By Marcus Handby

Best zombie defense weapon is ultimately a matter of personal taste and ability, but any choice you make is a compromise.  No weapon is perfect.  When deciding which pistol is right for you in a catastrophic zombie outbreak it’s important to focus on the facts, and plan for a worst-case scenario.

So which is better against zombies, revolvers or semi-automatics?


Semi-automatics are the obvious choice for most people because they carry more ammunition, with a high capacity magazine inserted into the handle.  Because zombies are thought the attack in hordes, you may need multiple shots to get out of a sticky situation.  Add to the mix several extra magazines and you could have 30+ rounds at the ready for a quick escape.

Most semi-automatic pistols are extremely reliable, but jams do happen.  If you don’t know how to clear a misfeed your weapon could instantly turn into a worthless hunk of metal with one unlucky pull of the trigger.


Though they generally hold less rounds, revolvers are undeniably simpler machines than their semi-automatic counterparts.  They have fewer moving parts, their operation is easy to observe and understand, and they’re more reliable, especially at the lower end of the price scale.

Because racking the slide of a semi-automatic takes some hand strength, revolvers are better if you’re a weak person or plan to share your gun with someone who is short of muscle.  Additionally, revolvers don’t need major disassembling when getting cleaned.

So what’s the verdict?

In an undead pandemic you need the pistol that will prove useful in wildly different situations, so revolvers are a much better choice.  Remember, you should be planning for a worst case scenario.  Even if you can clean your weapon blindfolded, don’t assume that you’ll have the proper cleaning supplies, space and time to take apart your semi-automatic when civilization collapses.  Don’t assume that you’ll have extra clips that can be inserted into your emptied semi-auto in seconds flat.  Don’t even assume that you’ll be the one firing the pistol when push comes to shove.

What revolvers give up in capacity, they more than make up for in reliability, usability, and flexibility.


  1. You guys aren’t getting what he is saying.

    You don’t have to worry about losing small parts in a revolver.
    You don’t need to find magazines to load your revolver. Lots of speed loaders are versatile. Speed strips are all versatile.
    You can hunt large and medium game with revolver calibers such as 357/38 or…dare I say it…44 mag/44 special
    You can use it for a club and not worry about the polymer breaking..
    The list goes on.

    Your glock and 1911’s you MAY be able to find stray mags. But that’s iffy. A revolver needs bullets. That’s all. Speed loaders, speed strips. That’s a luxury magazines are a a nessesity

  2. Glock 17 I can find ammo easy even here in Canada ands its practically bullet proof. Nuff said.

  3. Just my personal opinion but i would prefer the H&K USP tactical in 9mm with a threaded barrel for a suppressor. I wont carry on with reasons as its just a personal opinion.

  4. I’d go for a glock, you aren’t going to find a much more reliable weapon and reliability is something very important in a zombie outbreak

  5. I’ll go with a .22 pistol and a .22 revolver for my side arms

  6. it dnt matter all i need is my .357 ruger blackhawk a .357 is a great weapon beacause it can also shoot .38 special rounds

  7. I’d take a Glock any day of the week. Screw revolvers and all these weird calibers people are talking about. 9mm, .40, .45, .357, .38 spl, seem to always be found in abundance. I understand that a revolver is much more simple and reliable, but the limited capacity is what does it for me. I personally love H&K USPs, i own a .45 and have fired over 2,000 rounds to it. Not even once has it jammed, and it carries 12 rounds plus 1 in the chamber. More than a gay 1911 which people seem to be obsessed with. Yes yes yes, it is a beautiful weapon, but nonetheless carries only 7-8 rounds. Also most 1911s jam. It has to be reliable brand like a Colt or a Springfield Armory, companies that have been around and know how to manufacture them. The only reason why I wouldn’t pick a USP is because i’m sure it would be very difficult to find spare parts if it broke down. Even if i stock up on spare springs, etc, its a lot more expensive that a little Glock kit. Glocks are ugly weapons but they are stupidly reliable, even when they are abused and neglected. Carried it for a SWAT team at a Sheriff’s Dept I use to work with. One day we submerged in water, threw it in a drainage canal, dragged it through dirt, then let it dry, At the end of the day we took out the magazine, put a new one in and it fired off all rounds. No jams whatsoever.

  8. I have to disagree with using ANY gun in a zombie outbreak. If i HAD to choose, i’d choose a semi-auto primarily because they are easier and quicker to load. BTW, using a gun against zombies is effective, but not practical. they make noise, which of course attracts more zombies. also, every bullet you use, is one bullet less than you have available. I would use a gun if there were A LOT of zombies and using a melee weapon is too slow. Besides, if you’re careful, you wouldn’t have to be in that position in the first place.

    • My question is, why is the assumption always that noise attracts zombies? Maybe they’ll hear the sound of gunfire, and hundreds of zombies will suddenly bolt, shouting “Run away! Run away!” through their rotting faces. And maybe the person who gets eaten will be the poor joker who was quietly trying to eat a sandwich in the Mall Court, until hundreds of panicked zombies ran by and decided he looked more appetizing than Mall pizza.

  9. Silly humans we are going to eat you all eventually anyway no matter what kind of pistol you use. As well learn how to reload figure out where the weholesalers wharehouses are that have reloading supplies that stuff will last you way longer then scavanged rounds . I prefer a .45 my self but I can handle the recoil my wife shoots a .40 about the same stopping power but a little less recoil. My load out for zombie raids keeps me aon the heavy side with more then one semi auto and other choice weapons but the pistols are BACKUP not a primary firearm if all you have is a pistol well I guess anything will do huh

  10. I’m sorry since when did it require Hercules to rack a slide? My 5’2″ girlfriend managed to do it on her own the first time she ever held a gun, without instruction. My Sig 226 will handle hundreds of rounds without failure and dissasembles in seconds into four basic parts. You would, under tremendous stress, need to reload twice to match it’s MAGAZINE capacity with you revolver. But what do I know your six shooter is reliable or is it? Even when those without an afternoon of training need to reload under duress?

  11. Screw firearms, Crowbar: Multi-purpose, tough, silent, common and effective

  12. Stick to common calibers and weapons. Preferably what your local law enforcement use, as there will be a lot of loose weapons to scavenge at first at least. Useing police or military spare clips and ammo will be a very handy survival trick. And carry a spare! And a spare for your spare!

  13. Sig 226, with load out of 5 total 20 round magazines, concealable, reliable, accurate, and i have spent over 6 years behind it compete with it, and carry it legally on a daily basis, no external safety, stupid simple, and if i had to hit something with it, it definitly has the heft

  14. For handguns always carry both a revolver and a semi-auto. and always have a tactical light for low-light conditions.

    As a soldier I always expect the unexpected.

  15. lol i got the two calibers mixed up srry

    anyway there may be uncommon calibers better suitible for use against zombies but the calibers may be rare and so it is unlikely to be able to aquire them

    anyway here is a double automatic glock …. very good for double tapping


  16. 9mm semi automatic is best, also german 9mm kurz (american .380) is best, get an extended mag where alowed… low recoild highest damage (.380 is a 9mm with more powder basically)

    -.22 not enough damage: some .22 cal bullets have been known to ricochet off peoples skulls resulting in blood and a cuncussion but no real harm
    -anything above 9mm generally has too much recoil due to the device used to fire i.e. 45 acp is used in carbines (kriss/hk ump), in pistoles this results in slightly higher recoil in the pistol but not as much damage being done porportionally

  17. tit for tat! When your mags are empty, how long does it take to reload them? You’d be better off with both, instead of one or the other. Clearing a jam is not hard, but drop an automatic in the mud and cleaning becomes more involved. You can litteraly rinse a revolver off. Pack both!!!

    • I like the idea of having both. I always carried two handguns, my primary sidearm (started off with a Colt 45 acp then a 357 revolver, 9mm semi, 45 Glock ). I always had a snubnose revolver in a custom made shoulder holster which was concealed under my shirt. I called my second weapon my “phone booth gun” as in a up-close and personal weapon. If I had only one choice of a sidearm it would be a 4″ 357 magnum revolver loaded with 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow points. I do like semi-autos and have no concerns about their reliability , their only weakness is the magazines, they can get damaged. The Glock mags can take a lot of abuse because of their use of polymers. The original all steel mags dent easily around the lips. The main weakness of a double action revolver is in the crane. Too many John Wayne acting people will snap the cylinder closed with a flip of the wrist…a very bad thing to do, it twists the crane and can knock the timing off.

    • Aren’t the Desert Eagles and Glocks pretty good for outdoor terrain though? I know a lot of semi-autos suck when it comes to performing in the elements but Army MP’s carried the Desert Eagles and a lot of cops carry the Glock. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them in this respect.

      • The Army MPs carry Berrettas and yes, they are both excellent weapons for adverse conditions. I have a lot of confidence in my Glock, and besides the reliability it is easy to shoot and very accurate. I watched a video by FPS Russia where he shoots a full automatic Glock 9mm..I WANT ONE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I wouldnt go with a Desert Eagle, particularly not the famous 50.AE verison, since ammunition would be almost impossible to find. Realistically, I wouldnt even go with a gun, just a good old aluminum baseball bat with a bracketed spike welded on. But for the sake of the topic, my pistol of choice would be a ASP in the unlikely event I could get one, due to the clear grips so you can see how much is left in the mag, a “gutter” sight to avoid snagging on clothing when drawing the gun, and a overall lightweight design. In otherwords, the perfect gun for anyone to use. But because these are rare enough without the apocolpyse to worry about, I’d go for anything using the 9MM parabellum, because its the most common ammo you can find, and realistically as good as a gun is its useless without ammunition.

        • Any one who would plan on using a desert eagle like my beloved .50 AE wouls probably have a decent stockpile of ammo for it. It how ever would definatly not be my choice for survival I would keeep it for executions when needed but would go with a smaller more user friendly gun caliber not to important as long as the gun it good quality.

          • I love my Eagle, but as a Zombie weapon? Last resort. Yeah, the brain chunks will fly (.44 or .50) but it’s heavy, expensive and fairly rare ammo. It’s 4lbs loaded. It’s a really beautiful hunk of metal. In thinking about it, in a way, it’s probably the best, each shot slow, heavy and splattering. A JHP 240g .44 vs skull plate – no match. Then again, a SW 500 would be too! It wouldn’t go in a b-o-b, but in my car, yes. But in the car goes the 9mm Glock, the .45 Sig, The .38 Marlin 1894, the 308 Savage, the S&W 357, the recurve, the compound, the spiked mace, the Eagle …….

  18. I forgot to add, the leading cause of pistol jam is due to lack of wrist strength, if you allow too much follow through with recoil, you have a much higher chance of the weapon jamming. so make sure you have a firm grip (with both hands) and a tense forearm.

  19. A classic Luger could easily be a greater defense if you’re looking for reliability, its slide isn’t extremely tough to operate, and it’s small, simplistic barreled design makes it easy to clear a stovepipe swiftly.

  20. “I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? “……….”BRAIINNNNSSSS!!!”

  21. I disagree with the disagreements. Revolvers are easily more reliable and don’t require the extra attention semi-automatic pistols do. Yes, it’s convenient if you have extra clips, but it’s also convenient for the revolver if you have speed reloaders. I’ll take my dual-action .45 over a 9mm any day. Plus that extra caliber gives it a nicer punch.

    • Actually revolvers require more attention when it comes to cleaning. True, it is simpler to actually clean a revolver, but they need cleaned after a very small number of rounds fired or else the casings become VERY difficult to extract from the cylinder and/or the cylinder can just lock up completely. And this can happen from as few as 50 or 100 rounds fired consecutively without cleaning. Where as I have shot thousands of rounds in my glock 9mm without any cleaning what so ever without a single malfunction! And actually I have never had a glock malfunction… ever. And when talking capacity, glock makes 33 round magazines that is compatable with all of their 9mm. IMHO i would rather have 33+1 of 9mm than 6 rounds of .45….

  22. A 1911 farts in the general direction of your revolver. .45 auto + high-cap mags + reloads = lawlz. You’d never find .380 in this scenario unless you scrounged hard at specialty gun shops. Most common to be found would be: 9mm, .357, .44, .45. If someone doesn’t know how to field strip and clean the weapon they’re holding, give them a blunt object. Alternatively, you can trip them and run extra fast. They will slow down the horde and help your selfish cause for personal survival. (They were using extra rations and equipment anyways.)

  23. This debate is a source of great inner conflict for me.
    I love semi-autos, and I can run a tap-rack drill very quickly for the rare moment when something fouls up. The extra capacity and quick reload are invaluable.
    Problem is, I don’t shoot as well with autos as I do revolvers. I shoot better with a 3-inch .357 than I do a full size [5-inch] PT1911. And thats in double action!
    *sigh* At least I feel comfortable with either.

  24. Versatillity in ammo, there are several revolvers out there that use more than one kind of ammo, some, like the Judge, even use SHOTGUN SHELLS. And loading a revolver is quick and easy, it takes little practice to understand one, and they have fantastic stopping power. No wasting ammo, cause even if you don’t kill the zombie, you’ve atleast knocked it over.

  25. Good luck putting a silencer on your revolver so you don’t attract every zombie in a 5 mile radius, amateurs.

    • Good luck finding or making a professional quality silencer once the dead rise. So unless you are one of the few people who already own one this is a moot point.

    • The silencers that make that little “plink” sound like in the movies, do not exist. They make a gun less loud, but not quiet or silent by any stretch of the imagination. Plus, the wear out very fast, as in not the whole clip, fast.

      • Thank God, SOMEONE here has done there research.

      • Well idk where you are getting your information, but my friend has some silencers. They do not make the weapon “silent” but they do make the weapon very quiet when using sub-sonic rounds. And I have no idea what you are talking about “them wearing out before a whole clip” We have shot many full magazines and it was still working just as well as when we first put the oil in the silencer…

  26. I’ll take a rifle or shotgun any day. Pistols are simply too inaccurate from anything but close distance altercations, and I don’t plan on being that close when the threat comes.

  27. i would have to go with a 22. semi auto i no its (weak) but it can and will kill a human or in this case a zombie the 22. is a light amunition so u can carry heaps of it .its quiet and you can hunt with it 🙂 oh and the recoil is like a butterfly kicking u meaning u can get very many shots off without worrying about bringing the gun back down from take the next shot .

    • Jason the Gun Smith

      .22 is a horrible choice for use against zombies. The problem with .22 is that it is a small caliber which lacks enough size to penetrate the skull. More often than not if you were to fire a bullet at a skull the bullet would follow the contour of the skull vs. penetrating it. The only chance you would have would be to hit them in the eye, temple or spine where it meets the skull.

      • I hope you’re not being serious. Proof is hardly needed, all that’s needed is a bit of common sense, but I just watched a video today demonstrating a .22 penetrating (and exiting) 6″ of beef and 4 layers of denim at 300 yards. I really don’t understand why so many people think the .22 is such a pitiful round. The way it’s treated you’d think it was no better than an air rifle. It is an incredibly underrated bullet, and I can assure you that you’ll change your mind about it if anyone ever decides to point one at you.

        • As pointed out elsewhere, you may not get to choose who is with you. And if you look at police studies, if you don’t hit with six, you aren’t anymore likely to hit with 10. I love my Sig 220 .45 and my Glock 19 9mm, but if it came down to only one weapon, S&W 19 with .38 or .357 is my choice. It just works, even with no cleaning. I can nail my target far more often with the revolver then the semi’s, getting it dirty reduces the accuracy but It’ll run almost no matter what. 38 and 357 are getting used far less lately than they were so ammo’s the real question here.

          If I had to put one of these three in my wife’s hands, and my life in hers, revolver any day.

        • “I can assure you that you’ll change your mind about it if anyone ever decides to point one at you.”A live human is a different target than a dead zombie. Zombies have no fear. Look up .22 suicide attempts. Lots of (&$ ups. I personally know 2 people who survived, handicapped afterwards; bad suicide attempts with .22. Yes .22 is used by pros for executions but that’s at the base of the skull where the spinal cord and medulla meet. Not many zombie’s gonna get on their knees for that one.

          You are looking for penetration of a bone between 3/8″ and 1” thick. Bone isn’t steel but it is amazingly strong. I won’t argue that it’s ‘bad’ I just don’t think people realize how thick that noggin of theirs really is (mine too!) It takes a butload of force to break through it.

          • This is why I like the idea of the FN 5 7. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, the ammunition is rather exotic. But you get a high-velocity, low-recoil handgun with high-capacity. My worse case scenario is getting chased by an undead, overall-wearing former SEC lineman. You’ve got the combination of SEC undead speed, along with a skull where bone fills almost everything in there, with a chihuahua-sized cerebrum that is just powerful enough to make it through a “General Studies” major. You need something that can punch through that skull.

  28. I respectfully disagree with an afternoon of training nearly everyone could learn to clear a jam and use an automatic. That coupled with the greater abundance of available calibers and supply of ammo in many locations. Not to mention the time it takes to reload a revolver, assuming you have speed loaders that helps but then why not just have loaded mags.

    • You are not reading the article correctly. Imagine when you have to let someone else use your pistol – a member of your group who hasn’t had an afternoon of training. Imagine when you are sleeping and someone else is on watch with your gun. Imagine when you are injured and someone else has to take the lead in combat. You have to prepare for the worst case scenario, and revolvers are more versatile, hands down.

      • No I would rather someone without an afternoon of training be using a semi-auto because they have many more rounds to hit their traget, so after they miss the zombies head with the first six shots they will still have a chance of saving our lives. A revolver is not so much more simple to use that I would rather trade fire power for “versatility”

  29. Whilst I broadly agree, could you humour the gun people and use ‘magazine’ rather than ‘clip’? Just because it’s the end of civilisation doesn’t mean we let descriptive accuracy go out of the window.

    Also, a very reliable, easily maintained primary pistol (1911 being the obvious choice) could be supplemented with a compact backup revolver. Best of both worlds plus double the chance of ammo and parts salvage potential for a minimal weight penalty.

    At this rate I’m struggling to resist the urge to do my own post on this subject.

  30. I suggest the 9mm or .380 caliber Beretta. It is a robust semi-auto and is easily field stripped and cleaned. It’s standard mag (before Brady) can hold 15 rounds.

    9mm might be easier to find ammo. .380 is a nice round- often called a 9mm short. It is the same size as a 9mm slug but less powder in the cartridge. It is often used by police in crowd situations. If you hit a human target with a .380 round, it will usually stay in and avoid collateral damage.

    • Jason the Gun Smith

      If you are unable to clear a jam you have no business owning a firearm. The most common form of jam is the improper ejection of a shell/casing causing what is called a “stovepipe”. Simply pulling back the slide is enough to force the ejection of the shell. However there are multiple types of jams that could be harder to clear. Jams caused by feeding errors can cause bigger problems by not properly aligning the shell with the firing chamber or double feeding two shells which will also cause a jam.
      Jams caused be feeding issues can be remedied by pulling back the slide and physically removing the obstruction with a pocket knife or other utensil. I would not recommend using your fingers. While using your fingers in an emergency is possible to remove a jam you have still the possibility of losing a grip on the slide and it coming forward onto your finger which could cause lacerations or a broken digit. Most new guns should have a slide lock which you can engage though and that will keep the slide from traveling forward till the lock is released but this is also time consuming and the lock is easy to disengage.
      Another important thing to know is don’t leave magazines loaded and unused for long periods of time. This will wear out the springs which hold pressure on the ammo and feed it into the firing chamber. If you are leaving a magazine loaded for home protection I recommend either leaving a few rounds in it or rotating magazines every week.
      Lastly never use ammo which is bent anywhere around the casing. Bent ammo can cause feeding issues or jams and in the end cost your life.

      I hope this is useful and good luck in the event of disaster. I hope my info is helpful.

      • Good points.

        Weapons handling is a training issue. My weapons are chosen to suit my list of requirements, not the requirements of people I haven’t met yet. Anyone granted admittance to my group will be trained or be willing to get trained and they’ll be expected to secure their own weapons as conditions allow. The zombie apocalypse is not a welfare state.

        When the zombie apocalypse hits you’ll (hopefully) spend the majority of your time staying AWAY from the hordes. Ask anyone who served in a conflict area and they’ll confirm that even in a war there’s plenty of boredom to go around. This is training time. Acquire the best tools available and learn to use them.

        It’s also worth noting that while revolvers fail less frequently than auto-loaders, their failures are almost always catastrophic and will likely require the services of a gunsmith to return them to service. There is no “tap-rack-bang” drill for revolvers.

  31. Sorry but I have to disagree on this. I prefer semi autos for almost everything so I may be a little more biased. But I’ll take my FN FiveseveN over any revolver any day.

    • You’re missing the point. This isn’t an article about YOU specifically, but about what is the best pistol for most people in most scenarios. And even for you, if you ever need to share your weapon with other members of your team – people who are unskilled and weak – you want something that can be used by the most people most easily. Think about it…

    • The FN Five seveN is the worst pistol you could use because they ONLY use FNs own 5.7x28mm calibre round which is only designed for use in one other gun than the Five severN, the P90, so this ammo is uniqely rare. Really the only gun worse for this situation would be a P90, because of its habit of tearing through your ammo supplies in a matter of seconds.

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