Zombies irritate me. It’s always in the middle of the night they come scratching on a window. Sometimes it is while I am out grilling burgers when they come around with an half an eye hanging out of their head. Jeeze, show some respect!
I think by now the zombie craze has mostly faded, at least in the context of it serving as a helpful if fanciful allegory for prepping in general.
We all have plenty to prepare for, and unfortunately there will be plenty of two-legged threats in the future that you’ll have to worry about, but I don’t think the walking dead will be among them. But then again, what if they are? Or rather, some facts simile of zombies as we know them?
It is not so farfetched is it? Though the notion that a person who is well and truly dead could be reanimated through some mystical or biological necromancy is nearly laughable, nature has already furnished several truly nightmarish approximations of such a threat.
A threat that is all too real, today, and has only been inflated in the imagination through portrayal and popular media, movies, comics and video games alike.
Whether it is a hideous mutation of the rabies virus, a mammalian strain of cordyceps fungi or a henceforth-unknown parasite that is only waiting for its first, incidental contact with mankind, zombies, or at least zombie-like threats, are entirely possible and you need to know how to deal with them.
In this article, we will be reviewing a host of common weapons that you might have to rely on for dispatching these shambling or sprinting threats before they sink their teeth into you.
Just What on Earth are we Actually Dealing With?
So – in case you haven’t had to deal with visits from roving gangs of impolite un-dead – figured I would throw some ideas your way on how to deal with them. Before we get into the list of weapons proper, we need to understand what we are dealing with, what the nature of the threat actually is.
Since we are talking about zombies, or zombie-like infected, we will have to take a few liberties, but not too many. I have little doubt there will be plenty of people in the comments with their own interpretation depending on which school of fictional zombie they think best fits the trope.
Typically, destruction of the brain, or at least massive trauma to the cranial vault, is one of the only things that will truly incapacitate these walking corpses, infected victims or rabid wretches.
My reasoning? Well, no matter how you slice it, whatever sort of zombie-like entity you are dealing with destruction of the host head and brain should take care of business, the same as it does with an actual, living, uninfected human being.
Consider that a rabid human, while still bound by the laws of typical biology, is no longer going to be quite so responsive to shock, blood loss, and other injuries. Only certain mechanical destruction of vital organs, joints or central nervous system structures will reliably incapacitate such a foe.
The same thing applies to a human being infected by some strange, parasitic fungus that merely hijacks the central nervous system. And obviously it is still the de facto solution for dealing with traditionally reanimated walking corpses.
Of course, we also have the speed and agility of the zombie-like organism to consider. Are we dealing with slow, staggering shamblers, or speedy and ferocious sprinters? Whatever the case, the targeting dictum still applies and you can either connect or you can’t. I hope you have been practicing. At any rate, that’s my reasoning and I’m sticking to it.
Well – the fun part is the “How” really. Preamble over. Let’s get to the list and go over some basic tools-of-the-zombie-killin’-trade.
When strictly considering the biological realities of defeating the extraordinarily tough skull of the human body and the practical considerations of having to do it repeatedly, on demand and accurately all from a safe distance nothing beats a firearm.
The question is which type of firearm is best for dispatching the threat posed by zombies or zombie-like organisms?
Overall Rating: Dependable Zed Killer
Shotguns have much to recommend them for zombie killing. Loaded with slugs, they afford the user respectable range and devastating penetrative power that is unlikely to glance off of the frontal glacis of the skull. Dropping a 1 oz. lead pumpkin into a zed’s brain housing is going to have massive effect on target, and end the problem.
Buckshot is also an excellent choice though shorter ranged, and a close delivery of the shot package will have much the same effect as a slug, while still increasing the odds of a lethal hit at extended ranges. Birdshot, on the other hand, still sucks against humaniform targets. Birdshot is for birds, not people, and not deadly biological threats that were formerly people!
Disadvantages of the shotgun include a greatly limited capacity in almost all formats, slow reload time (unless you are dealing with a comparatively uncommon box mag-fed shotgun), and stout recoil.
Manually operated shotguns are classic and prestigious weapons, but don’t fool yourself into thinking they are ultra-reliable unless you are highly trained and practiced: A short stroke could result in a hard malfunction that could wind up with a zed knowing on your throat.
Overall Rating: Dependable Zed Killer
Pistols lack of the power of long guns, but make up for it with extreme portability, handiness and efficacy at extreme close quarters distance.
The vast majority of handguns are more than capable of reliably penetrating the cranial vault of the human skull, though angle of attack matters more with a handgun than it does with a long gun.
Stories of projectiles skipping or glancing off the skull are far from uncommon, and though such a hit is still likely to disable a nominally human attacker via concussion we cannot be certain that such a hit would disable a zed. Place your shots carefully, and prioritize weak points such as the eye socket.
Therein lies the rub as far as pistols are concerned: Out of all the firearms you might choose the pistol is the most difficult to master, and shooting a pistol accurately and quickly under pressure requires considerable practice.
Nonetheless, a trusty sidearm in any form and any service caliber or larger will be a reliable zed killer if you’ve got the chops, and there are otherwise easy to handle and quick enough to reload if you are employing a semi-auto, so make sure you are getting in that range time whenever you can.
Overall Rating: Excellent Zombie Slayer to Dependable Zed Killer, depending on action.
Long range shots can be fun, and require a good rifle and scope. Just be aware that if there is a crowd of un-dead in the distance shooting will bring them in closer.
Out of all the firearms you might choose, rifles will furnish the greatest power and best overall accuracy, but among rifles there is great variety and the class of rifle that you choose will influence your chances of success to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances of the engagement.
Any rifle will do if you can do, but you should prioritize a lightweight, handy semi-auto carbine chambered in an intermediate caliber, preferably one fed by a large box magazine.
These guns, more than any other will furnish the best possible blend of easy handling, decisive power, range and accuracy in a flexible and mobile package. When the time comes to really stack up some zeds, an AR or AK will be hard to beat.
However, you should not discount a rifle just because it isn’t a modern semi-auto. Bolt-actions of all vintages, particularly those chambered in traditional, full-power hunting cartridges will have power to spare and are often capable of pinpoint accuracy.
Unfortunately follow-up shots are hampered by slow manual operation, and greatly limited magazine capacity that is likewise slow to refill. Lever-action rifles are quicker to operate and usually enjoy slightly larger magazine sizes while still typically chambering potent pistol or rifle cartridges.
They are nearly as slow to reload as bolt -ctions, however. As with all manually operated firearms, there is always a chance that you can bobble the cycling of the gun and induce a malfunction, so take care.
Close Combat Weapons
Traditional close combat weapons- in the form of repurposed tools, sporting equipment or legitimate battle implements- form another cornerstone in your zed-killing arsenal.
The single biggest drawback with these weapons is that you’ll naturally have to allow the critter to get much closer to you in order to employ them effectively, too close for comfort most times.
Positives though include a lack of dependence on ammunition, and the fact that they are generally quieter than virtually any firearm. Still, there are many types and variations to consider that will greatly affect your decision to use them or not.
Overall Rating: Poor Zed Killer
Just in case you are don’t have your shotgun or another firearm – a machete can work wonders. Make sure it is sharp, and hack away just under the jaw bone. Watching that head roll, priceless. Right…
Though the notion of using a machete to cleave a zed’s cranium right off of their shoulders is an appealing one, and at least is theoretically possible.
Not for nothing, a machete is also capable of splitting a coconut open, at least halfway, so perhaps it is more viable than a common knife for dealing out a lethal head wound. At least, that is how the reasoning goes.
The problem with using a machete for anti-zombie duty is it is still principally a slashing weapon, or tool. At best, it has some efficacy at chopping, akin to an ax, although it falters as a distant runner-up.
The problem is with the construction. Most machetes are built of lightweight, springy steel that is incredibly tough. This helps to ensure that the tool will stand up to abuse and also not tire out its user, both admirable traits.
The vicious slashing capability of a machete makes it the functional equivalent of a short sword against a human attacker, but it lacks the heft and blade geometry to reliably cleave into the skull. The deep, broad belly of the typical machete blade also makes them poorly suited to stabbing. Save this one for hacking a path through the underbrush.
Overall Rating: Poor Zed Killer
Popular media is full of depictions of valiant survivors wielding hunting knives dispatching zeds with the same efficacy they would use to carve up a summertime watermelon, but a skeptical eye will reveal the obvious shortcomings in such a plan. Driving a knife into human flesh is easy enough, even slipping it between bones of the ribcage.
But piercing the human skull with a knife is altogether a different task, even assuming one has the accuracy and the presence of mind to attack the weakest parts of the skull that provide the most likely access to the brain inside.
Knives are also fairly notorious for getting entangled with the target, a good way to disarm yourself when dealing with a ravenous zed…
The reality is that it will be far too difficult to produce the power and the accuracy required on demand to dispatch even a single zed, much less deal with multiples in short order when your life depends on it.
A knife might be a great tool for tangling with one of your fellow human beings at point blank range since it can inflict hideous wounds upon muscles, organs and other tissues with frightening speed.
Unfortunately, our modified enemies are overwhelmingly likely to lack such concerns as pain, tissue damage and fear, so your knife is better kept as a trusted field tool and as a last-ditch weapon against the tender administrations of a ferocious zed.
Axe / Hatchet
Overall Rating: Dependable Zed Killer
Oh yea! Nothing like the wind-up and final over the shoulder swing and that feel of the blade hitting the “sweet spot” just makes your day! An ax or hatchet, in the form of a dedicated battlefield weapon or a repurposed logging tool, is a sturdy and formidable close quarters weapon in any guise.
A sharpened wedge of tool steel swung with authority is more than enough to cleave into a human skull, and even a glance or poorly aligned impact is going to inflict severe trauma, hopefully enough to fracture the skull and quite possibly bring down the zed.
Compared to other bladed implements, axes and hatchets are far less dependent upon a hair-splitting edge to do their work, relying upon brutal mechanical advantage instead.
However, it isn’t all good news with axes and hatchets as they must be swung decisively to have any effect at all, and a miss will leave the user wide open for a counterattack.
The speed at which one could “re-chamber” a blow from a hatchet is an advantage in their favor, but they suffer from greatly reduced reach over a traditional axe. At any rate, their utility as a common tool does commend them greatly as part of a well-rounded survivor’s complement when dealing with a zombie or zombie-ish apocalypse.
Overall Rating: Poor Zed Killer
Perhaps more so than any other, clubs and other blunt weapons encompass the widest possible range of tools repurposed as weapons and purpose designed weaponry.
A club could be anything from the ubiquitous and greatly beloved baseball bat or golf club to a weapon of desperation like a rolling pin or a sturdy branch. Heck, even your great grandmother’s cast iron skillet is a club, and a potentially deadly one!
Clubs, much like axes, are dependent upon an accurate strike to the head in order to do good work against a zed.
Unfortunately, they lack the effectiveness of axes and though most users or prospective users or in the audience would likely assert so they can swing any given club hard enough and accurately enough to blast a zed’s intact head off of its shoulders (and clear over the bleachers into the parking lot).
However, the reality is far different. The human skull is an immensely durable structure, and generating enough power to crack it, much less shatter it, is far easier said than done.
As mentioned above, we cannot rely on what would be show-stopping impact trauma for a typical human stopping one of our augmented or hideously reanimated foes. Nothing less than the infliction of massive direct trauma on the brain is reliable enough.
Many clubs that one would choose are not war clubs, and ergo are not purpose designed for shattering skulls or other bones, even though they have the capability. Something like a golf club is in reality far too flimsy to stand up to more than one or two uses against a human skull, and afford almost no capability on defense.
Overall Rating: Poor Zed Killer
One of the favorite weapons of the late Bruce Lee, nunchaku, or nunchucks if you are a reprobate Westerner, are an ancient martial arts weapon hailing from China, supposedly developed from agricultural hand threshing tools.
This flail consists of two wooden batons joined by a short section of cord or chain and may be used for striking, constricting and joint or limb locks. Used with skill and care it is an elegant and intimidating weapon. Used poorly it is just as likely to crack your own skull as the zed’s, as legions of boys no doubt learned trying to imitate their idol, Bruce Lee.
The problem with nunchaku, as with all flails, is that they are very much an all-or-nothing weapon. Though they can generate tremendous power when swung, more than enough to crack a skull, a miss will likewise leave the wielder wide open or, even worse, result in a self-inflicted strike.
You can afford neither when dealing with hungry zeds. Even taken at its best, nunchaku are extremely inefficient and you are far better off working with a safer and more decisive weapon.
Not every weapon is held in the hand. Check out the following methods of zombie destruction.
Overall Rating: Poor Zed Killer
Fire is often seen as something of an ultimate zombie eliminator, and this must have something to do with the inherently purifying nature of intense heat to say nothing of open flame.
After all, when something gets reduced to a little brick of charcoal you might say that any germs that used to reside on whatever it used to be are well and truly obliterated! This line of thinking is correct, but not the way that most people think.
Fire is an excellent cleanser, but it makes a poor weapon if your target is incapable of feeling fear or pain. It takes a very long time for fire to genuinely affect the brain, much less destroy the body entirely through prolonged immolation.
Throwing some gasoline or diesel on a single zed or a clutch of them before striking a match might make for a dramatic scene, but it is not the most efficient or safe way to eliminate them, not by a long shot.
Similarly, the flamethrower, long the darling of the pyromaniac, affords better range and certainty for the same operation but is no more effective at dispatching the creatures than the aforementioned method.
Keep fire on the back burner as a method of body disposal for post-death rites and skip employing it as a weapon when you need dead zeds, pronto.
Overall Rating: Dependably effective, but too risky!
Run them over! What is seemingly one of the safest and most surefire methods of zombie elimination is the good, old fashioned vehicular motown, or ram. What could be better than splattering a zombie all over the front grill of your vehicle while you sit safely ensconced in the cabin? Well, as it turns out, almost anything!
The problem with running over zombies is that it is unlikely to do what we need it to do in order to dispatch them, though it might leave them in such a broken and mangled heap that they are rendered effectively immobile. It is going to be a matter of blind luck if you inflict enough damage to the brain to destroy them totally.
What’s worse, by far, is that the impact is going to inflict dramatic damage to your vehicle unless you have taken great pains to specially harden it against such impacts.
This is bad enough if you are driving an older vehicle as you’ll still be inflicting significant damage to the radiator and potentially the steering gear and engine itself.
Driving a newer vehicle might be a death sentence because these rides have a propensity to deploy airbags and shut off the engine whenever they detect a significant collision, say, like the kind you are likely to experience when impacting a pedestrian at speed…
You can’t risk that. If you don’t have your vehicle specially modified with heavy-duty bumpers or cow catchers and have taken care to eliminate automatic shutdown sensors don’t even attempt it.
It is far better to nudge zeds out of the way or drive over them at slower, controlled speeds to minimize damage to your vehicle while crushing them beneath the wheels before driving off.
There you have it, our highly scientific and completely state-of-the-art assessment concerning a variety of methods for dispatching zombies or zombie-like organisms. No matter what sort of scenario you are facing with what kind of zeds, there’s always something you can do to start stacking bodies.
Make sure you prepare for the unthinkable by committing these methods along with their strengths and weaknesses to memory.
last update: May 6th 2021
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7 thoughts on “10 Effective Weapons Against Zombies”
Being a girl, I favor the rifle, I don’t much care for the idea of up close and personal. However, your very salient point of “Just be aware that if there is a crowd of un-dead in the distance shooting will bring them in closer.” causes reconsideration. I have shot a compound bow but it didn’t have the range of the Remington 700 military sniper rifle. I am inspired to investigate the performance of cross bows. Furthermore, maybe I can reuse the ammo.
I like the idea of a crossbow or bow. Just be aware that sometimes the broadheads can get caught in the zombie’s eye socket – making it difficult to remove.
Ha! Good stuff!
I sometimes think the term “zombies” is a term that is used as a metaphor for the people who are unprepared.
One item that never seems to get a lot of play on prepper/survival sites is the bow and arrow or crossbow. Would you ever consider doing something on that Rourke? I myself own a bow and a crossbow and find that would be a very useful tool when the paradigm shifts….or when the SHTF. Just a thought.
Great stuff as always.
I am very interested in getting a bow or crossbow myself.
Amazing how expensive all that stuff is nowadays.
Thanks – Rourke
Love the final one. I dont want zombie guts on my clean truck!! lol
I highly recommend checking out Dead Rising 2 for XBox/PS3/etc.
The weapons are extremely creative! (But some are unrealistic)
Seriously, who wouldn’t want to go at a bunch of zombies with 2 chainsaws strapped to a kayak paddle?
Zombies on fire? Cool. Zombies on fire setting everything around them on fire? Not cool.