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September 18, 2023

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Weapons

By Joe Engesser

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What are some of the best zombie apocalypse weapons? It’s a fun discussion for horror fans and gun enthusiasts, with numerous hit zombie films, TV shows, and video games keeping the topic at the forefront of popular culture. We'll take a look at some of the most famous firearm platforms featured in zombie fiction and consider how they'd stack up when battling the undead.

Thanks to the popularity of 'The Walking Dead' the Colt Python has become one of the most iconic zombie apocalypse weapons.

Weapons to use in a Zombie Apocalypse

The best zombie apocalypse weapons are sometimes whatever objects happen to be available, including last-ditch melee options such as blades, bats, and axes, but the importance of guns in such a desperate survival scenario cannot be overstated. When it comes to choosing the right zombie guns, factors such as reliability, accuracy, versatility, portability, capacity, ammunition availability, ease of handloading said ammo, and noise suppression should all be considered. And of course, if we're going by Hollywood's portrayal, a little coolness factor never hurt.

Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) teaches Ellie (Bella Ramsey) how to shoot a Remington Model 700 BDL in HBO's 'The Last of US.'

Properties such as 'The Walking Dead,' 'The Last of Us,' and 'Zombieland' feature a staggering array of guns onscreen, from vintage revolvers to full auto SMGS, and many similar firearm models can be found in RIAC's upcoming auction. Click on the images throughout this article to learn more about each gun model.

The .700 Nitro Express, 4-bore double rifle, and .950 JDJ, three powerful zombie apocalypse weapons for defenders with iron shoulders.
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Zombie Apocalypse Wheelguns

As Clint Smith, a Marine Corps vet and former law enforcement officer, famously said, “A handgun is for shooting your way to your rifle." While not an ideal primary weapon, carrying a reliable sidearm makes sense for a portable backup zombie gun.

If Rick Grimes' signature Python is any indication, a sturdy revolver in a brain-shredding caliber makes for one of the best zombie apocalypse weapons for desperate close-range encounters. The mighty Python is just one of a multitude of wheelguns chambered in .357 Magnum, and its ability to also chamber the more plentiful .38 Special cartridge is a notable advantage when scrounging for ammunition.

The Colt Python's appearance in 1988's 'They Live' may have inspired its inclusion in 'The Walking Dead' as Rick Grimes' signature sidearm.

Among the best zombie apocalypse guns for concealability, the pocket revolver has been another fixture of the genre since 1968's 'Night of the Living Dead.' Like their long-barreled brethren, snubbies such as the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard line and the classic Colt Detective Special are easy to learn and won't jam from a feed. With the snub nose, accuracy and range are sacrificed in favor of greater portability and maneuverability.

The Colt Detective Special, one of the memorable zombie guns from 'The Walking Dead.'

As fans of 'Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare' will attest, Old West revolvers like the Single Action Army can serve as effective zombie apocalypse weapons. Whether you're taking on brain eaters with a black powder framed classic or smiting the undead with a more modern model chambered for a smokeless cartridge, the SAA revolver has proven itself a worthy wheelgun for 150 years and counting.

The Colt SAA revolver, one of the most popular zombie apocalypse weapons in film and television.

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Pistols

While revolvers have earned a reputation for reliability, semi-auto pistols hold a clear advantage when it comes to average capacity and reload time. Not surprisingly, the venerable 1911 has been one of the most visible zombie apocalypse weapons on film. America's most iconic pistol is an ideal choice thanks to its reliability, ease of upkeep, and plentiful .45 ACP ammo supply, a forgiving cartridge in terms of handloading.

A zombie gun with a bit of extra flair, Woody Harrelson wields his nickel-plated 1911A1 in 2009's 'Zombieland.'

Modern 9mm pistols make some of the best zombie weapons in terms of portable firepower. The H&K P30 series, the Sig Sauer P320, the Beretta 92FS, and the ubiquitous Glock all make fine close-range sidearms against the undead, are comparatively easy to operate, run the most common round in America, and can be equipped with suppressors if you can find a piece with a threaded barrel. Due to their comparatively complex internals, semi automatic pistols can be prone to jamming if they aren't cleaned and maintained, especially when exposed to the elements.

The Beretta 92FS Inox, one of the zombie apocalypse weapons with the most screentime in 2004's 'Dawn of the Dead.'

For zombie slayers looking for a larger round, a pistol in 10mm Auto like the Bren Ten packs a punch. And for firepower freaks wanting to unleash a hand cannon on the undead once their rifle rounds and shotgun shells run dry, nothing beats the Desert Eagle in .50 Action Express. Just enjoy the ammo while it lasts.

While arguably one of the most over-the-top zombie guns, the I.M.I./Magnum Research Desert Eagle does look great on screen.

Lever Guns in the Zombie Apocalypse

While revolvers and pistols are easy to carry, they should be reserved for last-ditch defense against the undead.  Rifles offer greater power and effective range, relatively simple internals, and are a far more viable option for taking game. In the original 'Night of the Living Dead' the platform was most prominently represented by a classic lever action rifle, the Winchester Model 1894.

The Winchester Model 1894 rifle, one of the classic zombie apocalypse weapons used in 'Night of the Living Dead.'.

Plenty of comparatively modern lever action rifles are widely available, such as the Marlin 336, the Browning BLR, and the Henry Repeating Arms lineup, all offered in common chamberings. When it comes to operating antique lever action rifles, many shooters today reload black powder centerfire cartridges like .44-40 W.C.F. and .45-70 Govt. By contrast, reloading rimfire ammo like .44 Henry would be all but impossible, as depicted by the Winchester Model 1866 in 'Shaun of the Dead' which was limited to the few rounds scavenged along with the gun.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) realizes the advantages firearms bestow as zombie apocalypse weapons.

Bolt Action Rifles for the Zombie Apocalypse

When ranking the best zombie apocalypse weapons to tackle undead from a distance, look no further than the iconic bolt action rifle. In HBO's 'The Last of Us' Pedro Pascal carries the Winchester Model 70 as his primary firearm, deploying the trusted rifle against both the ravenous infected and a multitude of human threats who stand in his way.

The Winchester Model 70 bolt action rifle, one of the signature zombie guns from HBO's 'The Last of Us.'

As one of the most widely available hunting arms and military surplus rifles found around the world, it's no surprise to see the bolt action rifle appear in one form or another in almost every zombie film and television series. Downsides include a modest rate of fire and somewhat limited capacity, and though bolt action models can be found in numerous smaller calibers, the most popular rounds for the platform, including .30-06, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .308 and its 7.62 NATO military version can be heavy when carried in quantity. In its favor, the bolt action is a fairly simple mechanism that's easy to field strip and maintain, and the platform's impressive stopping power and long-range potential make them worth including in any arsenal of zombie apocalypse weapons.

A zombie apocalypse survivor in France fires a K98 rifle chambered in 8mm Mauser, one of the most popular military cartridges of its era.

Semi Automatic Rifles as Zombie Apocalypse Weapons

While bolt actions make great long-range zombie guns, there's nothing like a semi automatic rifle to tackle a large horde of flesh-eaters. The ability to engage multiple zombies quickly while still taking medium-distance precision shots is a property that can be found in most modern semi automatic rifles as well as numerous vintage models. While an older military rifle might be the only semi-automatic shoulder arm available for some survivors, it's important to choose a long-term option that includes a large magazine capacity and a readily available ammunition supply.

The M1 carbine, an accurate, nimble firearm that's a serviceable choice as zombie apocalypse weapons go so long as the user has a comfortable supply of .30 Carbine ammunition.

For survivors looking for zombie guns with a plentiful supply of replacement parts, the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14 are two of the most famous semi automatic rifle platforms in America today. Both models offer accuracy, ease of use, and ease of maintenance, with many chambered in .223 Rem, one of the world's most common calibers. The AR-15 might hold the edge due to its slightly lighter weight and its ability to be more readily modified, customized, and upgraded, and these advantages have given the platform a top spot in many best zombie apocalypse weapons listings.

Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) takes aim with the Ruger Mini-14, one of the must-have zombie guns in any undead slayer's arsenal.

Full Auto Zombie Apocalypse Weapons

When all seems hopeless and you need to go "Schwarzenegger" on the undead horde, it's time to break out the full auto firepower. While mag dumping an entire month's worth of ammo in a minute might not feel like a sustainable survival strategy, it's a great way to go out with a bang.

SMGs aren't going to check many boxes when ranking versatile zombie apocalypse weapons, but if you're looking for maximum portable carnage, tried-and-true platforms like the H&K MP5 or the I.M.I UZI are more than capable of unloading a hailstorm of 9mm bullets at close range. If you want to take a page from Negan's playbook and elevate the coolness factor above all practical considerations, look no further than the MAC-10 family, the king of spray-and-pray. And since you've already come this far, why not embrace your inner Snake Plissken, mount a scope over the suppressor, and get ready to rock and roll!

(Bottom) Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) fires a MAC-10 with a rifle scope mounted onto a suppressor. (Top) A MAC-11, the MAC-10's sibling, with a silencer.

Military rifles like the M16 can provide a well-supplied group with both an imposing offensive advantage against human competitors and a method of defending a fixed position from being overrun by zombies, though accuracy will be a major drawback in the latter role. As Fallout 3 instructed, "You gotta shoot 'em in the head." Easier said than done, especially when we're getting into full-sized machine guns such as the M60. Another issue to keep in mind is more complex military hardware would be among the most difficult guns to service and the hardest to keep running when ammo ran dry.

From 'Zombieland' to 'The Walking Dead' the famous Steyr Aug bullpup rifle continues to appear onscreen as one of Hollywood's favorite zombie guns.

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Shotguns

The best zombie apocalypse weapons should have impressive stopping power, and as Bruce Cambell demonstrated in 'Army of Darkness' a big bore boomstick can make short work of almost any threat. Though limited in range, the shotgun's versatility elevates it to one of the most desirable zombie guns. While semi automatic scatterguns like the Street Sweeper and Spas-12 look great on screen, they can be more finicky with ammo compared to the reliable pump.

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." Roddy Piper backs up his threat with the iconic Ithaca Model 37.

Another pump action powerhouse, the Remington Model 870 has proved its worth in nearly every shotgunning role, from the duck marshes of America to the battlefields of Vietnam. For a zombie apocalypse weapon that's easy to swing, easy to aim, easy to upkeep, and a model where replacement parts can be found in abundance, the Remington 870 can't be beat.

At the end of 'World War Z' a survivor is seen with a Remington Model 870 over his shoulder.

Shotguns can be loaded with a variety of projectile combinations, including slugs that can somewhat extend their range and hunting potential. Shotgun shells are perhaps the easiest ammunition to reload, and most pump shottys can operate with low-pressure black powder loads, making the humble scattergun one of the most versatile weapons in your zombie-smiting arsenal.

Referred to as a "Remington," Ash's "Boomstick" from 'Army of Darkness' is actually a 12 gauge Stoeger Coach Gun, a versatile zombie apocalypse weapon with a range of uses.

Single Shot Firearms in the Zombie Apocalypse

After the initial waves of undead are dealt with and planning for long-term survival becomes more pressing, it makes sense to find a firearm that's sturdy, failproof, and built to last for decades. A single shot rifle like the Ruger No. 1 or the Henry Single Shot is one of the best zombie apocalypse weapons in terms of sheer simplicity, an easy-to-upkeep break-open piece of solid wood and steel that can be used and abused and get dirty on the journey. Fewer parts mean fewer things can go wrong, and the ability to only chamber a single round at a time becomes less pressing when ammo is sparse and it's time to put meat on the table or drive off the occasional stray zombie, coyote, or crop-destroying pests.

Zombie apocalypse veteran Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) wields a classic Sharps rifle, an antique example of the single shot firearm platform.

The Thompson Center Contender pistol might rank as one of the best zombie apocalypse guns for long-term survival due to its versatility, durability, and portability. With a simple barrel swap, the Thompson single shot pistol can be adapted to almost any hunting or undead dispersing need. The example below includes seven extra barrels chambered in everything from .45 Government to .256 Win, illustrating the utility the platform offers in terms of ammunition, barrel lengths, and the pistol's ability to be equipped with numerous types of scopes.

One of the most unsung zombie guns on our list, the Thompson Center Arms Contender can be adapted to almost any need.

Longterm Weapons to use in a Zombie Apocalypse

For the ultimate long-term survival option, the most viable zombie apocalypse weapons might be black powder arms. While percussion firearms offer a number of advantages over flintlocks, including a faster and more reliable ignition, creating primer caps would be both difficult and dangerous, requiring volatile explosives such as mercury fulminate.

The Colt 1851 Navy (and reproductions thereof) was one of numerous classic firearms models featured in 1978's 'Dawn of the Dead.'

Flintlocks firearms, on the other hand, only require lead shot, black powder, and flints to operate. Though not as dangerous to produce as percussion primers, black powder is still a risky material to work with, a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. During the powder shortages resulting from COVID, a number of hobbyists produced their own powder with varying degrees of success. When properly stored, black powder can last more than a lifetime.

The new 'Daryl Dixon' series depicts survivors in France wielding the blunderbuss and other flintlocks as their zombie apocalypse weapons of choice.

In the ongoing Walking Dead spinoff, 'Daryl Dixon,' a wide variety of antique guns are seen onscreen, including 18th and early 19th century flintlocks acquired from museums and antique stores. For ammunition, smoothbore flintlocks can fire nearly any small, solid material in a pinch, from marbles to screws, and producing cast lead balls and shot would be a comparatively easy process. Aside from their low rate of fire, limited accuracy, and other obvious drawbacks, flintlocks foul quickly and can corrode if not properly cleaned.

Daryl Dixon and one of his new adversaries, Codron, both employ smoothbore French flintlock pistols.

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Weapons When Ammo Runs Dry

As author Max Brooks points out in the 'Zombie Survival Guide', "Blades don't need reloading." Carrying a melee weapon in reserve is certainly a smart option for conserving resources, having a backup option that doesn't rely on bullets, and making a comparatively silent kill. Pipes, bats, hammers, and crowbars can serve as zombie weapons in a pinch, but a hatchet, machete, sword, or combat knife is even more efficient for carving through hordes of flesh-eaters. Finding a rifle capable of equipping a bayonet is another ideal choice.

For melee combat, Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) katana is a contender for the best zombie apocalypse weapon.

For zombie apocalypse survivors intent on going full berserker mode on the undead, medieval weapons and their functional reproductions offer some of the most efficient dedicated hand-to-hand killing tools ever conceived. While admittedly not as stylish as a chainsaw, a spear, glaive, mace, or axe can deal massive trauma with a single stroke without the need for gas.

Daryl discovers a medieval arsenal with some of the best zombie weapons real life.

When bullets and powder are sparse and all else fails, the bow and crossbow become some of the best zombie apocalypse weapons to slay at a distance. Arrows also offer a far stealthier ranged option than guns. The average hunter can make ethical shots up to 40 and 50 yards, while some practiced professionals can greatly stretch that range. If you can hit a deer, you can hit a zombie. Make sure to inspect each arrow and be ready to repair and replace them often though, because unlike Daryl Dixon, you'll need more than four.

Daryl Dixon fires his crossbow, one of 'The Walking Dead' series' most popular zombie weapons.

Survival Weapons for Any Occasion

Fortunately, the zombie apocalypse is a fictional scenario, but the topic shares some overlap with preparing for a real-world survival situation. Whether you're a hunter, target shooter, collector, or just a casual firearms fan who likes to engage in some occasional backyard plinking, it never hurts to diversify your arsenal and train with a variety of firearm platforms.

"1923", the prequel to "Yellowstone," offers four different settings, three of which happen to be major gun collecting genres: World War 1, the Old West, and Dangerous Game hunting. Each setting is packed with classics from the genre, and Joel & Seth walk us through each one.

Check out the weekly Rock Island Auction newsletter to receive new gun blogs and gun videos examining the firearms featured in popular films such as Star Wars, True Grit, and Indiana Jones, and television hits like Peaky Blinders, Outlander, Yellowstone and its prequels, and more. From famous movie muzzleloaders to Lara Croft's Tomb Raider pistols, we take a deeper look at the guns of Hollywood.

The only surviving Han Solo blaster from 'Star Wars: A New Hope' sold for $1,057,500 at Rock Island Auction Company in August of 2022.

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