A number of resources discussing weapons for use during an apocalypse mention Molotov cocktails and I’ve even seen them mentioned in a number of zombie forums as well. A sneak peek image from the upcoming episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead (Episode 312 “Clear”) brought this topic to mind once more.
For those that know, a Molotov cocktail is flammable liquid like alcohol or gasoline in a glass container (usually the bottle the alcohol came in) with a rag stuffed in the opening. The rag is lit and the whole this is tossed. Impact with a hard surface breaks the glass and sets ablaze whatever the liquid splatters.
The effectiveness of the cocktail in guerrilla fighting cannot be questioned. The fire itself causes damage and injury and can serve as a barrier to the advancement of people on foot.
But would a Molotov cocktail be a good weapon to use against a zombie? I would have to answer an emphatic “NO!” Although the zombies in George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” recoiled from fire, I’m not sure how much real harm it would do to the undead.
Consider this, people who suffer severe burns do not usually die from those injuries. People who die in fires are more likely to be killed by the lethal gases in the fire than the flames themselves.
Furthermore, those who aren’t killed by the gases (carbon monoxide chiefly among them) survive the fire. What kills them after that are infections their body cannot defend against without the protection of their skin.
So what of a zombie? It doesn’t need to breath so carbon monoxide isn’t going to be a fear. And it’s already suffering from the worst infection a body can be subjected to. I doubt loosing its epidermis is going to be that big of a concern.
And if you think a Molotov cocktail is going to burn a zombie to ash, think again. Cremation is a time-consuming and fuel intensive endeavor. Modern crematoriums use ovens that reach temperatures in the range of 1,600 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, burning the body away takes up to an hour for every 100 pounds of body weight.
Taking all this into consideration, using a Molotov cocktail against a zombie will likely only result in creating a flaming zombie and, depending on the flammability of your surroundings, that could actually create a whole new set of problems for you.