For nearly a year, I've been laughing at the pandemic called "Zombie madness" that's running through the shooting industry. Slapping some snot-green paint and a toxic waste logo on a product and selling it - like hotcakes- to a living dead obsessed consumers, has made some companies crazier than bath salts on Miami Beach.
It's all in good fun, but so were Nehru jackets and platform shoes. Know anyone wearing those today? The jackets were usually polyester, so you know they're still out there, yellowed with age maybe, but like a zombie, pretty much un-killable.
One day - barring a true zombie apocalypse - we'll pull a cleaning kit or a box of ammo or even a pistol with zombie logo laser grips from our range bags and be subjected to the laughter that goes along with being caught with out-of-date gear. And that machete you'll still be using to trim your bushes will be good for a laugh -and it'll still be harder to lose in the weeds than anything in camouflage or flat dark earth.
Hopefully, we'll all be laughing. Even those of us who have bought stuff for our guns that will only be out of style- not out of usefulness- when the zombie craze finally, uh, dies. With CBS having covered Hornady's Zombie Max ammo last week, it doesn't appear the dead will stop rising any time soon.
Zombie zaniness is bringing competitors out in record numbers for zombie-themed matches (at least two in our June calendar) and into stores for zombie gear and targets that do everything from marking good hits to bleeding stuff that looks like leftover slime from a 1980s episode of Nickeleodeon's "Double Dare".
When Jessie Starnes showed us the rifle-mounted Double Star Zombie-X chainsaw at SHOT Show 2012, he told the story of the zombie craze in a single sentence: "We built it as a joke for SHOT and now we're taking orders and trying to figure out how to build 'em and what they'll cost." Jim Shepherd photo.
Occasionally, zombie silliness has helped companies get through a slowdown in their sales. For others already running full-tilt, they're created more pent-up demand they're unable to meet. Fortunately, for everyone, we're all having a good time with the zombies.
There's one really strong upside to the zombie theme: people who would never have considered training in the dark - with or without lights and lasers on their guns- are piling into dark-house or nighttime shoots. They're finding out - in a fun way- that shooting in the dark while moving or juggling a light is radically different from standing on a daylight range and shooting static targets.
Real-world training, no matter how you disguise it, is something most shooters don't get.
Not everyone's into the "stealthy ninja" or battle-ready troop-type training associated with most tactical training. But the most dedicated bullseye shooter quickly finds out punching itty-bitty groups in zombie targets lit by flashlight instead of sunlight is more challenging than they'd ever imagined.
And nighttime training is pretty spooky stuff. Everything looks different in the dark.
Clearing a shooting stage or a shoot house, even when you know there's nothing in waiting to hurt you other than an occasional spider, can get the pulse pounding.
When fine motor skills take a powder - for any reason - the simple act of aiming and squeezing a trigger is radically changed. It's not a change you'll forget. But it is a change all gun owners should be experienced and remembered.
Everyone who has a gun should do more than simple handling and proper maintenance, although that's essential stuff.
Having a gun and not knowing how to use it safely in an emergency, creates another threat to your family safety.
Like it or not, learning to do that means shooting at targets that look like people or animals. Odds are it won't ever be a bowling pin or bullseye target crashing through your front door in the wee small hours of the morning.
Yep, most people might not realize it, but stepping up to a line - day or night- and taking aim at a zombie is teaching preparedness. Not a bad thing.
It's why I shake my head, smile and think "let the snot-green paint flow" when I see the ever-growing list of "zombie apocalypse ready" products.
One day, someone may find their life saved because of their experience with the undead.