Night of the Living Dead Long Knives


Bad-Ass Bowies and Other Big Battle Blades for the Zombie Apocalypse


“Sabre (Saber) Bob”

Disclaimer: The following material is strictly for entertainment and educational purposes. Readers should be knowledgeable and compliant with all laws and regulations in their jurisdictions regarding the possession and use of deadly weapons, yada, yada, yada. The author and any publisher of this material are not responsible for any misuse, harm, or damage resulting from the following material—in other words; it’s your own damn responsibility.

“I’ve seen guns fail. I’ve seen swords fail. I want something that won’t fail” James Bowie in Paul Wellman’s novel, The Iron Mistress (1950)

Swords are serious retro-fun but “Enough already” about swords as melee weapons in a zombie outbreak.[1] A serious cutting sword is at least 3 pounds of weapon, scabbard, and harness[2], and they’re LONG as well—they can get in the way when you’re foraging in tight quarters, they’re a hassle getting in and out of vehicles, they bang into walls and make noise which attracts zombies (or other unpleasant people), which is not a good idea when ammo is low or non-existent. The late Hank Reinhardt, who was as much a fan of swords as anyone out there, said in a flat-out survival situation a sword would be WAY down his list of weapon priorities. Hank said his first weapon would be a rifle; the second would be a kukri; and the third might be a pistol.

If you are limited to strictly melee weapons (dedicated or improvised) you are better off with a longer range weapon carried in your hands and a shorter weapon on your person. The spear or polearm is your immediate use weapon, and can deal with a zombie at a range that isn’t quite “close-quarters combat”. If you increase the range of contact, you lessen the chances a zombie can reach you and bite you.

However, Murphy was an optimist when it comes to combat[3]. If your skull-splitting thrust with your nicely sharpened shovel only manages to scalp Mr. Walking Dead Dude because your fraying nerves didn’t make the strike quite right, you now have said zombie within the business-end of your primary weapon. Choking back your long-arm, or stepping back for distance may not be feasible—and said zombie is always coming right at you, closing the distance, and it’s already lurch and grab time. You’ve got to do something NOW. You probably won’t have time to draw a full-length sword. You might have one second, probably less. Unless you have a katana or katana length blade (27” or so) and have trained in fast draw (Iai) techniques you won’t get it out in time before Dead Fred is on you.

Also, Iai from-the-scabbard cuts with swords involve:

1. Using your left hand to hold and steady the scabbard for the draw—which means your left hand can’t do anything else, like keeping a zombie off of you.

2. The first Iai-type slash out of the scabbard is a one-handed strike that is meant to “set up”, by shock or disablement, an attacker. Zombies don’t feel pain, they don’t go into shock, and nothing less than spine or a brain shot is going to stop them. The one-hand draw from the scabbard and take the head off in one motion is the mark of a true Iai expert and most would-be survivors just don’t have the motivation or time to perfect that level of skill.

Western warriors faced the same problem as Japanese Samurai did; of onrushing attackers getting too close too fast—and Western swords were considerably longer than katanas so fast draw was not an option. The solution to this problem was to forgo the sword, draw one’s dagger with your weapon hand while using your “off-hand” to grab, block, and strike as needed until you could get your dagger into play.[4]

Modified for zombie combat, this is an excellent methodology to adopt. You are still in a very dangerous situation, but at this combat range there are no safe actions, only more or less effective ones.

Choose your weapon ahead of time. Between contemporary big-knives and historical reproductions, you have a lot to choose from, so take a deep breath and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. While some designs are demonstrably more effective than others, the attitude to inflict serious damage with no “hold-back” is quite arguably the most important factor.

First, your main consideration for choosing any blade for zombie destruction will be its shearing power—can any particular blade chop through the spine or split a skull with a full force swing reliably and consistently? Second, your sidearm must be rugged and not break or otherwise fail in action. These two qualities are primary; Ease of use, ease of maintenance, tactical versatility, and cost, are all important, but are all secondary.

Metallurgy, the physics of momentum (inertia), and geometry dictate what will be an effective big knife. Historically, blade makers were aided by user’s combat feedback in producing effective designs. Throughout the centuries, chop-emphasis big knives (as opposed to swords[5]) have shared some common characteristics:

· Total length between 14 ½“to 18”—or 1 “cubit” which was from a man’s elbow to either his first knuckles or extended finger tips. Blade length would be between 9 ½” to 15”.

· Total weight from just under 1 pound (.5 kilogram) to just over 1 ½ pounds (.75 kg)

The above parameters, combined with good steel and decent blade and edge bevels can make a blade quite capable of cutting down a zombie or a still-living human. Such a knife can be worn on your person all day long in comfort. They are also much better than swords for utility chopping and cutting chores. While they lack the all-out range of swords or longer melee weapons, they are superb for close-range combat, even in cluttered or confined spaces.


Machetes: Literally millions of men, women, and children have been killed under the edges of machetes—but most of them were helpless victims murdered by lynch mobs. Despite Max Brook’s advocacy of machetes, these utility tools have some serious drawbacks as anti-zombie weapons. The primary disadvantage is machetes were designed to be lightweight cutters of fairly soft vegetation. They were the allowed long-blades of otherwise disarmed peasants and peons. Their thin spring metal stock (typically 5/32” thickness) is notorious for producing bloody but shallow lacerations unless their typical file-sharpened rough edge is “tuned” for combat. You also need at least 17” of blade length to even consider a machete as a zombie-eliminator, so the shorter, more compact versions (with a few exceptions) have to be disregarded. Longer blades require more space to swing, which can be a real “klutz” factor in confined indoor spaces and, like true swords, they are slower to draw from the scabbard.

Machetes’ thin blade stock also has the reputation for skittering off of bones—especially skulls. Even if you penetrate to the durra-matter of the brain, that same thin blade is much more likely to become stuck in a skull than a thicker sword or knife blade. That is very, very bad if there are other zombies nearby. Likewise, machetes get easily jammed into the heterogeneous-material which composes the human neck[6]. The thin blades, especially when sharpened for combat, have a distressing tendency to “edge-fold” upon hitting resistant targets (like bone) becoming dull very quickly.

While becoming a thing of the past, many camping and hardware stores still offer the short, “pot-metal” machetes. Avoid them, no matter how cheap they are. It is ironic that for decades, a Latin American farmer making $1 a day had every-day access to a far better tool-weapon than affluent Norte Americano campers. The “el cheapo” machetes are either so soft as to making sharpening impossible or they will snap into pieces upon hitting anything more substantial than a thin green branch. Also, their two-piece plastic grips are guaranteed to cut up any ungloved hand with more than 30 seconds use.

If you insist upon a machete, good quality ones are now available at retail stores or mail order. Ontario Cutlery has been supplying the US Military with machetes for over 50 years —their basic 18” long blade model (“Latin Pattern”) is considered the standard. Get a good quality nylon or leather sheath for it—the canvas ones quickly wear out and the hard plastic sheath with “auto-sharpening” feature is noisy (rattles) and ineffective in sharpening.

Cold Steel Cutlery has several models of machetes, many with combat-oriented stabbing points (useless in zombie elimination but might be critical against a still living opponent). Some discontinued but still popular models can be found on EBay.

One machete worth considering is the Panga pattern from central Africa. With a very wide blade tip, this machete is known for brutal chopping ability (as witnessed by horrifying video footage from the Rwandan genocide). Cold Steel offers a good-quality version of this machete.

Another machete variant for zombie destruction is the famous Woodsman’s Pal (model# LC-14-B) which was originally made by the Victor Tool Company for US soldiers and marines in the Pacific theater of WWII, where it gained a solid reputation as an emergency melee weapon. Woodsman pal

Still in production by the “Woodsman Pal Company”, the Pal’s short 10.5” long blade is more than made up for the wide blade terminus and kukri-like inverse blade curve. The hand is protected by a steel knuckle guard, which could be used as in-close bashing weapon. The zippered leather sheath is a bit slow to draw from but it is very secure. The Woodsman’s Pal sells for about $80 retail.

Chinese “Butterfly Knife”: (AKA “Bart Jaam Dao”) A signature weapon of Southern Chinese Gung-Fu (Kung-Fu) styles, classically it’s used in matching pairs but both are carried in a single sheath.

Butterfly swords

With a single-edge blade almost 3” wide and from 11” to 16” long, the upswept point makes this blade almost a pure chopper.[7] A “D-ring” knuckle guard protects the hand. Cold Steel offers a very rugged combat-ready set. A definite contender for those survivors with Chinese Martial Arts background, but it can be used by almost anybody in a pinch.

Barong (or Bolo Knife): The difference between machetes and barongs (and other Filipino bush knives) is that the former is a tool that can pressed into service as a weapon while the later is primarily a weapon that can be used as a tool. A 15” to 18” blade length is pretty standard. The ability to decapitate with these weapons is well documented by those who witnessed attacks by Moro “juramatados” during the Philippine Insurrection.[8] Cold Steel offers a traditional wood-grip model and has offered a thinner-bladed machete version in 12” and 18” blade lengths.

Kukri: Apparently derived from the ancient Roman Falcata and brought to South Asia by Roman merchants, the inverse curved kukri (“koo-kree”) became the national weapon of Nepal and famous in the hands of the Gurkha soldiers employed by both the British and Indian armies. The forward portion of the blade widens out to provide axe-like cleaving power, but narrows again to provide a serviceable point. For splitting skulls, taking heads, or lopping off limbs, the kukri is many a zombie-killer’s first choice as a battle blade (as per Resident Evil III).

Ghurka kukri

An inexpensive but rugged “issue” kukri has been offered by Windlass Steelcrafts (through Atlanta Cutlery, a US subsidiary) for decades now, but that particular offering was (and still is) marred from truly atrocious blade-bevels making it impossible to sharpen without lengthy and careful draw-filing[9]. The leather covered wood scabbard is traditional but fragile. Atlanta Cutlery offers other kukri variants, including some WWI and WWII era issue knives which are quite good values.

Probably the best kukri value for your money is the Ontario Cutlery’s “Plain Edge Kukri”. With a carbon steel black oxide coated blade and pachmeyer-rubber grips, it’s ready to go from the box for about $60 retail.

Ontario kukri

On the higher end but still below custom in cost, Cold Steel offers several kukris which will do the job—from their basic “Carbon-V” black oxide model to the laminated “San Mai”.

Smatchet: (AKA “Fairsword”) This elongated-leaf-shaped big knife was developed by W.E. Fairbairn for the British Army in WWII—Fairbairn was inspired by a prior weapon, a Welsh Fusilier’s short sword issued in WWI, which in turn was based on a over 2400 years old Celtic short sword design[10]. A very basic chopping and stabbing weapon, the Smatchet received prominent mention in Fairbairn’s close-quarter Combatives manual, Get Tough! (Alternative title: All-In Fighting).

Smatchet pic

While the British Army never adopted the Smatchet in great numbers, various custom and semi-custom versions have been made through the years. Currently, Atlanta Cutlery is offering a reproduction of this 11” long bladed weapon for $89.99

Bowie Knives: In so many ways, the Bowie (pronounced “boo-ee”) may be the most versatile bladed weapon every devised. The Bowie was invented in the “Old Southwest” of the United States in the late 1820s, a place and time of frequent and casual violence but unreliable single-shot firearms. The messy lethality of the Bowie so frightened polite society, three states outlawed the use of Bowies even in self-defense[11]. As knife maker Bill Bagwell has repeatedly argued, a kukri may chop as well as a Bowie, a dagger may pierce as well as a Bowie, and a straight razor may slice as well as a Bowie, but no other knife does so many different things so well as a Bowie.

When Owen Brown wrote to his abolitionist father John that Kansas “Free Soil” settlers desperately needed weapons to defend themselves against “Pro-Slavery” partisans, Owen specified that any Bowies his father provided “must be at least 10 inches in blade length”[12]. There was a keen appreciation among users that a minimum blade length was critical to a Bowie’s efficiency. A Bowie may be the ultimate interpretation of the “cubit length knife”, which works very well with typical human anatomy in providing high speed maximum cutting force in a compact package.

There is some dispute over what exactly is a Bowie. Perhaps it would be useful to distinguish between smaller “Bowie-pattern” knives, like the USMC combat knife (7” blade) and “Classic Bowies” (at least 9” blade). For zombie elimination, only the latter category need be considered.

Classic Bowie features:

· Primarily single edge blade, at least 9” in length up to 13” (or a bit more), and at least 1 ½” in width for most of its length. Parallel , slightly tapering, or a slightly widening “belly” profiles were all common

· Short back-edge (AKAs “swedge”, “false edge”, “clip point”) from the tip, either shallow or deep concave curve in profile, either sharp from the manufacturer or can be sharpened by the user.

· At least 3/16” in blade thickness, ¼” is typical (and better), and 5/16” is quite common (and best).

· Weight should range from just under 1 pound (.5 kilogram) to just over 1 ½ pounds (.75 kilogram)

· Must have at least a single-branch guard on the primary edge side but a double branch guard (moderate or large) is more common and preferable.

Musso Bowie Diagram

Bowie (Musso) Diagram

That is pretty much it. Many features like the “Spanish Notch” or the “brass parrying strip” were mostly decorative flourishes. Handle styles varied depending on user grip preference or just period fashion.

The modern revival of the Bowie in large part stems from the1980s Rambo movies; with Jimmy Lile’s hollow-handled, saw-backed Bowie interpretations in the first two movies and Gil Hibben’s “cut-out blade” in the third grabbing the public imagination. This occurred at the same time Bill Bagwell’s “Battle Blades” column was featured in Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Bagwell argued so persuasively for the advantages of the Bowie vs. other combat knives that almost every knife manufacturer came out with new large Bowies to meet the demand.

Today, the would-be zombie apocalypse survivor has many “Classic Bowies” to choose from, to meet almost any budget. Here are some examples:

1. Windlass “Primitive Bowie” (AKA “Musso pattern Bowie”) A wide and long (13”) blade Bowie that essentially is a short-short sword. Sold new through Atlanta Cutlery for about $90, this is a great economical choice, but the issue sheath is shoddy—replace this ASAP. Useful for chopping firewood as well as zombies.

Primitive bowie

2. Western Cutlery Bowie: For decades this was one of the few available big Bowies that was made of decent steel (5160 carbon). This Bowie has a 9 ½” long blade with a wide “belly” profile and a long brass “S-guard”; the latter you might consider modifying with a judicious use of a hacksaw. Currently this discontinued model is about $120 through re-sellers. (Beware; there are truly execrable Pakistani copies of this pattern!)

Western bowie knife

3. Ontario “Spec Plus” Marine Raider: In many ways this is an excellent fusion of the best features of both the Western Cutlery Bowie and the “Case Bowie” issue-knife of the USMC’s “Raiders” of WWII. Thicker than the Case and more nimble than the Western, this Ontario Bowie comes with a black-oxide blade finish and non-slip krayton grips. With a hard-hitting 9.75” blade, it retails for about $60.

SP10 Marine Raider Bowie 83455 70549 zoom

4.        Cold Steel Laredo Bowie: The 10 ½ “blade is offered in either a SK-5 strait carbon steel ($228) or “San Mai” 3-piece laminated ($540). Custom knife maker Bill Bagwell has declared the Laredo his choice for a factory Bowie, even more than the (now discontinued) Ontario-Bagwell “Hell’s Belle”.  The Laredo even with its 5/8” thick blade is a fast, well handling Bowie.  With the issue inside-the-pants sheath, the Laredo Bowie conceals remarkably well.

Laredo Bowie

5. Cold Steel Trailmaster: Company president Lynn Thompson went from being a Bowie-naysayer to being a Bowie “convert” and this knife, circa 1987, was his entry into the field. Sold through the years in various carbon steel, stainless, and laminated “San Mai” offerings, you always get a tough, well-balanced, fiercely cutting Bowie.


It features 9 ½” blade, moderate double guard, and a non-slip pachmeyer grip. It’s sharpened with a “Convex edge” (AKAs “Appleseed edge”, “Moran edge”), so you really should learn the appropriate re-sharpening method. Retail price $300-$450.

6. Cold Steel Natchez Bowie: Essentially this is a tribute to the namesake knife of the 1952 Alan Ladd movie, The Iron Mistress (adapted from the Paul Wellman novel). With a slightly curved 11 ½” “San Mai” blade, Cold Steel is offering a more affordable version of custom knife maker “Bo” Randall’s “Confederate Bowie” (which was used in The Iron Mistress).

Natchez bowie

The quality of this knife is first class all the way, with black micarta grips, stainless guard and pommel, and a black leather sheath with belt stud. If you don’t mind paying as much for a knife as you would a quality handgun, this could be your “Iron Mistress”. Retail $585 for San Mai laminated or $240 for SK-5 carbon steel

7. Randall Knives Model 13 “Thorpe-Randall”: ”: This was the knife Bo Randall originally designed for the movie The Iron Mistress. While technically a custom offering, it’s been around long enough you can find it through many re-sellers especially at gun and knife shows. Another “short-short sword” with a 13” blade, it was impressive then and it’s impressive still. I’ve seen it on EBay for $850 (“buy it now”). New from Randall Knives, you’ll pay much more and wait at least 2 years.

Randall Thorpe Bowie

While many Bowie features (e.g. sharpened swedge, parrying guard) are superfluous in taking out zombies, these features should not be ignored in an apocalypse survival scenario. In a total absence of law enforcement still living human predators will seek to prey upon the defenseless. This problem may further be compounded by living in a region that had severely restricted (if not outright outlawed) civilian firearm ownership. If nearly every “breather” will be reduced to melee weapons, it behooves a would-be survivor to choose the most efficient melee weapons he can obtain prior to the social collapse. Even in totalitarian regimes that forbid law abiding civilians from owning firearms (e.g. China, Japan, United Kingdom) it’s still usually possible to get (or make) melee weapons and keep them in your residence.


You don’t need to be a knife fighting expert to use a big knife to put down a zombie. A big sharp blade is the first necessary part of the equation, what is then needed is the will to use it. Any motivated adult, male or female, with average physical and mental ability can “get it” within 15 minutes proper explanation, demonstration, and practice.

As has been said many times before (myself included), zombies are notoriously deficient in basic defensive actions. A zombie is so “focused” on one behavior pattern (find living flesh, grab living flesh, eat living flesh, repeat) they won’t even raise their arm up to stop any incoming blow, let alone dodge, step back, take cover from incoming fire, or even avoid open flames. One-celled amoebas have greater threat reactivity than zombies. A zombie’s tenacity to close and feed is its greatest weakness as well as its terrifying strength. As long as a survivor is facing single zombies at a time, he can minimize the bite-infection risk significantly and destroy the zombie within a few seconds.

Study the illustrations and the text below. It’s from the Smatchet section of Get Tough!

Smatchet carry

'Smatchet use1'

Smatchet use2

Carrying, Drawing, and Holding

1. The Smatchet should be carried in the scabbard on the left side of the belt, as in Fig. 113. This permits one to run, climb, sit, or lie down.

Note.-Any equipment at present carried in this position should be removed to another place.

2. Pass the right hand through the thong and draw upwards with a bent arm (Fig.114). 3. Grip the handle as near the guard as possible, cutting edge downwards (Fig.115).

Close-In Blows

1. ''Drive well into the stomach (Fig. 116). 2. "Sabre Cut" to right-low of neck (Fig. 117). 3. Cut to left-low of neck (Fig. 118). 4. Smash up with pommel, under chin (Fig. 119). 5. Smash down with pommel into the face (Fig. 120).

Attacking Blows

1. "Sabre Cut" to left or right wrist (Fig. 121). 2. "Sabre Cut" to left or right arm (Fig. 122).”

These techniques are not “Smatchet specific” by any means. They work with near any big knife, machete, cutlass, wakizashi, saber, or other one-hand cutting swords. What follows is from the perspective of a right-handed user, if you are a southpaw, reverse everything like you are already used to doing.

The primary techniques to concentrate on will be the neck chops, first to the zombie’s left neck-side, then to the zombie’s right neck side. Your goal is to sever the spinal cord; decapitation may or may not happen. Flatten out the angles of attack to almost horizontal (Filipino Martial Arts angles 3 & 4). You deliver these two strikes in quick succession in a sideways ∞ “infinity” pattern. With full arm swings and a sharp, heavy-enough blade you should drop a zombie like a puppet getting its strings cut. For getting the most out of your full-out swings, Bill Bagwell’s article “Effective Cuts” from his Battle Blades compilation book is a must-read.

If you already have your weapon drawn when the zombie comes into contact range, a quick side step to your right (avoiding the zombie’s lurching grab) is highly advisable, then stomp-step back into range for the chop-chop sequence.

If your weapon is still sheathed when the zombie comes into contact range (like the sharpened shovel “failure to stop” scenario) per Roger Ma, your free left hand thrusts out to grab the zombie’s neck just under the jaw[13]. You should lean your weight forward to keep from being knocked backwards and keep your left arm strait to keep space between you and the zombie. At the same time you are drawing your battle blade (see Weapon Carry). When your weapon is clear of its sheath and “chambered” (raised up above the zombie’s arms and ready to strike) release your neck hold and snap back your left hand while you chop across with your right. The release and snap back of your left hand is VERY important unless you want to chop it off along with the zombie’s head. With practice, you can half-pivot your body round counter-clockwise while you’re doing the right-to-left strike to both generate more power AND take you out of the zombie’s reach. This should all take no more than 1 ½ seconds TOPS.

Be adaptable. If the side of the skull is more accessible target and you have a thick chopping blade that won’t get stuck, cleave it in.

Repeat the chops as necessary. If feasible (no other zombies are near) destroy the zombie brain with a hard thrust through the temple. Use the ground to brace the head for the thrust, use your foot to assist in getting your blade out of the skull (per Tom Savini). A decapitated or near-decapitated zombie head is still dangerous as long as the zombified brain is still functioning and can send signals through the facial nerves to work the jaw muscles. So be considerate of other people who come along later.

Weapon Carry

W. E. Fairbairn’s direction to carry your blade diagonally on your off-hand side (either on the hip proper or frontal hip), the Cross-Draw Carry, is a good one, just as long as you can reach the grip easily and quickly. From a cross draw position you can generate some serious striking power in a backhand slash coming right out of the scabbard. With a good knife and a practiced arm, maybe you too can do a zombie-stopping Iai cut. Just don’t get cocky, unless the zombie’s head comes right off, follow up with another strike as SOP.

If you happen to be facing a still living enemy who’s directing a right handed blow at the left side of your head (the most common attack) this position is excellent for drawing out into a “high prime” parry (out from the scabbard, your blade is point down with the edge facing the opponent), or better yet a counter-cut to his right inner forearm. From the parry or counter-cut you circle-flip (moulinet) your blade into the left neck cut and then flip it into the right neck cut, finishing off with the stab to the abdomen. This is the sequence Fairbairn taught to the British Commandos; it’s very simple, very brutal, and very, VERY effective[14].

The Cross Draw Carry can have some comfort problems if you have to spend considerable time sitting down—like riding in a vehicle. Many people find the Lower Leg Carry to be more comfortable.

Not to be confused with the “inside-the-boot” carry, in the Lower Leg Carry you strap the knife scabbard on the outside of your (weapon hand side) boot and pants leg so the knife grip is at knee level. The lower strap actually goes through your boot laces to keep the knife and scabbard from shifting around. Don’t strap the scabbard so tight you cut off your circulation.

It only takes the slightest of crouches to grip and draw a big knife from this position, and the crouch position is an innate “stress- response” to any life-threatening situation—like a zombie closing in on you. Not only is this carry practical while in a vehicle you can also draw your knife while seated and belted in---which may be critical when zombie hands are reaching through that busted windshield to haul you out for “quality time”.

There are other big knife carry positions, but the above two are the most practical for most people and most situations.


You really should learn how to chop effectively before the zombies start roaming the land. You have to practice actually hitting things to develop power, speed, and recovery into the next blow.

Your primary equipment to safely develop these attributes is a waster and a pell. “Wasters” are wood, aluminum, nylon, or heavy duty plastic copies of steel weapons with which one can practice combat techniques with much less risk to self or others. A “pell” is a striking target you can safely hit with a waster.

Through companies like Hollow Earth Armory and Purple Heart Armory, you can purchase high quality big knife wasters. If you are minimum-handy with wood tools, you can make a functional waster out of white oak or other suitable board hardwood (Or board nylon if you can find it). Lay your actual battle blade on the board and trace out the profile, handle and all, but round the point off into a blunt half-circle. Cut out the waster with a hand-jig saw or a manual coping saw (fine tooth blades only). Round off all edges with a wood rasp or file then sandpaper smooth. Finish wood wasters with at least two coats of polyurethane sealant.

A pell can be dirt cheap—an abandoned tire hung by a rope from a rafter or tree limb will work just fine (“Mommy, why is Daddy beating up my tire-swing?”). Bolt or rope three tires together if you want a full human-length pell. If you have a few extra bucks, a torso-head dummy, such as the Century “BOB”, can be invaluable for developing anatomical accuracy and for the “grab zombie by neck” maneuver. You can also use the BOB for empty-hand strike practice.

With either route, start hitting. Hit a lot, hit hard, hit fast. Get a sweat going, let out your daily frustrations on the pell. Practice the Fairbairn Smatchet techniques as above. Especially practice draws from Cross-draw or Lower-leg carry positions. Make sure you combine your strikes with both evasive and closing footwork. A couple of weeks of solid practice (30 minutes every other day is good, more is better) and you will be VERY dangerous with a battle blade in hand, be your opponent breathing or not.

A good starting routine is:

1. 50 repetitions (reps) of left-neck and right neck strikes ( pattern) with sidestep & closing footwork

2. 50 reps of neck hold & draw, release hold & pivot-strike

3. 50 reps of draw & parry/counter cut, moulinet into left neck cut, moulinet into right neck cut, thrust to abdomen (against breathers only) with direct advancing footwork (stomping)

On any type of pell, don’t hit them with either dull or sharp steel blades. If you want to “test cut” with your actual weapon, use appropriate targets, like thick cardboard shipping tubes—or do yard work with your battle blade, cutting light branches and such. Like the Gurkas do with their kukris, become familiar with your battle blade using it as an everyday tool whenever possible.


Keep your battle blade clean. Even if it’s stainless steel, rust can develop if you don’t clean off perspiration, blood, or zombie gore. NEVER re-sheath your blade, if you can possibly help it, until you have done at least an initial wipe-off. Use whatever clothes a zombie was wearing for this. After using your blade on a zombie, when time allows, further clean your weapon VERY carefully—you don’t want to risk any infectious and toxic zombie tissue being transferred to you by an accidental cut.

Sharpening with a diamond hone set is easy—you don’t even need water to wet the hone, but it’s still useful to keep fine steel particles from clogging up the stone. Harbor Freight Tools sells a 4-grade diamond hone block which is near perfect. The magic angle for effective knife sharpening is 23 degrees. You can find this with a cheap plastic protractor or you can use an old chef’s trick; place your knife edge perpendicular to the stone, that is 90 degrees. Tilt it shallower, by half—that’s 45 degrees. Half it again, 22 ½ degrees— that’s close enough. For a diamond hone, use gentle pressure with small circular strokes, working a couple of inches of blade-length (alternating sides) at a time. Go through all of the stone grades, coarse to very fine. To finish, strop with a smooth leather belt like you would a straight razor.[15]

Suggested Bibliography:

Brooks, Max; (The) Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead; 2003

Ma, Roger; (The) Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide for Fighting the Living Dead: 2010

Fairbairn, W.E.; Get Tough! (1942 original publication, public domain on Internet), Paperback reprint Paladin Press; 1996

McLemore, Dwight; Bowie and Big Knife Fighting Method; Paladin Press; 2003

_______________; Advanced Bowie Techniques: The Finer Points of Fighting with a Large Knife; Paladin Press; 2006

Bagwell, Bill; Bowies, Big Knives and the Best of Battle Blades; Paladin Press; 2000

Kirchner, Paul; Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters and Fighting Techniques; 2010; Paladin Press

Thompson, Lynn; Warrior’s Edge (4 DVD Set); Cold Steel Cutlery

Kilogulf59; Combat Usage of the Nepalese Khururi: Methodologies and Techniques; Integrated Close Combat Forum:

Suppliers and Sources:

1. Atlanta Cutlery: Now a subsidiary of Windlass Steelcrafts, this firm offers reasonable cost reproduction battle blades along with other cutlery needs.

2. Cold Steel Knives: You either love or hate their hype, but they offer custom or near custom quality cutlery for less than custom-maker prices and no waiting months or years to get them.

3. Interesting stuff, including some moderately priced big Bowies.

4. Paladin Press: A wide range of material relating to warfare, combat, weapons, and survival which can’t get published elsewhere.

5. Comtech: Master-at-Arms James Keating sells his DVDs on the use of the Bowie and other melee weapons

6. Tricky to use, but you can get some bargains if you are good at on-line auctions. Often the only place to get discontinued items.

7. No bargaining, but used items, especially books, can be gotten for discount. Their member reviews alone are worth visiting the site. You can also find various battle blades through here as well.

8. Harbor Freight Tools: If you don’t have an outlet store near you, try their mail order. Chinese made for the most part, their tools are meant for the occasional hobbyist and handyman. Again, their 4-grade diamond hone block is near perfect for easy sharpening of just about any (non-serrated) blade.

Copyright 2012 by Robert “Saber Bob” Lehnert. Permission to quote, copy, and republish all or parts of this publication granted as long as proper credit is given.

[1] See my Katana Primer for the Zombie Apocalypse and The Western Sword Primer for the Zombie Apocalypse

[2] If you don’t think 3+ pounds of very specialized gear is a burden, ask any veteran who had to “hump” unnecessary loads day in and day out.

[3] As in “Murphy’s Law”: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible time in the worst possible way”

[4] Actually, until the advent of “Cut & Thrust Swords” (Espada Ropera) in the late 15th Century and Rapiers in the later 16th Century, most European men, even nobles, did not wear swords in everyday life. But most everybody (women included) packed some sort of knife on their person.

[5] The line between short-short swords and big knives gets a bit hazy.

[6] See how Tom Savini solves the “stuck in the zombie” problem in the original Dawn of the Dead (1979)

[7] So much so, Chinese Triad (Tong) “soldiers” have been known to use Chinese chef knives with Butterfly Knife method for street battles and criminal assaults.

[8] The USMC earned the nickname “leathernecks” for the protective thick-leather collars they wore while on sentry duty during the Insurrection.

[9] Confirmed by personal ownership.

[10] As of the time of this writing (June 2012) Atlanta Cutlery is also offering a reproduction of the WWI Welsh Fusilier’s battle blade for $94.95.

[11] Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee—statues that were universally ignored, but in the case of Arkansas, remained on the books until the 1990s.

[12] John Brown came to Kansas territory in 1857 with a wagon full of weapons, not only firearms and Bowies, but several Claymores (Broadswords) as well—and later created grisly history with those same swords.

[13] Wearing gloves, even “mechanic’s gripper gloves” can be a literal lifesaver in many a survival scenario.

[14] Thanks to Ralph Grasso, student of the late Carl Cestari, for describing this sequence on the now defunct Battlefield Forum. It also happens to be the same sequence Kali/Escrima/Arnis instructors taught Filipino students to face (quite successfully) bayonet and katana wielding Japanese soldiers during WWII.

[15] This method is for a standard edge knife. As mentioned before, if you have a “Convex” edge, you will have to learn a somewhat different re-sharpening method.