Below is a blog I published on July 22nd of 2009.
In my forth book, the events of the previous three books in the series climax with a cataclysmic battle of epic proportions (as opposed to a regular battle of epic proportions). Not everyone involved in this battle is a dragon. In fact, most of the participants are something else, and therefore have to rely on means other than claws and breath weapons with which to end lives.
So, there are a lot of guns. And when guns are used on monsters, they have varying effects based on the particular monster. With that in mind, I'm starting a short series of blogs called Guns vs. Monsters. Part 1: Zombies.
We're going to assume we're dealing with the kind of zombies that die if you shoot them in the brain. Whether they are running zombies, shambling zombies, brain-eating or any-flesh-will-do cannibals isn't important. The point is, they're here and the only way to kill them is to destroy their brains before they eat yours.
So, what to use. Well, zombies aren't really that scary unless there are a lot of them. So, we're going to assume that in this senario, it's a zombie apocalypse. What gun to use?
I know, everyone is calling shotgun. That's how it generally goes down in the movies. Let me explain why this is a bad idea.
Shotguns are big. They have massive recoil, are hard to control, and the ammo is bulky. They can be very reliable weapons, and they are generally easy to find...but the more reliable and easy to find they are, generally the less useful they become.
The most common shotguns are pump-action police models. These will hold anywhere from 6 to 9 shotgun shells. And you have to pump after each round, which can get really irritating if you're being chased by zombies. Once you're out of ammo, you have to reload each round individually. One at a time, you slide shells into a hopper while praying the zombies give you enough time to get done. The pumping can be eliminated with an automatic shotgun, but these are less reliable and harder to find. There are a few magazine fed automatic shotguns (the Saiga-12, for example) but these aren't common in North America. Even still, you have to reload the magazine once you are done. Full auto shotguns exist, but don't even bother looking for one. And don't try converting your semi-automatic shotgun into a full-auto shotgun...you can pull that shit with an AK-47 or an AR-15, but if you try it with a shotgun you're just going to ruin the weapon. Also it's illegal...but when you're dealing with the zombie apocalypse you probably won't care about the BATFE.
Your other options are single-shot, double-barrel, and over-under shotguns. Single-shot are just that: one barrel, one shot, break open and reload. For double barrel and over-under, multiply that by two. These are very reliable...the fewer moving parts a gun has, the more reliable it is, generally. The drawbacks are obvious...reloading after every shot or after every two shots. However, these shotguns tend to be far more accurate because of the barrel length. And, if you want you can saw off part of the barrel and stock to make the weapon roughly the size of a huge pistol. This makes a good holdout for when something gets really close.
That brings us to the ammunition. Shotgun shells in 12 gauge are abundant--they even sell them in Wal-Mart. Shotgun shells come in an amazing variety, but the two basic types are buckshot and slug. Buckshot is cluster of little balls (called shot) that explode into a roughly plate-sized circle as they leave the barrel of the gun. Shotgun choke tubes can be adjusted to make this spread more or less. Abandon the myth that you can hit multiple targets with one shotgun blast. You can if they are on top of each other, but most of it is going into one target. A well placed blast from a shotgun can take off limbs or even a head, but most of the time you're going to hit your target in the torso...if you hit them at all. This will usually kill (or seriously hurt) a human, but a zombie will probably just get knocked over. The energy transference from the buckshot stopping in flesh will destroy organs and crush bones, but against a zombie that won't do much good. So its a head shot or nothing. Get close enough and that isn't a problem...but you don't want to be that close to a zombie, especially since he's probably not alone. If a group of thugs see you blow up the head of their leader with a point blank shotgun blast, they will probably run away or surrender. Nothing is worse for moral than seeing the head of an ally suddenly stop existing. But the zombies won't even care.
The other kind of ammo common for shotguns are called slugs. These are just great big bullets. Unlike a rifle, a shotgun has a smooth bore--no spiral groves running down the barrel of the shotgun. In a rifled weapon, this imparts spin on the round, speeding it up and making it more accurate. With a shotgun, you don't get this...unless you find saboted shotgun slugs...which you won't. Don't ask what those are. You won't have any when the zombie apocalypse comes. So, slugs are pretty hard core, kind of like a miniature cannon. But they have the same drawback as buckshot, with harder recoil.
There are other shotgun options as well, but those are useless so we won't talk about them much. They include birdshot, which you might pick up by mistake. Shoot a zombie with that and you might as well just be standing there ringing a bell chanting 'eat me please'. Flachette rounds are next to impossible to get, but fun. They work just like buckshot, only instead of tiny round balls you have a bunch of little blades. These are handy for....um...I'm not really sure why these exist, except that they hurt a lot but aren't very lethal. The Geneva convention actually banned the use of these things because they are just too painful. Since zombies don't feel pain, these aren't very handy against them. There are doorbreacher rounds...don't get those. And there are dragon rounds, which are exactly what they sound like: they shoot a blast of fire out of the barrel of your shotgun. It sounds (and looks) cool, but unless all the zombies just walked through a gasoline shower, this is pointless. Also, they may not even exist anymore. I've only heard about them...never seen them. Finally, there are less-lethal rounds. These are made of hard-rubber buckshot or a hard-rubber slug. You can't call them non-lethal because they CAN kill someone, just like you CAN kill someone by punching them too hard. However, these aren't likely to be very useful against zombies.
So what to do against the zombie hordes? What is the ideal round?
The humble .22 LR. Yes, the Radar O'Reily of ammunition will be the key to your survival in the zombie apocalypse. Here is why:
1. Ubiquity. .22 LR is the single most common round of ammunition in North America. It generally comes in small boxes of 50 rounds. 3 small boxes of .22 LR roughly take up the same space as a single box of 50 rounds of .45 ACP, so when you find some of it, you will probably find a LOT of it.
2. Underratted. Most of the other survivors will snatch up all the shotguns, shotgun shells, 9mm and .45 ACP ammo they can find. They will leave behind the boxes .22 LR and all .22 LR pistols and rifles because they underestimate this round. It WILL kill and human, and it WILL kill a zombie. And now you've got it all.
3. Low recoil. .22 LR has almost no recoil. This makes it very accurate, but it also makes it easy for people who haven't fired guns to make those critical head shots. .22 LR is rarely used as a self-defense round because in order to instantly kill someone with it, you have to hit them in the head or the heart. Unlike .45 ACP or a 9mm hollow point, you can't usually instantly stop/kill someone with a hit to a less critical part of the body. But if you're going to have to hit them in the head to kill the zombies, you'd might as well use a round that is going to make it easy.
4. Low energy. The .22 LR will easily enter a skull. It will not easily exit one. This results in the round bounding around inside the targets head until it runs out of energy. This is just as destructive as blowing the head off, only it all stays in one piece.
5. Easy to silence. Sub-sonic .22 LR rounds sound like a stick breaking. They are literally that quiet. Use a home-made suppressor and they are noiseless. So if you need to kill a zombie without attracting a lot of attention, this is a good thing to have. It is also handy if you want to snipe the zombies from afar, but not alert them to your presence. The zombies will be looking around for the shooter while you pick them off from the water tower.
6. Portability. The .22 LR is tiny, so you an carry a lot of them. You can carry 500 22. LR rounds easily, whereas the same amount of almost any other ammo would be a pain in the ass.
7. Functionality. Firearms that take .22 LR come in all shapes and sizes: revolvers, automatic pistols, rifles of all varieties, and so forth. About the only thing you won't find in .22 LR is a full-auto. There are a couple...the Reisling M65 sub-machinegun isn't manufactured anymore, but the Casull Model 290 is still in production (as the MGV-176). It's SUPER illegal in the US. However, it looks awesome:
The American version isn't made anymore, but it's called the American-180. You can find videos of them on YouTube.
You can convert some to full auto, but don't bother. Firing on full auto when you need to make headshots is just wasting ammo. Some after-market gun part manufacturers make goofy little trigger spring things you can attach to the gun that make it easier to pull the trigger repeatedly, thus simulating full-auto fire...but I haven't tried any of them and can't recommend them in zombie apocalypse times.
8. Flexibility. There is another round called the 22 Short. While you cannot fire 22. LR out of a rifle chambered for .22 Short, you can do the opposite. However, the round won't have enough power to cycle an automatic pistol or rifle (usually) so keep this to bolt actions, single-shots, and revolvers. .22 Short isn't terribly common, but not many places carry it so if you find it, you're likely to find a LOT of it. Note: there is another round called the .22 WRM or .22 Mag. DO NOT attempt to fire this from a gun chambered for .22 LR, or vice versa! It probably won't even fit in the chamber, but don't try it! It is a much more powerful round than the .22 LR.
9. Friendlier friendly fire. So you miss the zombie and shoot your friend in the ass. Though a head shot with .22 LR is deadly, an ass shot with it isn't. .22 LR isn't very forgiving. You either hit your enemy in a critical spot or you just wound him. So, if you accidentally shoot your friend...or your self...the wound is easier to treat and you'll lose less blood. Note: that doesn't make it okay to shoot your friends with .22 LR! Even if a wound is not immediately fatal, it can be debilitating or kill you several minutes, hours (or even years) later! 22 LR is less likely to get an instant kill, but it is STILL a REAL bullet being fired from a REAL gun and NOT a toy!
So, for my money...fight the zombies with a Ruger 10/22 with a dozen of these in a satchel loaded with this stuff. The zombies will have no idea what hit them...