Tuesday 28 February 2012

Don’t Open – Dead Inside

The Walking Dead comic series. You either already know it, or you don’t. I guess this article is aimed at those who don’t.

I’m assuming that you have watched the TV series on AMC and finally heard that it was based on a comic series of the same name, written by the incredibly talented Robert Kirkman. Maybe you saw them on the shelf at the Barnes & Noble. It’s slowly calling you; someone you know has recommended reading them. Before you go and buy that first issue there are some things you should know. And there is a warning you should take seriously.

Let’s Start with that Warning

You may not be ready for this comic. You may not be “tough enough”. I know you’re scoffing, but you have to know strong “John Wayne” types have broken down and written Kirkman to tell him what a cold bastard he is. You laugh, but you’ll find out. I’ve had people come back and say, “You told me, Dave. And you were right.” I can just nod in understanding.

Are you ready for the comic? There is a simple test you can give yourself. In Season 2, Episode 7, “Pretty Much Dead Already,” (also known as the mid-season finale – whatever that is), it is revealed that poor little Sophia has indeed been bitten and is now a zombie. Lori grabs little Carl tight and tells him not to look as his friend Sophia is kindly and humanely put out of her zombietude by Rick. There are joke images floating around the internet ridiculing Lori for telling him not to look, but not covering his eyes. But there is little debate that poor little Carl needed his innocence protected.

Test Question: Should Lori have covered 8-year old Carl’s eyes so he wouldn’t have to see Sophia (about the same age) get put out of her misery?

If you answered an instinctive, emphatic “yes,” then you are not ready for what Kirkman has in store for you in those awesomely illustrated pages. Trust me. There is no “wrong” here; you’d just be happier spending your money on something else and remaining ignorant. Just know this, whatever happens in the The Walking Dead TV series, no matter how “rough” it seems, it is the kinder, gentler kid brother of the comic. If the TV series is Glenn, then the comic series is at least Daryl. Or, maybe it is Merle and Daryl on a Friday night with too much beer and nothing to do. Get the picture?

Don’t Cheat Yourself

Having warned you out of kindness; having said, “If you are a kind, gentle soul then don’t open, there are dead inside,” I can now say, “DON’T miss this! Don’t cheat yourself out of an American literature masterpiece.” I know, comics are mind rotting junk. Kirkman has transcended that image (often justly deserved), and transcended the genre as a whole. Reset this all in your mind as “graphic novel” instead of “comic” and experience an incredibly brutal and brutally honest examination of the human spirit under the ultimate duress.

No Spoilers, Dang You!

The Walking Dead Issue 19
One really important thing to know about the comic is that you are not going to spoil your enjoyment of the TV show, nor are you going to “spoil” some event. Likewise, your love for the show won’t mess with your enjoyment of the graphic novel. Kirkman has stated that his story is in an alternate universe where the idea of zombies never happened so people had no clue. The show is another alternate universe entirely.

Obviously I’m going to save some stuff for other articles and they’d need lots of room to discuss, but I can give you examples. Shane never makes it out of the camp where Amy dies. (Yeah, that’s a little spoiler, but it in no way prepares you for the where, how, or why.) Daryl doesn’t exist, but other characters just as great do. Characters are different in so many ways that you will experience a little vertigo. Carol is a little hottie; Andrea a strong, competent sharpshooter; Lori is pretty likeable. Even the zombies are “different.”Dale is the only character who remains the same in both mediums and I wonder if even Kirkman knows why.

Certain things never happen in the show, like Wilshire Estates, which will actually add to your suspense. There is a special issue, “Rise of the Governor;” who is he? Good? Bad? What? And once you know, you’ll be waiting. Will he be in the show? Is he coming? And if he does, how will he be different? Everything that does happen in both happens very differently. Yes, Carl gets shot by Otis, but in totally different circumstances. No, you cannot spoil either the show or the graphic novel by experiencing the other.

Conveniently Packaged for Your Schedule

The Walking Dead Compendium One
One thing that is nice is that you can get it sliced in bites that fit your schedule. The single issue comic books are about 20 pages, easily taken down on your lunch break if you turn off Twitter. There are the 6-issue trade paperbacks (which I am buying). I like these as you get a really good punch in the face yet time to rest (I’ll explain later). There are the 12-Issue hardcover books and the 48-issue compendiums. If you like to get in bed, pull the sheets up, and really get in a good read, then the compendiums are a good bet. Another advantage to these formats is you can match your budget. You also can find electronic formats on Amazon and such.

Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

I’m going to do the editorially stupid and tell you now to just ignore the first half of this article. Go. Buy. Become addicted. You can cuss me later if you feel like it. You will definitely cuss Kirkman at some point.

Kirkman stresses at every chance that the whole point IS the human condition. Zombies are just the weather, the tidal wave, the sinking ship. How does one person become stronger and another break? When civilization has shattered what social morals still apply? He dances his characters through an amazing, brutal series of events where absolutely no one is safe. That alone should be a warning. Everyone is so used to Hollywood shielding the hero, protecting the popular. Kirkman shows that all humans are truly equal to a zombie hoard or other “stressed” humans. You will want to call him evil, but that is like calling a lion or a hurricane evil. It just doesn’t apply, especially when he is just holding up an honest mirror.

Walking Dead Issue 45
I had the flu when I first read the graphic novel. I had all 91 available issues on my laptop… waiting for me patiently. I’m not a comic reader. I read a lot of them when I was a kid, but nothing in the past 20 years for sure. But I had the flu and the bed and nothing else to do really. “What the hell? Let’s take a look at this”, I naively thought. Suddenly a few moments/hours later I realized I had read 50 issues, then 60. I just couldn’t stop. In the end, I read all 91 issues in a 14 hour marathon. I loved it and I think this is the only way to really “experience” the intensity. The characters get no breaks from the horror and as a reader you don’t either. But I also felt like I’d been mauled by a bear, eaten by a lion, crapped out, and then buried in the sand… and that wasn’t the flu talking. I had been through Kirkman’s vision.

Six months ago I would have boldly said, “Hell ya! You cover Carl’s eyes! What the hell are you thinking?!” But today, I know.

I know that, in the case of something so world shattering as a zombie apocalypse, I was wrong. This isn’t a “John Wayne” reaction. I’ve come to realize that Kirkman’s vision is sharper than mine and more honest. In the graphic novels Carl experiences a life that censorship laws and soccer moms and Child Protective Services won’t let on the silver screen. But it is those censorship laws and soccer moms that are out of sync when the reality is the dead eat the living.

Kirkman’s vision is sharper, more accurate. I only read about the zombie apocalypse through his eyes and I have changed. For the better I hope. And when you “know” we can get together and chat.

Sunday 26 February 2012

The Cure is Worse than the Disease

Hershel Greene
Hershel Greene
Up until recently, the defining aspect of Hershel’s character has been his staunch belief that Walkers are in fact sick people who could potentially be cured some day. Although he has come away from that way of thinking following the barn incident, the idea of a cure is one worth pondering. On the surface, finding a cure would seem to be the best possible outcome of such a terrible situation. People no longer having to live fear. Walkers becoming human again. The world beginning to rebuild itself to some fraction of its former glory. However, this idealistic vision thinly veils what truly would be a horrific reality.

The most basic problem is the severe deterioration Walker bodies undergo in the time since they have died and been reanimated. Millions of former Walkers would be short digits, limbs, chunks of flesh from all over their bodies. The best case scenario is the group who could live without the parts they are missing. The worst case scenario are all the ones who would suffer in agonizing pain before dying because their bodies are so far gone. It is a safe bet that by the time any sort of cure is discovered Walkers would vastly outnumber the uninfected, so the logistics of simply providing medical care are unimaginable. Considering how we are always hearing stories of nursing shortages here in the United States, and that without any global-wide disaster, there is no way adequate medical care could be given to all that would need it.

Even though a significant number of Walkers would survive the transformation back into being human, from there the problems just grow. Assuming that they regain use of all of their faculties, these former Walkers would have months, even years, worth of memories of brutally murdering innocent people and engaging in cannibalism. Many, if not most, would be unable to live with themselves knowing what they did. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be seen in those having experienced a wide range of trauma, from house fires to sexual abuse to war, so it is a sure bet that incidences of PTSD would skyrocket to unseen heights in former Walkers and surviving uninfected alike, both having experienced such horrific events. Cases of depression, violence, self-medication, and flashbacks (among others) would also crop up, whether as a result of PTSD or independently. As with the physical maladies discussed, the shear enormity of the psychological care needed would be insurmountable.

Another volatile issue in a world with the cure is handling the relations of uninfected and former Walkers. Reintegration would be a nightmare. Can you imagine living down the street from the person who tore apart your best friend with their teeth? Or moving back in with the spouse who ate your children alive? Violence between groups would be commonplace, as uninfected sought revenge for a loved one’s death or even just a way to release all of the anger. It would be the Truth and Reconciliation of Rwanda, but to the umpteenth degree.

As much as Hershel seemed to think that a cure would solve all of the post-apocalyptic word’s ills, in reality it would just create a whole new set of problems. Problems that could not be dealt with through a simple bullet to the brain. In the end, it seems the only sort of cure that would suffice is one that put Walkers out of their misery.

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Influence of Lori and Andrea

The big brawl between Rick and Shane looms on the horizon, and at the center are two of the show’s most polarizing figures.

In this post-apocalyptic word, most of the skills and jobs held before are completely irrelevant. For someone like Lori, who has no outstanding capabilities to fight walkers¹ or survive in harsh conditions, the only option is to attach herself to someone who is capable of those things. Enter Shane who, if inferences made from their conversation in Triggerfinger are correct, has had a thing for Lori since long before the virus happened. He is strong, a fighter, and willing to do anything to keep Lori and Carl safe, even if to the detriment of others. Then there is Rick. Her husband, also strong and capable, and a natural leader. Both of these men, although different in approach, are very much the alphas of the group.

Under these circumstances, it would be difficult to find a sense of self-worth, as Lori’s entire existence depends on another person. This all has led me to believe there is a part of Lori that enjoys having two alpha males fighting over her. It may be disingenuous to say it is a conscious feeling, but there is at the very least a sub-conscious pleasure to be had from the turmoil. Lori’s helplessness and neediness has fed into both men’s love and desire to protect, who then spend most of their waking energy on her. The majority of their decisions, especially of late, have been based in some way on Lori and, to a lesser extent, Carl. It would be difficult not to get an ego boost from such hyper-aware attention from the two most desirable men around². Despite being the one protected, Lori wields a very real power over them, and seeing as she has little control over the rest of her life, it is little wonder that she would sub-consciously revel in it.

Despite clinging to certain pre-apocalypse societal norms, such as honoring marriage by sticking with Rick, Lori shows a new level of ruthlessness in Triggerfinger. Shane’s increasingly aggressive way of handling things and obsessiveness towards Lori finally has her worried, and the way she approaches this situation is really what cemented my belief on Lori’s enjoyment of wielding power. She pulls a Lady Macbeth and essentially tells Rick that he needs to kill Shane before Shane gets him first. Although this showdown has been a longtime coming, Lori provides the tipping point for Rick.

The other player in this tableau is Andrea. She was in the same boat as Lori, but showed from the beginning an intense desire to be able to fight and has been reckless in its pursuit. Andrea has alienated herself from most of the group through the attempted suicide and endangerment of others by using a weapon without training, so when shown the least bit of consideration from Shane, she grabs onto it with a death grip. He has provided the means for her to finally be a contributing member of the group, as well as validation that she has some worth. Because of this, Andrea has been willfully blind to any indications that Shane is unstable. It of course doesn’t help that Dale is the one attempting to convince her of Shane’s duplicity, as she remains resentful of his interference at the CDC.

shane and andrea
Andrea is not the only one getting something out of their relationship. In Andrea, Shane gets outside reinforcement in his belief that he is the only one that really takes care of the group; that the actions he takes are the correct ones. Although Shane does not need nearly as much outside influence as Rick does to come into conflict with each other, Andrea unwittingly provides it. When Shane says that their group is being put in danger and Andrea replies “Well, then we need to stop it”, she undoubtedly means making sure that Randall’s group does not find them. However, in Shane’s mind the real danger, the one who is standing in his way, is Rick. This constant affirmation from Andrea for his every action just cements in Shane’s mind that something needs to be done about Rick, both to protect the group and so he can claim what he believes to be rightfully his: Lori and the baby.

Based on the previews and sneak peaks for 18 Miles Out we will most likely be seeing the big confrontation between Rick and Shane and I for one cannot wait to see how it plays out.

1. Obviously Lori had her first Walker kills in Triggerfinger and did so fairly competently. However, I will postulate that this happened because there was literally no other option. She has shown over the course of the show a distinct unwillingness to learn survival skills. In any other situation we have seen where Lori come into contact with Walkers she has let someone else take care of her. The biggest instance of this was when the heard attacks camp in season one. All Lori does is scream “Shane” and hide behind his back. Perhaps with these recent kills we will see her evolve into someone that is not content with being saved, but as of now she is firmly in the role of the protected.
2. Although Daryl is the most capable of anyone in the group to survive, he is still viewed as a second class citizen by most of the group and not as a leader. At least, not yet!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Best Friend or Barky Liability?

In a world ruled by walkers, survivors must surround themselves with those they trust and who can help keep them safe. Bad choices are often made, leading to betrayal or fatal mistakes. With my slightly skewed priorities, this makes me ask one question: Where are the dogs?

The Walking Dead Dogs
In our reality, every time a major natural disaster occurs, there are people who refuse to evacuate because many shelters don’t accept pets. Others leave behind nearly everything else, but pack their vehicles to the dome lights with animals.

So far in The Walking Dead, we’ve seen virtually no dogs. I believe there were a few shown slinking around the streets of Atlanta, but the only ones I remember being the focus of anyone’s attention are the “little-fluffies” tucked in their doggie bed at the nursing home protected by the Vatos. Is this how it would be?

Many dogs would fail to survive the early days. Their owners might be unable to return home, and some would flee without their pets. If the dogs were unable to escape their houses, they would eventually perish. Some pets who were outdoors or able to find a way out would become prey to other animals. We’ve seen walkers eat horses, rats, woodchuck, and (sadly) at the beginning of season two, dogs. (Thanks Iain for finding that reference – and disturbing photo – for me!) So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised not to see many dogs wandering about, but I would have expected to see more.

Guard Dog on Patrol
In urban areas, where wild game doesn’t exist and food sources are dwindling, survivors would eventually begin to hunt dogs. I imagine they’d be relatively easy targets, given their ingrained inclination to trust humans. In fact, I wrote this element into my own apocalyptic novella. I hated it. You might not believe me, but I’ve given this way too much thought. I would honestly starve before I would kill and consume a dog. Still, I recognized it as a likely scenario in the story, so I included it.

Cats are another story. Feral cat colonies exist nearly everywhere, in both urban and rural areas, but they are way harder to catch than most people realize. Which makes me also wonder why we aren’t seeing more feral cats slinking around.

Felines aside, I’m a true-blue dog person, and I know you can never discount people’s devotion to their canine companions. Shouldn’t we see at least some dogs accompanying groups of survivors? I would certainly try to bring my dogs with me and keep them safe. Yes, I’d have to find a way to feed them, but it would be worth it.

Wouldn’t it?

On one hand (or paw, as the case may be), dogs could be a huge liability. In addition to feeding them, most dogs bark. In the case of my dogs, they bark a lot. We know walkers are attracted to sound. What would the primitive survival instinct sparking in their brain stems tell them about barking? It could be “Yay, sound! Let’s eat!” But in their human lives, walkers would have known the sound of a barking dog served as an alarm. This might continue in their primitive reptilian brains as “Uh-oh. That sound means our snack-packs know we’re coming, so we should shamble as fast as our decomposing joints will allow in the opposite direction.”

That being said, babies and small children make noise and are hard to control, too, yet everyone seems determined to haul them along through the countryside.

On the other hand, dogs could be a significant benefit. Sure, not a crazy, out-of-control yap-monster…but perhaps a more cooperative canine? Dogs are our companions, giving us comfort and acceptance when no one else does. But they also evolved to work by our side.

Dogs have senses which greatly exceed ours. Their eyes are sensitive to movement, their ears are far more acute than those of humans, and their noses are so much more advanced it’s hard to calculate. Many breeds, especially if trained, could be of enormous benefit in the quest for game.

A dogs sense of smell would be extremely useful
during an apocalypse
In the area of security, their eyes would detect a rustle in the woods or the flicker of movement between buildings which would be invisible to their bipedal companions. This would be especially true at night, when people are nearly blind. Their (adorable, scratch-worthy) ears would pick up the distant shuffling of festering walker-feet while they were still far enough away to allow the luxury of escape. If the humans were attuned to their dogs and paying attention, this early alert system could save many lives.

And those wonderful doggie noses! I must assume walkers don’t smell all that great, what with the rotting and absolute absence of personal hygiene.

This brings me to a quick side note. Where does all the flesh the walkers eat end up? Does it just sit and rot in their stomachs? They’re dead, so I’m guessing “no metabolism.” I’ve never seen a walker, um, eliminate digestive byproducts, so I’d expect them to eventually swell up and burst from all the yummy, bloody goodness they’ve consumed. But enough about that, as I’m grossing myself out.

Back to those dog noses. The advantages of having these marvels of evolution working for you would be immeasurable. Dogs would quickly develop an aversion to the undead, especially if their people knew anything at all about training and reinforced appropriate responses. Imagine approaching a building full of food or supplies and knowing well before you enter whether there are “Dead Inside.” And, as previously mentioned, dogs would be valuable when it came to detecting and locating delicious, roastable wildlife.

I’ve been surprised by the lack of dogs in The Walking Dead, even on Hershel’s farm. It’s true the wrong dog might get you killed. But the right dog might be the thing that tips the survival scales in your favor.

What do you think? How else might dogs be beneficial (or detrimental) to a group of survivors? Larger dogs could be used to help carry things, like water. Could they be trained to attack walkers, taking out the legs and hindering their ability to reach you? Could they guard injured people or small children, giving an alert if walkers ventured into the vicinity? Would you take your dogs with you?

I certainly would.


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Tuesday 21 February 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Love Triangle: Shane, Lori and Rick

I’ve read a lot and heard a lot about the Shane, Lori and Rick triangle. Here’s my two-cents about it:


He loves Lori. From what I’ve seen, he has loved Lori for years. Long before the apocalypse drew her to him. As much of a “prodigy, banging 30-year olds on the regular” as he was, I believe he was always jealous of Rick for finding Lori. Of course, modern society left Shane at a disadvantage, because Rick was his best friend. Then Rick and Lori eventually married and had Carl. But I believe Shane always envied Rick because of that, and always saw what Rick had as his.

I mean he essentially saw Rick come into his own as a man and a leader, (this requires some assumption, based primarily on Rick’s authoritative demeanor in Days Gone Bye and Shane’s proceeding subservience leading into Season Two). Shane possesses the drive and natural protective instincts that a leader needs, but he does not have the right attitude nor the much-needed ability to detach his feelings and look at things as right versus wrong. I’ve said it before, and I thoroughly believe it: You need more than guts and determination to live in zombie land. You need compassion and good character. Just because the world’s gone to hell doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. Fair enough?


Her relationship with Rick was rocky before the introduction of walking corpses. Can you imagine that in your wedding vows? ‘Till death do we part, in sickness, health, and ravenous walkers.’ Married with zombies is a bit of an understatement. I believe she wanted Rick to be more assertive. To “yell at me when he’s mad,” and not take her crap all the time. Hell, she gave him permission to yell at her after the morning after pill fiasco. How twisted is that?

That is one of the reasons why I think she was drawn to Shane after the apocalypse. Yeah, he lied to her about Rick’s death, though in his defense, that hospital was a hell-mouth. But I think she was too quick to believe him. Again, the introduction of zombies kind of forces one to deviate from ‘normal behaviors,’ but I believe it does that for the already weak. I think Lori was looking for a way out of that relationship when Shane offered her salvation.

There’s no doubt that Shane and Rick are two different men; Shane is the aggressive, ‘inherent’ alpha male that reacts; Rick is the passive, unlikely alpha male that thinks. They each have desirable qualities, but as a woman, I think Lori most identifies with Shane as her close to perfect mate. I think she loved him. But when Rick turned up alive, it through everything into question. Does she love Rick because she cares deeply for him? Or because she’s married to him?

I definitely believe she is torn between both men, and while her motives may not be pure, her actions are necessary to push Rick into a final confrontation with Shane. Tell it to the frogs.


Rick is a man that does not encourage his violent side. He is by no means a coward; he showed that in the closing minutes of Nebraska. But I do believe he needs to brazenly meet confrontation with the same determination he had when confronting Dave and Tony. Namely, those choosing to challenge his leadership; in a word, Shane.

Now just because modern society has vanished doesn’t mean everyone has to follow Rick. They are free to make their own decision to leave. But since no one is attempting to go it alone, they all need to respect Rick. He is making the tough decisions, considering right and wrong in a world where most would pick wrong over right in an attempt to survive. Now I do not agree with all of his choices; for example, I would have shot Randall in the head and moved on.

But I respect what he is trying to do. He is trying to hold on to humanity in a world that forces most to abandon it. Now Rick has been trying to avoid a fight with Shane because Shane is his best friend. He values Shane’s commitment to the group and the necessary skills he brings to the table. But just like a wolf pack, there can be only one Alpha. And when an Alpha is challenged, like Shane has been subtly, (and not-so-subtly) doing, a fight is inevitable. We are, after all, animals.

So when it really comes down to it, this Rick versus Shane issue needs to be resolved. Not just for Rick to reclaim his family, but to show Shane that he needs to either respect Rick and his decisions or get out. I hear Nebraska’s nice.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Firearms 101 – Handguns

All opinions expressed here are entirely my own, as are any errors. There is no expressed or implied liability for the information presented here, which is strictly for entertainment purposes, and only as it pertains to a possible Zombie Apocalypse.

Firearms generally fall into three main categories: handguns, rifles, and shotguns; each with their own advantages. Pay attention, class; today we will discuss handgun basics.

Rule #1 – First and foremost: Always treat every handgun as if it is loaded.

Rule #2: Never point a handgun at anyone or anything that you don’t wish to completely destroy.

Rule #3: Keep your finger along the side the handgun, away from the trigger, until ready to fire.

A handgun is any small firearm, available in a variety of calibers, which can be fired comfortably with one hand. With the shortest barrel of all firearms, handguns are good close-range weapons and easily kept with you during normal post-ZA daily activities, but more difficult to aim properly. Frequent practice is a must to develop and maintain the skills necessary for the head shots required to stop walkers at any range over 10 or 12 feet. If you choose to use a handgun in the aftermath of a ZA, your choice should be governed by your comfort level handling guns, what’s available when the ZA occurs, and whether its intended use is for self-defense only or active walker-hunting.

The two major types of handguns are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols; these general terms refer to how each gun moves a new bullet into position to be fired.

A revolver, like Rick’s Colt Python, is so named because the cylinder (which holds the bullets) “revolves” within the gun’s frame to bring a fresh bullet into firing position. It has the advantage of being an older, more rugged, and simpler design with fewer moving parts than a semi-auto. Also, it can withstand being hidden or stored for extended periods with no discernable decrease in functionality, meaning it’ll still work when you need it to. Its biggest disadvantage is the limited number of shots; it will need to be reloaded after only a few (usually 6.) To reload, swing the cylinder out of the gun’s frame, manually eject the fired shells, and insert a new bullet into each chamber – the openings in the cylinder that holds the bullets. (This process can be accelerated with a speed loader.) After the new shells are in, firmly press the cylinder back into the gun’s frame. I strongly advise against using a sideways wrist flip to “snap” the cylinder back into place, despite what you see on TV or in movies, as this can cause greater wear on the moving parts of the gun.

Most modern revolvers are double-action (DA), meaning each pull of the trigger will simultaneously cause the cylinder to rotate while moving the hammer back into the cocked position, which then snaps forward and causes the weapon to fire. Classic Western cowboy guns are single-action (SA) revolvers, and cannot be fired without first manually cocking the hammer. Double-action revolvers may be cocked and fired in single-action. Because the action of the SA gun is doing less work, the amount of pressure required to pull the trigger is less than for a DA. I recommend cocking the hammer and firing a revolver in single-action if the walker is at a greater distance (requiring extra care sighting your weapon), or if you have to make every shot count due to limited ammunition.

The other major handgun type is the semi-automatic pistol, like Shane’s Glock 17. This gun “semi-automatically” brings a new bullet into position to be fired while cocking the hammer during the chain of events that occur after each squeeze of the trigger.

In every firearm, the bullet is propelled forward by the rapidly expanding gases resulting from the controlled explosion of gunpowder caused by the firing pin striking the primer in the center of the back of the shell, which in turn was caused by squeezing the trigger … but I digress. In a semi-auto, these rapidly expanding gases also cause the top of the gun, or slide, to move backward. As the gas pressure inside the pistol dissipates, an internal spring then forces the slide forward, pushing an unfired bullet into place. The two important things that occur during this cycle are the opening created in the side of the gun as the slide moves rearward through which the empty shell is ejected (keep this in mind when choosing a handgun, as some find their gun suddenly showering them with hot brass casings to be a distraction) and the hammer is cocked for the next shot.

Ammunition for a semi-auto is held in a removable magazine, sometimes incorrectly called a clip, which fits into the gun’s grip. The magazine has a strong spring to keep the bullets at an opening in the top, ready to be moved into the gun by the slide’s movement.

Reloading the semi-auto is fast and easy. After the last bullet has been fired, the slide will stay open in the eject position; remove the empty magazine, insert a full one in its place, and release the slide. As before, the slide’s forward movement puts a fresh bullet in the gun, and you’re ready to put down more walkers. When surrounded by walkers, having extra ammunition can mean the difference between becoming a walker yourself and living to kill more walkers tomorrow. Um, you DID remember to pre-load several magazines before heading out to slay walkers, didn’t you?

As with revolvers, the designation SA or DA will indicate whether or not the hammer has to be manually cocked before the first shot can be fired. Unlike a revolver, since a semi-auto cocks the hammer after each shot, all other shots are single-action. While all firearms should be regularly cleaned and oiled, semi-autos require more frequent care than revolvers to stay at their operational peak.

So, class, which type of handgun would be best for a post-ZA world?  Well, obviously, one that you can hold. Being able to grip your weapon comfortably is paramount; if it’s too big for your hand, you may not be able to hang onto it when it goes “bang”. Handguns come in all sizes, so try several to find the one that best fits your hand.

Now it’s time to consider ammunition size, or caliber. A number of handgun calibers are available, but in the event of a ZA I feel more consideration should be given to the larger ones for their greater destructive power; simply put, smaller shells like the .22, .25, and .32 just won’t cause enough damage to stop a walker with one shot.

My revolver choice would be a .357 Magnum. One big reason is its ability to also use the lower-power .38 Special shells, effectively doubling the pool of available ammunition. (Although the .38 and .357 are nearly identical in diameter, the .357’s longer shell will not work in a .38 gun.) .357s are popular with police departments, civilian shooters, and collectors, so ammunition should be easy to find. Exotic revolvers like the .454 Casull may have more stopping power in a single shot, but if the ammunition is so rare it can’t be scavenged from Wal-Mart or a local mom-and-pop gun store, the gun will quickly become a useless paperweight.

In semi-auto, I’d have to go with .45 caliber. The .45 ACP and 9mm are among the most popular and readily-available, but in a post-ZA reality the faster 9mm bullet can over-penetrate the target, meaning it may continue on into objects (or people) beyond the walker. The .45 doesn’t have this issue, and packs quite a wallop – the sheer force of impact can knock a walker down. The iconic Colt .45 (also known as the M1911 and later M1911A1) is one of the most durable, recognizable, and copied guns in the world, and still hugely popular in the civilian market – they’re literally everywhere! However, if you’re looking for a newer design or a higher-capacity magazine than the Colt’s seven bullets, try a Glock 21, Sig Sauer P220, or Heckler & Koch USP (if available). Any of these would be an excellent choice.

No discussion of handguns would be complete without some attention to the subjects of recoil, proper grip, aim, and how to carry your weapon. If you remember Newton’s Third Law from Physics class, you’ll understand recoil, or the “equal and opposite reaction” created by the gunpowder propelling the bullet forward. How much recoil a shooter feels is determined by a combination of: the size/power of the shell; overall weight of the gun; and to some extent, barrel length. Larger calibers have more power, and therefore potentially more recoil to be felt by the shooter, which is where size and weight of the gun itself comes into the equation. There is more “felt recoil” from a short-barreled (2.5 inch) revolver with a lightweight frame than a heavier police-style weapon of the same caliber with its more robust frame and 6 inch barrel. And while many semi-autos are available in small, light, “compact” versions, the “full-size” pistol will transmit less recoil to the shooter and hold more ammunition. Recoil also affects the shooter’s ability to reacquire their target quickly for subsequent shots, if needed. Also keep in mind that longer barrels are more accurate.

How to grip a handgun
Now we come to holding the gun. While it may look cool, the “gangster” grip is a bad idea. Using a two-handed grip on your weapon whenever possible allows you greater control over your weapon and your aim. Holding the gun in your strong hand, press it slightly forward into your weak hand (which should cup around not under the strong hand), making sure that the hammer (revolver) or slide (semi-auto) will not come in contact with your hand. This supports the gun through the entire firing cycle, and the “pushing forward” will help reduce felt recoil. Pointing the gun at your target, tip your head down slightly and look at your target, with the rear and front sights of the gun visible – but possibly somewhat blurry – as you line up both sights with your target. This is your sight picture. Begin to squeeze the trigger gently so as not to pull the gun to one side or the other (and off-target.) After the gun discharges, re-acquire your sight picture and fire again, if needed, to dispatch that pesky walker. And if I catch any of you holding your gun one-handed and sideways, I’m gonna send T-Dog over to bitch-slap you!

Quick access to your weapon In the event of a ZA is more important than concealing it. Holsters available for your choice of sidearm can include inside-the-waistband, police-style and Old West gun belt hip holsters, military special-warfare thigh holsters, and shoulder holsters. Personal preference and comfort are huge considerations when choosing one, as well as how easily the gun can be drawn when needed and weapon retention – so it doesn’t fall out of the holster!

Before we dismiss for the day, I’d like to make a point about firearms as portrayed in The Walking Dead; I was glad to see the target practice at Hershel’s farm, although I would’ve liked it to have been sooner. To emphasize an earlier point; like any skill you develop, shooting requires frequent practice or the skill deteriorates. Don’t skimp on training and re-training. Oh, and I really wish Shane would have taught Andrea how to very slightly “lead” the moving target with her weapon – but that’s another class all by itself!