I first met Erik Schmidt during our trip to the firing range last summer. He was our instructor, the guy who stood next to us in our firing stalls and taught us gun safety, proper stance, and all of those other things we needed to actually hit our targets while not shooting ourselves in the foot. You know those times when you meet someone and you’re immediately amazed by how much they know and how much they genuinely love what they do? This was one of them.
As it turns out, Erik loves zombies almost as much as he loves guns, and he’s put as much thought into his own hypothetical survival plan as any of us. So much thought, in fact, that he’s become Brant’s unofficial firearms consultant (and personal training instructor).
In celebration of Veteran’s Day, I sat down with this bad-ass former Marine to learn a little more about his career and to get his thoughts on everything zombie — from his opinion on which caliber is best for taking out zeds to how he’ll be contributing to Class3.
Read on to see what he had to say!
First off, tell me about yourself! What’s your background?
Well, my professional history with weapons goes back to the eight years I served in the Marine Corps, where I was a combat engineer, a rifleman, and a machine gunner. During my time as a Marine, I participated in the first Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield/Storm).
After the military, I went to college for criminal justice and was hired as a Federal K9 Enforcement Officer soon after I graduated. A few years later, I moved into local law enforcement with specialty assignments such as mountain bike officer, riot squad member, firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, and more.
Currently, I’m working in the private sector as a contractor for maritime security (specifically anti-piracy and counter-terror operations) off the Horn of Africa. I also do firearms and defensive tactics training, consultation, private investigations, and executive protection for Fortune 500 clientele, heads of state, and media personalities. I was the Firearms Training Director for a local firearms range for the last several years, and I also teach martial arts at a local karate school. (I’ve been a martial artist for 25 years and still really enjoy it.)
I met you wonderful folks at Undead Labs when you came in to our range to learn about guns, and now here I am!
What made you want to work as a law enforcement officer?
As cliche as it sounds, I wanted to do something about the violence in our communities. I was watching TV one Saturday morning and saw a news story about a woman that was kidnapped, horribly abused, and left for dead. She was paralyzed as a result of the attack. I thought to myself, “Things like this are going on out there and I’m sitting in here on the couch eating Corn Flakes doing nothing about it.” It bothered me so much that I went out that same day and bought several books on passing the law enforcement entrance exams. Then, I went to college to study criminal justice. Two years later, I was running with a narcotic detector dog and participating in middle-of-the-night raids on drug dealers, smugglers, and gun runners. From that point on, I was hooked.
What’s your favorite firearm?
Wow…that’s a tough question. It’s kind of like asking who your favorite kid is, especially since I’ve been collecting firearms for decades. All of my firearms have their own charms and I love them all, but if my house was on fire and I could only pick one weapon before jumping out the window, it would have to be my newest “baby” — the FN SCAR16 with all the goodies on it.
I’d be really bothered about losing all the others, but at the end of the day, I really dig this monster. I mean seriously. Even Dracula got nuthin’ on my SCAR.
What’s the strangest or most unique weapon you’ve ever shot?
Strange and unique? One weapon stands out in my mind — the Grim Reaper’s Pit Bull, an MK 19, Mod 3 40MM belt fed grenade launcher. It’s a machine gun that hurls grenades out past 2000 yards at an approximate cyclic firing rate of +/- 350 grenades per minute. Fun fact: Each one of those little jewels digs a 15 foot crater on impact.
Nothing quite says “home defense” like a belt fed grenade launcher.
Why zombies? What do you like about them?
They get to me at a real, visceral level. When I was working on the street, I’d encounter all kinds of living people ACTING like zombies, whether it was caused by mental illness or chemically induced insanity. I’ve even seen people in such a degraded state due to their drug habits or other health conditions that they LOOKED like zombies.
I’ve also encountered large-scale riots like the WTO ones in Seattle. Imagine HUGE throngs of people — what felt like the entire city — coming after you in non-stop waves for five days, hurling everything from water bottles filled with urine to marbles and ball bearings. They were even rolling manhole covers down the hill. It was terrifying.
With the very real issues of our world, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine something like a zombie apocalypse actually happening. We look at zombie movies or games and know that they’re just make believe, but deep down I think zombies are something we can all relate to and fear in some way. We don’t have to survive a riot to get the picture.
In the last year or so I’ve had some pretty intense conversations with captains of industry, celebrities, and regular folks about what they would do if “the zombies” came. These discussions are awesome because the topic is so engaging — especially if it inspires people to think about how they’d take care of themselves if there’s an emergency. Very frequently, these conversations segue into things like earthquake preparedness or civil disturbances. Just watch some of the videos out there and tell me it doesn’t look like something from a zombie movie — throngs of hungry, frazzled, angry people freaking out. Government thugs putting the smack down on helpless civilians. How many zombie apocalypses have aired on the nightly news in the last 15 years? I lost count.
So I guess the thing that makes the zombie genre appealing to me is that it has a certain amount of plausibility. Any one of us could become a zombie in the right (or wrong) circumstances.
Isn’t THAT a thought?
What’s your zombie-killing weapon of choice and why?
Well that’s another great question, but I can’t stop at just one!
I really like the utilitarian nature of tomahawks and kukris. Cold Steel is currently making a kukri blade on the end of an axe handle (no joke). This.might seem a little weird, but something like that would definitely take care of someone’s Excedrin headache…if you catch my drift. I love my SOG tactical tomahawks too, so if I had to go all ninja-sneaky, I’d use one of those two weapons.
In close quarters, I’m a HUGE fan of the .45 ACP cartridge. And while I loves me my 1911′s, I’d want more rounds in the weapon than just 8 +1, so I’d be inclined to use a Springfield XD as a sidearm. The typical loadout with a 1911 would be 25 rounds, but my.XD gets me 40 rounds of crowd-pleasing forty five on my belt and in the weapon. Also, because the .45 is such a big, slow bullet, it’s among the best rounds to suppress. I guess a threaded barrel and a quality suppressor would also be on the menu.
From my own inventory, I would prefer to run my SCAR 16 (along with it’s AAC suppressor) and play whack-a-mole with the zeds from 300 to 500 yards out. (Yes folks. Marines QUALIFY in boot camp with .223′s at 500 yards…with IRON SIGHTS.)
Of course, I couldn’t run a can on it* and still get that kind of accuracy at distance — the bullet has a lot to do with it. Personally, I prefer Hornady TAP hollowpoint rounds in 75 grain. Shooting those through wet phone books and paint cans filled with mud leaves cantaloupe-sized holes coming out of the test media…
That’s good to go.
For long distance dedications, again from my personal inventory, I’d have to go with my HK91 with the PSG-1 aftermarket goodies on it. With that weapon, I can hit targets at 800 yards with confidence, but I’d probably have to walk the rounds in a bit beyond that. The scope I have on it is SICK — you can see into the future with that thing. I call it the “Eye of Sauron.” No hobbits want to be in the eye. Evar.
Anyway, the .308 cartridge is my very favorite as an all-around heavy lifter. When that round grabs you, it’s got you, and the ballistics are really constant and easy to work with. That HK91 would be a great weapon as a perimeter or watch rifle, especially when it comes to reliability. The weapon platform is really over-engineered and I have NEVER had a malfunction in 15 years.
Did I come even come CLOSE to answering your question?
* “Running a can” is gun lingo for adding a silencer. -Emily
If you were facing a lone zed, what weapon would you use? What if you were up against a big horde? Would you want to use something different?
One zombie by itself? A tactical tomahawk or a kukri…. or that Filthy McNasty kukri on the axe handle dealio. (Ok, to be honest, I really just want to try that thing.)
I wouldn’t want to make excessive noise to draw out other zeds. I’ve seen the movies…you know there’s never…juuuuuust …one.
If I was up against a big horde of zombies? (cringe) Can I bring that automatic belt fed grenade launcher? If not, I’d go with my SCAR. It’s suppressed, so I would hope it wouldn’t attract ANOTHER horde. (Because that’s just a bad day at the office, ya know?) It’s also pinpoint accurate from 0 to 200 yards, and is just so adaptable I can do anything with it.
Well, almost. I would really like a bayonet on it, but they don’t make ‘em. It’s a Marine thing… I LIKE bayonets.
How did you meet Brant? What are you doing to advise him?
I met Brant when you guys came down to the range several months ago. He had some follow-up questions about different guns, and filled me in on what you were doing with your game. After your trip, he came back to the range a few times and I showed him several different “common” and exotic weapons. Then we got to talking about different dynamics of how bullets function, human anatomy when in close proximity to said bullets, and even different techniques of shooting different weapons. (Yes, it IS possible to accurately shoot Mozambiques, on the move one handed…if you do it right.)
We’ve spent many hours on the range firing different handguns, submachine guns (full auto, baby!), and rifles. We’ve also spent many more hours discussing things like tactical lights, lasers, optics, and everything under the sun when it comes to real firearms and the firearms you find in the gaming world.
Brant really wants to introduce some firearm realism, which is a breath of fresh air to me. The article you wrote after the company day at the range was VERY insightful and accurate! Shooting a real weapon is a very real, perishable skill, and.the people who have that skill are really something to see. Anybody that’s ever watched Jerry Miculek fire a revolver like a machine gun can see that.
So as Brant and I got to know each other, he came down and took a few of my classes and learned about the ancillary equipment too, like different holsters and slings and how to clear the weapon from them and still get shots on target quickly and efficiently. He also learned how to do reloads under stress without hurting himself or others, which is actually a pretty tough thing to do. During his training, Brant evolved from a good shot to a GREAT shot, even under under stress, which is cool. But then comes the task of how to translate this “real world” firearms handling into a gaming experience. As I’m learning, it’s not as easy as one might think.
While I’m not sure if any gun nuances will make it into the game, it IS something we’ve talked about a lot. I’ve been helping him try to vet the different kinds of weapons that would be realistically found in the gun lockers and closets of the average small town American, discuss their differences, and try to whittle down every bloody gun in the world into a list of things that can be realistically expected.
As an example, let’s look at that SCAR 16 of mine. I know maybe three people in all of Western Washington that own one. Since I worked at a gun range for three years, that says something about the availability of finding one of those, especially equipped with a suppressor and night vision. But what you WILL find are AR-15′s, hunting rifles, and shotguns everywhere. While my circle of friends is probably a lot different from most other people, nearly every guy (and even a few gals) I know own and operate an AR-15 variant of some kind.
As another example, I think I read somewhere that someone wanted a Dragunov in the game. That’s something you definitely won’t find in some farmer’s closet, and you probably wouldn’t find one at a typical gun store either. Never mind trying to get a hold of 7.62 X 54R ammunition — it’s as highly specialized as that SCAR of mine. (That’s not to say that exotics won’t find their way into the game of course, but they just won’t be easy to find.)
Does this level of details even matter in a video game? I’m not sure, but I do know that the Undead Labs team is putting a lot of effort into finding the right mix of the funky nuances that exist with guns and making sure the game is just plain fun.
Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun to be able to consult on a project like this because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever been involved with! Most of my family is like: “There goes Uncle Erik blabbing about the war again.” They don’t really want to hear it. Then along comes Brant, and he’s throwing me curve ball questions about guns that make me have to go back and read the technical manuals. I really DIG that!
What are you looking forward to the most in Class3?
Well, I’m starting to get on in the years, and watching my nephews play video games just feels like a constant kill/die/kill/die kind of deal. There are no tactics, no thought, and no finesse…it’s just runnin’ and gunnin’, which gets kinda boring and frustrating for me because when I play I actually do stuff like pie corners, use cover and concealment, and daisy chain explosives together. They’re always like “Uncle Errriiiikkkk…. Just SHOOT him!”
Kids these days. Where’s the ambience?
I guess what makes video games fun for me is the ability to do things that I otherwise couldn’t, shouldn’t, or can’t do in real life. I’m such a geek about this stuff that I actually use movies and games and books as visualization for real world scenarios — I view them as opportunities to train and have fun.
As an “old guy” I really like story content, and I like open ended options with more than one way to approach things. I’m looking forward to Class3 because it’s going to give me a way to visualize a scenario that challenges me to think on my feet or react to something. I’m also looking forward to being able to interact with other survivors and solve problems. And, of course, I’m also excited about a good amount of running and gunning.
Of course, you fine folks don’t share all the game goodies with me, so I don’t fully know what to expect or what the story arcs will be about. The suspense is KILLING me, but that’s part of the fun!
What’s the best all-around zombie killing caliber and why?
There’s really no delicate way to say this — the way bullets work is that they make holes in bodies.
If we’re talking handguns, I’d want to use something that throws trash can lids at the bad guys, so I’d go with some kind of .45 (be it a 1911 or a Glock or a Thompson). These firearms are more likely to deliver because of their size, weight, and moderate velocity.
I think another gun that would open up a can of serious whup-a$$ is the KRISS Vector SMG. That thing hits all the high notes out to 100 yards — maybe farther in the right hands. But at typical handgun distance…yeeesh. That’s a wee bit too close for my tastes, and I would prefer to hit ‘em far enough away that the icky-sticky doesn’t get all over me. In Western Washington, a .223 of some kind would be just ducky (25 to 200 yards), but in Eastern Washington (where it’s more wide open), I’d prefer a .308 to keep the zeds well away from the perimeter. Preferably, I’d like to keep them out past 300 yards or so.
From a gunfighter’s perspective, the edge always goes to the bigger bullet, and I always want to stack the deck in my favor. A larger bullet is more likely to sever blood-carrying vessels and damage or destroy vital organs (many times, several of them). Then there’s velocity. The large bullet should be of sufficient velocity to, for example, penetrate the natural body armors of the skull and sternum. The downside of these kinds of bullets (like my crowd pleasing .45′s), are that they’re bigger and they take up more space, so you can’t carry as many as smaller caliber bullets. They’re also consequently heavy, so it’s a burden on the operator.
While I like the .40 and 10MM a lot, firing them suppressed and/or finding the bullets to feed them could be a problem. If sound and ammo resupply isn’t the big driver of what to use… the 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, 10MM and .45ACP’s would all work just great.
If I HAD to pick my personal favorite caliber, it would be the .45 ACP, just like in real life. Options like penetrating natural body armors, accuracy, low muzzle climb, the ability to easily suppress the noise, and plentiful ammunition to tear Mister Zeddie McNasty a new one makes the .45ACP my best “all around” zombie killing caliber.
Of course, we’re talking about the undead here. As a rule, you have to put one in the snot locker and blow out the back-side of his melon to give that zombie a permanent dirt nap. All you have to be able to do is penetrate the skull. In that aspect, virtually any bullet in modern defensive handguns will do the job, methinks.
What are your thoughts on handguns versus rifles?
A rifle is far more powerful than a pistol, but it takes two hands to use.That’s difficult if you’re trying to do things like grabbing or pushing people out of the way, opening doors, or even using a flashlight. Personally, I prefer handguns for clearing rooms and rifles for outdoor activities.
What are your thoughts on the importance of using different weapon types for different situations?
It’s all about the finding right tool for the job. I usually come down on the side of accuracy and heavy hitting firepower over other options, but as a Marine, I believe in the concept of “One Mind, Any Weapon.” I’ll fight by throwing an angry cat on your face if I have to.
Do you have any tips for people looking to try out shooting for the first time?
A lot depends on the state or country where people are from, of course. Here in Washington, we still have a bit of the frontier mentality, so gun ranges are plentiful, safe, and fun.
I’m a strong advocate for training. If you can’t find a local range, there are lots of awesome schools that provide weapons for rent. Thunder Ranch, Yavapai Firearms Academy, The Lethal Force Institute, Valhalla, and Gunsite are some of the big names. I’m a big fan of the Insights guys here locally. The NRA is also an excellent resource. You can say what you like about the politics or the organization, but at the end of the day, nobody does gun safety like them.
Thanks for chatting with us, Erik! It’s great to hear your thoughts on this stuff.
Any time! Thanks again for the chance to offer my two cents on the project. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to meet everyone and see this cool game come to life.
I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about Erik! We’re thrilled to have someone with his expertise giving us advice, and I’ll tell you what — if the shit ever goes down, I’m really hoping it happens on a day when he’s paying us a visit.
All of us here at the Lab would like to extend our sincere gratitude to every single current and former member of our armed forces. Happy Veteran’s Day, and thank you for your service.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
PS: The images in this article are in no particular order, so if the guns don’t match with the stuff around them, you can blame me.