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With a new segment of shooting sports growing fast, Frank Jardim is building an event he expects to be the most innovative marriage of science fiction and weaponry yet.
Zombie Shoot Series 2012, set for Sept. 8 at a farm in rural Hardin County, is more than target practice. For one thing, the targets are handmade, life-size zombies. And secondly, Jardim has written the story of how the place he calls Live E-town came to be, as well as detailed scenarios for each shooting challenge.
When Jardim, a longtime shooter and fan of apocalypse themes in film and literature, first heard about zombie shoots a couple years ago, he was disappointed to find out the events amounted to paper zombie targets at a range, he said. And when he saw a bleeding target, it seemed unrealistic and expensive.
“Plus, zombies don’t really bleed,” he said. “They’re dead; their blood congeals.”
From there, he set out to organize a shoot with zombie targets that are life size, inexpensive, durable and quick to reset.
As anyone who’s caught an episode of AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead” or read the comics knows, only a shot that shuts down the brain will take down a zombie. Accordingly, Jardim figured out the mechanical that would let the target fall, but only when hit in the brain or spine.
He pays attention to the exterior, too, molding the heads from recycled material – it can take up to an hour to complete one – and even topping them with wigs or hair his barber collects for him.
A friend working for American Rifleman liked the idea for an elaborate shoot and clued in Jardim to just how large the zombie trend had grown.
“I thought people would think I was insane for even suggesting that,” Jardim said.
And so he got to work, creating the fictional world that serves as the backdrop for the event.
In his story, Zombie Killers, a sort of protection force, patrol the dead zone surrounding Live E-Town. Louisville is lost, Fort Knox is lost, Bardstown held out but it’s gone now, too.
Marksmen at the event can take a role in this post-apocalyptic story, patrolling Outpost No. 7, where, according to Jardim’s story, zombie activity has been sparse all year but there’s a summer surge of danger.
He’s also written the Zombie Killer Handbook, which includes background and weapons tips that will be helpful to participants, he said. He expected to sell it for $4 or $5 on Amazon and as a Kindle e-book.
Also, he arranged a setting where shooters can test their marksmanship and tactical decision-making. It’s a 900-acre farm with a 19th century house that will serve as a shooting stage.
At the site, shooters will move one at a time through five stages with an escort.
In a sense, the event is more than 35 years in the making.
In 1976, “Star Wars” hit theaters and Jardim, just 9 years old, was an immediate sci-fi fan. Within that genre, the post-apocalyptic stories especially have intrigued him.
As he speaks of science fiction works over the decades, he seems not just an appreciator but a student.
As a youth, movies such as “Planet of the Apes” were over the top entertainment, he said, but a kid doesn’t really get it. Later, the big picture comes into focus.
“It’s the big ‘what if’ question. What happens if the constraints of society disappear?” he said.
Early in his teen years, he started consuming the zombie spin on the post-apocalyptic. The standout was George Ramero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” The societal themes were there, too. It’s not about zombies, Jardim said. It’s about what people do when everything that has maintained order in their lives disappears.
His second and more intensive area of study is guns.
“Coincidentally, the shooting thing started about the same time,” he said, recalling his first rifle, a gift he received at 10.
When a love for history bloomed in high school, Jardim started looking at guns from a historical perspective. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in military history.
Before he turned 19, everything he read was science fiction. Since 19, it’s all been history, he said.
Running his own business, Vintage Ordinance, he manufactures replica arms.
The event brings his interests together.
He sees the zombie craze as an avenue to grow interest in shooting and increase gun safety awareness. It’s often an interest that sparks easily, he said.
“It’s something you learn in a day and spend your life mastering,” he said.
Depending on interest, the zombie shooting competition could grow to a quarterly event. But the crowds will remain small, he said. The competition is open to 75 shooters. Admission is $65 in advance, $75 for walk-ins and $10 for spectators.
For more information, go to www.zombieshootingcompetition.com.
Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.