When engaging a zombie at melee distance, you’re faced with the following combat dilemma: How do you deliver a terminating blow to an oncoming corpse while simultaneously remaining outside of its hostile reach?
A frontal assault is, for the most part, not recommended. If you initiate your attack directly face-to-face with your opponent, you must have 100% confidence that you will be able to end your attacker’s onslaught with a single blow. Should your strike fail to neutralize your opponent, you will most likely find yourself within a range where the ghoul can grab you with its outstretched hands, turning the conflict from a melee engagement to a close quarters confrontation - the most perilous of ranges to engage the undead.
A better strategy is to take advantage of your superior, and your opponent’s lack of, motor skill and coordination. This is defined by the ZCC as “Passing the Grasp” - getting around, over or under the reaching, infectious hands of the ghoul and delivering a finishing strike.
An effective ZCC melee technique which you can employ is the SCS - Strafe-Circle-Strike:
1) Strafe - when confronting a zombie at midrange, you will most likely be facing each other directly. With the ghoul’s arms outstretched, it may be difficult to attack its skull without coming in danger-close proximity to its grasp, especially if you face a taller attacker with a longer reach than yourself. Your first move should be to side-step, or “strafe” left or right of your attacker. This word in this context originates from the first-person shooter video game genre, meaning to shuffle side-to-side while continuously facing your adversary. The intention is to move out of reach of the opponent’s grasp while not losing sight of it at all times. Do not turn away from your attacker during this movement. At melee range, ghouls have been known to lurch suddenly in an attempt to grab their victim.
2) Circle - once you have positioned yourself to either side of your attacker, begin to pivot clockwise or counterclockwise, ending at the left or right side (you could potentially continue circling, eventually ending up directly behind the attacker, but this obviously takes more time.) With this movement, you are taking advantage of the zombie’s lack of coordination. Recall the zombie’s coordination weaknesses in “Anatomy.” A normal human attacker would most likely turn, pivot, and track your movement should you attempt to circle him. Using the ghoul’s lack of speed against it, you are able to remain out of reach while exposing several prime anatomical targets for your assault.
3) Strike - from your finishing position, you have several melee striking options: the occipital, temporal, and nasal/orbital region of the skull and the neck are all available targets. Remember, the zombie does not possess the intelligence to block an oncoming strike, so choose whichever target suits you and your weapon best.
As you become proficient in this technique, you will be able to combine the first two movements into one smooth clockwise or counterclockwise transition, known also as the “Circlestrafe.”
Safety level of engagement: High
Combat skill required at this distance: Moderate-High
Percent chance of infection at this range: 2-5%
Long-range combat is defined in this manual as combat with an undead attacker at a distance of four to six feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) between opponents.
Long-range combat affords you the greatest level of personal safety to fight the living dead. Studies have shown, however, that it is also the most difficult range to engage and eliminate your attacker quickly. It takes substantial skill wield a long-range weapon and consistently deliver destructive blows, so weapon selection, training, and practice are essential if you are frequently engaging undead combat at this distance.
Safety level of engagement: Moderate
Combat skill required at this distance: Moderate
Percent chance of infection at this range: 10-15%
Medium-range or melee combat is defined as engagement with the undead at a distance of two to three feet (.6 and .9 meters) between opponents. For many reasons, including weapon availability, terrain, and combat skill required, this range is the most frequent distance at which combat engagements with the undead take place. Many of the strategies covered in long-distance combat can be utilized as well for melee range attacks. There are, however, some specific techniques particular to this range that can prove very useful for fighting the undead.
Although melee-range combat requires the least amount of technical skill than all other ranges, it presents its own unique set of challenges, the greatest being that you will be fighting at a distance where you are vulnerable to a ghoul’s reach.
Because you will be engaging an attacker at medium distance, a zombie will most likely have its arms extended outward, hands grasping for you, and within a conceivable range where it can potentially grab your person. You will learn in the Anatomy section that the grip of the zombie can be as lethal as its bite. Thus, a key strategy for engaging in melee range combat is to not only avoid being bitten, but grabbed as well.
During a zombie outbreak, it is not only possible, but almost certain that you will face multiple undead assailants at the same time. Do not take this to mean that zombies exhibit any semblance of a herd or pack mentality. Every ghoul is its own singular entity - it does not follow leaders, give or obey orders, or form alliances with other living, dead, or undead creatures.
Why then, do hordes of walking dead seem to cluster themselves together in mob-like behavior? The answer is simple - that is where the food is. Additionally, zombies have been known to recognize the moan of another ghoul as a signal that prey is nearby. They will then turn to follow the direction of said moan, eventually bunching in a packed swarm of shambling, fetid and voracious corpses.
Just as we detail strategies for handling single undead combatants, there are specific tactics you can utilize when facing a group of zombies. Battling a cluster of walking dead with a non-ballistic weapon is a very dangerous venture to undertake. Depending on your level of strength and skill, it is recommended that you only engage with crowds numbering in 10 or fewer ghouls.
For attack groups larger than 10, evasion and escape (E&E) is a more practical and safer alternative, as the combat strategies may be difficult to employ with larger groups of undead. Evasion is also the preferred tactic if you notice more zombies in the distance closing in on your position. By the time you have eliminated one group, you may then have to engage with another, only in a more weary, exhausted condition.
If escape is not possible, and the only means of survival is to eliminate every zombie in your immediate vicinity, study the briefings in this section to make your engagement smooth, efficient, and as quick as possible.
Safety level of engagement: Critical
Combat skill required at this distance: Extremely High
Percent chance of infection at this range: 80-90%
In a world filled with walking nightmares, this is the most hellish of all encounters. Whether due to poor planning, unfortunate circumstance, or just plain bad luck, you may find yourself at some point not only at close quarters combat distance with the undead, but also completely unarmed.
There is no more dangerous fighting situation than engaging in unarmed zombie combat (perhaps with the exception of such combat with multiple assailants.) To escape an unarmed encounter uninfected and with your life intact is extremely difficult, but not impossible. The better your skills are and the faster you act, the greater your chance of surviving.
In these particular combat engagements, the primary goal is not to neutralize your attacker, as it is extremely difficult to do so with only your bare hands as weapons. The goal is to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible, and then, and only then, to think about eliminating the threat.
Safety level of engagement: Low
Combat skill required at this distance: High
Close quarters combat (CQC) is defined as engagement with the walking dead within a one foot (.3 meters) range between opponents. Combat at this distance frequently occurs indoors, and many times unexpectedly.
Two common scenarios when CQC takes place are during undead home invasions and an urban search and rescue (USAR) operations in an apartment or housing complex. Due to the proximity with the undead and the confined space where it usually takes place, it is a frightening and deadly range to battle the undead.
At this range, the zombie most likely will have its hands on your body, and will be seconds away from a lethal bite. In order to survive at this distance, your skills need to be razor-sharp and your execution flawless.