he Top Ten Guns for Taking on a Zombie Hoard
Ok, so off the bat, let me say that most likely you won't be facing a zombie hoard, so investing a bunch of your limited dollars into a weapon to defend against zombies is probably not your best spend. However, it is a great TSHTF scenario to discuss and allows you to consider the use of a few gems that have been all but written off by contemporary gun writers.
If you are really looking for a great, general-purpose weapon for hunting and home defense buy a shotgun. Better yet, read Boston's Gun Bible and then decide for yourself.
The list is limited to weapons that are (currently) available to civilians. A few may be expensive, but if you hit-up enough gunshows or make sure your favorite gun dealer is on your Christmas card list - you can get them to track one down.
Who wouldn't want the use of a 5.56mm Vulcan Mini-gun to take on an army of the undead? While you're at it - why don't you mount that sucker on top of a tank? With that kind of money you could hire an army of displaced ChiCom mercenaries to do the fighting for you . . . I have to be somewhat realistic here. Oh wait . . . zombie invasion . . . fa!
Top criteria for weapons includes reliability, scroungability of ammunition, ease of carrying (weight), and effectiveness against the skull of a semi-necrotic, undead adversary. Remember, you kill the brain – you kill the ghoul . . .
1. M1 Carbine - Yep, that's right suckers, the venerable M1 Carbine is top on my list. Designed in a time when rifles had to perform flawlessly in the out-of-doors and also serve as a club, the M1 Carbine's longtime pain point has been its underpowered cartridge - not a problem when dealing with offing the undead. The M1 Carbine is also lightweight, carries and handles well, and you can carry a huge supply of magazines for it. There are even aftermarket rail kits for it, so you can add whatever accessories you’d like.
Make sure yours has a bayonet. :)
2. AK-47 – The weapon designed to be used by semi-trained peasants to repel the evils of capitalism is a great choice for the undead. Though it pushes back a little harder on the shoulder than the carbine, it is uber-reliable – a boon when trying to find gun oil and extractor springs in a collapsed economy.
Its once-unusual cartridge (7.62x39mm) is becoming more prevalent in sporting goods stores and collections around the country. Even Winchester and other US manufacturers are making legit hunting and sporting rounds for it. Although tempting, I wouldn't recommend the AK-74 unless you have stockpiled and cached a mad amount of 5.45x39mm ammo.
My dad would also be proud to see that the top two items on my list have wooden stocks.
3. AR-15 Series rifle – I know I’ll get a lot of flak for not making this number one on my list – especially with some of the crowd I run with. The reality is that there are way too many parts to go wrong on an AR to make it a truly reliable post-TSHTF type of weapon. However, since we are talking about taking head shots on half-rotted zombies, then the usually complaints about the AR’s less-than-manstopper round are not applicable here.
It gets lots of points for accuracy – nice to take care of zombies before they start shouldering into the side of your house and keeping the kiddies up with their incessant moaning – and the fact that you can carry a hell of a lot of ammo for it with minimal weight issues. Plus, the scrounge factor of .223 Remington is really high – especially in the parts of the country where we do a lot of hog hunting.
4. SKS – Despite being a cheaper, more accurate relative of the AK-47, the SKS gets points for being a much more civilized looking version of its notorious cousin. Maybe this will make the shell-shocked villagers less apt to take a pot shot at you as you make your way through their plowed field in the middle of the night. Also, because it is a more “old school” weapon it’s very, very robust and can be used as a club in a pinch. Most even come mounted with an integrated bayonet – which would be great for keeping the undead at bay while you are fooling around with the stripper clips. :)
It loses points for not being able to hold as much ammo (10 round stripper clip vs. a 30-rd magazine), but a user can be trained to load an entire 10-rd stripper clip into the rifle in the same amount of time it takes someone to load one round into a magazine. There are some after-market accessories for the rifle that allow it to have a larger ammo capacity, but I have never seen any of these that I would consider robust enough to take on a hoard of the undead. There were a few versions of the rifle that take an AK mag (the best of both worlds), but these are usually pretty rare.
Also a great choice for the zombie hunter on a budget.
5. AR-180 – Built at the time to be a better weapon than the AR-15, this rifle has become a favored weapon by Armalite collectors, the IRA, and Terminator 1 fanboys. It is very reliable, easy-to-carry (integral folding stock), but unfortunately doesn’t take standard AR mags without modification. This ridiculous issue may have been an f-you to the Colt folks who got the AR contract, or may actually be for some other reason that I have yet to discover. This issue was thankfully remedied on the latest incarnation, the AR-180B, which sadly has omitted the folding stock.
Check out the StormWerkz aftermarket mounts to make this a really formidable intermediate sniper weapon.
6. Saiga 12 or 20 gauge semi-automatic shotgun – One of the coolest and least talked about AK-mods is the Saiga shotgun system. In its standard configuration it appears to be nothing more than an ugly, designed for import to silly American’s, how-can-we-make-this-using-our-same-tooling comm-bloc version of a shotgun. On first glance, you’d be right, but throw in some Mad Dog custom 12 gauge drums and the Tapco T-6 stock set, and you are really looking at a great, reliable weapon system to take you though to the EOTWAWKI. Eat your heart out, Mad Max.
Check out the article in the August 2008 SWAT magazine about the Krebs Custom upgrades. It really makes this system shine.
7. Pistol-based carbines – This is a general category, but there are so many variations that you just need to play around and find the system that would be right for you – hopefully mated to your primary handgun choice. For example, if you were a Beretta 92/M9 user, then you would use a 9mm CX4 Storm carbine that uses the same magazines. Another example is the Marlin Camp Carbine, which uses the S&W 59 magazines.
This allows you to use the same magazines for both the pistol and the carbine (less gear to have to keep track of) and also means that if one of those was to fail, your accessories wouldn’t be automatically rendered obsolete. There are also complete “upper” kits to convert Glock and 1911 lower receivers (etc.) to full-size carbines, but I don’t have a lot of experience with these.
Because we are talking about taking out the undead and not a big game animal, the typical arguments against the diminutive size of the pistol round are not at issue.
8. The Uzi – The semi-auto version of the notorious sub-gun of the Israeli army, the Uzi is a robust, reliable weapon that feels great in the hands. With its future-from-the-1960s look, the Uzi is so ugly it looks good. It aims well and is a pleasure to shoot. The “clip in the grip” loading style is natural and easy to load under the pressure of an undead invasion.
This probably should have been included in the pistol-caliber carbine section, but the Uzi is such a classic, it needs its own number. The Norinco version is much cheaper than its IMI counterpart and some of the parts will even trade out for field repairs.
9. Lever-action rifle in .357 magnum or .45 Colt – Just like the last few minutes of the theatrical release version of Army of Darkness, you too can go after the undead with a modern replica of the frontier classic. Check out Cimarron Arms in Fredericksburg, TX for a great selection of extremely well-made western-style leverguns. Some of the longer barreled models even hold up to and include 10 rounds, which should put a significant dent in a squad of undead baddies. The benefit of a lever-action rifle is that you can shoot and cock the weapon without taking your eyes off the target, the guns are generally light and carry well, they have an unobtrusive look that makes you look less dangerous to the shell-shocked humans you would encounter on your scavenger journeys across the Wastelands.
Why not the .44 Magnum? Overkill . . . both on the zombie and your shoulder.
10. Pump action riot shotgun – Ah, we all love the classics. The pump-action shotgun – ubiquitous weapon of urban self-defense – is also a good choice for the undead. It provides a mess of firepower in a easy-to-use, easy-to-carry package. With a ‘00’-buck load, you also have the added benefit of taking out both the zombie you are aiming at, and the one next to him. Detractions include limited ammunition capacity (even with higher-capacity weapons you can still only hold so many rounds in your kit) and a hard kick (worse for new or younger shooters).
The good news is the scroungability of the 12 gauge shell. It’s so common you’d likely even find a few boxes of shells hidden away in the closet of even the most ardent gun control supporter.
Notably off the list
There were also a few staples of the Zombie/Gunshow/Red Dawn/post-TSHTF culture that were left off of the list.
MBRs - No main battle rifles were included on the list because these rifles are specifically designed for combat with living adversaries. A great weapon for home defense and a real post-SHTF scenario, but the larger round would be overkill (LOL) on an undead adversary. I came really close to including a M1 Garand rifle (it's almost a rifle, club, and pike all in one), but alas . . .
Double Barrel, 12-gauge shotgun - Though personally I would probably opt to have some type of double barrel shotgun strapped to my back in an Evil-Dead-style rig, it would never be my primary arm. Absolutely devastating on anything in short range and extremely high on the cool factor - you just can't reload fast enough to take down all of your recently reanimated friends and neighbors.
Ruger Mini-14 Ranch or Ruger Mini-30 rifle – Despite all of the love that these weapons got in the A-Team, I have never been a big fan of the rifles. A Mini-14 is not a bad rifle per say, but although it has the look – it has never been a military grade rifle and I don’t think it is rough enough for the sustained use one would see in a zombie war situation. A hunting buddy of mine had a Ruger Mini-30 that was unable to fire surplus 7.62x39mm ammunition because the firing pin wasn’t hard enough! I can’t imagine buying anything in that caliber and then not being able to fire surplus ammo – the cheaper ammo being one of the primary reasons to even get the rifle to begin with . . .
.22 caliber rifle – Though a good, lightweight .22 caliber rifle should be the core item in your wilderness E&E kit or Bug-out bag, it can never serve as the primary dispatch weapon for an undead adversary. Perfect for hunting small game and other animals, it lacks the definitive thwack needed to take out a ghoul.
Pistols - Pistols have a few disadvantages in this scenario. While great as a back-up weapon, they are usually hard to use effectively at any reasonable ranges (remember - you want to keep the zombies at bay, not get into some zombie CQB scenario), the ammo is usually underpowered, and you can't effectively use a pistol as a club - with some exceptions.
Crossbows – I, too, love the scene in Resident Evil 4 when Alice takes out the zombie at a distance using her OSS-inspired folding crossbow, but unfortunately they are not efficient enough (size of ammo vs. weapon size) to justify the extra weight. With proper training, a crossbow can be just as accurate as a rifle, but since zombies either group together or they don’t – use a melee weapon for a single slack or a pair, and then use your primary weapon for a larger group.
Is this list controversial? Hell yeah, it is! Everyone has their favorites and the weapon they grew-up hunting with and undoubtedly would be their primary arm in a post-TSHTF zombie scenario. I am certainly not advocating anyone getting rid of their weapon of choice just because they saw a list on someone else’s website.
As Royal Tennebaum said to his adopted daughter Margot after the performance of her play:
Well, sweetie, don't get mad at me. That's just one man's opinion.
- Many Rifles