Max Brooks, bestselling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, appeared on the season finale of Discovery Channel’s hit show Sons of Guns to settle the debate about which firearm is best against the undead.

We caught up with Brooks for an exclusive interview to get his final thoughts on the episode, the weapons used, and the end results. The contest came down to a custom built .22 bolt up versus an M-16 with a grenade launcher.

“I think both teams did a great job. And the two firearms in the final test really captured two competing philosophies in zombie survival.”

When the dust settled it was Brooks’ chosen .22 that took top prize for its ease of use, the portability of its ammunition, and its accuracy.

“The purpose of a military firearm like the M-16 is to constantly be engaging the enemy with the help of a huge support infrastructure. But a global war against zombies would largely be fought by civilians with little-to-no backup support.”

Though a .22 may not be the sexiest weapon, its practicality cannot be denied when discussing real zombie survival. From hunting small game to the ease of carting extra rounds, its advantages over higher caliber firearms are many.

“The producers said they like to employ a concept called “tactic-cool”, meaning that they take something that has a clear tactical function and trick it out to be as cool as humanly possible. I told them for fighting zombies the term should be “practic-cool”.

Brooks pointed out that civilian guns like the .22 are designed to be user friendly to the widest possible consumer base. If they jam or require a lot of complicated training or maintenance, they won’t sell. Military firearms aren’t designed with the retail consumer in mind.

And using a grenade launcher to fight the undead makes as much sense as using a saw to hammer a nail.

“Air-burst artillery against humans is effective because you just need to get a little bit of shrapnel into a person to put him out of commission. The only way to stop a zombie is by direct skull penetration, so precision weapons are better suited to the task.”

In conclusion, Book said that the gun experts at Red Jacket were fantastic, and he had a ton of fun. Check out  a clip from the show below. We’ll post the entire episode on he blog in the coming days.

What do you think about he results of the test, and what is your zombie firearm of choice?


  1. The thing I see again and again is an explanation of why this or that gun and usually the same reasoning as to why the M16 or M4, and so on is the best and only weapon that will allow one to live through any situation. Umm, no. Sorry to say it’s not the ONLY firearm and there isn’t going to be one for every living citizen when crap hits the fan. It’s also not a “do everything” gun. No firearms is or will really ever be.

    Also whatever one has or finds they can and out of sheer necessity, will just have to learn to use effectively. Any firearms can misfire, jam, or breakdown. At some point a part may fail or the thing will rust or require a new barrel or spring and all those high capacity magazines use springs and they can be damaged.

    All this being said, simple is good, high tech is good, rifle, pistol, shotgun, slug, shell, Full metal jacket, semiautomatic, bolt-action, revolver, single barrel pump, double barrel break open, etc., can all be useful in the right hands if they are maintained and the operator uses “it” to it’s best advantage.

  2. Bottom line, marine finish 870.

  3. I still agree with the conclusion drawn from Max’s book that the WW2 US .30 Cal M1 Carbine would be the best all around Zombie Killing rifle. More power and range than .22LR, with Semi-Auto action and 15 round mags (30 Rnders avail), and it weighs just over 5 lbs. The .30 Cal round, while bigger and heavier than .22lr, is still lighter than 5.56 so you can easily carry 500+ rounds.

    My ideal set up would be my early production Rock-ola M1 Carbine with soft point jacketed ammo, as once it penetrates the skull it would cause massive dammage by tumbling around and fragmenting ensuring a large portion of the brain is destroyed. My Machete for backup, and a full body Shark suit, with the light fine mesh chain mail that divers use to protect from shark bites. It would be the perfect armor to protect from Zombie bites, right? I also have a surplus light armor flak jacket with kevlar inserts to protect me from other people who do have a grenade launcher, lol.

    One thing that occurred to me is that there may be Zombies that are wearing helmets and a .22lr would just not have penetrating power for that. On Youtube search “Infantry Weapons and their effects 1943” to see what a M1 Carbine can do to a steel helmet out to 200 yards.

  4. Branden Hew Troy

    ” Most civilians are not trained sharpshooters, or trained shooters period” Precisely, all too often you guys talk about headshots like its the easiest thing in the world, newsflash, it isn’t. Even someone with proper training will have great difficulty getting headshot, especially on a target that is not only moving, but shambling, not to mention you probably wont have the nerves of steel to be a calm marksmen all the time. Their heads will be moving all over the darned place and you will not be able to simply “Shoot them in the head.”. You WILL NOT have the time to pick out headshots, and thinking otherwise is incredibly unrealistic, most of the time even SNIPERS do not aim for the head but rather center-mass. Stopping power is necessarily to slow down or cripple a zombie, one round of 7.62×51 to the chest will cause a runner to lose balance, stumble, and fall, and if the Z-hunter gods are in a decent mood that day that might even cause a runner pile-up.

    “are you just not grasping the concept of zombie apocalypse? you wont have the ability to pick and choose which scope you have.” Well, actually, if you were to, oh lets say… already own a weapon instead of counting on your local guns-store to still be in stock by the time you get to it ( Also unrealistic.) YOU DO have the choice, because you went to a gun store/gun show, specifically picked it out, and purchased it. Do you honestly think you will be the only one heading to the nearest place full of guns once there is an outbreak? There are A LOT more people than there are guns dude, better get one while you can.

    • actually i dont think thats necessarily true, depending on where you live i suppose. but in the states there are almost 90 guns for every 100 people. when you factor in that there will be a lot of people dead, i think that would leave more than enough to go around. considering the US could already just about put a gun in the hands of every man, woman and child in their country.

  5. Obviously Max doesn’t know much about firearms. As a professional operator I know that the M16 family of weapons is far more versatile than a .22LR bolt action. The ballistics alone on the .22lr does not compare to the 5.56 round. You can engage point targets at 300 meters with the 5.56 while the .22lr tends to drift badly at that range and lacks sufficient stopping power. Even at closer ranges the 5.56 is extremely accurate especially when coupled with an ACOG sight. He got two things right first the fact that the M203 would be almost worthless unless equipped with M576 round and even then the weight issue of extra 40mm rounds comes into play. Second the .22lr round weighs very little but that is offset by lack of stopping power.

    • Let’s clear things up a bit. They made a .22 WMR bullpup rifle. Not a bolt action rifle. I feel it was a good choice on Max Brooks part. A 40-grain .22 WMR at 100 yards (91 m) still retains the velocity of a .22 LR at the muzzle, which can provide improved penetration at all ranges over a .22LR. Yes, its not a .223/5.56 but it makes the same size hole. As a professional operator you know most engagements are within 100m. If you were a zombie out past 300m I would save my ammo and walk away so I don’t give up my position.

    • stopping power? you arent taking down elephants, you just need to puncture the skull. Most civilians are not trained sharpshooters, or trained shooters period, so they arent going to be attempting shots at 300 meters, more than likely.

      are you just not grasping the concept of zombie apocalypse? you wont have the ability to pick and choose which scope you have.

      • It’s far more than simply puncturing the skull. In order to actually stop a human, .22 rounds simply wont cut it. There have been many accounts of people taking multiple shots to the head, and still remaining conscious. Headshots have a 5% survival rate (for humans), which is considerable when you think of engaging multiple targets. There are two flaws with this statistic in this situation. Firstly, they talk about long-term survival for gunshots, something a zombie doesn’t need. Secondly, this applies to humans, and therefore can be inaccurate for us. Moreover, the idea is to avoid contact whenever possible, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to go inner city for something. Shooting one zed will only invite more (in theory). Not only that, but a bolt action (although simple) take longer to fire. An untrained civilian, like the ones you spoke of, wont be able to hit a small target like a moving human head under the stress of being eaten alive in one shot. It would be better to be able to take two (or more) quick shots, rather than only one. There are plenty of reliable semiautomatic rifles, although I personally would take a pistol for maneuverability. (in America at least), the police officers use Glock 18’s. I would say that, between abundancy of ammunition, and the availability of the gun, this would be the best choice. Bolt action .22 rifles be damned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll To Top