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The History Of The Walking Dead's Most Memorable Weapons Explained

Over the course of AMC's hit series The Walking Dead, viewers have seen many, many items used to kill the zombie-like beings known as walkers. The long list of weaponry that's come in handy throughout humanity's fight to survive in the violent post-walker world depicted in the show includes guns, knives, a knife attached to a hand, bigger guns, machetes, arrows, automatic guns, and swords, just to name but a handful.

From melee weapons to guns and other distance artillery, some of the weapons used on The Walking Dead have become intrinsically tied to the characters who wield them. (For example, it's not just a katana, it's Michonne's katana.) As they've helped the characters using them survive, they've almost become characters in their own right — with all the backstory that might imply. Whether you're a longtime fan of the Walking Dead universe or a newer convert looking for additional information about the characters and their trademark methods of protecting themselves or dispensing deadly violence, it's never a bad time to learn more about this part of the franchise. With one notable exception, the history of the following memorable weapons can be found in the pages of the original Walking Dead comics or the TV show. With all that in mind, let's dive in!

The soul of a warrior in a sword

As visually distinctive as it is deadly, Michonne's katana is one of The Walking Dead's most memorable weapons. As some viewers no doubt already know, this is one weapon with a lot of real-world history: A katana is a type of longer sword wielded by samurai warriors in ancient Japan, and was thought to contain the samurai's soul. As noted on Martial Arts Swords, the use of the word "katana" dates back to what is known as the Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333). They are thought to have been developed during the Mongol invasion starting in 1274 because the samurai needed a stronger weapon against the tougher Mongol armor.

Katanas are good for slashing attacks because of their curved sharp blades — and because they're longer than the other samurai sword, the wazikashi, they're good for keeping distance from a walker's voracious mouth. Michonne's particular katana is about 28" long.

When Michonne appears in issue 19 of the Walking Dead comic in 2005, she's using a katana she found in a neighbor's house to render two walkers harmless so she can use them as protection against other walkers. It's an indelible image that excited fans of the comics when she finally appeared in the TV show in the season two finale, "Beside the Dying Fire." In the series, the katana is shown in the background of Michonne's flashbacks, which is presumably where she got it. It didn't have her soul then, but it surely must now.

Daryl's got a brand new 'bow

Daryl doesn't exist in the comics. In fact, the character known for using a crossbow in the comics, ironically, is Dwight, one of Daryl's nemeses (Dwight's since been redeemed).

Daryl first appears in "Tell It to the Frogs," the third episode of the first season, with a Horton Scout HD 125 crossbow. He'll later acquire a Stryker StrykeZone 380, which is a heavier weapon. Because arrows, like bullets in the post-apocalyptic zombie-scape of The Walking Dead, aren't easy to come by, Daryl will frequently retrieve his fired ones from the skulls of his dead targets.

Crossbows are good distance weapons when fighting a few zombies, though unless you're a really quick reloader, maybe not so great against a swarming horde. The crossbow identifies Daryl as a hunter and a little brother when we first meet him. Daryl having the lighter "kid's bow" Horton makes sense because it's used for hunting small game.

Daryl gets the faster StrykeZone 380 in season four, a larger weapon that signifies his growth from surly good ol' boy and Merle's little brother to the more mature, mellower Daryl of the later seasons. Like Merle, however, both the Horton and the StrykeZone are even harder to find now; Horton was bought out in 2013, and the StrykeZone is no longer for sale on the Stryker website.

Merle's got a handle on it

Like his little brother, Merle is a character created just for the Walking Dead TV show, which makes it ironic that his knife hand is the most comic-booky of all the weapons on this list.

Merle first appears in the second episode of season one, "Guts," with two functioning hands. Merle is also a hunter, also surly, and sadly, a racist. In the next episode, "Tell It to the Frogs," he's handcuffed to a pipe and abandoned by Rick and T-Dog on a rooftop after an invading walker horde becomes too dangerous. Merle cuts his hand off and escapes.

We catch up with Merle again in the third season episode "Walk With Me," by which point he's already got his knife hand attached to his arm. It's a handmade metal contraption covering his stump, with a knife bound to it with leather buckled straps. We're never given a full explanation as to how it was made, save that it was given to him by the Governor. Merle has become incredibly adept using it, even able to balance and shoot guns with accuracy. He was already established as a crack shot, so it makes sense he'd figure out how to incorporate the knife hand, but it does look kind of silly. But hey, comic books are supposed to be fun and a little silly sometimes, even ones that tell bleak stories like The Walking Dead.

Dale goes for classics

Dale actually has two weapons he's known for — the Remington 700 VLS rifle seen in the TV series, and the axe he uses in the comics. (He's also known for his bucket hat, but that's never used as a weapon unless you count fighting off the sun's rays as battle.)

Dale and the rifle first appear in the pilot episode of the series, "Days Gone Bye." In every episode, he's carrying the Remington, a bolt action rifle that shoots .308 Winchester cartridges. It's a hunting weapon with a range of about 800 meters and was first made in 1962. Carrying an older rifle makes sense, given that Dale is one of the show's elders.

Dale spends a lot of his time standing watch on top of his RV, and the rifle's bolt action and tactical scope makes it perfect for long-range sniper shooting. Bolt action simply means a round has to be chambered manually before every shot, and VLS stands for "Varmint Laminate Stock" — the rifle is made for shooting pesky critters. Walkers could definitely be seen as varmints.

Dale meets a grisly end in episode 11 of season 2, "Judge, Jury, Executioner." The Remington 700 VLS, however, continues on for a while longer, as it's used by Rick Grimes.

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

From the very beginning, Rick is positioned as an old-fashioned lawman, from his job as a deputy sheriff to his riding on horseback through Atlanta, Stetson on his head. He has high morals. His Colt Python fits with that overall Western image, even though it happened to be a gun of choice for Georgia police who were willing to pay out of pocket for it.

Rick's Colt Python revolver is a .357 Magnum. There's a reason guns like it are often referenced by gun aficionados as "hand cannons," as it has quite a recoil, though one can also chamber .38 caliber ammo that lessens it.

Rick doesn't actually have a "signature" weapon in the comics — but on the Walking Dead TV show, his gleaming six-barreled revolver is a vital part of his image. Also, befitting its importance, it has a name: It's Kevin the .357.

Philip Blake can get it for you wholesale

The Governor, one of The Walking Dead's main villains, first appears as Brian Blake in issue 25 of the comic — and as Philip Blake in "Walk With Me," the third episode of the show's third season. One of his signature weapons is the Steyr AUG A1 assault rifle, which first appears in "Dead Weight," the seventh episode of season four.

As the ruler of Woodbury, the Governor has cultivated a reputation as a strong, fearsome ruler, and he winds up carrying an equally fearsome weapon. Whereas Rick's gun is a six-shooter and Dale's is a bolt-action that takes longer to chamber a round because it has to be done manually, the Governor's rifle is fully automatic and can be loaded with a magazine capable of holding 40 rounds.

The rifle gives the Governor the air of a military strongman. The story of where he got the rifle remains mysterious, as the Steyr AUG A1 was banned for import in 1989. In other words, this might be a case of "Well, this looks cool, so throw it in."

Enter Lucille

As bad as the Governor might be, Negan is arguably worse, which is reflected in his choice of weapon: an ordinary baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. Unlike the Steyr, the bat, named Lucille after Negan's late wife, requires being close to the intended target in order to do damage. It also requires repeated blows to be effective, depending whether the target is alive or undead.

Lucille shows up in the infamous 100th issue of The Walking Dead comic and in the season six episode of the TV show, "Last Day on Earth." Lucille serves not just as a constant reminder of all Negan has lost, but an intimidating symbol of the brutality he can and will inflict on others.

In the comics, Negan acquires Lucille after another person whose group he joined, Paul, is torn apart by a walker. Another ironic twist here involves Dwight, who loses his wife when she chooses to be with Negan instead — and who's burned by another of Negan's favorite weapons, an iron, when he takes ownership of Lucille after Negan is defeated.

Lucille may be an ordinary bat, but she inflicts extraordinary damage — not just on the other characters, but on the audience who sees her wielded against some of their favorites.

Morgan and the staff of inner peace

The Morgan of the Walking Dead comics doesn't have a bō (an Okinawan staff), but the Morgan of the TV series does. The staff is explained in an extended flashback in the sixth season episode "Here's Not Here." Morgan, who we'd seen had lost not just his son but his sanity in the episode "Clear," had been wandering and killing and killing and wandering.

In his wandering, Morgan meets a man, Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), who has managed to create a safe space for himself and who is about as calm as you can be in a walker-infested world. Eastman helps Morgan reclaim himself via the practice of Aikido, a martial art "focused on redirecting an attack away from you." (Interestingly, Aikido is a way of deflecting a samurai's attacks.)

Eastman gives Morgan a copy of The Art of Peace by Aikido founder Morihei Ueishiba, and his teachings of the practice help Morgan clear out his troubled thoughts. He also teaches Morgan how to use the bō.

As with Michonne's choice of the longer katana versus the short wakizashi, Morgan also uses the longer of the two martial arts staffs. The bō is wooden and approximately six feet long, versus the Jo, which is about four feet long. The bō is effective in melee combat by keeping an opponent at a distance while blocking attacks and striking out in multiple planes without stopping the wielder's movement.

Tyreese is ready to hammer home his points

Though Tyreese shows up in issue 7 of the Walking Dead comic, his hammer doesn't get its due until the "Tyreese Special" distributed in 2013 as part of Free Comic Book Day. Tyreese first appears in the mid-season 3 finale of the TV show, "Made to Suffer."

Like Lucille, the hammer is an ordinary object used for extraordinary feats. Tyreese acquires his signature weapon when he's attacked by several walkers while on a supply run. Unlike almost every other character in a zombie series who can fire off head shots with ease, Tyreese is a terrible shot. The definition of the idiom "can't hit the broad side of a barn" could have a picture of Tyreese next to it.

Unable to do much good with a gun against his attackers, Tyreese grabs a hammer from a toolbox and attacks with a fury that enables him to avoid getting bit and defeat all the walkers. That he manages to come out uninfected is a downright miracle. The hammer is thus a symbol to him of salvation. It literally saves his life.

Unfortunately, the hammer doesn't help in Woodbury, as Tyreese is finally killed in the same TV series episode as the Governor.

Little red machet'

How Tyreese got his hammer is a fun addition to Walking Dead lore for a character whose personality and signature weapon were already well-established. But what do you do when an established character mentions a weapon no one's really heard of before that is obviously being foreshadowed for an explosive future use?

You get The Walking Dead Webisodes: Red Machete, a six-part origin story parceled out over several months about three years after the machete appeared.

Until Rick tells Gareth at Terminus that he's going to kill him with the red-handled machete, we didn't exactly know he had one. This is the guy who wields a shiny Colt Python most of the time, after all. Suddenly, we're in season five's premiere episode, "No Sanctuary," and Rick is acting like he's had the machete all along.

The payoff to Rick's threat comes two episodes later in "Four Walls and a Roof," when he pulls the red-handled machete from a previously buried weapons stash to make its magnificent entrance and keeps his monstrous promise.

According to an interview held with Deadline, Avi Youabian and Nick Bernardone were tasked with the extended-universe project. The webisodes follow the journey of the machete as it moves from character to character until it winds up with Rick and his group. It was a strange experiment, but it paid off: Walking Dead fans still remember the weapon to this day.

Enter Shiva, your once and future queen

One of the more iconic moments in the Walking Dead universe is the introduction of Shiva, the tiger protected by King Ezekiel of the Kingdom. She first appears in Issue 108 of the comic and in the season seven episode "The Well," where she's shown sitting next to Ezekiel on his throne, looking every inch the regal animal she is.

As Ezekiel explains, when he was a zookeeper, he saved Shiva from a devastating injury and nursed her back to health. In return, she bonded to him and became his protector. She's not exactly a pet and she's not exactly a weapon, but she is fearsome in tooth and claw — and if you mess with Ezekiel, you find out how deadly she is.

Shiva is a Bengal tiger, India's national animal. They are beautiful, powerful creatures who normally live in habitats much more lush than the Kingdom. (They benefit physically, too: Some Bengals can get up to 700 pounds.) The name Shiva comes from the Hindu goddess of destruction and re-creation.

Shiva survives until Issue 118 of the comic and the "Some Guy" episode of the TV series' eighth season. Sadly, her lethal stature is no match for a horde, and she's devoured by walkers while protecting Ezekiel after the Kingdom has come under attack.