Hornady Z-Max Bullets: When Varmints Attack

Concerned about zombie gophers? Maybe a hog that’s turned undead?

Hornady once offered an ammo line they believed was the best ammunition for zombies. Called the Z-Max line, the completely real ammunition used a polymer tipped hollowpoint bullet that was identical to those found in the A-Max line.

Zombie Craze

Depending on when you are reading this article, you may not be aware that a zombie craze dominated pop culture from about 2008 through 2013. There were movies, TV shows and video games around the idea of a post-apocalypse zombie nation.

Hornady Z-Max Ammunition for Zombies

Before the fad faded, the gun and outdoors industries were hit by the same bug.

Gun accessories, knives and other things were offered in zombie green – a near-fluorescent green that people frequently associated with chemical substances that would turn a man into the walking undead.

Here are just a few of the zombie-themed goodies that were offered by companies:

Hornady got in on the act with the Z-Max line of ammunition.

Z-Max: Best Ammo for Zombies

The Z-Max line of loaded ammunition used polymer-tipped hollowpoint bullets. That polymer tip was zombie green, but the rest of the bullet’s construction was identical to the company’s existing A-Max line.

In other words, the difference between the Z-Max line and the A-Max line was purely cosmetic.

That also meant that Z-Max ammunition was serious business.

Specifically designed to “…vaporize zombie varmints,” Hornady claimed the Z-Max bullets had “ultra-flat trajectories” to “send mangy menaces to the varmint graveyard.”

In rifle calibers, the Z-Max loads performed identically to the A-Max loads. Deer, hogs and bear all went down when hit by the Z-Max. I am not aware of any that became zombies afterward.

According to Hornady, the Z-Max bullets are built to “make dead permanent.” I’d still suggest headshots. I’m sure the new technology is good, but the tried-and-true headshot is the reliable method for zombie killing.

My experience with the Z-Max rifle rounds was limited. However, I did have a chance to shoot some and see their results first hand.

Z-Max Review: Hog Hunt

In 2012, I went on a hog hunt with Paul Carlson of Safety the Solutions Academy. Carlson had a new Desert Tech SRS rifle he wanted to test. As it was the middle of an ammo shortage, Carlson was only able to turn up a few boxes of Hornady Z-Max in .308 Win for the hunt.

Hornady Z Max Bullets for Hunting

Carlson flew down to my home state of Florida where we have more feral hogs than retirees.

sighting in the rifle with Hornady Z-Max hunting ammunition

Before heading out to the field, Carlson sighted the rifle in. Five shot groups were all touching with the Z-Max ammo. Not bad for factory stuff sold as a gimmick.

shooting cans to sight in
While my group wasn’t as tight as Carlson’s, it wasn’t bad for my first time shooting the gun.

I also got some time behind the Desert Tech rifle. Like Carlson, I was eating the center out of targets at 100 yards from a prone position. The rifle combined with the Z-Max ammo made it look easy.

heading up river for a hog hunt

Initially, we had a guide take us upriver to a private hunting preserve. However, conditions were not optimal and we had to change our plans.

river hunting in Florida

The guide was fantastic, and he immediately shifted to plan B. He arranged for a hunt on the lands of Ross Hammock Ranch near Inglis, FL. The folks there treated us like kings, and their facilities are top-notch!

Ross Hammock Ranch

Later in the day, we set up in an elevated box near a feeding area the hogs liked to use. As the evening brought dwindling light, we thought that the hogs weren’t coming. So, like rookies we descended from the box.

hunting hogs with Z-Max ammo

Once on the ground, they came in. From a prone position about 85 yards from the hogs, Carlson took a single shot on a sow that had turned to expose her left shoulder.

prone shot on hog with Hornady ammo

The track was short – maybe 15 yards – with lots of blood plainly visible. At the end of the run was a 220-ish pound hog that put meat on the table and in the freezer for both of us.

Hog Hunting with Hornady Z-Max

The Z-Max bullet entered the center of the left shoulder and exited a little lower on the right side of the body. It did extensive damage and caused massive bleeding. The kill was quick and as clean as one could hope for.

After examining the results, neither Carlson nor I could find any performance issues with the Z-Max round.

Hornady Z-Max Bullets for Reloading

Hornady Z-MAX bullets

Hornady also released its Z-Max bullets as a component for all of the handloaders out there.

The green polymer-tipped bullets were initially offered in a variety of popular varmint sizes and weights (see below for the specifics and a video). The company later expanded this to include additional bullet sizes and weights.

The initial Hornady Z-Max bullets manufactured were:

  • 17 caliber (0.172″, 20 grains)
  • 20 caliber (0.204″, 32 grains)
  • 22 caliber (0.224″, 40 grains)
  • 22 caliber (0.224″, 50 grains)
  • 22 caliber (0.224″, 55 grains)
  • 6mm (0.243″, 58 grains)
  • 7.62×39 (0.310″, 123 grains)

I don’t know where the zombie meme ends, but it abated during the past several years. Maybe we’ll someday see a anti-zombie revolver from Taurus called JUDGEment Day.

Last Update: May 27, 2022

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

One reply on “Hornady Z-Max Bullets: When Varmints Attack”

How is this different from the G-Max bullets? Different color? I did notice the 9mm Zombie ammo is 30% less expensive than their Critical Defense line at my local Cabelas.

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