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Zombies Overtake SHOT Show

Companies cashing in on products to take out the living dead

By: Steve Bowman, OutdoorChannel.com

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- It normally takes three days of roaming the SHOT Show floor before show attendee's start getting that walking-dead, 1,000-yard stare look.

At the 2012 SHOT Show, the "Walking Dead" or "zombies" have been a consistent part of the show from the start. As a matter of fact, zombies are the hit of the show, offering a little bit of fun for companies and a shot in the arm for retailers.

"It's the zombie phenomenon -- people are going crazy for it," said Meghan Hastie of Gerber, which offers an "Apocalypse Kit" that includes two different machetes, three knives and hatchet to take care of any zombie you might run across.

Gerber got started with their kit after a similar set of Gerber knives was rolled out and displayed on AMC's popular television show "The Walking Dead." The company made 300 of the kits and quickly sold out.

At the SHOT Show you can have your photo taken fighting with a zombie mannequin with Gerber products in your hands. The photo line is often several people deep.

The message is clear: Anything with "zombie" printed on it seems to be a living trend.

Click image for the photo gallery

Pop culture is littered with the growth of zombies: Video games, television shows, Halloween costumes and even zombie parades are quickly becoming popular in mainstream America. A Google search of "zombie phenomenon" produces 1.8 million results, some of them with explanations from social scientists linking zombie-like behavior to models of current public attitudes.

They may spend a lot of time psychoanalyzing the reasons. But at the SHOT Show it's entered into the realm of entertainment. And it only took a couple of months for it to hit the shooting and hunting industry in a fun way.

Like the movies that feature a deadly virus that takes over everything, the zombie virus is sweeping through the SHOT Show.

A quick look around the show floor shows zombie ammunition, zombie guns, zombie cases, targets, scopes, knives, survival kits and even plans for a "Zombie Nation" magazine. You name it or need it for a post-apocalyptic invasion of zombies and it's available.

"We are all shaking our heads,'' said Neil Davies, marketing director of Hornady Ammunition, one of the companies credited with starting the trend in the industry. 

Davies is smiling when he shakes his head and explains how the ammunition company tripped over this social virus and affected their bottom line in a big way.

"This was Steve Hornady's idea all the way,'' Davies said. "We all said, 'Don't do that. It's silly.' 

"Boy, were we wrong."

The company produced a Halloween-green and red packaging with the words "Zombie" blazed across the front with the subhead "Just in Case." The company produced enough of the rounds in several calibers that they felt they could sell in a year's time. After a few weeks of teasing it on social networks, creating a video on You Tube (search Hornady zombie video) the company introduced "Zombie Max" rounds and sold out in two days.

"I can't tell you the number we sold, that would be confidential,'' Davies said. "It's far exceeded any of our expectations. Let's just say it was a lot. You can underline 'a lot.' "

In the tight-knit shooting and hunting industry, word quickly spread to other manufacturers and the product push for zombie and post-apocalyptic equipment was on.

Jesse Simpkins of Plano was one of those in the loop, and Plano soon was producing a hard-cased box to house zombie ammunition.

"When we heard what they were producing and how popular it was getting, we wanted to sell a box for all those rounds,'' Simpkins said. "It's all in fun, but people are responding to it. That's why we are here."

It has been fun too. Hornady's videos are done in fun, one of which shows zombie-like ground hogs. The tag line to the video is simple but affective: "When Varmits Attack."

Their packaging even takes it a few steps further with "Zombie 101" lessons printed on the back.

Those lessons are offered with an obvious tongue in cheek, even though some zombies may not have a tongue.

For example each box has these pointers on it: 

Creepy Arms: They will try to distract you by waving their arms all over. Stay Focused.

Bloody Clothes: They've been snacking on your neighbors all day. Their table manners disappeared when they were infected.

Dragging Feet: Their movement is painfully slow and their feet never really leave the ground, use this to your advantage - set some trip lines around your yard.

Head: This is the only part that's worth aiming for. Destroy their brain before they try to eat yours.

The fun doesn't stop there. DoubleStar Corp., better known for making AR-15s, showed a camouflaged version of their "Zombie" gun. This one is an AK47, with a chainsaw attached to the barrel like a bayonet, for those times when shooting a Zombie isn't enough and a little slicing and dicing is called for.

After more than 30 years of a show that was built around the hunting of whitetail deer, turkeys and waterfowl, 2012 is the year for hunting things that go bump in the night and want to eat your brains. 

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