Knives Of The Living Dead


Zombies are everywhere you look—movies, TV and sneaking up behind you. Surviving the dreaded zombie apocalypse with creatures running amok eating brains sounds like a great night watching TV. While the knife industry is not immune from following trends, any knife useful in the coming zombie apocalypse also would work great in everyday and survival situations.

Haitian folklore described zombies as individuals drugged into a death-like state, without freewill and controlled by their voodoo masters. Modern zombies had their start with the 1968 cult classic, The Night of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero. The black-and-white horror flick has served as the model and inspiration for movies, literature and more than a few costumes. Forty plus years later, The Walking Deadtelevision series on AMC, inspired by the comic series of the same name, has become a smash hit.

The modern zombie is a dead body infected by an unknown disease that craves human flesh. Zombies seem to have an affinity for brains, though it is hard to imagine what primitive zombie thought process figured that out. It is hard to sit through modern zombie thrillers without jumping in your seat, or stifling a scream when the previously hidden zombie grabs the unsuspecting victim.


So, what role would a blade have in a zombie apocalypse situation? The rule of thumb for these movies is you are on your own during the disaster and for some time after. Recent natural disasters have shown this to be true in real life as well.

The first thing that comes to mind is you need a gun. That’s fine, except current zombie lore teaches us gunfire attracts zombies—and you will run out of ammunition. As long as you have a knife in your hand, you are armed. Ergo, the first use of a blade is for defense. The politically correct term is “de-animating” the zombie, as you cannot kill what is already dead. Your goal is to make it stop moving, or more specifically, stop moving toward you. This seems to involve destroying or cutting off the zombie’s head. Try not to set the zombie on fire, as the idea of a 6-foot burning match stumbling through your hideout seems a bad idea.

The second need for a knife involves day-to-day survival. This would include preparing food (preferably the kind zombies do not like), preparing wood for fires, and providing shelter. As a serious knife enthusiast you might have a wide range of tools for the job. If not, the knife companies that have embraced the zombie movement have made your job easy.


KA-BAR has been in business for over 100 years. Its Zombie™ Knife line is hard to miss with its “toxic green” handles. While most knife enthusiasts associate KA-BAR with traditional military issue knives, the Zombie Knife lineup presents new knives for a 21stcentury sub-culture. Paul Tsujimoto, a KA-BAR senior engineer, reports that many zombie enthusiasts were already using knives such as the KA-BAR 1217 USMC fighting/utility knife. Taking that enthusiastic base and providing purpose-built zombie knives involved embracing some basic rules.

“We didn’t have to totally rethink our design philosophy,” Tsujimoto began. “Any knife can be a zombie knife but we prefer it to be a KA-BAR, as we are the original Zombie Knife. But some general guidelines would be: big, strong, simple, capable of multi-tasking, a true wilderness type of knife.”

As mentioned, the KA-BAR Zombie Knife lineup stands out because of the striking green-colored handled. “The Toxic Green handle was one of the ways to keep some distance from our more traditional lines,” Tsujimoto explained. “We wanted to keep it way over the top/tongue–in-cheek. But we added a set of black handles so if people wanted a more conservative look, that could be accomplished. It seems that toxic green is the new blaze orange.”

KA-BAR’s Zombie Knife lineup includes models such as the 5698 “Kharon” Tanto Folder and 3058 “MULE Folder,” both lockbacks, to larger chopping or slashing knives such as the 5701 “War Sword” and 5702 “Pestilence Chopper.” The 5704 Zombie “Chop Stick” would be at home in a campsite chopping wood as well as quelling any zombie uprising. The only model that seems out of place is the small, stealthy 5699BP Zombie “Acheron” Neck Knife. It is a great little knife with an all-black finish; it just lacks the eye-catching green handles.

The future seems bright for KA-BAR’s Zombie Knife lineup. Tsujimoto reports two new models coming that he cannot announce yet and a blunt-nose machete modeled after the World War II USAAF Machete. When asked about any special deals, he stated, “Buy now before they run out. There will be no deals when the apocalypse hits.” How can that not be excellent advice?


Gerber Gear, maker of Gerber Legendary Blades, manufactures knives, machetes, saws, axes, flashlights and other survival necessities. The company has introduced The Apocalypse Kit, which is an easily carried roll that opens to provide access to seven razor-sharp cutting tools: the Gator Machete, the Gator Machete Pro, the Camp Axe II, the LMF II Infantry military-style sheath knife, the medium-size DMF folder, the smaller Epic sheath knife, and the highly functional Bear Grylls Parang. This collection of tools made its TV debut on an episode of The Walking Dead. Finding the rolled-up tool cache in the back of a truck, as they did on the TV show, would make any survivor happy. It is hard to imagine needing anything else except for a silencer-equipped chainsaw.

Product placement allows companies to put their product in the movie or TV scene. Sometimes it does not make sense and seems out of place, but with Gerber’s Apocalypse Kit, the company has placed the product in a very logical situation (albeit a little too convenient) where the tools can be featured in use. Though the knives for the action shots have rubber blades, one can get a feel for how they might be used in the unlikely zombie attack. Gerber also had a zombie-themed display at the 2012 SHOT Show, where visitors were invited to pose with the blades from the kit next to a threatening zombie dummy (see picture above).

Gerber has taken on the growing trend toward survival preparedness in the same way it approached wilderness survival with its sponsorship of Bear Grylls (page 30, July 2011 BLADE “Gerber doesn’t have any plans to create zombie-specific knives yet,” Gerber’s Andrew Gritzbaugh said, adding, “the current collection of gear is up to the task today.” With an MSRP of $349, the Apocalypse Kit is a collective group survival bargain.


The folks at Zombie Tools in Missoula, Montana, have a very different approach to the zombie problem. If KA-BAR and Gerber represent the well-established corporate approach, the craftsmen at Zombie Tools represent the barbarians at the castle gate. With roots in the sword enthusiast community, this small company works hard to keep up with demand for its blades. Rather than mass production, the Zombie Tools sales literature proudly states, “Our blades are made with 100 percent American-made materials, and they are made by five guys in a shop in Montana.”

Using 5160 spring steel with aluminum handle slabs wrapped with leather, the blades are built for hard duty, though the makers admit not all of their swords see use. “Our customers seem to break into two camps: those that like our blades for the aesthetics and hang them on the wall, and those that take them out and use them,” the Zombie Tools literature maintains. “Brush clearing and campfire wood splitting seem to be the most common uses.” With a very well-designed website and YouTube videos showing their blades in action, the Zombie Tools crew takes an irreverent look at zombie hunting and the abilities of a well-designed handmade blade.

Examination of the Zombie Tools Vakra, which sports a kukri blade, quickly reveals the care and workmanship that goes into it. With a price of $249.95, the 19-inch-long Vakra has a significant presence when removed from the well-made Kydex® sheath. The quarter-inch thickness does cause the weight to hit 1.75 pounds, but the heavier weight is appropriate for the kukri-inspired design and the knife’s inherent chopping ability. Along with the Vakra, Zombie Tools also makes several swords, including katanas, as well as other zombie-capable slicers.


At a recent knife show, dealers were asked, “Who is the typical zombie blade enthusiast?” Several agreed they are mostly, though not exclusively, males of all ages, and definitely viewers of zombie TV shows and movies. The knife companies entering the zombie arena of marketing did so only after significant research. The winners are knife consumers, who benefit from some seriously fun tools that also have a practical purpose.

Should the dreaded zombie apocalypse fail to materialize, you still have some great tools. If it does, game on—you are now prepared!—by David Jung


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