Like it or not, not every cartridge is going to get the job done when it comes to keeping you and your family safe from the incoming zombie horde; Hornady had the right idea in making its Zombie Max Ammo available in a wide variety of calibers. That's why we've picked our top eight calibers -- four for handguns, and four for rifles.
But it's not that simple. We can't just pick eight that we think will best service our zombie-splattering needs. Remember, we have two contradictory tasks we may need to fulfill: stoppers to deal with fast-movers, and poppers to give clean head shots as finishers. You can't have both; that's just the way life is. Plus, we may be a long time between re-supply, and we might have to use whatever we can find.
As we like to both have fun with this lighthearted subject and learn all we can about its application in the personal defense realm, we decided to set up a zombie scenario to truly test our apocalypse acumen. We gave our zombie guru Patrick Sweeney a one minute run into the Guns & Ammo office ammo vault (we've been collecting since '73) to grab and stash a box of ammo from each of his essential calibers for rifle and handgun. Sweeney, of course, had a great idea of what he wanted to grab, but he simply couldn't carry ammo for this full suite of rifles and pistols. Only eight, that's it.
So, these are the eight boxes he grabbed, based only on caliber. With one minute to choose, there's no way anyone can look at specific bullet weights and manufacturers. We're just filling our basic needs here.
Here's how our experiment turned out...
No. 1 Handgun Caliber: 9mm
Tops on the list: 9mm. And I say that as a lifelong, diehard .45 fan. You can carry more, carry more in magazines, and have less recoil to deal with than any other caliber. It just sucks as a stopper. (Well, any handgun round sucks as a stopper, but that's another subject.)
No. 4 Handgun Caliber: .38 Special
Last; .38 Special. It sucks worse than the 9mm as a stopper, but it is common to the point of ubiquity, accurate to a scary degree, and recoil is mild enough to use all day long as a popper.
No. 2 Handgun Cailber: .44 Magnum
Second would be the .44 Magnum for a stopper, which can also work as a popper if you've practiced.
No. 3 Handgun Caliber: .45 ACP
The only compromise caliber I grabbed was the .45 ACP, which could serve as both, but I do so realizing that it suffers on both ends: there are better stoppers, and there are lighter, more-compact calibers as poppers.
No. 1 Rifle Caliber: .223
Tops on the list; .223/5.56. Again, common as dirt, superbly accurate, and recoil is just a gentle nudge. It just isn't much of a stopper. That said, there has probably been more if it loaded in the last decade than any other rifle caliber, period. That's the No. 1 reason that it's the first thing you should grab in most any situation.
No. 4 Rifle Caliber: .270
Last, a long-range urban clearance round. Something that carries, has accuracy, and for that I don't need a self-loading action, So, a bolt-action long range hunting round. Hmm, .338 Lapua? .300 Win mag? No, the good old .270 caught my eye in the mad dash. Jack O'Connor would spin in his grave, but for long-range zombie potting, I'd go with his favorite old round. Plenty accurate, common ammo, mild recoil, and plenty of range.
No. 3 Rifle Caliber: .308
Third, and as a stopper if the outbreak is fast-movers, I went with .308. If I was lining up caliber and rifle I'd want something durable, thankyouverymuch, and not a dolled-up 742. No big-X scopes, I'd want something with irons on it, or a red-dot scope. I'm not looking to snipe, but I want a rifle/caliber as the zombie equivalent of a professional hunter's double rifle. If one or more fast-movers zoom around the corner, I want to be able to nail them in time.
No. 2 Rifle Cailber: .30-.30
Second I went with, and again from volume, for .30-30. The rifles it comes in all have limitations, but if you have a rifle in .30-30, you have two things: something that can use ammo found almost anywhere, and a reasonably dependable stopper.
Be sure to let us have it in the comments below (we know you will), and include what you would do in this scenario. Here's a gentle reminder: Practice counts much more than caliber.