- See Also: Best Handguns For Killing Zombies
- While they often fire less powerful loads than rifles, the recoil of a pistol is still more difficult to manage than that of a rifle (especially for an inexperienced shooter), as the weapon is held in the hand and cannot be braced against the shoulder, and has considerably less bulk than a rifle to mitigate the recoil.
- This added recoil and inability to brace the gun, combined with their much shorter barrels, also greatly reduces the accuracy of handguns compared to rifles. As a result, the majority of handguns are designed to be used in close-range standoffs (<30 yards), with simple sights that are not suited to long-range accuracy. They are fairly difficult to aim at longer ranges (30-50 yards), especially at a target as small as a human head, and outside of some custom target-shooting guns are largely ineffective at ranges greater than 50 yards.
- Handguns typically have a slightly smaller chance of penetrating a G's skull than a rifle due to the fact that most handguns have a muzzle velocity ranging from 900-1,500 ft/s (although some pistols have been known to fire close to 2,000 randomly). Caliber, target proximity, and angle and location of impact with the skull are all major variables. Generally speaking, however, one should not have a problem penetrating the skull at the intended range.
For these reasons, handguns are best suited to close quarters combat, but even in this situation a carbine is generally preferable. Despite its flaws, the handgun does have a great deal of value as a backup weapon, as it makes an excellent fall-back option and can become a life saver if you run out of ammunition for, lose, or otherwise cannot utilize your primary weapon for any reason (if you're knocked down and become pinned under a zombie, for instance, not to mention that, when a zombie is 1 inch from you face, it requires no skill to fire the bullet to kill it). The two most common types of handguns are semi-automatic pistols and revolvers.
The handgun has a major advantage that other firearms don't have: they, and their ammunition, are extremely easily found. Handguns are standard issue for police officers and many security guards, and are likewise kept by civilians for both home defense (easy to grab off the nightstand) and concealed carry, whereas shotguns and rifles (and their ammunition) are usually found locked away in police armories and personal gun safes. Semi-autos are generally more common than revolvers, but it mainly depends on the location.
When using a handgun, always remember to properly aim it, preferably with both hands (although this may not be possible in some situations). Attempting to dual-wield handguns in an imitation of Chow Yun-Fat or Keanu Reeves, and/or fire them "gangsta style" by holding the gun sideways, will only result in wasted ammo and a quick death. In close quarters, the handgun would actually be more effective held close against the body, using your free hand to perform tasks such as holding a light or fighting back with a light melee weapon.It is advised that a flashlight attachment be acquired for a handgun if possible, as this frees up a hand that would otherwise be holding a flashlight and allows for more accurate aiming at night and in dark interiors. Avoid pressing a semi-automatic handgun against the flesh of a target, unless it has a standoff attachment on the fore end that prevents the weapon's barrel from moving out of battery, as this prevents the action working properly.
Never assume a weapon is unloaded, and when handling the weapon, always try to keep the barrel facing the ground or the sky. Firing a weapon in a confined space, or an area where sound reverberates strongly may cause hearing damage. Safety is a matter of building good habits.
Semi-automatic pistolsEditSemi-automatic pistols can fire as quickly as the operator can pull the trigger, and are fed through detachable magazines. They usually sport higher capacity magazines than revolvers -- an average 9mm pistol's magazine holds 15 rounds, and even in states with assault weapons bans they usually hold 10. They can be fired and reloaded very quickly, and they can be fitted with accessories such as tactical lights, lasers, and sound suppressors (to reduce the noise that they make). These advantages have led to semi-auto handguns replacing revolvers as the standard sidearm of most law enforcement agencies.
However, a semi-auto handgun is relatively complex compared to a revolver, with more moving parts, which increases the chances that a malfunction or jam will occur, especially if the weapon isn't properly maintained. However, semi-automatic handguns are usually easy to use and maintain with a little bit of instruction, and have a good amount of firepower with a high magazine capacity. If you find one, then you'd be foolish not to take it.
RevolversEditRevolvers are fed through a chamber that rotates whenever the gun is cocked. They are known for being extremely reliable, low-maintenance weapons -- it is often said that a revolver will absolutely never jam, no matter how much abuse it is put through (although as with any gun, the individual parts can still be damaged, particularly the hammer). In addition, rounds can be left chambered in a revolver indefinitely, while in a semi-auto, leaving rounds in the magazine for too long can wear down the springs inside the mag. They are also almost idiot-proof, being so simple to use that somone with little to no firearm knowledge will get the idea on how to use them. For these reasons, revolvers are often recommended for first-time handgun owners. Also, revolvers are often chambered for more powerful rounds than their semi-auto counterparts, such as the venerable .357 Magnum. On the flip side, revolvers hold less ammunition than semi-autos (most revolver chambers hold only 6 rounds), take longer to reload (though speed loaders and moon clips can greatly ameliorate this), are louder, and have less recoil countermeasures than semi-automatic pistols. Revolvers may or may not be more common than semi-autos depending on where you live.
Machine pistolsEditMachine pistols are exactly what the name implies: pistols that can fire fully automatic or in burst fire. They may be a fully-automatic version of an existing semi-automatic pistol (such as the Glock 18, which is the select-fire variant of the Glock 17), or a purpose-built machine pistol (such as the MAC-10 or Micro Uzi). They are far less accurate and less powerful than any rifle, typically have a very high rate of fire (higher than many assault rifles), and are more difficult to control than most people would think. Machine pistols -- contrary to popular perception -- actually have more felt recoil than most rifles. While they do fire pistol cartridges (which create less recoil force than larger rifle cartridges), the weapons themselves are also smaller and lighter, so there is less weight to counteract the recoil. This makes machine pistols more difficult to control during sustained fire, especially if they have no stock. For all intents and purposes, automatic pistols are a few seconds of suppressing fire in a small package. An inexperienced operator may have difficulty maintaining effective fire on target, and will likely expend more ammunition than necessary. These problems are solved when the gun is used in semi-auto mode, but then you may as well just have an ordinary handgun. If you find yourself with a machine pistol in the zombie apocalypse, then, certainly hold onto it, as it still makes for a good sidearm, but there's no reason to specifically seek one out over a semi-automatic handgun, and you should still make it your priority to find a decent rifle or shotgun. Against zombies, discipline will be crucial to minimize your shots to short bursts.
NOTE: Chances are you will not have one before an outbreak and you will probably not find one unless you salvage one from a private security force or a SWAT team member's dead/undead body. Access to automatic weapons is either prohibited or tightly controlled in most countries.
CaliberEditSmaller caliber handguns, such as those chambered in 9mm and .38 Special, have less recoil and, with the exception of revolvers, can hold more ammunition in a magazine, allowing the person wielding them to kill more zombies before reloading. Meanwhile, the more powerful guns, such as those chambered in .45 ACP and the .357 Magnum, can take on bandits, wild animals, and other non-zombie targets more easily, and have a higher chance of disabling or killing a zombie where a smaller round might inflict minimal damage or miss entirely due to their size. These, however, often have high recoil that, while not unpleasant, can take some getting used to.
Larger calibers, such as the .44 Magnum and the .50 AE, typically constitute overkill against a zombie or a live human at anything less that the outer limits of a conventional pistol's range (and long range shooting should be done with a rifle anyway). Pistols firing such large calibers are loud, heavy, bulky, and have great recoil and a small ammunition capacity. Such high-caliber handguns should only be carried when there is a high risk of encountering large apex predators, like grey wolves, grizzly bears, or polar bears.
Handguns chambered in the .22 Long Rifle cartridge (or rim-fire) are of a controversial note. Though underpowered by conventional standards, and usually not advised for modern combat, the round is easy to transport (fifty rounds can fit in the palm of your hand). It is plentiful and has little recoil, noise, and muzzle flash, and is effective at the close-quarters ranges where the handgun comes into its own. On a fortunate shot, the .22 has been known to enter the skull, and ricochet several times to cause massive brain damage and death. The flip side of this is that it is less effective at medium-longer ranges (in this case, over 10 yards), and it is more prone to ricocheting off the skull outright, or simply being embedded in it without causing damage.
The following are some of the more common handgun calibers in North America. If your main choice of weapon is chambered in a round that is not on the list, then it is recommended that you stockpile ammo in the event of emergency and learn how to reload ammunition, as exotic calibers will likely be that much more difficult to acquire.
- .22 Long Rifle
- .25 ACP
- .32 ACP
- .380 ACP
- .38 Special
- .357 Magnum
- .40 S&W
- .45 ACP