Author’s note: The mid-season premiere of “The Walking Dead” is upon us. Like all right-thinking Americans and many others, I am a fan. As a Green Beret, I can’t help but analyze the situation and devise strategy and tactics. It is in my DNA. Having seen a couple of countries at war and the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina, I have some ideas about what I would do. I am eager to share some thoughts with you—and with Rick Grimes.

In the zombie apocalypse, there will be all manner of weapons available.  Let’s sort through this buffet of violence and make some healthy choices.

I believe, in all zombie dramas, the pointy stick is vastly underrated. Take a broom stick or any similar piece of wood about six feet long and put a point on it. Silent and deadly, it is the perfect tool to dispatch the slow-moving undead. Long enough to keep you beyond arms reach, the spear is simple enough to make several of, so you can let one go if it gets stuck. For 10,000 years it was the dominant weapon on the battlefield.

Bows and crossbows are a good choice, too. The bow has a faster rate of fire with a little practice, but the crossbow is more accurate for the untrained. They are nearly silent and seem to be 100 percent effective on zombies.  Arrows and bolts can be reused and fabricated in the field. They can be used to take game and defend against feral humans, but shot placement is critical. Don’t expect to pick up a bow and use it effectively during the apocalypse if you never trained with it during better days.

An emergency choice is any sharp hand tool. Every kitchen has a dozen or so knives, every toolbox a handful of screwdrivers. I would include baseball bats, hammers, and hatchets in this group, even though they are employed a bit differently. The problem with these tools is that, while they are effective, if the zombies are in range, you are in range. I want to keep those diseased teeth as far away from me as possible. Big knives like machetes and swords give you a little more room, but that is still too close for me.

Flame weapons are always a crowd pleaser, but with flammable liquids becoming less available with each day past Z+1, they are of limited utility. If you live near tar pits or oil wells, you may have a few more options. Used in conjunction with a solid barrier/obstacle plan, you can crowd the undead into a corner and burn them where they stand. The smell is going to be pretty bad, obviously. Molotov cocktails are a classic favorite, but require an extremely volatile liquid to work.

For the zombie apocalypse and most other disasters, having a way to protect yourself and your family is an essential part of the preparations. When dialing 911 gets you a busy signal, you have to be your own cop. If you have friends and neighbors with guns, that is even better. Everybody has to sleep sometime.

Firearms are the fun alternative and the first choice in first-person shooter games. Facing humans, firearms are a better choice than any kind of stick, but there are choices which can make a big difference. When firearms were new, they were unreliable and slow to reload. The addition of a knife or  bayonet greatly increased its utility as a weapon. That makes even more sense fighting zombies: Stick the undead, save your bullets for the living.

Legal silencers are more available than ever before with $200 and a little paperwork. They make sure that the noise of gunfire doesn’t attract zombies (or unwanted attention from humans, for that matter). In the apocalypse, they are fairly simple to fabricate, but add weight and length. Very high CDI (chicks dig it) factor.

There are a wide variety of rifles and handguns which fire .22 rimfire cartridges. They seem to be effective against zombies and are fairly quiet, even un-suppressed. Their low recoil and light weight make them manageable. There is a lot of .22 ammo in homes around America, but it can be hard to find in stores. There seem to be a lot of people stockpiling it.  While it seems to work on zombies, it is not very effective against living creatures much bigger than rabbits. There are those who argue that assassins and poachers use the .22 to great effect. My counterargument to that is that at ranges where I can “shoot a deer in the eye,” I am pretty close to effective sharp-stick range. It is a very marginal cartridge.

I love machine guns, but if I knew that there was no replacement for the rounds that I shot, I would not use full auto fire at all. It is most effective when there is a coordinated plan and truckloads of ammo resupplied from the rear. I would unlink the ammo and use it in more accurate and efficient weapons.

There is a place for bolt guns, but the relatively slow rate of fire demands that they be employed with some stand-off. The common deer rifle should be very functional on humans at 300 yards and zombie head shots at 100 with regular ammunition. When the Governor pulled up in front of the prison, there should have been one of Rick’s guys 200 yards behind shooting him and the guys in the tank. Up close, a Lee-Enfield or Mosin-Nagant with a bayonet could be effective.

Shotguns make fearful wounds. However, they seem to be overkill for zombies, and head shots are limited to 25 yards or so for most shooters and loads—even slugs. Pump shotguns are reliable and fast, but hold relatively few rounds and are slow to reload once empty.

Semiautomatic rifles have a good combination of precision, wounding potential, and magazine capacity. There is much opinion on this. I will give you mine. You have two basic choices in practical defensive rifles. Two families: the AR or the AK. Your choice is like a Rorschach inkblot test—it says a lot about how you think.

The all-American choice is the AR-15. If you keep it clean and lubricated, it will run well. It is easy to find a quality AR with good sights and a clean trigger for well under $1000. The fire controls have great ergonomics and a user-friendly safety. It has a modern, modular design which enables an infinite number of simple upgrades.

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While ARs can be chambered in several cartridges, you need to stay with the common .223 to ensure you can find plenty of ammo. The military, police, and a lot of modern sporting rifle owners have .223 ammo and AR magazines. For some, ammo availability alone swings the decision to the AR. If you have military experience with the M-16 or M-4, you probably want to stick with the platform with controls and ergonomics that mirror those rifles.

The AK is reliable and rugged. It was designed to be operated by illiterate teenage conscripts with little to no training. Meant for wartime production, the elimination of a bolt hold-open feature saved three parts. In Russia, magazines are scarce and valuable, so you are driven to hold the magazine to work the flapper magazine release. This is meant to make you hold on to magazines rather than let them drop free, since it’ll be in your hand before you insert the next magazine. The sights require a tool to adjust. This keeps recruits from messing up the fine zero the factory armorers put on it.

The AK has a rough trigger and poor sights, but those can be upgraded with all manner of clever American improvements. The AK comes in two main calibers, 7.62×39 and 5.45×39.   There are some variants around in .223 which would be handy.  If you have more in common with a teenage conscript than a trained soldier, you may want to consider the AK. It will run under filthy conditions and considerable abuse. Magazines and 7.62×39 ammunition are not as common as their AR counterparts, but you can get your own before the apocalypse. The AKs are cheaper and mags are plentiful now; after a zombie outbreak, availability may vary.

To be continued:

In excitement and preparation for the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday, February 8th, SOFREP and The Loadout Room will be releasing articles from different writers offering our advice on a multitude of topics, but all relating to foreign internal defense (FID) and “The Walking Dead.”

You can read part one of our collaborative series here.

(Featured image courtesy of