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Zombie Nation Personal Defense Survival Zombies

Reader Question: What Happens to Rotting Zombies?

by Patrick Sweeney   |  December 9th, 2011 55

OK, this being an interactive experience — or at least, as interactive as I’m willing to let it be, it isn’t a democracy – a question has come up that I’ll answer.

“Why don’t rotting zombies rot into nothing? How can they still be around, days after infection?”

Hmmm. First, have you had a chance to see just how long it takes to rot to “nothing”? In a non-hostile environment, a corpse can have a recognizable structure for weeks or even months. Add in the diet laced with anti-oxidants — fashionable amongst the granola set — or preservatives — ditto: the fast food set — and degradation will slow down even more.

In the absence of stimuli, we don’t know if zombies are still active. That is, if there are no sounds, bright lights or smells to attract their attention, do they still move?

The question is known as the Heisenberg Zombie Principle, in that the presence of an observer triggers a response, so knowing what the response would be without the trigger is unknown. Some recorded observation indicates that they do still move, but since we cannot remove all potential stimuli, we can’t be sure.

So, stopped in the shade and out of the rain, an inactive zombie loaded with preservatives — either from their own diet, or that of the victim they fed on — may not rot as fast as that raccoon you’ve been watching all week on your daily commute. The one that lost playing tag-with-a-Buick, on the highway. That’s the one.

If you have an idea as to how we can construct an experiment to garner some data, I’m all ears.

Next question, please.

  • David

    A you guys serious? What a waste of words and energy! This magazine and it's writers have nothing better to write about except zombies?!?! How about you all get back on track and write about guns and gun rights in this country instead of continuing the idiotic stigma of "Crazy" gun owners!

    • mactex

      You took the words right out of my mouth. All I could think when I saw that Pat Sweeney was writing an article on why zombie don't rot was "ReallY? ReallY?"

      • pballer

        dudes, its called entertainment.

        • Michael

          I would figure that in the heat, normal decomposition would take around 3 weeks before they cant walk anymore. But of course, then they just crawl. Probably another 2 weeks for that to stop.
          So if you can hold up with at least 5 weeks worth of food and have adequate shelter…you're all good.

          • James Mac

            Don't be a fag, it's these sort of articles that show we're not all full auto wielding John Rambo wannabe back wood conspiracy nuts.

          • James Mac

            That was meant for David, I have no beef with yOu micheal
            And the pathogen that is responsible for zombification aids in the preservation. Read zombie survival guide(book) its free online

    • Rykko

      Hey Dave, up yours. Don't like it, don't read it. Im tired of reading reviews on Benchmade Knives in my GUN magazine. Guess what? I DON'T READ THE KNIFE ARTICLE!!

      Grow up, your words are also a waste of space.

      • David

        That is exactly the typical response a 12 year old would make after reading a valid argument annotating the stupidity that is being written about here.


  • Chris Ryan

    Embalming fluid (used to contain formaldehyde) probably slows the process some–also, lots of the bacteria that could eat the body after death start in the guts (sorry, internal organs), which are removed (or used to be) by the undertaker–er, funeral home director?–not sure what the PC term is these days.
    Thanks for your fantastic books.
    CR, MD
    Denver, CO

  • Eric

    Should give Max Brooks "The Zombie Survival Guide" a read. It describes the Zombie virus and why Zombies behave the way they do. It states that bacterial that normally attack a dead body will reject flesh infected by the Zombie virus. Essentially embalming the Zombie's body.

  • Aaron

    If you are referring to 'virus' zombies, it is quite simple. The virus that kills the human remains in the body. The human part dies., but the virus/bacteria still remain in the body. These living organisms create electrical impulses created from biological process. Those bacteria that remain in the brain create this process enough to stimulate the synapse reflex in the brain stem and core, thus creating a kind of symbiotic brain impulse. It is enough to stimulate the body's basic function, i.e heartbeat, lung function, muscle movement, etc.. but not enough to stimulate the entire brain. The consumption of flesh as fuel is sufficient to keep the zombies moving. Research still is unable to show whether this is a product of the 'person' parts (temporal, frontal lobes, etc) of the brain not sharing the same impulse reflex as the core/stem or just a question of not enough stimulus. So, yes, zombies are the walking dead. The person (virus host) dies, and only then does the body pick back up due to this electrical stimulation provided by the virus and wha-lah ZOMBIES!

  • Barry

    This Zombie line of articles and even ammo. is a negative for responsible bun ownership. It makes us look like a bunch of idiots. I have been a NRA life member since 1977 and this kind of stupidity will not do our cause any good. Please stop this and terminate anyone who promotes it.
    Gun ownership is a serious business. Guns should be held by responsible individuals. Those folks DO NO read articles about Zombies.l

    • Kelly

      the whole "zombie" craze has done a lot to help draw the next generation of shooters out of their bed rooms, and away from their couches. They have finally had motivation to set-down a video-game controller and pick-up a variety of firearms in NRA-safe environments… they are learning that REAL guns are a lot better hobby than pretend, they are meeting real people, and they are becoming a genuine part of the circle of men (and women). If it takes ideas like "zombies" to draw them out of their coma then I'm for it. Visit a zombie shoot sometime, yeah there may be some silliness, but there is also some serious open doors which have helped initiate the next generation to a wide variety of other shooting sports. If we DON'T work to wake the next generation, then we can say good-bye to our gun rights & watch our glorious collections pile into incinerators like so many other countries have one – a great many people are patiently waiting for this video-game generation to sign-away their rights and their arms – what are you willing to do to keep that from happening? Me? I'm even willing to talk about zombies.

      • Ben_OBrien


        Your comments are absolutely, positively right on the money. Your thoughts reflect those of the editorial team here at G&


        Ben O'Brien
        Online Managing Editor

        • David

          So, to promote gun ownership you all continue to promote fantasy and fallacy in hopes it brings the mindless degenerates into the gun owning world? Let's face it, how many times a day do you hear/see/read about some clown who is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Those same people have never been gun owners and haven't the slightest clue what it means.

          This is all fantasy. Nothing more than that. It's a false hood that keeps getting tossed around in hopes it'll make a buck. Instead of promoting fantasy to those who, well, pretty much believe in fantasy, how about promoting the positive side of gun ownership. The comradery, fellowship, competitiveness and responsibility.

          Let's really look at this…you all say this is getting people off their couch and away from the controllers yet you are all still promoting the same fallacy just with real guns.

        • Peter M,

          I spose it is same as dressing up as a cow for cowboy action shooting.

  • EdgeGun

    I don't get it. Why is this on a "gun" website? Does this publication actually believe in this nonsense? If you do not, then why are you giving all of this time, attention and publicity to this stuff? I want to hear about real issues, with real guns, not this cartoon trash. It makes you (and us) look like a bunch of fools.

  • rey

    @Aaron, the Zombie virus host body is not a functional body. Metabolic functions such as digestive and circulatory systems are not functional. That is why you can shoot a zombie in the chest, or even separate a Zombie head from the body and the head will continue trying to bite. Zombies are able to drag themselves by stumps and even if you were to cut one in half, the upper torso would continue to attack. Clearly, no metabolic functions are present or needed. This presents a dilemma, why would a Zombie continue to eat the living if it can not digest the food or use it for energy. No digestive system and no circulatory system to carry said nutrition to the cells means no need for those systems.

    It is true that the infected brain continues to send electrical signals to the rest of the host body. That is how the muscles move and clearly the infected brain tissues are still operational. This explains the zombie's ability to detect and pursue pray. The actions taken by the zombie body are a reflection of the virus most basic needs to spread and consume. The Z virus wants to spread just as any other virus and this is reflected by the host body actions in pursuing what it interprets as the way to spread and consume. At this point the host body is little more than a meat puppet for the Z virus.

    To the point of why the body does not deteriorates as fast as a normal corpse? The Z virus acts as an anti-bacterial. The bacteria that normally break down the human tissue become infected before they are able to multiply. A virus been much smaller than a bacteria can and probably does infects and kills any bacteria that attempts to consume the host body, killing it in the process.

    Regardless of the anti bacterial function, since the body is not been repaired (no cellular activity) decay does occurs, just at a much slower rate and is not bacterial decay as much as abrasion and environmental damage (water dissolving the tissues, sugars and chemicals that react to the neural impulses been spent, etc).

    @David… because it is fun. If you are reading an online magazine for anything other than entertainment, you are confusing the media with something that its not.

    • Kelly

      zactly rey! they're UNdead, right? so why would they rot at all? They're falling apart piece by piece because the body no longer repairs itself, and they haven't the mental capacity to avoid injury.

  • PeteD

    I'm with. Comment number one. Don't we (gun owners) get enough criticism without adding
    Fuel to the fire by re-enforcing their image of gun slinging renagades
    Looking for anything to shoot even if we have to make something up.

  • Ryan

    People get a grip it's all about fun and entertainment. The zombie craze is out there everywhere right now with the movies and tv shows people just want to have fun with it. I mean come one there are bleeding zombie firearm targets on the market. If you don't like it don't read about it but let the people who have an imagination enjoy themselves.

  • matt

    this is ridiculous crap. stop the zombies thing already.why are so-called professional writers catering to people who play video games. great… give more fuel to the anti gun crowd, and theres plenty of them in todays lefty world. the guns and ammo magazine i remember growing up in a responsible gun owning household was a quality publication. this is garbage.this sweeney guy is a zombie. go back to playing video games in your mommy and daddies basement moron.

  • FrancisX

    Thanks Ryan – It appears that some here may have swallowed a bit too much koolaid and actually believe all the rumors floating around about the government's desire to seize all our guns. Sorry but before that day could ever happen the government would be tossed out on their ear by gun owners from both sides of the political spectrum. In the mean time I will continue working on my shooting skills so I can take out a zombie with a head shot at 50 yards every time I pull the trigger.

    For those interested in the targets they can be found at

  • SemperFlyBoy

    Patrick, I worry for you. I am concerned about your preoccupation with the subject of zombies. Having found no clues in my Patrick Sweeney library that suggest the genesis of this unhealthy fixation, I can only surmise that either you or your PC has been recently exposed to the zombie virus. Since your hair had already begun to fall out (and we won't talk about those skin lesions) before the zombie articles started, we should assume the problem is in your PC. It is time for you to follow one of your own recommendations and move your PC to an appropriate location and inject it with anti-zombie serum via a Remington model 870. Two 00 buckshot rounds applied every 4 hours for 3 days, should do the trick. If the problem persists, call tech support.

  • Dreager

    I find it kind of odd that guys that complain about G & A talking about zombies would be all over a discussion about their town being invaded by bikers or a Red Dawn type scenario against the Commies. that stuff isnt going to happen either. Why do civvies practice in 3 gun matches? not like you're going to go through 3 guns in a home invasion! It's fun to talk about, thats why. a diversion. Zombies are popular right now, so why not have companies like Hornady, G & A, or anyone else for that matter, make some money off it.

    No one commenting on the Zombie stuff thinks the Zombie apocalypse is coming, unlike the guys hiding in their basement bunker eating C rations waiting for the world to collapse.

    Patrick, this might not be your usual fare, but I thought your article was well written, like always.

    PS an article on the 50AE Desert eagle for stopping zombies would be awesome.

    Semper Vigilance

    • mactex53

      The point is that those who would paint us all as right wing, gun crazed, consipracy obsessed fools have another example to wave around when making their point. How do you argue when of the top gun writers devotes an article to this subject? Sure, WE know it is tongue in cheek, but those who are unsympathtic
      to preserving guns rights will not bother with that distinction. The NRA spends millions each year combatting negative sterotypes, lets not make a challenging and important task any more difficult.

      • Dreager

        sorry, I just can't agree with you. I think the impractical tactical crowd always dressed in camo and hunting with machine guns does more harm than the rest of us talking about zombies. The people I know who don't hunt/shoot see an article with a guy hunting deer with an AR and they think he's crazy. Whereas everyone knows there are no zombies, nor does anyone think we are taking steps to seriously prepare for a zombie invasion.

        Hell, look at concealed carry articles. although many non shooters might not have a problem with someone carrying a pistol for self defense, I've read articles where guys talk about carrying 3 guns in "case of failure" now thats silly

        • David

          First off, no one hunts with machine guns. Yet another "Gun owner" who doesn't know anything. You claim hunting with an AR style rifle is some how advancing the stereotype of "Crazies?" Yet again, you are purely mistaken. You think that somehow someone hunting with a "Look alike" rifle is some how crazy…Tell me, how many rifles are used on a daily basis that are/have been based off of a military type rifle.

          The problem with all of this is: Whether it's online or in an actual printed article, look at the stigma this is presenting. You think that this is the only push back G&A gets for their articles? If so, you're crazy. Many of the articles being written nowadays, promote unsafe gun handling, misinformation, fantasy/fallacy and incompetence.

          Keep believing that this whole zombie craze is "Cool and in", that'll help all of us.

          Bottom line, anyone who goes out of their way to promote; zombies, end of the world, SHTF, government take over et al…Are the ones who are really putting us all in a poor view.

          Maybe you should actually READ some of the articles that have been written in G&A. Most of the authors used to be great people, now it appears they are selling themselves out for a buck. Mr. Sweeney was one of the foremost experts of his time in gun smithing, training and supporting gun rights. Now, well lets just take a gander at the zombies…

          • Dreager

            I know the distinction between firearms types. but you know what bud, most people see an AR as a machine gun.

            And I hunt, I don't go to the woods with a 30 round magazine, as some writers tend to encourage for coyote hunting. I've lost interest in reading AR articles, but you dont see me whining about G & A writing the,. If you don't like reading the zombie articles, just don't.
            and i wouldnt worry about negative stigma of these articles, cause I'd bet my last dollar that 99.9 percent of people who don't shoot(which covers most urban population) don't know G and A exists, and sure as heck aren't sitting here reading it online.

          • David

            And again, you're wrong.

      • George

        The antis paint us that way anyway. The anti-gun crowd was saying were were right-wing crazies long before the zombie fad and they will be saying it long after.
        The heck with them. Relax and have a laugh with the zombie fun.

  • matt

    litle by little francis x, little by little, thats how the leftys do it. ever hear of the gca of 68. that was just the start of eroding our rights as resposible gunowners,if you're even old enough to remember back that far. why are you advertising zombie targets anyway?koolaid, whos talking about koolaid? i'm about facts not fiction like zombie target assholes who make money off of that silliness and make legitimate gunowners look like wackos.just think for a minute… what do you think the anti 2nd amendment crowd thinks of when they see zombie targets and the ammunition it provides them to attack us legal gun owners.pleeeease grow up. if this what a once quality pulication has to do in order to stay afloat i want nothing to do with it.

  • George

    Come on people. Just because we are responsibly armed citizens doesn't mean we can't have a little fun!! Being too over the top serious makes us look pretty crazy too…

    • mactex

      These are serious times. When can anyone, really, be TOO serious about preserving our rights when there are powerful people attempting everyday to limit them? If you have to have a giggle, get it in the paint gun realm – discuss which color the zombies like least, maybe.

  • John Doe

    If G&A is no longer a "quality" publication producing suitable material for your reading non-entertainment then just leave and don't come back to whine about G&A's Zombie articles. Stop acting like pissy little b**ches. Jeez, we heard your griping after the lat two articles and pretty much told you where to go and you still come back to whine some more. I don't believe the article was entitled "Those who think Zombies are stupid and a waste of time speak out".
    I go to the NRA website for 2A information, maybe you should check it out. I come here for entertainment.

    • mactex

      How about those of us who are serious about guns rights stay with GUNS AND AMMO, and you zombie hunters go to marvel comics.

  • Rick


    Please can't we have just have a little fun once in a while? Yes firearms are very serious and we all know it. I personally find it silly as well, but find myself reading the articles anyway. Lighten up and take it for what it is! I know lets read yet another amzing peice about how the 1911 is the best pistol evermade. Stop taking yourselves so seriously.

  • REI

    Just ordered some Hornady Zombie Max ammo to give away as Christmas gifts…. it will make for a good laugh and likely be highly collectable ammo down the road.

  • mike

    I like having as much fun as i can that is why i enjoy loud noises/dressing up for re enactments and such .we need to teach our children all aspects of shooting sports or history, or hunting i have a hard time with looking like a zombie hunter and still try to teach our kids gun safety and how people just dont get up after getting hit with 00-buck or 9mm/dead is dead

  • Alan

    The whole " zombie " thing is just a little bit of fluff … a little bit of fun .. a little bit of entertainment and I don't understand why some people get so belligerent . BUT I CAN TELL YOU ….. that these people are probably the same " rompin' stompin' boys " that drive so many new or want to be new gun owners from the local ranges and gun shops . I am a Benefactor Life Member of the NRA … been a member since 1963 … an instructor in three disciplines and I'll tell you something …." the romping' stompin' boys " who are so dead serious , who can't have fun … do just as much harm to our cause ( protection and expansion of the 2nd Amendment ) as Chairman Oba….. oppps I MEAN , President Obama and the " Loonie Left " . If the whole " zombie " thing bothers you so much …. just don't read it , problem solved !

    • Dreager

      nicely said

  • Barry

    Just got my renewal notice for Guns and Ammo. They had better get back on track as a serious firearms publication for responsible owners or they can just forget my subscription. I vote with my feet, if I'm not happy with what I'm being sold, I just walk away. I just can't believe that the publisher is that stupid.

  • Kevin Smith

    First off, I think that the "Zombie" Articles are only on line. Second, zombie articles allow us gun owners to consider IDEAS that is a relief from the seriousness of hunting, home defense, or reloading. So those of you not interested in the whole zombie thing just don't read, and leave the rest of us to indulge in our fantastical scenarios.

  • Snug

    Who says there are no Zombies? Just watch a few minutes of D.O.J. answering questions on "Fast & Furious".

  • R.K.

    "Lighten up Frances". The Zombie articles are online only, and if you don't like them, don't read them. My dad taught me to shoot at a very young age, long before video games existed in arcades, let alone home consoles. If it gets "modern" youngsters interested in shooting sports, mission accomplished.

  • Mark E. Johnson

    Patrick, I read with pleasure this article and laughed uproariously at some of the discussion chain. Tongue-in-cheek is my favorite form of writing. Thanks so much for a light-hearted look at such a ridiculous scenario. I have enjoyed you in every venue I have witnessed and look forward to many, many more articles and videos.

    BTW, could you include some discussion on the use of silver bullets for vampires? ;)

    • David

      REALLY Mark? Everyone knows that vampires are killed with a steak through the heart. SILVER BULLETS are for Werewolves!

      Personally I would rather hangout with guys who want to spend a day at the range shooting at paper zombie targets and having a good laugh than hangout with guys who get all cammo-ed out, paint their faces, spritz themselves with urine and then sit in a blind to shoot deer that get fed every day at the same time from an automatic feeder. Where is the fun or challenge in that?

      • Guest

        What kind of steak…Ribeye or Sirloin? LOL :)

  • D. Evans

    Ok, I know Hornady is a BIG advertiser in G&A. They just have released their NEW line of Z-Max (Zombie Killer Ammunition) There are NO reviews of this new ammunition to be found. How about getting serious and doing an objective review? To me, the ammo appears to be a standard Hornady FTX bullet with just a piece of green polymer dropped in to the hollow point cavity. I hate to see G&A get involved in a advertisement hype gimmick.

  • John Doe

    Not just green plastic, but glow-in-the-dark green plastic. Kinda nifty. I hope they change all of their polymer tips to the glow-in-the-dark plastic. Could be useful if you drop your spare mag in the dark.

  • Peter M.

    I shoot and collect military rifles, both bolt and semi auto, for the history and fun of it. Sadly, there is a possibility of a SHTF scenario or, actually several different scenarios and NO chance of real Zombies ( thankfully). Do I think SHTF is likely or can I put a percentage of likelihood on it? No, it will either happen in one or more ways, or it won't, and I do believe the chances are remote. Remote or not, just like the farmers at Lexington and Concord, many folks I know keep a large stockpile of ammo for the same reason they have a fire extinguisher in the house. At worst, they and their children will be able to visit the range for a long time w/out hitting Wallyworld first.

  • Wmarrer

    Just to let you guys know, the CDC made a zombie preparedness article on their web page to motivate the young generations to prepare a hurricane or earthquake survival kit by calling it the zombie survival kit so don't freak out even the government is hopping on the band wagon if it means saving lives.

    • Dreager

      and i heard they got 10x the normal number of hits

  • Phil

    Always thought the zombie apocalypse meant the roaming gangs of live looters and rapers that would come out if our economy collapsed or after a natural disaster, which has happened before. I agree that making specalized zombie ammo and targets and publicizing it in Guns & Ammo, make us look stupid and crazy and is good ammo for the control advocates. Not sure if I will renue my subscription.

  • Tasha

    Know what I love about zombie movies and genre? Watch the people who survive yet have never shot a gun. They're eager to learn now, aren't they? A few even touch on the "I used to hate guns" topic. No one in zombieland is free unless they're armed. The actors demonstrate well how guns are a tool, and a valuable one at that. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, et al, are nice, cushy examples of evil. They don't exist, so no one gets angry when we shoot them. Shooting zombie targets is fun. Shooting targets of a black kid carrying skittles and an ice tea, now THAT will get you in trouble. The super left will use it as a sign of craziness, yes, but anything involving guns to them is nuts. These are the people who want cops to stick with tazers and nightsticks. Zombies and monsters are metaphors for society, and just plain fun. Get over yourselves!

    As to the question: zombies will eventually decay, but not rot. They are not suceptable to the normal biological processes as they are undead. There s also much debate as to how the virus sustains the body and itself. Many movies, including 28 Days Later, address the natural life span of a zombie, but itis a moot point as almost all series take place within days of the initial infection and rarely go past a month. Not all zombies are created at the same time anyhow, so there will be a ripple effect dragging the appocalypse on for months. In series like The Walking Dead we find the virus isn't spread by bites, but is airborn, and merely waits dormant until death, which is a result of a toxic zombie bite. So in all fanitasy, waiting it out is impossible because it is impossible to factor all the variables. The second you thought you were safe you'd find that the virus seeped into the groundwater and is present in plants and animals now, your only food source!

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