Okay, so I was doing my best to avoid thinking about work today; and, while doing so, I came across a blogger who was writing about his selections for zombie defense which boiled down to a bolt action hunting rifle for long range, a shotgun for mid range and a semi auto pistol for close in defense. This line of posts, naturally, got me to thinking on the subject. One thing glaringly missing from the discussion, in my humble opinion, was a detailed analysis of the hypothetical situation including the behavior of the enemy (zombies and those less prepared) and the anticipated conditions of the environment (anarchy, looting…you know…Walmart the day before Christmas). It is through this prism that we must analyze our choices for the perfect zombie defense weapons.
For purposes of this discussion, I will follow the three gun (or less) rule. The reason for this is simple: three guns is really the most any one person can realistically carry with sufficient ammo to stave off hordes of zombies/liberals and still be mobile enough to run for it if things head into the port-a-potty. If you plan on holing up in a bunker, by all means compile your fantasy list of movie magic. Me? I want the freedom to get out and forage or hunt for food once in a while.
First up, let’s chat about our opponents for a moment. Movie lore seems to indicate two possible incarnations of zombies: a) the mindless, slow moving albeit relentless zombie, or b) the semi aware, fast moving, aggressive, break down doors and chase any living thing for miles zombie. Non-zombies less prepared than you can be lumped into category b since, in my opinion, that’s where they will ultimately wind up. Let’s also assume that any zombies you can see can see you as well (making you into a potential zombie snack). No one has ever really addressed the hearing capabilities of zombies that I recall; however, let’s assume that zombies retain their normal hearing ability as well.
Movie lore is more unanimous on the subject of zombie disposal. Head shots are the key here. No more head/brain. No more zombie. Simple. Straight forward. No fuss. No muss. End of story.
So, one would think that accuracy would be the watch word for zombie firearm selection, right? Maybe. There are several bolt action .22 LR rifles out there considered by some to be the benchmark for accuracy, but I’ve never heard anyone seriously enter one into contention for a zombie gun. Rate of fire has to be taken into consideration…especially if you’re up against the more aggressive “type b” zombies. So, how about a .22 LR semi auto rifle?
Laugh. I dare you. This is a serious discussion (said with a completely serious look on my face I assure you).
There are certainly some distinct advantages to the .22 LR round. Let’s examine some facts for a moment. The ammo is cheap. You can carry a lot of it before you have to resupply. There would probably be enough .22 LR rounds left lying around after the apocalypse to kill every zombie on the planet twice…maybe even three times. Professional hit men have supposedly been using .22 LR successfully for years against non-zombies (at least according to Hollywood). At 100 yards, a 40 grain .22 bullet still carries 93 ft. lbs. of energy which is sufficient energy to penetrate a zombie skull and have energy to spare for bouncing around the inside making Swiss cheese out of the contents of said zombie skull.
Before you naysayers have a hissy fit, let’s consider the drawbacks of the .22 LR round for a moment. It’s small. It might expand up to the size of say…a .25 ACP…if it’s lucky. Your effective range pretty much tops out at 100 yards; and, I don’t know about you, I want a little more cushion between me and the horde.
Think about it for a moment; let’s see how a Ruger 10/22 stacks up in a hypothetical zombie fight. If we assume that that the average semi fat, lazy, office bound claims adjuster turned zombie (that would be someone like me) walks/shuffles/staggers along at a rate of 20 paces per minute (which is actually about 1/5 a normal person's walking pace) covering an average distance of 2 to 3 feet per step. That translates to up to 60 feet per minute or covering 100 yards in right at five minutes. I can easily empty a 50 round magazine for the Ruger 10/22 with aimed fire in about a minute. Let’s assume for the moment that it takes a minimum of 2 rounds per zombie to make a kill. That means a fairly good marksman is capable of dropping a maximum of 25 zombies a minute. If there are more than 125 zombies in your horde (which is highly likely in even the more remote, rural environments), you are screwed unless you move. If your Ruger 10/22 jams (which NEVER happens with cheap, bulk ammo), you’re screwed unless you move. If your zombies run instead of walk, you’d better be running too unless you want to be a zombie (I’m a zombie, she’s a zombie, wouldn’t you like to be a zombie too?...my apologies to Dr Pepper) which will affect your accuracy. Better remember to add that red dot sight for quicker sight acquisition without the parallax issues. Several enterprising gunsmiths even offer the 10/22 with a suppressor integrated with the barrel. Neat.
So, the Ruger 10/22 is not a bad idea for a zombie gun, but it’s not such a good idea either. It could make the list as a good, back up, mid range gun since it’s light. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a better mid range gun than a shotgun given the fact that most shotguns have an 8 round capacity limitation unless you can find one of the super special versions with a 50 round rotating drum magazine which are not likely to be had at the local gun shop (or anywhere else easily accessible for that matter) anytime soon. Also, accuracy on a shotgun gets dicey out past 50 yards even with slugs and rifle sights. Finally, shotgun ammo is just too stinkin’ bulky and heavy to lug around. For about the same weight, I can carry 500 .22LR rounds in the same amount of space as I can carry 25 shotgun shells. Hmmm…I can kill 25 zombies with one load out versus up to 250 zombies with the other. Decisions. Decisions.
Okay, the mid range gun is pretty much nailed down in my opinion, and we’ve established that we need accuracy, rate of fire (meaning a semi auto) and a bit of “AT&T reach out of touch someone” ability (anything smaller than .30 caliber need not apply) for the long range gun. Let’s not forget that zombies might be able to hear as well as we can. That suggests the need for a suppressor capable rifle. We also can’t forget about ammo availability meaning we can’t go with exotic calibers which would be hard to find after the initial looting of every sporting goods store in America. What does that suggest to you? I’m thinking the caliber of choice for the long range zombie gun would be the .308 (also known as the 7.62 x 51 mm NATO by you military types). It’s got the legs to get out to 1000 yards with enough energy and accuracy to do some damage. Depending on the loading, range and firing platform, it can be fired quietly enough that a zombie won’t be able to hear where the shot came from. Best of all, it’s one of the standard calibers currently in use in the US Military as well as a good chunk of the rest of the world meaning you will be able to find plenty of ammo when the stuffing hits the fan.
The .308 is easily a one shot one kill capable cartridge. So, we want a weapon that can hold 20 to 30 rounds of ammo to eliminate the need to reload every 10 seconds. The two obvious choices in this category would be the AR-15 based AR-10/LR-308 (depending on who's making it) and the venerable Springfield M1A/M14. Another choice would be any of several Heckler & Koch semi auto rifles including the G3 and Model 91. There are probably several other good selections to be had, but I think many of those options would get into issues with parts compatibility that become critical in a post apocalyptic environment where parts aren’t being made anymore. By contrast, the M1A/M14 is still in use in some military units and the AR-10/LR-308 is popular enough to have parts almost literally littered every. The M1A/M14 and AR-10/LR-308 also both come with threaded barrels ready to accept a flash hider, muzzle break or suppressor as the situation warrants. Of the two, I’d probably lean towards to AR-10/LR-308 since it’s not quite as heavy as a M1A/M14. On the flip side, the M1A/M14 makes a much better club if you run out of ammo and have to smash some zombie skulls the old fashioned way. Hard choice.
That leaves us with the close in weapon to choose. Same defining factors apply to this choice as it does to the others. Revolvers are accurate, but are seriously lacking in rate of fire. The most you can hope for out of a pistol for range is 50 yards. Beyond that, your accuracy is much less likely to be good enough to hit the head shot necessary to disable the zombie. As much as I love 1911 .45 semi autos, they just don’t fit the requirements here. A single stack .45 gets you 9 shots (8 in the mag plus 1 in the pipe)…maybe 11 if you go with extended mags. Going to the double stack 1911s only gets you a few more rounds, and they’re heavier than the combat Tupperware 9mms out there.
This brings us, inevitably, to the caliber and manufacturer of choice for a zombie handgun: the Glock G17 9mm. People can joke about 9mm maybe expanding to the size of a .45 but .45s never shrinking to the size of a 9mm. In a zombie outbreak, it doesn’t matter in my opinion. A solid head shot from a 9mm is just as effective as a .45 head shot. 9mm is also the current handgun caliber of choice for the military and a lot of law enforcement meaning you shouldn’t have too much trouble find ammo to feed your needs. Plus, a full size Glock will get you 18 shots of 9mm with the option for 33 round mags if you are so inclined. You can poo poo the Glock name all you want to. I’ve owned one, and they are certainly not without their drawbacks. However, they are reliable, safe, tough, simple and reasonably accurate in the practiced hand. In a fight for your life, they don’t come much more reliable, and you can fit a threaded barrel on them for a suppressor for those times when you need to cap a zombie in a building without alerting his friends.
So, to recap, my three gun choice for the zombie outbreak would be: the Springfield M1A/M14, the Ruger 10/22 and the Glock 17. Argue with me if you will, but I think this selection gives me a better than average chance of survival in a zombie infested world. Your experience may vary.