Have Gun, Will Run (Outside)

Posted on by Brendan Borrell

We're not saying you need to prepare for societal collapse or anything, but Brendan Borrell did feel a need to improve his game in case zombies attack. He signed up for the Survival Trial, a grueling test of field skills and marksmanship held in the wilds of northern New Mexico. Did this city feller come back in one piece?

I'm in the back office when I hear Jake's screams echo across the factory floor. We have no idea what's happening, only that there's no 911 to call--not out here.

I’ve got my everyday carry tucked into my holster—a Glock nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistol, with a bullet in the chamber and seven in the magazine. I slip extra ammo into my back pocket and yank my 12-gauge out of a bag. This isn’t your grandpa’s duck gun, either: it’s a matte black Mossberg 500 Tactical Persuader, a tough piece of metal that meets military standards. The chk-chk of the pump action is calibrated to tell all the goblins to buzz off.

I’m the last person you’d expect to see packing heat, but after the crash things have gotten freaky out here in Arena Heights, our little make-believe town in northern New Mexico. Looting, home invasions, assaults, you name it. It’s basically WROL— without rule of law. As one of my buddies at the shooting range likes to say: “The cops are five minutes away—when you need them in five seconds.”

I tell my partner to wait as I follow a pair of tire tracks to a couple of orange cones in a dusty clearing. To the west, the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo mountains seem to levitate above the horizon: a thin white mirage of tranquility. I stash my shotgun in a bush and go crashing down a fresh trail marked with neon splotches of surveyor’s paint. Around the corner, Jake is lying motion less in the dirt. He’s a meaty fellow, the size and shape of two truck tires. In fact, he is two truck tires, linked together with PVC pipe to represent an incapacitated colleague. I tug on his rubbery shoulders, dragging him back to the safe zone.

The task leaves me panting. I clutch my widow-maker, sweat burning my eyes. The four targets are lined up on the hillside. Ready. Aim. Gasp! I’m puffing so hard that I can’t hold the sight steady. I drop the muzzle. Thirty seconds pass and I raise the gun again. Pow! The first clay target explodes. Chk-chk! I send the next three back to oblivion. I’m feeling downright cocky, but those targets are only ten yards out. Next up: eight metal plates hanging from a crossbar, roughly 15 yards away. I draw my pistol and miss every one.

After racing back to the starting line and tagging my teammate, I see Jon Weiler standing on the edge of the dirt road, gazing down at the valley below like a scout watching for an ambush. He looks at me approvingly. “That was very good,” he says, Yoda-like.

Read this story in the June 2017 issue of Outside