You won’t get very far without some sort of weapon in Project Zomboid, and you have to think carefully about what type you’re going to use.
As with most things in this game, there’s plenty to learn. The way weapons function is deeply simulated to provide the most realistic experience, so if you’re going in blind, it can take some getting used to. Even for experienced players, there’s so much there that it’s easy to forget stuff and have to go trawling the internet for a specific piece of information.
That’s where this guide comes in. Having braved the apocalypse countless times and died to my inefficiency with weapons, I’ve now learned to hone the necessary skills to survive a long time. In this Project Zomboid Weapons guide, I’ll be covering absolutely everything you could wish to know about the game’s weapons and how they work, as well as providing you with some helpful tips throughout.
Bottom Line Up Front
This article will cover everything you need to know about the weapons in Project Zomboid. If you’re in a rush, here are a few key takeaways:
- Weaponry can be split into three main categories: Guns, Melee weapons, and Throwables.
- Guns make a lot of noise and attract hordes of zombies, but are the most effective at dealing with the most dangerous threats
- Melee weapons are going to be your main choice most of the time — they’re silent and deadly, allowing you to dispatch small groups while keeping your head down.
- Throwables offer huge collateral damage and a high chance of escape from a dire situation — just don’t blow yourself up by accident!
- Don’t forget to check out the Frequently Asked Questions section — you might learn something new.
How Weapons Work
Weapons work quite strangely in this game, at least so far as how they control and how the RPG mechanics dictate their functioning. Let’s take a look.
Leveling and Skills
As with virtually any other aspect of the game, your effectiveness with weapons comes down to your skill at using them and the experience points and levels you have acquired.
Weapon skills are broken into several classes. The Combat skill category represents all melee weapon skills: Axe, Long Blunt, Short Blunt, Long Blade, Short Blade, Spear, and Maintenance. The respective weapon category determines your proficiency with each type of melee weapon, while the maintenance category functions to determine to what extent you can fix them (and not just weapons).
Firearm skills only comprise aiming and reloading, with each skill representing how well you can execute these tasks in several ways. The reloading skill simply determines how fast you can reload, whereas the aiming skill represents how quickly and accurately you can aim as well as your chances of achieving a critical hit.
As the skills dictate, there are only two considerations when using a firearm: aiming and reloading. While aiming with CTRL, moving your cursor over a zombie shows you whether or not you can hit them and what your chances of a hit are. A green outline denotes having an excellent chance at a clean shot, whereas a red outline means it’s unlikely you’ll hit at all. Moving closer or further away affects this metric, and no outline means the zombie is out of range. If you have a car and equip a gun while driving, you can also fire out of the window via the same methods.
Melee weapons work similarly: hovering your cursor over a zombie and hitting the left mouse button will cause you to strike in that direction.
One of the most important aspects to melee combat is to lock on and always keep moving. Once again, CTRL keeps your player looking in the direction of your cursor like how aiming works; Keep the zombie in your sights at all times, and never take on more than one at once. Make every hit count and don’t spam the left mouse button — that’s a sure way to get caught out mid-attack animation and get bitten. Throwable weapons also work the same way as melee weapons.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you stand directly on top of a zombie, it is completely incapacitated until you step off.
Noise: Given the game’s focus on hyperrealism, almost everything that creates noise in the real world also causes it in Project Zomboid, and this alerts zombies in varying levels of severity. As you can imagine, guns rank highly on the list of causes of dangerous excess noise in the game, and it’s ranked on a per-tile basis. This means that the noise travel from each weapon spans a different amount of tiles on the isometric map — a gun that has noise that spans 10 tiles has the potential to alert more zombies than a gun that spans 20. You can find the sound radius for each weapon by viewing its data on the wiki.
Durability and jamming: While you can use melee weapons until they break or wear down, guns start to jam as their durability decreases, and durability decreases the more you use the gun. Melee weapons suffer the same durability effects, though slightly differently. As a melee weapon starts to degrade, your chances of landing a critical (powerful and effective) hit decrease. Whether using either a gun or melee weapon, all weapons reach a point where they no longer function and will be unequipped. They will then need to be repaired by using glue, tape, or salvaged parts.
Upgrades: Guns specifically can often be upgraded with attachments and modifications you can find about the world. These include a variety of canons, recoil pads, scopes, ammunition slings, and stocks, and you’ll usually find them in gun stores or already attached to the weapon. Installing or removing a mod is easy: all you need is a screwdriver to attach or detach the parts.
Weight: The weight of a weapon is also an important consideration. Naturally, a heavier item will weigh your character down more which makes traveling on foot slower and more fatiguing. It’s a trade-off: heaver weapons usually pack more damage but are heavier, so there are benefits and negatives to either traveling light or heavy. Whichever your choice, you’ll need to think carefully about what weapons you’re going to take with you on an excursion, so let’s have a look at the tools available to you in more detail.
While very powerful, guns should be used either as a last resort or to put down a large number of enemies in the mid to late game. Having said this, it’s always a good idea to carry one with you no matter how far along you are: sometimes making a lot of noise is worth it to save your life. Below is the game’s selection of personal firearms.
Handguns will probably be the first ballistic weapons you come across. They’re a versatile weapon for a broad variety of situations, whether dealing with a horde when you’re backed into a corner, clearing a room for entry, or taking out a group while keeping your distance. The ammo for these weapons is also plentiful, and with them being one of the most common firearms for Zombies to carry, you don’t usually have to go far to find one. Here are the six pistols in the game.
The M1911: This handgun is a great choice for more advanced players. You’ll need to be level 2+ to use it effectively, and while it only holds 7 rounds per clip, it can have devastating stopping power. The noise level is a little high for a handgun at 50 tiles, but for clean, precise, and powerful shots, you can’t really go wrong with the M1911.
The M36 Revolver: The M36 is a perfect choice if you haven’t put any skills into firearms as its accuracy isn’t affected by that parameter. That said, it can only carry six bullets in the chamber at once, so you’ll need to pick your shots extra carefully. Another important consideration is the sound: this is one of the quietest guns in the game with the sound carrying just 30 tiles away, making sure you draw the least attention when using it.
The M625 Revolver: The M625 is very comparable to the M1911. The sound radius is the same, so what you’re getting is one less bullet with a little more damage than its magazine-fed counterpart.
The M9 Pistol: The M9 is a similarly good all-around choice as the M36, with a low noise level at 40 tiles and only requiring minimum leveling to use effectively. It’s not quite as quiet as the M36, but thanks to it being magazine-fed the gun can fire off 15 rounds at once.
The D-E Pistol: The D-E has the same weight as the M9, but twice the damage and twice the noise. It takes .44 magnum ammo and takes a while to aim and lock on, but its power makes up for the shortcomings. One area where it particularly falls short, however, is accuracy. You’ll want to make sure you have a high aim level if you plan on making the D-E as your daily driver.
The Magnum: The magnum deals the most damage out of all the handguns, but it’s also the loudest of the bunch at an audible range of 80 tiles. It’s also the heaviest, and with magnum ammo being one of the rarest ammo types and the gun not being very accurate, it isn’t the most versatile weapon around.
Shotguns have always been a staple armament against a zombie apocalypse, and fittingly, Project Zomboid’s varieties pack a serious punch. As you’ll be used to from other games, Shotguns are best suited to close-range encounters; they’re a weapon offering a strong risk-reward ratio, forcing you to bait zombies to come close to you for a destructive collateral shot. This risk-reward element also extends to their sound dispersal: with blasts traveling 100 tiles, you might have killed every zombie in the area with ease but you can bet there will be many more rushing towards you.
There are technically four shotguns in the game but only two main ones; both the double barrel and JS-2000 models can be taken to a sawmill to be turned into sawn-off versions. This reduces that all-important range but also the amount of extra weight they cause you to carry.
The Double Barrel Shotgun: The Double Barrel Shotgun does more damage than the JS-2000 at the expense of needing to be reloaded more frequently. Because it does the most damage, it’s also the fastest way to level up your aiming skill.
The JS-2000: Being slightly less powerful but with a larger six-shot capacity, the JS-2000 is at its best when you have a higher aiming skill. Once you’re at the point where you can be more precise with your shots, the more kills per second this shotgun will afford you will serve you well.
Rifles are your ultimate choice for two situations: mowing down hordes of zombies at once, and picking off select targets from a distance. In this way, they’re a pretty versatile weapon and a crucial component to your ability to defend yourself in the mid to late game. There are a total of four rifle variations to find in the game and sound-wise, they all spread across 70 tiles.
The M16: The M16 is a semi-automatic weapon with the highest fire rate of any weapon in the game. This is the weapon of choice if you have to accurately put down a huge horde, but your accuracy level will have to be high to use it. In many ways, though, there’s no substitute.
The M14: The M14 is the other semi-automatic rifle in the game. It does more damage than the M16 and requires a lower skill level to utilize effectively, making it a great choice for beginners that want to experience the power of a high-caliber weapon. The M14 is also significantly more accurate than its M16 counterparts, but this does come at the expense of 10 fewer rounds at 30 rounds per clip.
The MSR788: The MSR788 is one of two bolt-action rifles, and differs mostly from the MSR700 in the ammo it uses. You’ll get a slightly louder shot and better damage due to its use of .308 rounds. You’ll also get a better collateral damage effect with a .308 bullet.
The MSR700: The MSR700 is the other bolt-action rifle. It is very similar to the MSR788 but is slightly quieter and less powerful due to it using the .223 rounds. It also has less of an ability to execute zombies via collateral damage than its sibling.
Where to Find Guns
The best places to find guns are police stations, gun stores, and military checkpoints; each location has distinct benefits and trade-offs. You’ll find some of the more powerful weapons, such as the M16, at military checkpoints, but because they’re usually out in the sticks, it can take a long journey to get there; Police stations have the advantage of being liberally stocked with guns and ammunition, but are also often plagued by hordes of zombies; gun stores are lower on stock but also zombie count.
While guns are always an option, Melee weapons are your bread and butter for most of the game. They’re silent, durable, and precise, making them the perfect choice for methodically defending yourself against an encroaching group of zombies. They can be split into two categories: blunt and bladed. With melee weapons making up the bulk of the weapons in the game, there are a little too many to list individually. Instead, I’ll provide you with the most effective categories to look out for. If you want an exhaustive data-driven list, check out this page.
Blunt Melee Weapons
Blunt weapons are abundant in Project Zomboid — they’re the most common type of melee weapon available. When I say blunt, I mean any weapon which doesn’t stab or slice. These are your weapons that deal damage by sheer impact. Some can be modified to have blade-like qualities, however. Blunt weapons are also usually more durable than bladed weapons but typically aren’t quite as powerful.
It’s also worth noting that if you see a zombie with some clothing or armor you’d like to loot, a blunt weapon won’t damage it.
Sticks and Bats: Sticks and Bats are a big category so far as melee weapons are concerned. From baseball bats and nightsticks to lead pipes and crowbars; you can’t go wrong with a sturdy blunt weapon by your side. They have the strongest potential to knock down a zombie than any other weapon in the category. Alongside more traditional weapons, you’ll also find blunt, swingable items like guitars, brooms, frying pans, and rolling pins that fit nicely into this category, each of which is relatively easy to find within your first fifteen minutes of the game.
Shovels: Shovels are a great two-handed alternative to sticks and bats. They’re quite slow to swing but can easily put a zombie down ease. They are quite heavy, though, so I wouldn’t recommend lugging one around with you permanently.
Hammers: Hammers come in two categories: small one-handed tools like the Ball Peen Hammer and Club Hammer, and heavy two-handed styles like the sledgehammer. While small hammers can do a decent job as a swingable weapon, avoid fighting zombies with sledgehammers. The sledgehammer is an essential utility tool for many important tasks, but as a weapon, it’s simply too slow. If you’re attacking more than one zombie, the second zombie will have bitten you by the time you’ve finished your first swing at the first!
Bladed Melee Weapons
Bladed weapons will do more damage than the blunt variety but they also have lower durability. They’re also more destructive and will cut through and damage any clothing you might hope to salvage off a zombie. Like blunt weapons, they come in both one and two-handed varieties and are perfect for efficiently defending yourself against small groups with a high critical hit chance.
Axes: In many ways, axes are the perfect melee weapons. They have good durability, fast attack speed, high damage output, and effective critical hit rates. There are many different types spanning both one and two-handed variants, from small to large fire axes, wood cutting axes, stone axes, and pick axes. They can also be used for knocking down doors and chopping wood. Whichever type you choose, I highly recommend you source one quickly — they are always worth the space in your inventory.
Knives and swords: Knives and swords are always a good bet. They have a high damage output and don’t require a large skill level to utilize. The two main swords in the game are the Machete and the Katana. Both are especially powerful and excellent for swiftly taking out a zombie whilst at a reasonable distance. You’re almost guaranteed kills with one swipe, but the trade-off is that their durability is low.
A knife, whether it be a combat, hunting, or kitchen knife, is always a must-have in your inventory. You might have to get up close and personal to use one effectively, but they’re always effective even in larger groups if you have the nerve for it. They’re also one of the most versatile melee weapons in the game, having multiple uses for your survival including cooking and preparing crafting items. Scissors and forks also come under this category but are expectedly not as good as knives.
Spears: Spears are widely regarded as one of the best bladed melee weapons. Not only do they have high damage output, but they’re also one of the only effective ranged melee weapons available: this means you can stab at zombies from a distance with a much-lessened risk of timing it wrong and getting bitten. The term ‘spear’ also covers a broad spectrum: traditional spear weapons, garden forks, or a make-shift weapon fashioned out of a knife, a stick, and some duct tape.
Where to Find Bladed and Blunt Melee Weapons
Because melee weapons are such a prime focus in Project Zomboid, they’re plentiful everywhere you look: even the starting house will likely have one or two improvised melee weapons like a frying pan in the kitchen or a bat in the bedroom. For the more impressive stuff, though, you should venture further. Shopping areas are a brilliant place to find melee weapons of all varieties, particularly hardware stores, pawn shops, and even gun shops. Even a simple ball-point pen can work as a makeshift sharp object!
In my opinion, throwable weapons are some of the best weapons you can carry with you at any given time — and they’re also some of the most fun to use! The term throwable covers quite a broad category: almost all of them are explosives with many variations so far as how you can craft them. There are also some other throwable devices with specific utilities.
You’ll find that many throwable weapons can be modified like normal weapons can, and this makes them more effective and tailored to specific situations. These modifications include timers, remote detonators, and sensors. You can check out all the variations of each throwable weapon here.
Explosives are designed to deal with many zombies at once — be that through sheer explosive force, via a rapidly spreading fire, or both. Here are your options, and remember: if you’re caught in the blast, these weapons will not discriminate!
Molotov Cocktail: The Molotov Cocktail is one of the most effective weapons in the game. Lobbing one of these bottles of flaming death at a zombie hoard will cause the entire group to catch on fire and slowly burn to death, allowing you the chance to clear out an area of importance or make a quick getaway. A great method to avoid collateral fire damage to an area is to lure zombies to an isolated nearby building. Have them follow you inside and then quickly run for the back door, and then, before exiting, throw your Molotovs. This will contain the fire within the building and deal with the group naturally.
You’ll need a glass bottle, a rag, or a gas can to make a Molotov. Alternatively, you can replace the gas can and bottle with a fresh bottle of Bourbon if you find one.
Aerosol Bomb: Aerosol bombs are exactly what the name suggests: homemade explosives made out of aerosol cans you find. If you’re proficient in engineering skills, you can fashion yourself one by combining a bottle of hairspray, a box of sparklers, and one roll of aluminum.
These bombs should be used with great caution, however. They’re good in a pinch but only cause relatively minor damage to zombies, and if you’re caught in the blast, you can end up suffering from burns and cuts that require immediate attention.
Fire Bomb: Fire bombs are essentially weaker Molotovs: they’ll spread a moderate fire in the area they’re directly thrown. You can make one by combining a plastic bottle, a gas can, and some ripped sheets.
Utility throwables include a couple of special throwables that don’t necessarily kill a zombie but can be a great asset for your survivability.
Smoke Bombs: You can make smoke bombs by combining ripped sheets, a cold pack, and two newspapers. They essentially stun a group of affected zombies so that they stop chasing you while the smoke is active — extra handy to have in when you’re low on other resources!
Noisemakers: Noisemakers are fashioned from an amplifier module and seven lots of scrap electronics. You’ll need to have read an engineering skill book to use one, but they work great at distracting a group of zombies. Once thrown, the noise generated from the device will cause the zombies to run in that direction — much like the monkey toys in Call of Duty: Zombies if you’ve ever played that game.
Where to Find Throwables
Throwable weapons must be made, so your goal is to search for a small list of items. You’ll always usually need a gas can which can be found in storage sheds, garages, and gas stations. Bottles are found in abundance throughout the world in stores and houses, while rags and sheets can be made from bedding or dirty laundry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I’ve seen that it’s popular for people to use mods to change and enhance weapons in Project Zomboid. Would you recommend this?
Answer: Indeed, mods can both subtly and greatly alter the way weapons handle in the game. Brita’s Weapon Pack adds a ridiculously large amount of new weapons, attachments, and ammo types across all categories, and others like Abdhaq’s Quick SMGs mod provide an assortment of powerful sub-machine guns. I’d certainly recommend checking out some mods, but make sure you get used to the way the base weapons function first. When you’re ready, you can browse on the game’s Steam Workshop page. Be sure to check out our dedicated article on the topic, too.
Question: Considering that shotguns and bolt-action rifles are similar in power and noise, which is usually best?
Answer: It’s generally thought that shotguns are a better bet than either bolt-action rifles. The trade-off with both the shotguns and the semi-automatic rifles is that although they’re loud, their ability to put down waves of zombies is so impressive that sometimes it’s worth it. That isn’t as much the case with a bolt-action rifle: you won’t get the extra stopping power benefits, but you will get a big group of zombies alerted to your presence.
Question: Will there be any more weapons added to the vanilla version of the game?
Answer: The developers haven’t said anything about adding more weapons yet, but given the frequent updates, it’s likely we’ll see more official weapons in the future. There’s currently a rumor of a chainsaw being added: the files are already in the game but haven’t been implemented yet.
I hope this article has given you all you need to search for, collect, and use all of Project Zomboid’s brilliant weapons. I also highly recommend participating in the Project Zomboid board on Reddit to engage with the community. Don’t forget to check out our other Project Zomboid articles, such as our Tailoring guide or Traits guide. Have fun out there!
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