Disclaimer: This guide is specifically designed with the American zombie survivalist in mind, as many other countries have much more restrictive laws regarding what their zombie fighters can own with regard to firearms.

With the threat of the zombie apocalypse forever looming on the horizon, the most important thing to keep in mind is self-defense and defense of any other survivors you may be with. The most important thing you’ll be equipping yourself with – aside from adequate provisions – are rugged and reliable firearms. To be sure, most zombie canon implores us to be as quiet as possible when dispatching the undead to prevent drawing anymore flesheater attention. However, firearms will be the last line of defense (and hence the most important) when pursued or surrounded, so it’s important to equip yourself with the best. I’ve compiled this brief rundown of two guns that you should equip and familiarize yourself with now to properly prepare for the undead hordes. You’re going to want…

Any AK type rifle

The AK’s a battle-proven assault rifle that’s been widely distributed throughout the world, even your local sporting goods store. It’s the perfect choice for a “service rifle” for the zombie survivalist for a couple reasons.

Prime example of an AK rifle. This one features an underfolding stock, perfect for compact carrying for the mobile survivalist. Though they command a slightly higher price, this type of AK is widely available in the United States.

First, it’s simple. The operating mechanism on the gun lends itself to great longevity and durability. Because of this, it’s also quick and easy to disassemble and clean – something that will be important for the survivor group on-the-move. You’ll need to include fewer cleaning and lubricating supplies in your kit for an AK than you would most other rifles, leaving more space for other important things. AKs are easy to learn to use – meaning just about any of your surviving companions will be able to pick it up and help in a pinch. The AK’s simplicity also means that fewer things can go wrong with it, leading to fewer jams and other mechanical failures. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t bury it in sand or dirt and expect it to function flawlessly, but neither can any other gun, and the AK is a much hardier choice than several other weapons commercially available to the survivalist.

Second, in the pre-apocalypse world, AKs and ammo for them is widely available. As alluded to above, you can even get a cheap, typically Romanian-made AK from your local sporting goods store. If you want something nicer (Russian, Bulgarian and Polish builds are some of the best), get it off the internet now for a good price. The abundance of American AKs means that it will also be easy to find spare parts, should you find yourself needing them. Ammo is also easy to find, and relatively cheap right now. I would recommend getting something in 5.45x39mm (the Russian standard cartridge) or 5.56x45mm NATO, as the former is cheap and abundant now and the latter is a little more expensive but will probably be easier to find in a post-apoc situation in the U.S. Both are pretty light mass-wise, so you’ll be able to lug around more rounds as well. AKs in 5.56 command a higher price in the pre-apoc American market, but it will be worth it when you put your life in its trigger group. These two cartridges will do enough damage to zombie flesh to incapacitate or eliminate zombie threats as well, especially if you use hollow points. For more specific details about caliber choice, check out our Practical AK Buying Guide.

Finally, AKs are simply effective. They’ll be accurate enough to tap zombie brains at good distances (why would you want to shoot at a zombie that’s far off and can’t see or smell you anyway?), have good customization options for aftermarket and after-apocalypse accessories things like optics and flashlights and are light enough to lug around on a long escape or search situation. True, your AK probably isn’t going to be as accurate as an AR, but it will be easier to maintain and cheaper to equip yourself with now. The fact that the most widely available rifles in the U.S. are semiautomatic only shouldn’t be a problem, either – as the survivors of the zombie apocalypse in Max Brooks’ World War Z find out, disciplined and accurate semiautomatic fire will be more effective at stopping shambling masses than wildly sprayed automatic fire.

An AK is the best choice for a jack-of-all-trades firearm for the zombie survivalist. In addition to an AK, however, you’re also going to want…

Any revolver in .357 Magnum or bigger

You’re going to want to carry a sidearm on you when you’re in the undead wilds. For many of the same reasons that you’d want to carry an AK as your “service rifle”, you’re going to want to carry a revolver. The revolver pictured above is an out-of-production Smith and Wesson 586 in .357 with a 4” barrel, an ideal carry weapon for the survivalist.

A Smith & Wesson 586 revolver in .357 Magnum with a 4 inch barrel. A perfect sidearm for fighting the undead. Photo: Josh Collom

I add the “.357 or bigger” qualifier to ensure that your shots will do enough damage to cripple or remove a zombie threat – .38 Special probably won’t do too much to a pain-numb walker. You should also limit yourself to more common calibers for your revolver-of-choice. .357 Magnum is cheap enough to buy now and easy enough to scavenge post-apocalypse, as will .44 Magnum.

Just like AKs, almost all revolvers are very simple machines. Little to no disassembly is required to properly clean and lube a wheel gun. Guns that require the least amount of maintenance will be your best friends.

With regard to revolver barrel size for the zombie-concerned shooter, bigger is better – to a certain degree. Since concealment is not likely to be one of your main concerns when on the run from the undead, a longer barrel will give you slightly more range and damage capability than a shorter one. A four inch barrel would be my minimum and six or eight inches the maximum – no need to overdo it, and while concealment isn’t a concern, encumbering yourself and inhibiting your ability to draw your sidearm quickly certainly is. Keep it short and keep yourself alive.


So there you have it. Just about any AK and just about any revolver should be your two go-to weapons for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Do you agree? Leave your own suggestions for your zombie survival kit below!

Revolver photo: Josh Collom

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8 thoughts on “The Two Guns You’ll Need to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

  1. WOW Heath, you would be one dead zombie killer.  Here is the scenario…

    A hoard of zombies is quickly approaching the building where you decided to rest for the night.  You are on the roof top but realize that you only have an AK, so you cannot shoot at the zombies from a long distance. Now you have to wait for them to get closer…not good.  

    The zombies are now at your doorstep….let em’ have it!  Your AK did a nice job ripping through that hoard, but unfortunately you are now out of AK ammo.  Crap, time for the side arm.

    You have to get to your reinforced zombie hummer (see Zombieland) to get away.  Only problem is there are 8 zombies in your way (you can’t shoot them from the roof because your car and the remaining zombies are out of range) and you only have a 6 shooter revolver.

    You run to the Hummer gun blazing.  “click, click”  You are now out of ammo and the remaining zombies are eating your brains for dinner.

    With advice like this you will be known as the Bear Grylls of zombie survival.  Real nice Heath.

    IMO You need an AR-15 with a scope, 12 gauge shotty, and a good ole Glock.  I understand there are three guns on my list, but its the Zombie Apocalypse…all rules are off.   

    1. I know it’s a hypothetical but we’re pretending there will be consistent rules for a zombie apocalypse; one of those being that the zombies are not omniscient.  So in your scenario for example why are the zombies specifically targeting the building you are in?  If you made a loud enough noise to draw them to you, you would have known it and also known it was time to book it out of there.

    2. Sorry to put this in multiple posts but the comment box runs out of room quickly. 
      While I agree the AR *might* be a better choice (whole other arguement) for the zombie apocalypse, I have to disagree about the shotgun being a very good choice since it suffers the same fatal flaw as the revolver.  Massive amounts of stopping power at the cost of low ammo count. 
      Since in this hypothetical we decided a handgun could poke a hole in a zombie brain, a shotgun is severely overpowered, not to mention the cumbersome ammo is over twice as big as rifle ammo.

  2. a good 12 gauge pump close quarter piece might also be desirable.  You probably will be looking at the 50 yard or less engagement. 

  3. I have a Circuit Judge .45/.410 revolver/rifle/shotgun, and a Bond Ranger II .45/.410 derringer pocket-pistol/shotgun. I know I wont be able to shoot a zombie in the head beyond 60 meters, but why would you want to call attention to yourself just to kill a zombie(s) that is far enough away from you to evade anyway? The derringer is even simpler than the revolver and has fewer external moving parts. I believe this weapon combination would be excellent since I can adjust my loads on the fly to meet the situation, and I can fire any of my cowboy loads, hollow points, birdshot, buckshot, PDX1 or whatever out of either gun, so in a pinch I can grab any round I have and shove it in. Also, I wont ever run out of rifle rounds before pistol rounds or visa versa, so I’ll never have to rely on just one weapon. I can kneel and load the judge one handed with my derringer in my other hand or visa versa, so I wont get caught reloading with my pants down either. I can also hunt anything from crow and squirrel to deer and black bear. Buckshot and birdshot are known for bouncing off skulls, so I would only use those rounds for point-blank dome shots to ensure proper brain destruction. I’d also sleep with the derringer under my pillow loaded with birdshot, so I’m always ready to push the muzzle into a zombie’s eye socket and make a mess of its brain. One last small but notable advantage – I know how to hand load .45 colt rounds, so if I found .45 ACP rounds I could dismantle them, and use their primers, powder, and projectiles in spent .45 colt cases to make somewhat lower powered .45 colt hand loads. It is also possible to reload .410 shells with the same pistol primers, add powder, a rigid wad of some kind, cardboard maybe, and some pebbles, nails, or broken glass or something, melt a little wax over the top, or glue it to hold it in, even smear some pine tree resin over it if it’s all you can find, and you have a lethal round at point-blank range. I am awesome.

    1. You can actually take a .45 colt cowboy load and remove about 10-15% of the powder, and it will have a suppressed report out of a rifle barrel, yet still have enough velocity to penetrate a skull pretty easy. An excellent advantage in this scenario if you have the time and tools to do so. I bet that with the cylinder gap of the circuit judge cowboy loads sound almost suppressed anyway.

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