Special ammunition optimised for fighting zombies is selling like hot cakes in the USA, according to reports, following sensational media coverage of incidents involving flesh-eating and similar undead-esque behaviour.
In particular, fears of an imminent zombie plague were stoked by the recent case of Rudy Eugene. The 31-year-old was shot dead by police officers in Miami last month while chewing on another man's face - presumably in an attempt to get at his brain. Other vaguely similar incidents have been dredged up and conflated with this by various media outlets to produce a tenuous undead-apocalypse theme.
All this has apparently been extremely fortunate for US ammo maker Hornady, which last October brought out its "Zombie Max" line of cartridges ("make dead permanent"). We hear courtesy of WWJ Detroit that Zombie Max rounds are flying off the gun-shop shelves.
“This is probably one of the only [products] that we’ve seen when people who are not in the hunting and shooting industry will go out and they will purchase this,” Hornady spokesman Everett Deger told WWJ.
“I mean, I’ve heard of guys who buy it just because they think the packaging is cool and they set it on their cube and they don’t even own a gun,” he said. ”It has that sort of cross-market appeal, which I think is rare to find these days, where you can actually sell something that will transcend not just one market but go into several.”
Hornady argues not-very-seriously that the zombie-busting ammo is undeniably effective ("have you ever SEEN a zombie?") and contends that it is genuinely optimised against zombies in some meaningful way:
Get Loaded with Z-MAX™ Bullets and PREPARE to "Mist"ify Zombie Varmints!
Explosive Hornady® performance comes in every Z-Max™ bullet specifically designed to vaporize zombie varmints. Ultra-flat trajectories send mangy menaces to the varmint graveyard.
Company president Steve Hornady, in an interview with Guns & Ammo magazine at the time of the product launch, revealed some of the technical thinking behind the Z-Max.
"Well, head shots or brain stem are the only effective shots on Zed so we focused on rapid fire quick recovery rounds," Mr Hornady told the gun mag.
"There was considerable debate about the shotgun round since, in my opinion, accurate shot placement is important. If Zed is close enough to reliably hit the brain with a shotgun then your situation may be dire indeed, and shotgun ammo is heavy, so you simply cannot carry as much as you will need. However, ultimately, I was convinced that for many shooters this may be their only rapid response firearm, at least initially," added the ammo kingpin.
Z-Max is available in several rifle and pistol formats, including the classic 9mm and .45 pistol cartridges and rounds suitable for the popular AK and AR-15 families of assault rifles. And as Mr Hornady says, there is also a 12-bore shotgun shell "Z-shot" available as well.
The company is pretty tight-lipped as to exactly what the special sauce is that makes a zombie bullet different from a normal one, but to be fair the whole line is fairly openly admitted to be just a bit of harm
less marketing fun. Product pictures make it fairly plain that the Z-Max is nothing more than a standard plastic-tipped expanding slug* with green polymer substituted for Hornady's usual red as seen on the company's A-MAX and V-MAX lines (intended for use on people and animals respectively).
Needless to say the heated technical debate around the best and most practical ways to defeat zombies will probably only be inflamed by the introduction of Z-Max bullets: members of the cricket- or baseball-bat or cutting-and-stabbing-implement schools will have only scorn for firearms in general, and within the gun-favouring community there will be factions favouring different types of weapons and ammunition. And there will also be those who feel that a successful defence is mathematically impossible.
That type of argument is, of course, what the comment threads are for. We here on the Reg weaponry desk will get the debate rolling by pointing out that one of the best and most authoritative reference works on zombie fighting - the documentary film Shaun of the Dead - makes it clear that ordinary issue weapons firing standard military ball are all you need to suppress a zombie outbreak**. ®
* The idea here is to fit a streamlined plastic nose insert onto a normal expanding/hollowpoint/"dum dum" bullet. With its pointier nose the bullet is better streamlined and will fly further and faster than a normal hollowpoint, but will still mushroom open on impact to deliver more trauma than a fully-jacketed or hardcored round. This would normally be most relevant for rifle bullets, as pistols don't generally have enough range to make streamlining important, but some automatic pistols are subject to jamming when loaded with hollowpoints so plastic-tipped rounds are also made in pistol calibres to provide smooth feeding in such weapons.
** Readers will no doubt recall that at the end of the film the British Army turns up - without having had time, realistically, to get hold of any new ammo - and unhurriedly blows all the zombies away without difficulty ("Zombies. To your front. In your own time, go on." Brilliant).