Style vs. Survival: The Best Zombie Apocalypse Weapons (and the Worst)

zombie apocalypse scene

Picture this: an outbreak of a mysterious, aggressive illness has rendered a vast majority of the population dead. But, oh no! The dead are coming back to life! It’s up to you and your drag-tag group of friends to navigate this dead, new world and…I don’t know, survive I guess?

People are endlessly fascinated by zombie apocalypse scenarios because it fulfills two very innate human things: the chance to become a survival hero, and to kill another human being without guilt. The last one is pretty dark, but hey, this is the zombie apocalypse, baby, I get to be a Candor from Divergent if I want to.

Of course, the best way to survive is to arm yourself with, not just powerful weapons, but the right type of weapons. Remember: this is the apocalypse, so survivability should outrank badassery, no matter how tempting the latter may be.

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Weapons: For Individual Zombies

machete

As you traverse the vast post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re going to encounter small pockets of zombies here and there. These stragglers generally aren’t part of a larger horde, and they’ll most likely just be loitering around with no real purpose (I mean, no zombie has purpose, that’s the point, but you get what I mean).

Of course, if you can, avoid them. But, if you absolutely must get them out of your way, these are the best zombie apocalypse weapons you can use for individual zombies:

Baseball Bat (or Cricket Bat, If You’re British)

In general, blunt weapons use up a lot of physical effort to wield: yes, zombies are rotting bags of flesh, but it would still take roughly 36 pounds per inch of force to crack open a skull and possibly destroy the brains inside. Impossible with your bare hands, but made easier with a blunt object like a baseball or cricket bat.

Basically, any wooden club that has enough density to hold its shape when hitting a zombie head, but light enough that it can be swung multiple times in a row. This means that, while aluminum bats are much lighter, they don’t nearly have the density to survive multiple whacks.

Machete

A lot of people differ in opinion regarding bladed weapons in zombie apocalypse situations, but I, for one, am a fan of some. As a life-long survivalist, I can tell you that machetes aren’t just great for chopping heads: they’re also versatile tools that can be used in a wide variety of situations should civilization go kaput.

But unlike the baseball bat, a machete is more of a refined weapon: yes, it looks crude, but it does take a fair bit of skill to effectively use it in both wrecking zombie face and chopping down vines and tree bark for survival. The good news, though, is that it’s not a hard skill to pick up, and when the world goes to hell, you won’t really have a lot of distractions to keep you from training with it.

Ice Axe

The perfect combination of ease-of-use and effectivity, an ice axe (also known as an ice pick) is a tool used by mountaineers to gain some grip and footing when traversing icy peaks and glaciers. In the zombie apocalypse, however, it’s a light, compact, easy-to-use, and extremely effective weapon against the undead.

Ice axes have a slightly curved, metal spike as a blade, and usually some kind of lightweight aluminum handle. It has only one purpose: pierce through hard surfaces as deep as possible without using as little force as possible. And while skulls are slightly harder to break through than ice, it’s still one of the easiest ways to do so. One downside, though: they’re quite short, which means you’re going to have to get up close and personal, which is really not something you want to be doing in the first place.

The Worst Zombie Apocalypse Weapons: For Individual Zombies

via GIPHY

In contrast, these weapons, while they look cool in movies and TV shows, are actually kind of really terrible in a zombie apocalypse. Even against individual zombies or small groups of undead, if you have any of these in hand, it’s best to avoid a direct confrontation:

Sledgehammer

An exaggerated version of a blunt weapon, the typical sledgehammer weighs anywhere between 1 and up to 9 pounds. Not only is it unwieldy, it’s also a chore to carry around in your knapsack or wherever you keep weapons. Sure, it’s going to make very short work of zombies, but it’s probably gas you out so badly that you’ll probably take out max 3 zombies before your panting and short of breath. Stick to a bat.

Katana

Yes, it looks cool, and yes, it makes you look like a badass Samurai/Ninja, especially if you pose at the top of a ridge with the sunset behind you. I mean, just thinking about that makes me want one too, but holster that blade, Daniel-san: just like the machete, a katana is a specialized tool, but unlike the machete, the katana actually requires years of intensive training for it to become an effective weapon of war (or, in your case, zombie killing). Use it improperly, and it will most likely break with your first caveman swing.

Bow and Arrow

Speaking of specialized weapons, the bow and arrow, while silent and effective, also takes a lot of training for it to be effective. Sure, you can probably learn to make a headshot from time to time, but without proper and constant training, you’re more likely to miss a shot and lose an arrow than make a Hawkeye-worthy kill. You can maybe opt for a crossbow, but really, if you have no experience with this or won’t have the time to practice, it’s going to hurt your chances of survival more than help it.

The Best Zombie Apocalypse Weapons: For the Zombie Horde

zombies

It’s not always going to be stragglers and Breakfast Club-sized groups: eventually, you’re going to find yourself in the midst of a full-fledged zombie horde, maybe a hundred strong. If they’re the Walking Dead type of zombies, this should be easy enough to outrun; get the 28 Days Later zombies, and you’re going to be in a world of hurt. Best to arm yourself with these best zombie apocalypse weapons for hordes and large groups:

Shotgun

Loud and inaccurate, a shotgun might not seem like an ideal weapon, but if you’re being chased down by a zombie horde, you don’t have much of a choice. At this point, stealth is pretty much out of the question: you’re going to need something that takes down as many undead as possible, and while shotguns are fairly inaccurate, that’s kind of their strength.

When you’re running from a large group of zombies, you’re not going to have much time to sit down and aim a firearm, which is where the shotgun comes in: point, shoot, and hope that the large bore pellets (you did load it with something larger than birdshot…right?) are going to take down as many of the zombies as possible. At the very least, aim for the legs: it’s not going to kill them, but it’s going to slow them down enough for you to get to safety.

Grenades

Same concept as the shotgun: not the most accurate, but can take down multiple zombies with one go. Of course, the danger is that a grenade can pretty much hurt you just as badly if you don’t know how to use it. But grenades aren’t exactly a specialty weapon: pull pin, throw as far away as possible, get to cover. Follow those three steps and you should be fine.

However, grenades are a fairly exotic weapon: unless you find an abandoned police station or a military installation that hasn’t been cleared out by other survivors, you’re going to have an extremely hard time finding them. It’s not like Wal-Mart carries them.

The Worst Zombie Apocalypse Weapons: For the Zombie Horde

via GIPHY

I think the problem with a lot of zombie apocalypse preppers is that they focus on aesthetically-pleasing weapons over effective weapons. And hey, I’m not judging you, I’m just reminding you that looking cool should rank very, very low in your personal Hierarchy of Needs, which means that these weapons are completely unnecessary, and can even be detrimental to your chances of survival:

Flamethrower

I mean, what’s not to like: it’s a device that shoots out FIRE. But think about it: it takes about three hours of constant jets of flame to completely incinerate a human body to ash. Flamethrowers, as cool as they are, simply do not have any practical purpose in the zombie apocalypse. You know what will happen if you shoot a zombie with a flamethrower? You’ll have a zombie that will still chase you, only this time, it’s on fire. Think about that.

Machinegun (with a Caveat)

Don’t believe the hype: unlike in action movies where the hero mows down scores of his enemies with a single machinegun clip, real life is never like that. Machineguns aren’t exactly designed for accuracy: they’re designed to pump out as much ammunition as possible to cover as large an area as possible. You’re not going to get the coveted headshot with this, and trying is simply going to cost you time and mobility, two of the most precious resources in the apocalypse.

One caveat, though: in the same logic as a shotgun, if you use a machinegun to shoot down the legs of zombies, it’s going to severely decrease their mobility, buying you a whole lot of time to run away. But, that means you’ll have to lug around an 80lbs firearm with you, plus ammunition, plus tripod. It would probably work for home defense, but not when you’re on the run.

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