“You’ve Got Red On You”: Ammo Selection During Z Day

“You’ve Got Red On You”: Ammo Selection During Z Day

Let’s frame the problem you face on Z day: A Virus has infected millions of citizens, rapidly making its way into population centers and turning millions into the undead. The un-dead require a round capable of destroying the CNS of the intended target by destroying the brain or brain stem. Many projectiles are capable of this, so the “best” is relative. If you shoot a zombie in the jaw with a .44 magnum and his head explodes (along with the brain stem) then mission accomplished, right? Well… yes. So long as you don’t infect yourself with aerosolized zombie blood and tissue, but we will get to that in a minute.

In a Z apocalypse, likely the following variables will come into play:

  • Population density of vectors
  • Weight of ammo
  • Secondary wounding mechanisms of a projectile.

Each one of those factors will help in choosing a round suitable for your role as a survivor. You want a round that is lightweight, dense in storage, and one that doesn’t increase the chance of self infecting through airborne contamination. Let’s briefly touch on a scenario.

For those living in a dense population center, likely you will have 100,00s of undead in the county. In this scenario, where the undead spill from dense population centers to the suburbs and surrounding wilderness, you will need plenty of ammo… and in bulk. 5.56 is nice and light, and stores well in a small case, but having a few bricks of .22lr would also make sense since the density of the round packed in a brick eclipses any other round available.

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC - DSC_9915crgn_R_Ph Gene Page

Don’t be caught in any situation where you are holed up without a few bricks of .22LR among your group. (The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC – DSC_9915crgn_R_Ph Gene Page)

Larger calibers limit your abilities in fighting zed. Rounds such as .308 are heavy, pack poorly, and create massive trauma which, if you will excuse the term, is overkill. 5.56 magazines are relatively compact, ammo dense, and the ammo itself is lightweight. Weight and mobility are of vital importance in a Zed hot zone, as any extra weight could cause you to burn out during a zed mile. Burning out in a dense zed area could be a death sentence. Are there other choices which offer more versatility than .22lr but packs better than 5.56? 5.7×28 would make a excellent choice for zed control. 50 rounds of 5.7×28 fits in the palm of your hand. It’s both lightweight and packs extremely well. It also has some desirable wounding characteristics which we will touch on momentarily.


5.7×28 next to 7.62×39. We can see the size difference in the cartridge and the small size of the 5.7 allows a large amount of ammo to be stored in a small area, namely your backpack.

If you don’t have a 5.7 rifle and pistol combo, then keeping 5.56 handy with a large supply of 22LR would be a good start for your zombie loadout. 5.56 is ubiquitous, easily stockpiled at this point in time, and its capable, versatile cartridge. Keeping a mix of 5.56 and 22LR rifles equipped among your squad will give you great options for both self defense and zed control. For survivalists, having a 10/22 with 4000-5000 or even 10,000 rounds of 22LR will be essential for those near the city. Distribute the .22LR bricks amongst the troop and keep a few 10/22s near for barricade defense. So what are these secondary characteristics that were mentioned? Good zombie ammo selection isn’t just about blowing a zombie brain to bits, its also about reducing airborne contamination.

Terminal Effects:

So what secondary effects should we be avoiding? “Why isn’t my .308 a good choice for zed if I am in a bug in scenario and I have a few 1000 rounds?” Let’s discuss. As you know, a projectile imparts a permanent wound cavity and a secondary / temporary wound cavity. This temporary cavity is simply a expansion of tissue under the influence of the projectiles kinetic energy. This temporary cavity expands to many times the diameter of the projectile and then collapses upon itself due to the negative atmosphere environment of the wound cavity and the elasticity of organ tissue.

This temporary cavity has the potential to scramble brains very well so our magnum calibers will definitely put the Zed down, but here is where things get messy… If you are defending yourself at close range with say a .44 magnum, say bad breath distance, you are likely to infect yourself from areosolized zombie blood and tissue.

In the example below, the .44 magnum hits the target and causes a massive expansion in the form of a secondary cavity. This negative pressure environment wants to equalize in pressure, so as that cavity increases in diameter it is sucking in air from that huge .44 caliber hole in the ballistic gel. As the cavity collapses, it forces that air that it sucked in to escape through the entrance hole in a aerosol form. This is bad, especially if you are near point blank. If you breath that in because you negated PPE such as a respirator, your done for. You are a ticking time bomb in your group, but there would be no wounds and no warnings until you got a fever and turned.

Any projectile which has both a large (relatively speaking) wound entrance with a large enough temporary cavity can suck in air and then expel it forcefully as an aerosol. As a medical professional with training in both wounding mechanisms of projectiles and exposure to dangerous pathogens, I do not recommend shooting zed with magnum calibers. I also recommend full face respirators or gas masks and a full layer of PPE.

If you must use a large caliber, switch to a smaller projectile with much less kinetic energy at close range such as .22lr. The best characteristics of a centerfire projectile will be something with a tiny entrance hole with a long neck before tumbling begins. We don’t want air sucked into the wound to get back out. Watch this video of 5.56 and notice that the aresolization is greatly reduced.

Notice it enters, creates a small temporary cavity with a long entrance track and then begins to tumble deep into the block. Since the entrance hole is so small, the tissue effectively seals itself from sucking in too much air into the bigger temporary cavity at the back of the wound track. This is ideal projectile performance on Zed. Minimal backsplash to the operator should the zed get near point blank. If the operator had no time to switch to his 22LR weapon, the careful ammo selection he has made for his centerline rifle should minimize contamination. Both M193 and M855 offer these desirable characteristics to the urban undead threat resolution specialist.

Another fine example is 5.7×28 with ss-197. It has a long wound track before it begins to tumble thereby minimizing air intake into the wound.


What about Hornady Zombie Max? Using this projectile without personal protective equipment (PPE) is not ideal. This projectile offers rapid expansion as it is a varmint bullet with a thin jacket that begins to shred within a few inches of flesh. This creates a short wound track of a inch or two with rapid temporary capitation… this is going to allow air to enter the shallow wound track and as the cavity collapses, will aerosol some of the zed virus. Even with the right caliber, the bullet construction also plays a role in secondary wounding effects. Please review the video linked here and watch carefully for smoke puffing out of the gel block. That’s exactly what we don’t want if we are forced to zap the infected up close.

Wrapping Up:

It is important to ensure good preperation with the proper ammunition selection to minimize exposure to the Z virus. At this point, we have witnessed countless zed documentaries which do not entertain the idea of infection via airborne exposure from close range firearm wounding mechanisms and backslash of organs and tissues. This will no doubt lead many ignorant people to make poor choices and self infect via close proximity to zed.

If you only have access to ammunition which will potentially cause aresolization, be sure to equip yourself with a full face mask respirator and a layer of personal protective equipment to reduce the chance of contact with the virus on skin. Before reporting back to home base, full decontamination precautions should be administered with a chemical bath, or if necessary, field expedient methods such as boiling durable PPE with proper donning and doffing of said equipment. Even the best surgeons and medical staff can fail at decon procedures and introduce virus into areas it is not intended to be. Carefully remove contaminated equipment outside of your clean areas. Minimizing exposure of the Z virus through ammo selection and the proper use of personal protective equipment will ensure the safety of yourself and your group of urban operators.


Written by lothaen


  1. Skyfire · October 22, 2015

    Why is 22LR a good z-ammo choice? Penetration is low in addition to small permanent wound channel doesn’t inspire confidence in its ability to sufficiently damage the lower brainstem to stop an undead. In all probability, it’s the lower brainstem and top spinal cord that needs to be destroyed, since if the cerebral cortex is functional they’ll just be diseased human beings and not Z’s.

    I guess the “deep penetration before fragmentation” requirement rules out ammo like M855A1 and Federal Fusion MSR, too bad ’cause those are on my favorite SD round list.

    • lothaen · October 22, 2015

      Do Z exhibit ocular function, auditory function, basic path finding ability and control of limbs? Cause those are all cerebral functions. 22LR should be sufficient to destroy or incapacitate enough brain to render the zombie incapable of attacking… And at the same time, 22LR will minimize the chance that you will cause the zombie to splash or expell virus.

      You can kill zombie with your favorite load all day, but try not to infect other survivors who lack PPE by using ammo that will minimize the aresolization of the zombie blood and tissues.

      You did read the article, correct?

  2. Will Krause · October 26, 2015

    On please, just use a flame thrower. Any “red” you get on you will be sterilized.

  3. Miles Farris · July 28, 2017

    It comforts me knowing that someone else is looking at the zompocalypse realistically as well. Thank you.

    • lothaen · July 28, 2017

      Brother, when that day comes people will quickly realize that the cold hard reality of the zed apocalypse is nothing like the movies portray.

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