The Boring Company's New 'Flamethrower' Proves Elon Musk Has Gone Full Hypebeast
The propane-rigged Airsoft rifle may best a lighter and a can of spray paint, but it won't save you from a zombie apocalypse.
Do you like your life? I do. And it's just common sense that when the zombie apocalypse arrives, one needs to be properly equipped. In a world where tacticool sells and the Call of Duty edition Jeep Wrangler is a real-life truck instead of a discarded Onion headline, you can spot an amateur by his love of form over function.
The latest entry into that specific marketplace is no less ridiculous: Elon Musk is now hawking a "flamethrower."
(Disclaimer: As detailed in a previous post, I have no financial interest in anything Elon Musk does. I do have a serious vested interest in the survival of the human race, however, so any claims to the efficacy of weapons meant to ensure it will be taken at face value.)
According to The Boring Company website, Elon Musk's "flamethrower" retails for $500. I actually think the idea of civilian flamethrowers is great. I'm all for personal defense by whatever means. Enough is one of my favorite movies. But sometimes you need more than Krav Maga. You might need to take on more than one attacker. Pistols and shotguns have their limitations. Think that Walmart special on ARs is going to save you? You might live in a state that limits magazine capacity, or prohibits bump stocks. If you, alone, need to take on a horde of attackers —especially if they're zombies—there is only one choice: a flamethrower.
I know what you're thinking. Zombies aren't real. But the definition of "zombie" exists on a continuum ranging from the flesh-eating undead (least likely) to Cordyceps fungus-infected cannibals or virus-based (scientifically possible).
The zombies depicted in every movie or TV show with the word "dead" in it may seem like a fantasy, but there is theoretical science behind the still-living zombie cannibals in games like The Last of Us and films like 28 Days Later.
And then, of course, there's the question of zombie approach speed, which we'll get to in our head-to-head test.
Which brings us to Musk's very own tweet on the subject:
Use case? Defined.
But does The Boring Company Flamethrower cut it? That depends on your definition of "flamethrower," which is loosely defined. Here's the flamethrower wiki:
Not all flamethrowers are the same. The ability to casts fire beyond arm's reach does not a good flamethrower make—especially for zombie defense. A fair comparison requires pitting Musk's latest against the U.S. military's most famous haulable device, the M2. And to keep it real, I've thrown in the budget alternative: the infamous can of spray paint/lighter combo.
A fair comparison also requires scientific criteria, defined as:
- WEIGHT: Is it easily carried? Once empty, can it be used as a club?
- CAPACITY: Duh.
- MAX RANGE: This matters, especially if being approached by "fast" zombies.
- FEAR FACTOR: Every zombie apocalypse brings opposing human factions with it. You'll need to deter those factions from raiding your encampment.
- EFFECTIVENESS vs. ZOMBIES: Can you cast enough fire to immobilize your attacker(s) prior to a zombifying bite?
- EFFECTIVENESS vs. FACEHUGGERS: In case you end up in the Alien universe.
- EFFECTIVENESS @ BURNING MAN: Can you show off your fire-casting without incinerating your drug dealer, the guy/girl you met behind the bathroom, or your entire encampment?
- DEPRECIATION: If $TSLA tanks, can you sell your flamethrower for food and/or shelter money?
- PRICE: Some people have money to burn. And some people literally have money to burn.
- SAFETY: If you're under attack, #NoOneCares
- RELIABILITY: If you're under attack, #YouCare
- VALUE IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT: Duh.
US Military M2/M2A1
This is the last flamethrower used by the US military, and you don't need to be a veteran of Iwo Jima to know this is the one you want. Take a look at this picture:
Or how about this one?
Tough to carry at 70 pounds, but with almost five gallons of flammable gel on your back and 120 feet of effective range, this is the best of the best until you get to vehicle or crew-served alternatives. Alas, that 70 pounds means you better be strong like bull. Also, most of the weight is on your back, which means the attached projector section sucks for use as a club. Fear factor is enormous, which is critical for long-term survival. Versus slow zombies? You're in luck. At 2 mph, slow zombies will need 41 seconds to reach you from the edge of your max range. Light them up and you or your sidekicks can pick them off with bullets, arrows, or bolts. Fast zombies? At 15 mph, they'll cover 120 feet in five seconds. At least you've got those five seconds. Bring friends, or stay behind the fence. The M2 is moderately effective against smaller, more agile targets like alien facehuggers. Its biggest weakness is its Burning Man rating; it's far too dangerous to show off for fun anywhere near flammable objects (like tents) and you can forget about closed spaces. Depreciation is zero for vintage 1942 units, which have stabilized in price around $30,000. If anything, prices are likely to go up. Safety? As long as the fuel tanks aren't hit by incendiary ammo, you're probably okay. Reliability? Iwo Jima. Korea. Vietnam.
When people say flamethrower, the M2 is what they're talking about.
(There are also brand new options from Throwflame and Ion for as little as $900, but with ranges from 25 to 50 feet vs the M2's 120-plus, skimping is suicide.)
Can of Spray Paint & Bic Lighter
Don't be fooled by that kid who scared you in high school playing with fire in the parking lot. A can of spray paint may be cheap and easy to carry, but it sucks for zombie defense.
Capacity is zilch, and five feet of range means you'll be bitten faster than you can Google "M2" and order some real protection. Fear factor is high for humans under 13 years of age, but zero for those who have undergone, or are currently experiencing puberty. Effectiveness versus zombies or face-huggers is zilch. What about Burning Man? You won't be impressing anyone, unless they're already super high on drugs ... okay, so it passes the Burning Man test with flying colors. Depreciation is at Maserati levels, because Bics and spray paint are disposable like Italian cars not starting with the letter F. Safety and reliability, though, are amazing.
You don't want to bet your life on spray paint and a Bic.
Which brings us to the main attraction.
The Boring Company Flamethrower
For the sake of brevity, we'll refer to The Boring Company Flamethrower as the Musk Model 1. The Musk Model 1 isn't really the purpose-built flamethrower it appears to be. It's actually an Airsoft toy modified to fit a propane blow torch inside, then marked up for suckers who don't really value their own lives. Here's your Musk Model 1:
Here's your plastic Airsoft rifle retailing for $112:
Here's the $59.99 propane blow torch Elon Musk and crew wedged inside:
Here's what a REAL flamethrower like the M2 looks like in action, one more time:
Here's the M2 again:
Now here's the Musk Model 1 in action:
See the difference? One will save your life. The other will save your friend's life while you're being eaten alive.
The Musk Model 1 weighs in at 8 to 10 pounds, loaded, which would be great if it was an actual FLAMETHROWER. Sadly, it's more of an overpriced BBQ accessory. Capacity? It doesn't matter, because with a maximum range under ten feet, you couldn't even stop a slow zombie before it bites you in the face. Ten feet of range is useless for the same reason you can't buy condoms sized "Just The Tip." Fear factor is Comic-Con. Forget fighting zombies. Face-huggers? Only if you've got a friend willing to hold the face-hugger literally on his face so you can roast them both. Burning Man factor will be high, unlesss you meet a maker who 3-D printed a working M2. Depreciation will be low because there's always another guy willing to pay for anything Musk is attached to. Price sucks—you're better off buying a basket of puppies in Tijuana and throwing them at your undead attackers. You're basically paying for a sticker. Safety will be fantastic if you follow instructions and suck if you don't—just like a Tesla. Reliability? Who cares? It won't save your life even if it works. The Musk Model 1 Flamethrower will not work against hordes of the undead, unless you're fighting an undead army of ants.
Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, and author of The Driver, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe and the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler and semi-autonomous classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.