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The ultimate zombie apocalypse weapon

In this monthly blog series, our collections team write about their ‘Object of the Month’. With Halloween imminent and the chance of a so-called ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ increased, Jonathan Ferguson, Curator of Firearms, nominates a surprising candidate for ‘best zombie killing weapon’.

For October’s ‘Object of the Month’, I was asked to choose my favourite object from our collection – but with a twist. It had to be my favourite zombie-slaying object. I will be following this post up with one on the history of zombie violence, and on 30 October will be delivering a public lecture on the strengths and weaknesses of various weapons. I’m looking forward to some spirited debate with the audience.

Being someone who was practically raised on zombie fiction and now works with arms and armour professionally, people often ask me about my ideal zombie apocalypse weapon. Knowing that I’m a firearms specialist who is fortunate enough to work with one of the best collections in the world, they usually assume that I’ll reference a large and impressive gun of some sort. This is fantasy, right? Well, as a professional nerd of sorts, I take my fantasy seriously. So if I had to choose something from the collection to take with me into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, what would it be?

A flat bladed weapon with three spikes mounted on a wooden haft

A 16th-century English bill (VII.1493)

Yep, that’s right; an English bill. A long Medieval/Renaissance-era staff weapon derived from the agricultural tool of the same name and famous for its military use at battles like Agincourt (1415) and Flodden (1513). This particular one was found at Horsham, Surrey and donated to the Armouries in 1950. The head is 490 mm (19.2 in) in length, and the complete weapon (with a replacement haft) weighs 2.3 kg (5 lb 1 oz). Like all bills, it has a broad flat head with a cutting edge and two triangular tines or spikes. One of these curves forward and the other is inclined slightly backwards from the vertical. A third spike or ‘fluke’ is located on the back edge. Bills differ in detail but the basic idea is the same; a simple, robust, cheap, but devastating weapon. So why is it the ideal anti-zombie weapon?

The Killer Bill

Unlike a sword, you can swing it with minimal training at the zombie’s head and do serious damage to the brain, the jaw, the eyes, and the spine. The mass of the bill’s head (with a somewhat sharp cutting edge) moving at speed at the end of the long haft will cleave through and/or crush most structures in the human body with ease. Try grabbing me for a bite with no hands, Mr Zombie. Try moving your head with half the tendons severed. You get the idea (Michonne certainly did). The Romero zombie’s weapons are its teeth and its hands. The impact of even a weak or badly aligned blow to the head is likely to have a temporary incapacitating effect (depending upon the vagaries of zombie biology of course). Although risky, you can try for a piercing strike to the head with the spikes and stand a decent chance of getting through the skull, unlike all those ridiculous knife kills we see in The Walking Dead (are zombies actually made of jam?).

For a good idea of what a bill might actually do to a zombie, see the below ‘sling blade’ and partisan weapons being tested by ‘Zombie Go Boom’ on one of their realistic ‘Ivan’ zombie heads. The ‘sling blade’ cuts like a bill, the partisan penetrates the skull like one.

A Useful Tool

The bill has other uses:

I have other ‘melee’ weapon recommendations for handier sidearms, but this post is based on the conceit that I can only take one weapon.

It’s worth noting that Max Brooks came to a similar staff-weapon-based conclusion in his seminal ‘Zombie Survival Guide’, but settled on what he called the ‘Shaolin spade’ (and the ‘Lobo’ – a militarised version of the same thing). This crescent-shaped blade on a staff was a sound choice too, but the focus on decapitation was misguided I think. Simply put, it’s hard to cut heads off, and the bill, whilst capable of that, gives you more options. If you simply must ‘remove the head’ rather than ‘destroy the brain’, then go ahead and sharpen the inside of that blade, between the two spikes, and push really hard…

So what do you think? Am I completely off-base here? Should I be taking a hip-fired minigun with 500,000 rounds of ammunition instead?

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