The latest brand to get into the "zombie" branding fad is gunmaker Ruger.
No kidding. Billed as "The Zombie Slayer," the Ruger LCP 380 ACP retails for around $460 and features neon green "Zombie Slayer" and "LCP Z" with a red slash branded on the side of the gun. The "Zombie Slayer" serial number prefixes are "ZOM," natch. For added quirk, the Ruger Zombie Slayer package includes the gun, case and lock accessories, and a copy of the book The Zombie Survival Guide.
Gun enthusiasts immediately ridiculed the stunt, leading some to question if Ruger's popular limited edition program is just lurching forward like the walking undead it's trying to cash in on.
"Hmmm, I guess a person better be able to reload a mag fast!" and "Guess you could use it on yourself before you are consumed by the zombie horde" wrote a few commenters about the questionable stopping power of a .380 against the undead. Others noted that it was just a marketing gimmick, and a tired one at that.
Ruger's zombie gun comes on the heels of a sort of zombie apocalypse in weapons marketing. For example, The legendary Ka-Bar knife brand released a line of "Zombie Killer" knives. Then, ammo company Hornady produced "Zombie Max" ammunition which will "Put the dead to rest for good."
As a disclaimer, the Hornady brand adds, "But please note, Hornady Zombie Max ammunition is not a toy. It is intended only to be used on zombies, also known as the living dead, undead, etc. No human being, plant, animal, vegetable or mineral should ever be shot with Zombie Max ammunition. Again, we repeat, Zombie Max ammunition is for use on zombies only - that's not a nickname, phrase or cute way of referring to anybody, place or thing. When we say zombies, we mean zombies."
This isn't Ruger's first encounter with a special edition weapon and questions about "stopping power."
In 2010, after Texas Governor (and current candidate for the GOP presidential nomination) Rick Perry shot a threatening coyote while jogging (Perry, not the coyote) outside his home in Austin, Ruger produced a "True Texan Coyote Special" limited edition gun. Also a .380, the same model Perry was carrying at the time, the gun was extremely popular and sold out within days. The gun bears the motto "A True Texan" on the side and comes in a box with the message, “For Sale to Texans Only.” The gun also boasts an engraving along the top barrel of a coyote howling at the moon (no doubt protesting gun-carrying joggers).
We spoke with the "The Boss" at McBride's Guns in Austin about the Coyote Special. He told us it was one of the most popular guns the store has ever sold. After selling what he called "quite a few," the special edition gun ran out. McBride's reached out to Ruger and requested another run, as customers were still asking about the Coyote Special. Ruger, however, declined.
Since then, Ruger has released other special edition guns, including a National Rifle Association LCP .380 Pocket Pistol.
Aside from the pragmatic, tactical questions of whether or not a .380 is appropriate for killing zombies, other gun owners have raised questions about how such marketing gimmicks hurt the seriousness of the firearm marketplace as a whole. Gun ownership is a contentious issue in the United States, and casting it in the light of a joke or a "game" does the gun industry no favors.
As one commenter put it: "I like zombies fiction. I like guns. But... this cheapens firearms and IMO could make the purchaser look like a loon. What happens if there is a justified or unjustified shooting with this stuff. The press or lawyers or both would have a field day."