Any respectable zombie aficionado knows there is one true way to kill a zombie.
Destroy its brain.
Should the occasion arise, Jesse Branson, a Florence man, is prepared to deal with the cataclysmic horror of a zombie apocalypse.
Branson makes weaponry specifically designed to dispatch the flesh-eating fiends of an undead horde.
“I’ve got a little obsession with weapons,” Branson said.
He started constructing zombie weaponry about three years ago as a hobby when he decided to make a knife out of an old lawnmower blade.
“You can never have too many knives,” Branson said, “but I’ve made about 10 weapons that are really nice.”
He’s made a spear, a small three-pronged claw, a serrated ornate machete, a double-headed axe with auxiliary blades jutting from top and bottom, and a vicious mace spiked with the stopping power of 16-penny nails.
Branson also designs leather sheaths for most of his weapons, and has repaired other zombie killing weapons like his favored a “baby katana sword” and a crossbow from the 1960s.
“I guess my stuff is decorative and functional,” he said, “but some of it you’d never see people walking down the street with.”
Branson watches “The Walking Dead,” a horror-drama television series, which has been a source of inspiration. He also finds ideas in watching “Doomsday Preppers,” a reality series that profiles survivalists.
“Jesse’s weapons are all kind of radical looking,” his girlfriend Tammy Hinton said. “They’re crazy. When people see them they’re like ‘Oh, that’s definitely a zombie killer.’”
At first, Hinton just watched Branson work but she became so fascinated with the result that she couldn’t refrain from voicing opinions about how weapons should look.
“I put in comments here and there and he’d get mad and just look at me or say it was supposed to be that way,” Hinton said. “It’s definitely Jesse’s thing, but I give him the fine detail critique, like proofreading, when you proofread, writing gets better.
Hinton started adding decorative knot-tying ideas to some of Branson’s homemade leather sheaths.
“Most of the time, Tammy’s got some way to improve a weapon,” Branson said. “She’s good with refining ideas.”
Branson derived many of his zombie-weaponsmithing abilities from working construction and watching online videos.
When making zombie weaponry, he uses a chop saw, a drill press, sanders, and various grinders, all of which are tools used to slay brain-craving zombies in horror movies.
He also performs intricate fine detail etching with dremel attachments and uses different acid washes to impart designs upon his blades.
Hinton said they scour garage sales for affordable materials Branson can transform with his craft because steel is expensive.
Branson also barters, swapping his craft for things he can transform into weapons.
However, creating weapons of zombie destruction is a dangerous talent that sometimes takes its toll in blood. Branson has the scares to prove it. He pointed out which scars came from work and which came from weapons.
“Work, knife, work, spear, knife, work, axe, knife, it’s hard on my hands and it takes a lot of pain tolerance,” he said. “All of my knives have tasted my blood.”
Despite the pain, he has a deep affection for each weapon, so much that it is hard for him to part with his personal armory.
However, he does make some weapons for loved ones and he has started building commissioned weapons for a few interested parties.
Right now, Branson is constructing his own version of a bushmaster knife and sheath for his 13-year-old son, Gage.
“The blade is every bit of 10 inches,” he said, “and the case will have everything (an assortment of survival gear) in it.”
Hinton said, “Jesse should’ve been born in another era.
“The 11-inch knife he made me has a spoon bent around the handle. It’s really cool and kind of girly with the fake jewels on it.”
Branson and Hinton have go-bags and bug-out bags packed with food and supplies just in case of mass catastrophe, but whether this creative duo will ever get a chance to test Branson’s arsenal in a true zombie apocalypse only time will tell.
In the mean time, Branson plans to keep improving upon, experimenting with, and adding to his zombie-slayer armory.
“Tammy is more worried about the end of the world. Not me, I’m like bring it on,” Branson said. “When you’re completely surrounded by weapons, you don’t have to worry about it anymore.” staff photo by Oliver good
Jesse Branson admires his favorite homemade weapons Sunday at his Florence home. Branson built his ornate weapons with zombie slaying in mind.
staff photo by Oliver good
Jesse Branson grinds an ax Sunday at his Florence home inside his shop where he constructs weapons for killing zombies.