Camping & Survival

Zombies are Dead! So What will be the Next Big Thing?

I know plenty of you never want to hear or read the word zombie again. Even though the fad seems to have passed, gun gear companies are still releasing zombie-killing related items. However, the idea is tired and played out. The first wave of products were actually pretty cool—exploding zombie targets, Black Dawn Magpul zombie AR-15 furniture, and EoTech’s illuminated biohazard reticle. This second wave where companies are slapping zombie green on anything has me wondering me if their marketing teams have joined the walking dead. Some of those companies missed the boat. We’re just not buying into it anymore.

Richard Johnson points out in his article, The New Gun Culture, the changing face of gun owners. It is not just hunters and rednecks anymore. If you ask me, he’s stating the obvious. Gun owners are all of us—no matter what you look like, if you have a high-profile desk job, or work in a tattoo shop for a living. Johnson says that gun companies need to keep up with these new gun owners and market to them. An advertisement featuring two men walking in a field with a shotgun and a coon dog will not appeal to the black rifle crowd. Apparently, zombies don’t get them off either. At least, not anymore. I hear more and more complaints about how zombies make gun owners look stupid. I get it.  Johnson says that if companies do not keep up with current trends they “will not survive.” So, what’s next?

Like anything, guns don’t sell themselves. When a manufacturer releases a new product, they take out advertising, debut it at SHOT Show, make press releases, and send it to gun bloggers for T&E to raise interest. It is a way to create buzz about the product so consumers want to buy it.

Innovation drives the firearms market, but when there is not much innovation happening, companies feel forced to find a way to sell their products or tank. This is where gimmicks come in.

Gimmicks are nothing new. Companies have used them for years. Usually when you hear the word gimmick you assign it a negative connotation, however gimmicks are simply features added to products that do nothing to their function, but intends to make products appear more attractive to the consumer. This could simply be shiny, eye-catching packaging.

Coupons, buy one get one free, and free shipping offers are also forms of gimmicks. Offering a gimmick on a gun, like

Taurus’ yellow-framed 738 TCP helps sell when innovation is lacking. Despite the horrible comments the gun received when we promoted the sunshiny compact pistol, we have sold 34 of them since June 2012. Though that may not sound like a lot, it translates to 50 percent of sales of any of our regular, non-yellow handgun sales. For something so detested, Taurus’ gimmick worked.

Gimmicks work. That is why companies use them. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. McDonald’s has been putting smiling faces on children since 1979 with their Happy Meal. If Cheaper Than Dirt ran a free shipping deal, you’d take advantage, right?

Gun companies have all used the same tricks to sell guns—providing descriptions of innovative features, showing families having fun while shooting, defending one’s self and loved ones, and even using scantily clad women to sell their wares. No gun manufacturer, gun accessory manufacture, or gun dealer is immune to marketing tricks and trends.

Before the demand for innovation from the U.S. military, guns were generally hand-made to order locally. Because of the growth and innovations in the manufacturing process of firearms, the gun companies realized they could sell and market their guns to civilians.

Back in the day, before television and all the legal restrictions, gun companies advertised in magazines, newspapers, and catalogs. Today we see gun advertisements in gun-related magazines only. You aren’t ever going to see a Glock ad during the Superbowl. How does someone who doesn’t shoot, or who has never shot, ever get enticed to purchase a gun? They can’t see the features and benefits of owning a gun, unless the gun industry does something to bring in an untapped market. What non-shooter is going to randomly pick up the latest issue of Guns & Ammo?

Perhaps attaching the word zombie to guns and gun gear was the most brilliant thing ever devised by some mastermind. Goggle the word zombie and see what comes up. You are more likely to stumble across a gun or a gun-related item when you search for the word zombie, than the word Apple iPhone. This, by the way, was the most searched word in 2011. Because firearms manufacturers do not use the mass market to sell guns, they might have to work just that much harder to sell product. This might be the reason we see companies like TAPCO making zombie movies. At first, the zombie idea was brilliant. Let’s take a pop culture reference and sell guns! This opened up a completely new market for firearms companies to draw in the new shooter and a younger demographic. It’s just gone too far now.

Lately we have seen a few innovations, such as

interchangeability system, double-barreled, two caliber guns such as Savage’s .410 Bore/.22 Long Rifle Model 24, and even 3D printing technology. What if innovations such as these don’t get further off the ground? What if the 2013 SHOT Show is a huge letdown in new technology? What will be the next big thing? Do you have any ideas? Tell me in the comment section.

If you are still into the zombie thing, don’t worry, I won’t tell. You will be surprised at all the zombie-themed items we have. Here is my shameless plug—browse them here.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (25)

  1. CookieMonsta, in describing futuristic improvements to classic Victorian-era firearm technology, is actually touching a bit on another overblown geek fad which strangely hasn’t quite touched the firearms industry yet: “Steampunk”. The Steampunk movement, to outsiders, might come across as a Renaissance festival combined with a Sci-Fi convention, as organized by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. With its artsy do-it-yourself aesthetics and fascination with fiddly and elaborate but archaic brass-and-hardwood technology, along with the seemingly bottomless bank accounts of its devoted and young fan-base where it comes to the distinctive jewelry, furniture, costumes, and accessories of the subculture, Steampunk seems like it would be a natural and easily exploitable fad among the nerdier firearms enthusiasts, while artistically souped-up guns would be only a small step into the gun culture for existing fans of the Steampunk culture, which is already quite at home with gunslingers and eccentric inventors.

    As for zombies, the fad is hardly “dead”, but it must surely be getting tougher to compete in the over-saturated zombie gear market, with customer burn-out being a constant danger. The smarter product designers and advertisers are going to be looking for the next big thing now, before the coroner can put an official death certificate on the current fad.

    In the mean time, the zombie fad is an opportunity: it’s attracting fresh members to the shooting community, who in turn bring new ideas and open minds. There’s an energy and excitement in the zombie fad which can only work in favor of those of us who don’t want to see the traditional gun community stagnate and fade away. Zombie-fan parents are introducing their children to gun ownership and shooting sports as a family activity, and catching the attention of their friends, family, and coworkers. Even if you don’t understand or like the zombie thing, this is an opportunity to welcome new gun owners into accepting their 2nd Amendment responsibilities, and an opportunity to help them enjoy the responsibility of gun ownership and use in a safe, friendly, and fun environment. Even after the zombie fad fades, we should hope that the new members to the shooting community remain as mature gun owners, who will pass our enthusiasm on to still other new members of the community.

  2. This “fad” has raised preparedness and awareness for a wide range of emergency situations. What do you offer to replace ‘zombies’ that will have the same effect of making ‘prepping’ for ‘zombies’ as fun, and therefor as effective?

    Announcing “Zombies Are Dead!” doesn’t make it true. In fact, I’d say you’re rather insecure. It seems like you just want it to die and are trying to make it die faster, so that your version of the ‘gun community’ doesn’t have to be embaressed about the those who seem to like fiction movie monsters.

    Go do something that HELPS the country, like protecting the 2nd Amendment, or of course defending the idea of Zombies! =)

  3. The zombie culture is hardly dead! I have been zombie crazy since the 80’s when I was stationed in germany I was introduced to psychobilly music which goes hand in hand with zombies, hot rods, horror & sci-fi movies. Before the recent craze there has been zombie walks for years now, zombie proms are on the rise. It may be a fad in the gun culture but for me it is part of my everyday life. I have over 20 years in the military and my idea of zombie killing is a metaphor for drug addicts, criminals, terrorist, etc . It’s a fun appealing way to be prepared for anything! I concentrate on marksmanship and weapons maintenance. And for all the AR enthusiasts I suggestyou learn s.p.o.r.t.s. I have used 3 variants M16A1, M16A2 & the M4 and all I can tell you is be prepared for a double feed. P.S. I have never painted anything neon green LOL

  4. General Protection Fault and airogue – VERY perceptive, open and honest…

    I’m going to ask the same question I’ve asked for 30 years: “When is a major firearms manufacturer going to combine America’s most popular platform, with America’s most popular and most versatile cartridge (the 30-06, which can be loaded from 55 through 220 gr., and in “Light Magnum” charges almost as powerful as the 300 Win Mag)?

    Why buy one rifle for hunting beer cans, another for varmints, another for deer, and another for elk, when the only difference between them are the chamber and the bolt-face? And, why is a comfortable hunting rifle expected to be configured differently than a comfortable combat arm?

    Why do we believe combat is fought only in urban environments, buildings, and jungles. Sometimes it is fought in open plains, like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas or Arizona, where you need retained power and the accuracy to project it.

    When in a homeland defense situation, you don’t need follow your adversary in to closed quarters to clear buildings, you just wait them out… if you really insist on clearing that building, use your pistol.

    Also, for homeland defense, you don’t need to carry a weapon very long or far either. Ask the Swiss if the weight of the SG 550 is a problem for them. I don’t worry about carrying the weight of my M1 or my FAL… I have a car and a mountain bike… or, I can simply back-pack the gun, and go home for lunch, supplies, and a shower.

    With today’s materials and technology, we could probably build a gas-operated, box-fed, 30-06 AR-type platform with half the weight of a Garand. And a 150 grain soft-point 30-06 works much better at close range than an AK’s 7.62 X 39, or any assault rifle’s ammo which is actually a single-component of a select-fire/full-auto system…

    So, why poke holes through your adversary when you can blow him in half? And, a firearm with the strength and size to cope with a 300 Win Mag, will have no problem accommodating a 7.62 X 39 for plinking anyway, because ALL 30 cal.s use a 1:10 twist. Sure, it would be expensive, but, you only need one gun… and, the barrels and bolts would be cheaper than a whole ‘nother gun.

  5. Islamofascist organizations with the intent to replace our Constitution with Sharia — American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Muslim Council, Arab American Institute, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Information Center, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Muslim American Society, and Holy Land Foundation

  6. Zombie was a gimmick used by a group of “preppers” called the Zombie Squad (ZS). ZS had an astounding popularity boom. Society as a whole isolates and labels preppers as crazy. But throw “Zombie” on it and it looks like a group just playing a game. No one takes them seriously but at least they tend to leave them alone too.

    The next trend and the reason Zombie has taken off is because the desire to prepare for the “real” zombies. Society breaking down when they can’t afford food, and they don’t have a job, and the banks take their homes. It’s happening in other parts of the world. I think the next “innovation” would be to go back to those times when the US manufactured high quality goods that lasted generations. My family had a heavy steel vacuum that last 35 years. You don’t find quality like that today. Technology will allow people to make their own firearms indeed, but the key will be to buy something with what little money they have that will last through thick and thin. Defending them when they need it most, and the ability to give it to their sons or daughters when that time comes.

  7. I have always been a big fan of older guns. Like older model cars, older guns just had a style and flair that made some guns almost art rather than just needful tools. I have wondered in the past why gun manufacturers haven’t tried to incorporate newer technology into older guns. Say, take an old model Sharps carbine and give it a magazine for multiple shots. You could take an old Winchester or Marlin lever action rifle and build it like you would a modern long range bolt-action rifle with a newer caliber, like in .300WSM.

    There are lterally thousands of little things that you could do to put a new spin on older model guns. To be clear, I don’t mean changing existing old guns in anyway. What I would like to see is new guns with an older model look with all the benefits of newer technology, being made. How about an old Browning A5, semi-auto shotgun with a 10 round magazine feed. Imagine an old Winchester model 94 lever action rifle with a bull barrel from any modern sniper rifle.

    I just believe there are a lot of things that could be done with guns these days that could attract a whole new customer base to the world of gun ownership! I literally think up about 2 or 3 things a day that I would like to see gun manufacturers try. They need to think out of the box and realize that the various types of guns do not have to follow the same old format. By the way the only green I like is Olive Drab.

  8. Why no one seems to acknowledge the whole Zombie thing is currently popular because of the AMC TV series “Walking Dead” based on a series of “graphic novels”(fyi-fancy 1/2” thick comic books)I don’t know—-but that’s it!
    The series, besides depicting surviving a zombie apocolypse also depics any typical basic survival situation regaurdless of the cause. Could be just about any invasion being foreign military or nasty viroulent bird flu. Zombies could be the living dead or infected flu carriers or democrats or republicans or islamists or “Red Dawn” style Cuban soldiers-ZOMBIES ARE WHATEVER YOU WANT THEM TO BE, either way a Zombie themed gun case,ammo,ammo box or Trijicon reticle green dot are corny to some but “cool” to others but combined are yet still deadly!!! I suspect in the far future “zombie” themed stuff will be highly collectable.(unless in the mean time we use it all up killing our Zombie of choice!)

  9. Thank You, this is the first time that I have read an article that says what I have been thinking. I live in California where everything is illegal except marijuana. If gun sales directly can not be advertised what about advertising the steady uprise it the job market for the gun industry such as cad designers, engineers, painters, gunsmiths and instructors.
    Thank You, Richard Johnson

  10. the nest great thing in firearms should be more accuracy and great ammo at reasonable prices. i am disapointed when i read about a new toted rifle that cant shoot less than a inch at a 100 yards off a bench rest?!! i shoot a savage 30/06 that prints under a inch at 300 yards. its ten years old and still is the best for accurancy. in my thinking that should be the new big thing as u say. no gimmiks just a straight shooter.

  11. I don’t think it’s over. I still hear things for upcoming events like paintball zombie hunts and 5k zombie survival run. And walking dead is still he best show. I think some companies will die down on zombie fever but it isn’t over. Just google zombie survival forum and you still have tons of groups talking about he apocalypse and prepping.

  12. “The Dude’s” comments about imaginary “communists”, “criminals”, “terrorists”, “zombies” coming to get people, followed by “neighbors”, misses the point altogether: the zombie is merely a metaphor for ordinary people who “come to get you” when civilization breaks down… in fact, the “communists”, “criminals”, “terrorists”, “government”, “rioters”, even “conservatives” or “Christians” and all the other bogeymen, real or imagined, are basically our neighbors. Our neighbors have always been the reason for owning a gun for self-defense… always. That’s tough to market directly, though.

    So no, you aren’t going to see gun companies directly marketing guns as a way to shoot your neighbors.

    I mentioned Christians and conservatives above, because I recently moved to a blue state, and yeah, folks here are terrified that conservatives and Christians are coming to get them… I found it kind of funny, actually, that I was a bogeyman that they genuinely seemed scared of. That might be a potential untapped market for gun companies who can figure out how to reach that market without alienating their traditional customers.

    Zombies are a fad that comes and goes in a cycle… it will fade back into the background eventually and re-emerge a generation or two down the road. Most of the other sci-fi/horror fads that take their turns in cycles probably aren’t going to capture potential gun enthusiasts’ imaginations the way zombies do: giant monsters thrive on their immunity to the best the military can throw at them; undead serial killers can’t be killed and punish their wicked victims in more creative ways; vampires and werewolves tend to play more to our angst about ourselves.

    The only big monster fad I can think of that could play well to potential new gun owners are the zombies’ cousins: alien invaders.

    So, if you want to prepare yourselves ahead of time for the next embarrassing marketing gimmick, then get ready for Alien Invasion Survival Gear.

  13. Zombie fad or?Putting dayGlo Green on real weapons and furniture was as stupid as making a M203 with a bicycle horn!
    I’m just old enough to remember being able to buy a Toy PPK that functioned just like the real thing and was scale correct(but didnt shoot)or a teck 9 squirt gun with extra mags(mags held water)and kids got shot,remember?
    Then the toy manufactorers started to make DayGlo colored toy guns and bright orange tips,and now were painting AR’s DayGlo green!!!!I can see the headlines now!Remember kids are drawn to guns,it’s a fact!Now the Zombie stuff can be found by a kid in the dark,Good thinkin

  14. Just elect another anti-gun/anti-America politician for POTUS and watch gun sales and the price of ammo and weapons go through the roof! Obama and Hillary and their “dependency” minions AKA 99%, OWS, etc. are the biggest reasons for the increase in gun and ammo sales.

  15. I actually see more gun advertising on TV now more then ever. A big MMA match recently had a large internet ammo vendor as a sponsor. I see all kinds of ads on The Outdoor Channel, ESPN2, and others. Guns are huge now.

    Zombies are still big. The momentum will continue for the next year or two. For some reason, it goes hand-in-hand the current prepper craze. Zombie Squad (zombiehunters.org) was in on the ground floor with making zombies a fun way to think about disaster preparedness.

  16. The last time sales were booming it was because you had a bunch of people concerned about “communists” coming to get them, then sales saw another boost when it wasn’t safe to walk to down a city street because “criminals” were gonna get you, and then it was those evil “terrorists” with their networks all over the world were out to get you, and we all had fun with idea of having to defend against “Zombies” coming to get you, and now with them screaming that economic collapse is on the verge of destroying us and the people becoming distraught with the current political climate that has been brewing now for over 20 yrs soon it will be “Your Neighbor” coming to get you. So turn them in to DHS now so that they can be held indefinitely. Thanks NDAA (Look it up)

  17. So I have to return my zombie AR case that I just ordered? Until Call of Duty stops putting zombies in their games, it will continue to grow. The younger generation loves it and I’ve seen several gun clubs putting on zombie-themed shoots. There are only so many innovations that can be made to modern firearms without adding technology. I think the 1216 shotgun is very innovative and would prefer to see new items like it come to the market!

  18. The “fad” of Zombies isn’t that old…and is actually just hitting it’s prime, MAYBE.

    You’ve got at least another 18 months of Zombie-mania to look forward to, so get comfy.

  19. I think the author is on to something with the idea of companies moving toward bringing the hunter shooter into the realm of amateur gunsmith. With uncertain times ahead of us, I think most people have in the back of their head that it sure would be nice to acquire a good deal more information on how things work, fix and interchange parts, and actually be capable of building a rifle from scrap parts.

    Hard times turn even soft people ingenious and industrious.

  20. I’m not exactly sure what makes you believe that zombie culture is over. There still continue to be popular comics, TV shows, movies, video games, books, and misc other products. It hasn’t “ended” overnight because the gun culture v1 doesn’t like it while gun culture v2 does.

  21. THANK YOU VERY MUCH to whoever shot the last video game advosary. I feel relieved, and am sure many of the kids out there, now feel safer.

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