperly.

    But in the end if Zombies were coming down the street to eat my brains then I would grab either if they are hand because heck, both are still more usefull than a chainsaw…

    • Excellent points!

      In regards to seeing crazy stuff in the comic (pinned survivors being rescued by a well-timed gunshot), well, that’s part of the point. One thing I love doing with this comic is playing with tropes and cliches, and that’s a big one in zombies stories.

  9. I think that The Walking Dead has dealt with the question of firearms in a realistic way. Well as realistic as a Hollywood show is likely to get.

    In the first couple of seasons there were a lot of shotguns, but more recently we’re seeing rifles and silenced weapons.

    Personally I’ve often wondered if a .22 would be a effective zombie weapon. A smaller calibre means smaller weapons and ammunition = less weight to carry. There’s also something of an urban legend that assassins would use them because the bullets would penetrate the skull but not exit and ricochet inside, causing massive damage.

    Plus I think a lot of people would overlook .22 weapons and ammunition as too puny to be any use. Everyone would be looking for the biggest, most macho cannon the could find while I can help myself to what they ignore.

    • The issue with the .22 is the ability to penetrate the skull at an appreciable distance. Very close, they would be extremely deadly, but I don’t want to get that close.

      I’ve love to do some experiments with a .22 using some skull analogs to see how well it would really work. That’d make a fun weekend project.

      • Yeah, there is the range problem. But I wonder if a person’s accuracy is more of a factor. There’s no point in having a weapon that’s lethal at a distance where you can’t hit anything.

        How effective would it be at a few feet? I could live with anything that keeps me out of arms reach.

      • That does sound like fun, although I don’t know a good skull analog. Just remember, penetration is all about kinetic energy, which varies as the square of the velocity.
        K=1/2 m v^2
        Long and short this means that a small change in bullet velocity has a large effect on Kinetic energy.

        If you ever watch “Swamp People” you will notice that a lot of the Gator hunters use .22rifles to dispatch the gators they hook as opposed to .22pistols which would be much easer to handle in that situation. (I assume that they use .22 because the ammo is cheap) In one episode one of the hunters opts for a pistol and shoots the gator in the head with little or no effect, the other guys screams at him “I told you, pistol don’t kill em good”

        Shorter barrels means lower bullet velocity because the trapped gasses from the burning propellant have less time to accelerate the bullet before they escape out the end of the barrel

        So even if a .22rifle turns our to work on your skull analog that doesn’t mean that a .22pistol will have the same performance

        Silencers also greatly reduce bullet velocity.