Not all projectile weapons use bullets. Some of them use strings, cables, and plain old upper body strength to propel small, pointy objects at zombie skulls. This section lists all projectile weapons that are not propelled by gunpowder or cordite.
BowsEditThe advantages of these weapons (silence when firing and reusable ammo) are outweighed by their flaws. They require a lot of training and strength to use effectively, and even then, getting a headshot against a moving target is a difficult task. Even if a headshot is achieved, arrows have dubious penetrating power against hard bone, particularly a thick and sloped one like a human (or zombie) skull. While a well placed shot with an arrow can easily pierce through an undead skull, anything but a direct shot has a high chance of deflecting, causing nothing more than a nasty cut to the zombie. This is most noticeable when shooting a zombie from an angle, such as on a rooftop above the zombie. This is because most modern arrows are not designed to pierce an animal's skull, but to hit the animal's torso and slice through its vital organs. The lodged arrowhead will then tear apart the animal's insides as it runs away, killing it and allowing the hunter to retrieve the kill. Zombies obviously don't have to worry about damaging their organs. Bows also have a limited range (although longbows can still have a longer range than most handguns), very bulky ammunition, and a slow fire rate. If the user gets injured, they may be unable to use their bow. There's a reason why guns replaced bows on the battlefield -- it requires much less training to use a firearm than a bow and arrow. But with training and a good bow they can be very deadly. When using any bow, be it bow or crossbow, avoid dry-firing the bow (shooting the bow without an arrow loaded), since doing so can easily damage the bow due to energy from the bowstring being transferred to the bow itself rather than an arrow. Before using them, arrows should be check for damage, especially after they have hit something hard like a zombie skull; and if damage is present, the arrow should be destroyed immediately. Shooting a damaged arrow is very unsafe, as the arrow has a high chance of snapping when the bowstring is released. The broken back end of the arrow will then fly forward in an unpredictable direction, and may pierce the hand holding the bow. Should this happen, the user will require intensive care, which is very hard to come by once civilization has collapsed.
CrossbowsEditThe main advantage of a crossbow over a rifle is that it is extremely quiet, and when on a rooftop that is surrounded by the undead, it is a useful tool; however, like the bow, it may also suffer from dubious penetration power against a zombie skull. When one realizes how well a zombie can hear a distant gunshot, this makes the weapon very useful for someone who doesn't want to confront zombies. Also, it eliminates the main problem that the traditional bow and arrow has as a survival weapon: it does not require a great deal of training to use. An urban legend holds that, during the Middle Ages, the Pope banned the crossbow from warfare due to it being too dishonorable, as it allowed a soldier who had been trained on it for only a week to easily slaughter knights who had devoted their entire lives to learning how to fight. Obviously, this did nothing to impede its use. Like the longbow, the crossbow has a surprising amount of stopping power, capable of bringing down a large bear in one shot depending on the strength of the crossbow and the size of the bolt. Some modern crossbows also allow for the addition of scopes or laser sights. Finally, crossbows are fairly easy for even an inexperienced craftsman to produce, as is their ammunition (much easier than making or even reloading a bullet). Such homemade crossbows could be used to easily arm a large pool of survivors in lieu of easily available guns.
However, it has a fire rate even slower than a bow and arrow, as pulling the string and loading the bolt takes a few seconds and requires a bit of strength. While some of the speed issues were solved by the Chinese with the invention of the Cho-Ko-Nu repeating crossbow, the only variants of these you would be likely to find would be in a museum, or a homemade variant, and these weapons were designed for spamming arrows at enemy armies rather than precision shooting. Also, it suffers from the same problems with bulky ammunition and limited range as the bow. Crossbows are also louder than bows, though silencers and string stops can help mitigate this.
People should only make the crossbow their weapon of choice if their plan involves evading zombies rather than fighting them outright. For example, if they're going out to scout or collect supplies, the silence of a crossbow can prevent a horde of zombies from coming down on them and following them back to their base.
Compound Vs. RecurveEdit
When choosing a bow or crossbow, try to look for a recurve bow, instead of a compound bow. A compound bow has a faster fire rate, lower draw weight, is noticeably narrower (and easier to maneuver in tight spaces), and is generally more powerful than a recurve bow, but has more moving parts and is thus heavier and less reliable than a recurve. Should a bow require repairs, it is much easier for an inexperienced craft-person to fix a recurve than a compound. Compounds also need specialized machinery, like a bow press, to replace the bowstrings. Furthermore, compounds also shoot arrows with substantial force (enough to break homemade arrows) and thus cannot safely or accurately shoot improvised ammo, which can become a problem if the user cannot find sufficient professionally-manufactured arrows or once they eventually wear down. With these in mind, an average person may be better off with the simpler recurve bow or recurve crossbow.
A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone. A sling has a small cradle or pouch in the middle of two lengths of cord. The sling stone is placed in the pouch, both cords are held in the hand, then the sling is swung and one of the two cords is released. This frees the projectile to fly on a tangent to the circle made by the pouch's rotation. The sling derives its effectiveness by essentially extending the length of a human arm, thus allowing stones to be thrown several times farther than they could be by hand.
The sling is very inexpensive, very lightweight, easy to build, silent, and ammo for it can be found practically anywhere. It has historically been used for hunting game and in combat. The sling was the weapon of choice for shepherds in the field due to its usefulness for fending off other animals, and an expert could easily bring down a lion with one well-placed stone.
The most famous story of the use of a sling is the story of David and Goliath, in which the child shepherd David, armed with only a sling, defeats the giant warrior champion Goliath with a well-aimed shot to the head.
These may seem like perfect qualifications for use against zombies, but the sling has one critical disadvantage that seriously hinders its use as a weapon. It is highly inaccurate, and even an expert sling user with years of practice will have considerable difficulty hitting a human head at long range with enough force to do any real damage. So unless someone is already an expert with the sling (or like David, have God's help), they may as well just throw rocks at the zombies, or better yet, use a rifle or crossbow.
Made famous by the likes of Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson and used in games like Earthbound, the slingshot uses the same principle as the sling. The forked Y-shaped frame has two rubber strips attached to the uprights, leading back to a pocket for holding the projectile, which would be useful to launch something like an explosive better than what can be thrown by arm.
While easier to use and far more accurate than the sling, these advantages come at the cost of power and range. The sling is actually a weapon, the slingshot was a toy originally. Homemade toy slingshots, such as the one above, barely have the power to bruise the skin on a zombie's head, let alone damage the brain. If one was to use it against a zombie, all they would do is get its attention. However, it is possible to find or make hunting slingshots with enough power to crack a skull. Such slingshots require a serious amount of physical strength and practice, though. It takes years to be proficient enough to effectively use a powerful slingshot against zombies. But tactical slingshots do exist, and loaded with short, heavy darts called "panas" (basically a type of flechette), frag balls or explosive pellets, can serve as practical weapons. Bottom line, unless one is a good friend of Jörg Sprave from the slingshot channel, it would much more easier to find and use a gun.
However, if modified by shortening the rubber straps and putting on a whisker biscuit or any other suitable arrow rest, a slingshot can be made into a slingbow. A slingbow can shoot arrows and is powerful enough kill a zombie with the right arrow and good shot placement. The arrow rest, most commonly known as a whisker biscuit, can, for example, be added using strap ties on the fork of a conventional slingshot. It is recommened that this modification is performed on high powered, steel-framed slingshots with arm rests, as traditional Y-shaped wooden slingshots may malfunction under the tension required to launch an arrow at the speed required to kill a zombie, and arm rests help to keep the user's aim steady for longer periods of time. Some "wrist rocket" slingshots have adjustable forks that allow the user to find their "sweet spot".
Arm rests, otherwise known as "wrist braces", are illegal in some places. Sling bows without arm rests can still be a viable option, but then it is absolutely necessary to attach the rubber bands as low over the hand as possible in order to keep the wrist strain bearable. This calls for specially designed frames that can't be used as normal slingshots anymore. These sling bows are the most compact arrow-shooting devices in existence and make viable weapons against the undead.
Throwing KnivesEditKnives may be readily available, but not all of them are good for throwing. Additionally, it takes months of practice to develop one’s skill enough to hit a target the size of a human torso, even more months to hit one as small as a human head, a year or two to be able to hit a constantly moving head from a safe distance with the necessary force to puncture the skull, and considerable experience with zombies on top of all that to compensate for the stress of undead survival. Unless the user is already a circus-level knife thrower, it’s probably just easier to use a gun.
Also known in the West as the throwing star or the ninja star, these deadly little tools were made famous by the Shinobi (Ninjas) of feudal Japan. Designed to be used as a distraction or as a way to disable pursuing soldiers, these weapons can kill in the hands of a master. If one has enough skill or time, one can make a basic shuriken out of any flat piece of metal, and most are so small and light that one can fit as many as twenty five in a single pants pocket.
Unfortunately, it takes a master to be able to repeatedly hit a human head with a shuriken, and it is nearly impossible to do so with enough force to penetrate a zombie's skull and destroy the brain. Contrary to what Max Brooks wrote in The Zombie Survival Guide, Shuriken were not designed as killing weapons, but as nuisances and distractions. When they did kill, it was due to blood loss caused by hitting an exposed artery, not by penetrating the skull. In any event, the practice of Shuriken jutsu has long since fallen out of favor in Japan, and there are few masters today that teach it (much fewer than with the fabled katana). In short, shuriken are ineffective weapons against the undead.
These weapons consist of a BB or a dart blown through a tube, originally used by aboriginal tribesmen against European colonists. Depending on the power and the size of the dart, it could penetrate a zombie skull, and it could be used to stealthily kill bandits or game. Take note that smaller blowgun darts, equipped with poison or not, will have no effect against a member of the undead. Practice in both construction of the hose and darts and projectile accuracy would be extremely time consuming. These typically should be discounted as an effective weapon against an undead foe.
Air rifles use compressed air to shoot small BB at a target that is also virtually ineffective against the undead. It is only effective at stunning human targets, not killing them.
Another problem is that most air rifles can be made to look similar to a real gun if, say, the tip of it is panted black or grey. Try not to confuse an air rifle with a real gun. This may have deadly results.
A flechette is a pointed steel projectile, with a veined tail for stable flight. The name comes from French fléchette, "little arrow" or "dart", and sometimes retains the acute accent in English.
They were first used as an air-dropped weapon in World War I by combatants on both sides. These were about four inches long (10 cm) and weighed a couple of ounces (60 grams). Dropped from airplanes or zeppelins over enemy trenches or airfields, these gravity missiles were capable of penetrating a helmet and the wearer's skull. Similar weapons were "Lazy Dogs" (or "Devil Dogs"), used by the U.S. in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. These 1 3/4" length (4.5 cm) bomb-lets were air-dropped at height in canisters by aircraft or scattered from buckets by helicopter crews, reaching high sub-sonic speeds as they fell. Targeted at enemy personnel and unarmored vehicles, the flechette hit the targets with the force of a bullet. This could be done to take out a horde of zombies if you have an aircraft or have someone who has the means to fly it, and have a group of packed zombies.
Smaller flechettes were used in special artillery shells called "beehive" rounds (named for the very distinctive whistling buzz made by thousands of flechettes flying downrange at supersonic speeds) and intended for use against troops in the open -- a ballistic shell packed with flechettes was fired and set off by pressure-sensitive detonators, scattering flechettes and shrapnel in all directions. They were used in the Vietnam War by artillery gunners to defend their positions against infantry attacks.
Another modern variant of flechettes is the flechette shell, commonly used in shotguns, these rounds are a basic 12-gauge shell filled with 20 small flechettes. These provide the power a shotgun with the piercing power of a flechette. The other varient that you will more than likely never see is the flechette tank round, this is a large tank shell filled with roughly 8,000 flechettes, fired into the air. They detonate as they reach the top of their arc, firing the rounds into a deadly "steel rain".
These are basically like throwing knives. Anyone considering using these would need massive amounts of skill to be effective enough with these that they probably won't be useful to them unless they are used in a more creative manner than throwing or stabbing.
An Atlatl is a form of throwing stick. It operates by artificially lengthening the users' arm. This allows the projectile to be thrown further than it would normally. In some accounts, Aztec Atlatl darts were reported to go go through the steel plate armour worn by the Conquistadors. So if it can go through steel plate, it could easily go through a human/zombie skull.