Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flawed Logic in Zombie Kit: Armor and Protective Gear

It was recently pointed out to me that FBMG Inc. offers a Zombie Defense Loadout. While they are to be applauded for the completeness of their offering, that $21,000 can be spent more effectively on other gear, and some of their choices are suspect at best. Using their offerings as a basis for comparison, my goal is to list some alternatives that will be better choices in this specific application.

Armor is a good thing. It can keep you from dying when not having it would perhaps cause that result (I know, very deep thinking, that). However, most of the armor that is getting mention on the market at this time is far heavier and less effective against the MUD's (Mobile Un-Dead) because it was designed to stop bullets, not teeth. In the instance of civil unrest and rioting, hell yeah, give me an Eagle CIRAS armor carrier with IIIa soft armor and some level 3 polyethylene plates. For the ZO (Zombie Outbreak) scenario, though, its unnecessarily heavy and cumbersome. Riot gear, which is designed for protection against blunt trauma (like bites) is preferred. I would start with the Exotech EX-01000 from Hatch as a base:
This rig is a fairly lightweight and as stated previously, is designed to protect against blunt force trauma. Add to this some puncture resistant full gauntlet gloves (too many brands to list, but I'm partial to Hatch and Damascus). The thing to remember is that you're going to need to be mobile. Full plate armor may provide excellent protection (my friends and aquaintances that are into the SCA keep harping on how easy to move in and comfortable it is), but your ability to get up and go if you have to will be diminished. If you subscribe to the belief that Zombies infected with the Rage virus gain both strength and speed, that's not to be desired. Even a slow, plodding zombie will catch you eventually. He doesn't have to take a break to drink or catch his breath. he doesn't need to stop. He/she/they can keep going almost indefinately, and they feel no pain or fatigue. Clearly, mobility is paramount, which is why converted busses and campers are so popular with survivors needing to un-ass their current location. That's getting into an area for another entry, though. We'll revisit that topic at a later date.

Bear in mind, though, that armor in this case is just another barrier. Its protection is not absolute. The armor in this instance is designed to give you a chance to fight, not to be an all-inclusive solution to stopping infection via bites or absorbing blood through the mucus membranes or through ingestion.

Because of those threats, a helmet is not the detriment it would seem to be in this case. While you may take a bite to the skull, its not very likely for a couple of reasons: first, most people are hard headed. Its not as easy to get a bite on a skull as it is on the other extremities. Secondly, most people have a pretty good idea of where their head is. It tends to be protected by moving it out of harms way...generally, and by most people. As with everything, there are exceptions. At any rate, the protection afforded by riot helmets-the face shield and neck protection-starts to look like the gear to have. Protech, an Armor Holdings company (AH owns most everybody of consequence in the LE and .mil arenas. If you own tactical gear, chances are you own something made by one or more of their companies), makes several good helmets. I would prefer the TR 2200 with nape protection added.

This helmet has the advantage of being just about the lightest helmet with extra protection available. Its not going to stop a bullet, but it will stop a bite to the dome, and the face shield-providing that you actually lower it in a fight-will stop that blood borne stuff from getting into your face. I would strongly recommend adding a pair of Oakley M-Frames underneath, preferably their shooting array, to be kept either on your gear or in your assault pack. Those are also beyond the scope of this composition, but you need to start thinking about what it is you're going to need to bring. Here's a hint: think magazines and ammo.

What about footwear? I'm partial to Danner's boots. I've got a few pairs, hikers and duty boots, and I love 'em both. The Gore-Tex waterproof lining will probably assist in being a blood borne pathogen layer, but its not rated as such, so take necessary precautions.

It has been claimed that ACU works as cammo against the typical zombie. There may be some truth to that, but existing cammo, like woodland if you live in that environ, or desert tiger stripe, a favorite in arid regions, will work just as well. Since the eyes are an easy way to gain infection of the Rage Virus, they are attacked first, and vision is degraded. MUD's can still catch movement, however, so the effectiveness of cammo may very well be overrated. Consider the number of COD's (Crusty Old Dudes) from the midwest and north east that wear jeans and a red flannel shirt while deer hunting with their .30-30 Marlins or Winchester 94's. These old masters bag deer with what appears to be amazing ease. Its not luck; its experience and training. Stealthy movement is something to be learned now, so it can be applied during The Outbreak. I can almost guarrantee that the COD's and their families will probably just head into the woods and survive the whole thing. The Boy Scout Motto is "Be prepared". They are. Are you, city dweller?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Zombie Defense

Since its that time of year, I've been pondering the inevitable Zombie Infestation question. Most of my point of reference has been the current crop of Zombie Defense Training Films: Dawn of the Dead (the next to last one, with Ving Rhames. I want him on my team in a Zombie Defense situation), 28 Days Later (which hypothesizes the most logical reason behind the Zombie Epidemic: its PETA and Earth First's fault. I'm down with that), and of course, Sean of the Dead.

Now, while SOTD is pretty much a comedy, there is some good tactical information in there. Such as, head shots are effective. In fact, they're the only effective method of ZT (Zombie Termination). Also, defensible space is critical. Sean and his group chose a bar (The Winchester), which is really not a bad choice.

So, the first step is to prepare a defensible space. The only disadvantage to The Winchester was the number of windows. The problem with windows is that they're easily broken by application of excessive weight. Therefore, as solid a building as possible (if you're limited to a single building rather than a place like an Army base. I have one of those across the street) with as few windows as possible is prefered. Roof access from the inside with limited to no access without ladders from without is also a good thing, for posting lookouts. The need for defensible space does not change if the arrangements are for a single person. This is unlikely, as chance favors the prepared mind, and those prepared for the Outbreak will have plans in place with others for the common defense. Try to choose a place with few windows, and if windows are unavoidable, try to find a building with bars.

The other factor is that TWD's (The Walking Dead) may or may not have increased strength. I can't really see a logical reason that they would exhibit this in real life, except in the instance of the Rage virus posited by 28 Days Later. This scenario also has the idiosynchracy of increased speed because of the virus. This disease is more of a transformation away from human than it is the reanimation of the dead, but its close enough in characteristics to be considered of the same genre. These factors make hand to hand combat undesirable.

Which brings us to the question of the ZT Loadout. In my particular case, the prefered weapon is my M4gery. Basically, its a 16" barrelled, semi automatic version of the Army's M4 carbine.
Chambered in 5.56mm, its one of the best zombie blasters going. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer a piston driven upper, like the HK 416, for its somewhat increased reliability. The nice thing about 5.56 is that its fairly light weight ammo, so you can carry quite a bit of it. It has good upset from a 16" barrel, which means that its rather explosive-especially with specialized projectiles like the Hornady V-Max. Again, if I had my druthers, I'd include a Surefire Scout Light for target verification. I'd also add an Eotech holosight.

Armor is of limited value in this application. Puncture resistant gear would be a plus, so perhaps riot gear is the best bet. Bulky, put puncture resistant. Full seal goggles are a must. The ESS Profile NVG Turbofans are the hot ticket.

How to carry working gear, then? Currently, I'm using an SOTech Hellcat,

Hosted on Fotki

but I'll be transitioning to an ATS Tactical Gear rig as soon as we're finished making them. ;) I can carry nine mags on the rig, with extra PALS webbing available for more storage. Also required is the Camelbak hydration system carrier. Dehydration is the Zombie Schlayer's verst enemy. In addition to the chest rig (probably over the aforementioned riot gear if I can secure it before the outbreak) I'll be running a Lightfighter RAID pack for extra mags, MRE's, batteries, and various other sundries.

While this is just the very tip of the iceberg, rest assured there's more gear reviews for Zombie Defense Gear coming. I want you all to be prepared.

I can't believe it.

Thuh Raidahs won again? What is the world coming to? They have a winning streak now. That sucks. At least some good came from sports this week:
  • The near-interminable torture that is baseball season has ended. Too bad they're gonna do it again next year.
  • The Bears destroyed the Niners. Apparently the bye week came at a good time for them.
  • The Chargers whipped the Rams pretty good, although they made it an entertaining game. Still no definitive word on what's gonna happen with Shawne Merriman. Seems to be a given that he'll be out four games.
  • Basketball season starts on Tuesday. That can't get here soon enough. My Lakers won't take the title this year, but they should be competitive.
  • Jimmy Johnson is within striking distance of the Nextel Cup with three races to go. Jeff Gordon is probably out of it, being a little over 140 points back, but he's in sixth or seventh place. That means most everybody above him still has a legit shot at it. That's pretty interesting racing.
Not a total loss...although that's what I wish the Raiduhs would have done this year.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Preparing young 'uns for the future, or making fat slobs?

I was channel surfing after watching my Michigan Wolverines win again, against a game, tough, overmatched Northwestern team. Found a couple things to watch for a few moments, such as the Sports Center after game show to catch up on scores. We all know Noter Damn is gonna beat Navy. ND is a sports franchise, Navy is a military academy that turns out leaders who play football while they're there. How ND stays ranked playing games like this is still a mystery to me.

As I commence to the surfing, I came across a couple things that really got my attention. First was a commercial for a new Penguin movie called "Happy Feet". I turned around to see an animated penguin rapping Curtis Blow's "Don't Push Me". I don't care who ya're, ats funny aight ther. The next thing that caught my attention, becuase the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special wasn't airing, was a couple of commercials for a couple new Fisher Price products. The first was a kid-proof digital camera, which frankly I find to be a brilliant idea and a wonderful product to bring to market. At least this kind of toy has the potential to get kids to go outside...although the potential downsides of what could be caught on camera are pretty obvious. Be careful, parents!

The other product I'm undecided about. The Fisher Price Star Station is essentially a kid's version of a karaoke (or as I prefer to call it, "kill me, choke me") that's been dialed in for kids. The upside of this is pointed out on FP's site: it can help a kid get used to doing things in front of people, which will make him comfortable with it later in life. I was never a show off, center of attention type kid, so when the time came in school to give presentations in front of the class, I had to learn on the job how to be comfortable in front of an audience. The other upside to this product is that it may help kids to appreciate music and pursue it. This can be a magical thing. I can say from experience that there's very little that will bring as big a grin to one's face as much as playing in front of a crowd. I got one of the biggest rushes in my life playing in front of 750 people. It was awesome. No wonder people wanna be rock stars.

The thing that concerns me, though, is that this product works through the TV. I'm torn here. Now, the upside to technology is that kids get exposed to it at an early age and grow up with it. Running computers and such will be things that they've done all their life by the time they get to the job market. That's probably a good thing. The ugly, insidious thing, though, is that anything that is TV based or computer based (like a blog! Oh, the irony!) has two effects that I consider...if not pernicious, then at least undesirable: they are visual stimulants, and they're indoors activities.

I am fearful that our nation's youth (yeah, I'm a bit of a xenophobe. I don't care that much about other nation's youth) are losing valuable skills by using the things that are available to entertain them. Video games may increase hand/eye coordination, but they keep kids sitting in front of their Idiot Boxes for hours upon hours upon hours. They're not using their imaginations, and they're certainly not out getting any exercise. That's not a good thing. We don't need fat people with no social skills and no ability to think outside of the parameters placed before them (yes, its true, I am making a concious effort not to use cliches with the terms "box" and/or "paradigm").

Its a well known fact that I think LARPing (go ahead and search LARP on your fave search engine) is at least 14 different kinds of geeky, and its got some seriously comedic aspects to it. But at least they're outside and using some imagination and creativity. The funny thing is, these are many of the same people who spent their formative years inside playing games rather than being outside running around in the world. I don't know if that's good or bad in sum; what I do know is that it beats the hell out of sitting in front of a screen ad nauseum.

All I'm getting at is that I'm seeing the results of the kids graduating after me. I'll use High School as a cut off, since that's where people either go on in their education, or they try to make it in the working world. I've worked with some of the "gaming generations". They don't think on their feet all that well. They don't deal with other people skillfully. They certainly write and comprehend what they read at a lesser level than there had been previously.

The older people I interact with tend to have a similar upbringing to mine: tearing around dirt lots on their bikes, having played a lot of "war" or "cowboys and indians", and having spent a good bit of time digging holes and making forts. That appears to be an art that is being lost. It is my opinion that not doing those kinds of things not only makes our latest crop of kidlets less fit, it makes them mentally weaker, too. That is not to say that I had a perfect upbringing and a wildly imaginative childhood, but it appears that mine was moreso than is the current standard.

Its definately not too late for our kids, but parents are going to have to make a concious effort to change the way things are. Let's face it, its pretty damn easy to let the TV and the computer be the parent and supervisor. Get it together, parents, or your kid's greatest achievment will be not unlike the all powerful player in the World of Warcraft game that Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny were into. Your kids are going Southpark on ya. Do something about it. Make that kid go outside and get dirty.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

who'd a thunk it

I can't believe it. I thought I'd had it all figured out, but apparently, I don't know anything. It seemed so clear, so obvious. Alas, t'was not.

The Raiders aren't the worst team in the NFL...this week. That dubious honor goes to the Hapless Arizona Cardinals. After getting eaten alive last week by Chicago, getting Thuh Raiduhs seemed to be tailor made for the Hapless Cards. You get your head handed to you in the last game, the best thing you can have is the worst team in the League coming in the next week. Turns out The Hapless Cardinals can't keep a child out of the kitchen, much less keep Thuh Raiduhs out of the end zone. They gave Commitment to Excrement 22 points!

I was really hoping that JOakland would be defeated all season long. Now the Hapless Cardinals have ruined that for me. It could have been the perfect season. It could have been great. Now its not. Thanks a lot, Hapless Cards. I'll remember this one for a long time.

On top of that, San Diego lost to KC, and my Bears didn't play. Michigan won again, and for some reason, Noter Damn is still ranked. I don't get that one. They squeak by the teams they should beat, and got destroyed from the first minute to the last against Michigan. They should be number 100, not number 10. I'm confident, though, that they won't be in the top 15 by the end of the season. That's a blog entry for another time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Law of Unintended Consequences, As Applied to Automobiles

Electrical problems are never the funnest thing to fix in a car, because there are so many things that can be the culprit. A month or so ago, my A/C stopped working. Its getting into fall here in KY, so the weather wasn't all that bad. However, knowing that winter would be here shortly, and also knowing that I didn't have a heater in addition to not having A/C, I decided I should set out to fix that problem.

I did a bit of research (in hindsight, I wonder about the validity of that, applied to this situation. More on that will be revealed shortly) and found that most of the time, these kinds of failures are due to relays. So, I dig out my repair manual (do yourself a favor and get the Chilton's manual; they're the best of the bunch. I don't recall who wrote mine, but it sucks), and find out that I have to use my owner's manual to figure out which relay it was. I replaced the A/C relay, which made no difference. About a week later, I got paid again, and looked up the other relay that was supposed to be the one. Installed it correctly, and...no difference. That leaves the likely culprit to be the blower motor. I find out that the auto parts store down the street has 'em cheaper than I can get one on the Intarweb, so I'm stoked.

Now, according to my manual, all I have to do is unplug it, remove the screws to remove it from the firewall, and reverse the proceedure to reinstall. Seemed pretty simple. I start on the removal process, and find that there is a wire loom in the way. No problem; I trace the wires, mark the ones I need to mark to put 'em back in the right place, and I unplug some stuff. That gets the loom out of my way to get to the bolts.

I have large hands, so its a bit of a chore to get the bolts loose, but I do, without dropping a socket, socket wrench, screw, or inciting bleeding, which is a normal occurance when I work on a vee-hickle. Cool; the blower motor is loose now.

Let's take that thing out, then. Hmmmmm....that throttle body thing bolted to the fender well is in the way. Aight...what size bolt is that? Its a Mazda, its a mostly-metric Ford Ranger. Cool; I have that socket, and its only one bolt. I even manage to get that thing loose without loosing the bolt. Great! Back to the blower motor. I'll just pull it straight out, and...Dammit. The washer fluid/coolant overflow tank/bottle/reservoir thing is in the way. Now, these would have been two different pieces back in the day. Are they now? No! One big piece. Well, there's only two bolts, so all I gotta do is get a socket on an extension bar down in there and get it loose. Turns out that its a nut rather than a bolt, but that's no problem. I still haven't lost a socket, nut, or anything important yet. One nut loose, one to go...Dammit. The other nut is concealed under the edge of the air cleaner box. Now I'm looking at having to take apart the whole left side of my engine bay. Then the call comes.

A friend of mine that works in the showroom part time calls me, because I live very close to the shop. He had purchased a stripped AR15 lower receiver and lower parts kit while at work, and was going to build it at home. Turns out he had taken it out of the store in a stainless steel dish. The guys that closed up that Saturday were chatting in the parking lot, so he set that dish on top of his car. You know where this is going, don't you?

He gets home, which is about 15 minutes away, and finds its not in his rig. He calls me and asks me to drive up the street and see if I can find it. Well...I can walk it, which I did. Now, according to the BATF (who's bringing the chips?) a serial numbered part is a gun, regardless of what other parts are there or are not there. So when he told me he had lost the receiver, I heard "gun". I took off at that moment at a brisk pace.

Long walk short, I found the receiver and a couple of the lower parts. It was about a mile from home, so I got a nice two mile walk in the middle of my tear down of the left side of my truck. Two miles later, I'm back to work on the damn truck.

I can't find any mention of how the airbox is secured to the fender wall in the poopy manual. It appears to be stuck to the fender well through grommets, but its not coming loose, and I'm losing patience. So I do what any other red blooded American shade tree mechanic would do: I started forcing and man handling the reserviors to get 'em out of my way. I have to admit to being a little bit surprised that I didn't break anything in the process.

At this point, I've removed everything that I can get loose, and there still isn't quite enough room. However, through brute force I man handled the motor and fan free...which took about ten or fifteen minutes. Turns out the fun didn't end there! The new motor didn't have the fan on it; its just the motor. That wasn't too difficult to fix, it just took a bit of time.

Oddly, the motor popped back into the housing without too much difficulty; that was only a few minutes. Again, I managed to get everything back in without loosing any screws and only dropped a socket once. Luckily, once installed and power was applied, it worked like a champ. I know you were worried about that part.

The job that shoulda taken about half an hour or forty five minutes ended up being something like three and a half hours. With a two mile walk in the middle. But at least I have a heating and cooling system again. For now.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Highly Recommended

I first came across David Codrea in Guns Magazine, where he has a column called Rights Watch. I found his articles to be thought provoking and insightful. I had an idea for a blog entry that I wanted to knock out, but he said what I wanted to get across so much better than I could, that I determined, after literally moments of in depth thinking, that it would just be easier to mainline it to my readers. It saves you all from having to read my "stream of unconciousness" style rants. First, thank me for that, then go get into David's blog. You'll find a treasure trove of cerebral entertainment. What more could you ask for on a Friday night?

If you need a gunsmith

When I got my first 1911 about a dozen years ago (could it be that long ago? Dammit, age has snuck up on me), it was a pretty much bone stock gun. My Springfield Armory 1911-A1 Lightweight started out as a modified GI gun. It came from the factory with the lowered ejection port and high visibility sights, but everything else was GI style. Upon first shooting that gun, I found out GI style grip safeties chew holes in my hands.

Clearly, I needed some help, but I don't know any gunsmiths personally. I needed a way to choose one. My "rule number one" of gun modifications is that nobody works on my gun unless they're the best available. Guns are expensive investments, so letting Bubba attack your piece with a belt sander is a poor course of action. On top of that, if you have to use that weapon in a defensive situation, you'd be better served by being able to show that the modifications were done by a professional, rather than hacked by some Michigan Militia type.

Few people would intelligently argue against my rule number one. Some might argue against some of the others, such as "always have a bottle opener", but not R1. But that leads us again to "who do I take my gun to for pro work?" Now I can hook you up with the same method I used to find Lance Martini, who did such an awesome job on my 1911: The American Handgunner Club 100 . This is the list of the 100 best gunsmiths in the US. Talk about an amazing resource. I doubt I'd be as thrilled with my 1911 as I am, even after all this time.