Prior to Y2K, during our spare time as gun magazine editors, two colleagues and I idly argued over what would constitute the ideal "Omega Man" gun, referring to the Boris Sagal-directed, post-apocalyptic science fiction movie The Omega Man, starring our beloved Charlton Heston.
I have obviously dated myself by referencing such an old movie. Today, the Omega Man gun would be described as the firearm for the Zombie Apocalypse.
The idea of the Omega Man gun was simple enough: What would be the one firearm to have in the event of a total social breakdown? Don't think of anything as common as an earthquake, hurricane, financial collapse or NFL lock-out. No, we're talking about a major event here, like a super volcano, nuclear holocaust or viral epidemic—a game-changer. What would be the best firearm to have in that (hopefully) unlikely event?
Sure, there are guilty pleasure movies like Zombieland, but there are also highbrow meditations on the subject, such as Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer prize-winning novel "The Road." And, if you indulged in either, you probably gave some thought to the kind of gun you'd like to have in that situation. Why? In most books and movies of the sort, the protagonist's problems could likely be remedied with the right gun. Have you ever noticed that a "psycho killer" movie never has an NRA member among the pool of potential victims?
At the time, not only could we not settle on a gun; we couldn't even agree on a caliber. One selected the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO, as he was former military, while the other editor, an armchair military historian, opted for the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO. I went with the historian.
However, all these years later, I think I just may have stumbled on the exact right firearm for the Omega Man/Zombie Apocalypse scenario.
It is the ArmaLite AR-10 Carbine, specifically the 10A4CBNF 1913, accessorized with a Grip Pod and an ELCAN SpecterDR 1.5-6x scope. Here's why.
Reputedly, the 5.56 wasn't designed to kill, but to wound. In the conventional wars anticipated at the time of the round's adoption, killing an enemy combatant was considered inferior to wounding him. Killing him put him out of the fight, but wounding him put him out along with the one or two comrades who had to help him from the battlefield.
Furthermore, studies determined that small unit firefights were most often won by sheer firepower. Putting a lot of lead in the air caused the opposition to "melt away." Thus, producing a withering hail of bullets could be more important than the efficacy of the individual rounds, and it is easier to carry and fire a lot of 5.56 mm than it is 7.62 mm cartridges.
The problem, though, is none of that applies in the Omega Man scenario. Your opponent may not have comrades to carry him off the battlefield. They'll be no Evac choppers, no ambulances, no aid stations or hospitals. How can you place a strain on resources that don't exist? It would likely be every man for himself, so you don't want to wound. You want to put your opponent down to stay.
Firepower? Do you really mean to waste ammunition when cartridges are now arguably the most valuable commodity in the world? Each bullet would be so precious that the idea of suppressive fire would be inconceivable. The sniper credo of "one shot, one kill" would be espoused by every survivor lucky enough to be armed.
And what about range? While the 5.56 can be accurate out to 600 yards, it usually requires specialized ammunition at that range and, even then, its terminal effect is questionable. Regular military ball will be hard enough to find in our scenario; forget about specialized rounds. However, 7.62 is good at close range and can more easily make longer shots, and do so with better terminal ballistics.
And since you'd be abandoning the city for safety and to locate food-supermarkets will have been among the first things looted-a rifle wouldn't be only a combat tool. You'd probably have to hunt, too, and the 7.62 is a better caliber for deer, antelope, elk, etc.
You could find yourself anywhere from the mountains to the plains, from forests to deserts, targeting everything from opossums to armored vehicles, so you'd need a versatile round. Given those criteria, the 7.62 would be the way to go.
Additionally, in the interim since Y2K, the AR has ventured into the hunting fields with much success, such that virtually every major manufacturer is offering AR platforms in big-game calibers, often painted in camo colors.