Thursday, February 12, 2009

Zombie Weapon: Bow and Arrows

As a follow up to my previous post regarding crossbows, I feel I should say a few words about traditional bows as well.

Most zombie resources, including the Zombie Survival Guide will tell you that a bow makes a lousy anti-zombie weapon. And there's a lot of truth to that. From the simplest straight bow to the most tricked out compound hunting bow, they all have most of the same limitations.

First of all, they are slow to fire. Even if you leave an arrow knocked, you still need to raise and draw the bow before you are ready to fire. In a situation where you have only a slit second to react, this can make a difference.

The second issue is dubious penetration power. Now, not to get the wrong impression, a well placed arrow with a hunting tip can definitely penetrate the skull of a human or zombie target. However, most arrowheads are designed to hit the torso of an animal and slice their way into the vital organs. Then, as the animal runs, its movement causes the bladed tip to simple tear the creature's insides apart until it finally dies. The hunter then follows the blood trail and retrieves his kill. Unfortunately, zombies don't have any organs they're particularly worried about losing.
Unfortunately, these arrowheads are not designed to penetrate hard bone, particularly a thick and sloped one like the skull. Anything but a direct shot has a pretty good chance of glancing off with no more damage than a truly nasty cut. Not something you want when a zombie's approaching you.

The third issue is the most important. Guns are simple. Crossbows are simple. Point, pull the trigger, and if it's aimed right and your hand is steady, you should have a clean kill. Not so with a bow. Even a skilled archer needs to take his (or her) time to draw the bow, line up the shot, and release the string. This sounds simple, but doing it properly takes anywhere from two to three seconds and not one but two calm, steady hands. Rush the shot and it could go anywhere. And it's a tricky shot. A large human head is about the size of the center of an Olympic target, and it's moving.

The bottom line here? Don't use a bow to try and kill zombies. Just run. So, why bother with bows at all, when they have nearly no combat application? Simple.

They weren't designed for hunting zombies, but you can always use them for what they were designed for. Hunting animals. Hunting with a rifles is easier, yes, but a single gunshot could alert every zombie and every potentially hostile human in the area. Then every zombie who hears, moans, drawing even more of his undead brethren to your location. It also depletes your limited supply of ammunition.
On the other hand, in the hands of a skilled hunter, a good bow and the right arrows can bring down anything from rabbits to bear. (Though I would recommend you avoid the latter.) Not only is it a silent way to find food, arrows can usually be reused. A wood or fiberglass recurve bow is also light and can be stored pretty easily under a seat or on the back of a bike.

Now, I'm not saying that every survivor on the run should carry a bow. In fact, almost all of the advantages of a bow and arrows also apply to a crossbow, while a crossbow negates many of the disadvantages. So, Zombie Weapon? Maybe not, but they were the weapons of choice for other survivors throughout the centuries, and if you know what you're doing they'll work for you too.

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