Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal Part 2: Self Defense

I’ve been musing more on the ‘Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal’ concept that I introduced on Saturday. I think I have more posts in me on the subject.  Sorry. 
Today I’d like to talk about ‘Self Defense.’  No, not ‘self defense’ as in having weapons with you — I would categorize that as ‘defense of self through self offense.’  When the shit comes down. whether it be ravenous undead, Mad Max type wastelanders armed with hand-made crossbows, feral children with tooth and nail or mutants with super powers, you are going to want something to protect yourself from harm — a barrier between you and danger that can be as big as a castle or as small as a shield improvised from a trash can lid.  Self protection becomes doubly important in an ‘infection’ scenario — when the bite of one zombie = eventual zombification, then taking pains not to get bitten seems a worthwhile investment.

It’s just a matter of time…

1) Don’t get out of the car: Is this good advice?  I don’t know.  I guess it depends. The good thing about the car is that you can lock yourself inside of it and drive away.  And maybe you’ll have some bottled water, road flares or a blanket in the trunk. But when the apocalypse comes (and come it will), the roads are going to be jammed with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, each containing a happy-meal for the undead, mutants or cannibals in the form of a commuter who is probably armed only with a smart phone and a coffee.  Easy pickings.
Also, most cars have a lot of glass, so, unless you are moving down the road at considerable speed, any determined adversary who can pick up a rock or other window smasher is going to eventually get you.  The car is also a crappy place to hide; anything taller than a schnauzer is going to see you trying to hunker down in the driver’s seat of your Corolla.  Be smart.  Know when to make a break and hoof it.  I suppose there are exceptions — if you have a helicopter instead of a car, you can thumb your nose at the proles stuck on the freeway below, but what goes up must eventually come down (and, if the apocalypse scenario is flying monkeys or fire breathing dragons, perhaps up in the air is the last place you want to be).
Max Brooks recommends vehicles like armored cars and the like, but good luck in getting your hands on one of those.  If you try to jack the dudes who work for the armored car company, they will just shoot you; end of your story, or maybe they will just smile and wave at you through the bullet proof glass as the rabid mole rats or whatever rip you apart.

Zombies: more persistent than Amway people.

2. Don’t go outside: Good advice? Again, it depends.  If you are shopping at ‘The Sunglasses Hut’ and suddenly the irradiated ghouls attack, unless you can lock down the whole mall immediately, get your ass out of there.  If the threat is outside and you are inside, that’s probably more good than bad — figure out where they are going to get in and either barricade or surrender indefensible parts of the territory.  But always leave yourself an exit! That upstairs bedroom might seem like a good place to hide, but if they are coming in the bedroom door can you go out the window?  Have an exit strategy.
 Also: how defensible and well supplied is this place you want to call home?  Shopping malls seem to be a movie favorite for zombie survival, but Hollywood has some peculiar ideas about the defensibility of a mall… too much glass and not enough moats and machine-gun nests for my taste. Most malls seem to be a good source for stylish clothing, designer purses and jewelry, but these items are going to be less useful than shotguns, iodine and canned beans, which, in my experience, are left for more prosaic shopping destinations to provide.  Some place like Wal-mart might be better, but those big box stores are also going to be ground zero for infection as panicking suburbanites pack in there, trying to grab all the toaster pastries and bottled water that they can fit into their mini-vans.
The last urban high school I taught in might have made a pretty good fortress.  The kitchen was provided with industrial sized cans of cling peaches and fruit cocktail. The pre-war building had thick walls and bars on the windows. The nurses office had at least some medical supplies. There might have even still been some dated supplies* in the fallout shelter. Best of all, it was a run-down place with an undesirable zipcode, so few people are going to contest you for it’s ownership.

3) Learn from the ancestors: Time was, our ancestors defended themselves by scampering up a tree.  And a tree still makes a good refuge… consider the dog and squirrel.  If dogs had hands instead of paws, squirrels would have been wiped out years ago.

4) Clothes make the man: We need to divide this into sub-categories:

Survival skills for post-collapse America!

4a) Hooray for the SCA: I never did the SCA thing, myself.  When I heard of it, I envisioned people in armor whacking each other with blunted weapons, which seemed to me like a very good way to train for many possible versions of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, most SCAers seem to spend most of their time wandering the Ren Faire in floppy hats, bodices and cloaks; garments that offer little or no protection from bites, claws or bullets and probably are impossible to run or climb a chain link fence in. If you an SCAer, leave the pirate costume in the closet and stick with the chain mail instead. Accessorize that battle armor with a decidedly non-period shotgun and replace the rattan sword with a machete or baseball bat. Armor will slow you down, however, so stay close to a vehicle in case you need to make a quick get away.

Dress for success

4b) Road Warrior: Leather motorcycle gear is probably a good choice – a nice compromise between protection and maintaining a decent movement rate. Stylish AND lots of zippered pockets for extra ammo, etc. Plus it makes you look like a tough guy… and, in case you dress for the apocalypse on a day when it fails to come about, you can just tell people that you are on your way to Sturgis. Accessorize with boots, leather gloves and helmet.  Leather won’t stop a bullet, but it will probably slow down the teeth and claws of the undead or offer at least some protection from the teeth of rabid doberman pinchers.

Kelley was a badass, no doubt.

4c: The Sporting Life: Football players wear shoulder pads that would make damn good protection while battling other post-apocalyptic warriors armed with chains, boards studded with nails, lead pipes, etc.  Lacrosse helmets offer great impact protection and high visibility — probably as good or better than those buckets most SCAers wear on their heads. Hockey offers shin guards, elbow protection, knee protection and gauntlets.  Baseball offers the ever important groin protection: preserve your ability to repopulate the earth! About the only thing I can’t see being that useful are those giant shin guards that Cricket players wear — maybe if the apocalypse involves low-to-the-ground attackers like prairie dogs.

4d: Full Metal Jacket: Modern body armor, made for the military and law enforcement, offers medieval style protection with less weight, easy on-easy off velcro fasteners PLUS it is the only garment that can have a chance of stopping a bullet.  Unfortunately, it is also expensive.
For those of us on a budget, I suppose there is the Ned Kelley “Hillbilly armor” option.  A few visits to the scrap yard and hardware store, a few hours with the blow torch and pop-rivet gun and maybe you, too, can walk through a hail of bullets like Kelley.

He who smelt it, dealt it.

4e: Hazmat: To be truly prepared, you gotta figure out a way of getting at least one of those Hazmat suits and masks into your life in case the future apocalypse involves contagion, chemical menace or similar. The problem is, of course, that unless you KNOW that the risk is and what form it will take (is a painter’s particle mask sufficient?  Or are you going to need the full body condom with bottled O2?) and you know exactly when to put your gear on, you are either limited to living your life like ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ (i.e.: assume 24-7 that you are under attack from some sort of unseen chemical or biological menace and spend your life inside a giant zip-lock bag — sorry; I’d almost rather be dead than succumb to that level of paranoia) or hope for an early warning from the CDC. Perhaps a few filter masks and latex gloves in the glove compartment couldn’t hurt…

4f: Less is More: I envision that the future might belong to the fit and athletic practitioners of the art of parkour. Dressed, at most, in Adidas, jeans and a hoodie, they seem to effortlessly leap from parapet to fence to rooftop, always one step ahead and out of reach of whatever menace the apocalypse holds.  I envy them and wish them well; the future probably belongs to them.

*On a dare I once ate some “survival biscuits” that we found sealed in tin cans in an abandoned building. I think they dated back to when Nixon was in the Whitehouse. They were dry and tasteless; like Saltines without salt.


3 Comments on “Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal Part 2: Self Defense”

  1. SAROE says:

    Bicycles for transport. Quiet, good visibility, doesn't require fuel. Depends on the apocalypse. You can outrun the zombies-but no protection or use as a weapon.

    A small airfield might be a good place to hole up. It's clear ground and usually, at least the ones around me, surrounded my a chain link fence. The control tower will allow for a strategic view of the area.

  2. Stephan Poag says:

    Saroe: The bike is a good idea… a person on a bike can also can thread their way through trees, traffic jams, etc., and even LIFT the bike over some barriers that a car would find impassible. If you are going cross country and want to spend the night in a loft or a tree, you can easily hide the bike or bring it with you into the house. Of course, a certain amount of physical conditioning is neccessary for effective use.
    I like the airport idea with a few caveats — I would WAIT a while after zero-day to claim my airport castle since on zero-day, the place is going to be jam-packed with panicky people trying to get the hell out of dodge. If it's a zombie or infection scenario, there are going to be 'infected' in the crowd and it will soon go bad. Perhaps the virus will have arrived at the airport by some asshole smuggling rabid monkeys from Guatemala in his luggage or something, so, like the hospital, it might be the last place you would want to be on Zero-day. Also, I would go for smaller, municipal or private airports rather than the larger international ones. The smaller airports will have fewer enterances/exits to cover (reducing the required size of your team, if you have one) and will still probably have some radio equipment and back-up generators (hopefully you can figure out how to use those).

  3. Harald says:

    After my stint in medieval reenactment I realized that a suit of chain, a full helmet, a kite shield, a bearded axe, augmented with a Nine and a Twelve would be the optimal counter-zombie set up. If I could get a few of my mates in on it, setting up a shield wall would be a piece of cake, and lighter armoured friends/family members could pop slugs in undead skulls from behind the wall with impunity. A dozen people would be damn near unstoppable, and we could eat Twinkies until the cow came home.


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