It’s late at night. You’re broken down on the trail but are figuring out a way to limp back to camp. Suddenly, there’s a sound from the bushes near you. Then another. It’s getting closer. You roll out from under your truck to check it out. Who is that? You shine your flashlight toward the bushes. Wait, what is that? Next thing you know, you’re being brained by a zombie.
Everybody is talking about prepping for the zombie apocalypse, but are they really what’s coming? “I’m sure something will come eventually,” explained Jeromy Hasenkamp. “Basically, you have to think of it in terms of things trying to do you harm, and it could be anything, so we want to prep for that. If it takes worrying about the undead coming forward and attacking to get you started doing training and stuff like that, then I’m all about that.” Jeromy is the owner of Pacific Tactical and an adjunct instructor for Phoenix RBT Solutions. His full-time job is as a law-enforcement officer. In other words, he’s a seriously prepped badass. “We all know trouble finds us no matter where we go or what steps we take.”
We decided to utilize Jeromy, as well as truck-building, knife, and gun experts as our undead-or-other-thing-coming-eventually consultants, to help us prep for surviving doomsday and taking those necessary steps: building a beefier 4x4 and understanding weapons. To check out the zombie-preparedness/survival tips video, head to www.fourwheeler.com.
Survive the End of the World With a Truck
Carter Reed, BDS Suspension/Zone Offroad Products/JKS Mfg./4x4 Posi-Lok
Base truck/configuration: Mid-’40s Dodge Power Wagon Carryall because it’s different, old school, stout body/frame, rugged, rare, and mostly because it just looks cool as hell.
Tires/wheels: Either 46- or 53-inch Michelin XZL tires on aluminum beadlocks. Insanely strong tire/sidewall, aggressive tread, military spec. Might not be the smoothest ride (stiff material, even at low pressure the sidewalls won’t flex much), but they’ll put up with any abuse.
Suspension setup: BDS four-link long-arm suspension, Fox 3.0 Remote C/Os (16 inches of travel), leaf spring rear with Fox 2.5 bypass shocks. Stout suspension setup, great articulation, able to do the go-fast stuff or crawl. Rear helper airbags, depending on how loaded down the rig is.
Axles: One of three: 14-bolt F/R, Torq-14 F/R, or 2½-ton Rockwells F/R. All have their pros and cons: weight, strength, ample aftermarket support, OE replacement parts available in a pinch. It’s a toss up.
Performance: A 12-valve Cummins with a twin-turbo setup. Great power output to turn the tires, decent mpg to help survive longer, and the thing will virtually run forever.
Accessories: Upgrade the original winch to front/rear Warn Olympus 25 winches. Extremely strong, fast line speed, military grade.
Interior mods: 1.75x.120-wall DOM full internal rollcage, late-model Ford Super Duty leather seats with heat and A/C built in, ARB Fridge Freezer, gun/ammo box.
Exterior mods: Heavy-duty bumpers (recessed winch mount), spears mounted to grilleguard, Rigid LED lighting throughout, flamethrowers on the front, sides, and rear of vehicle, ¼-inch armored plating on body, bulletproof glass…all should be self-explanatory.
Other bolt-ons: Survival gear, first aid equipment.
Communications/mobile/electronic mods: Navigation, iPod hookup, upgraded stereo. Loudspeaker outside to play techno music…zombies hate techno music.
Street/trail dual-purpose mods: Would be capable on all terrain. Four-link can articulate, leaf spring for stability/weight handling.
Weirdo/unconventional bulletproofing mods: Kevlar floor/roof/door panel lining.
Survival mods: 50-gallon fuel cell, extra water and food.
How you’d pack: Tool bag, chainsaw, MIG welder, assault rifles, all-weather clothes, camo tarp for truck, and junk food—lots and lots of Oreos, Twizzlers, Gushers, and soda.
What’s your best guesstimate on what this vehicle would cost to build, adding up all your stuff: $75-100K.
OK, that’s unlimited budget. But if you had only $2,000 to spare for this project, what would be the must-have items on a budget: Mud-terrain tires, welded rear axle, midrange winch, and lots of junk food.
Mark Mathews, Pro Comp/Smittybilt/G2 Axle & Gear/Rubicon Express/LRG Rims
Base truck/configuration: For my ultimate doomsday survival machine I’d select a ’00-’03 Ford Excursion 4WD equipped with the Power Stroke 7.3L. The body-on-frame Excursion was the biggest and baddest off-road beast to come out of Detroit. It was a gift from the Ford Lord with solid axles and a bulletproof International 7.3L. Plus, it has all of the room you could need for weapons and gear.
Tires/wheels: For the tires, I would go with 37x12.50R18LT Pro Comp Xtreme MT2s. They have an E-load rating and tri-ply sidewall construction, so they can take a beating when venturing into the wasteland. They make insane traction off-road and have a long tread life. For the wheels, I’d go with 18-inch Pro Comp Rockwells. They have a super strong design and a clean flat black finish.
Suspension setup: To make room for the 37s, I’d go with the Pro Comp 6-inch lift with MX6 reservoir shocks and a double shock hoop system. This system will keep the ride under control over rough terrain and allow plenty of flex when needed.
Axles: The big, meaty Pro Comp tires are going to put a heavy load on the axles, so I’d add G2 chromoly axles with ARB Air Lockers and 5.13 gears. I’d cap them off with G2 Brute diff covers to keep the diff fluid cool and protect against off-road obstacles.
Performance: To make sure the mighty Excursion can hustle when needed, I’d add a Banks PowerPack. It adds enough power to get the 9,000-pound Excursion moving in a hurry.
Interior mods: In the event that things going completely down the toilet, I want to make sure I’ve got a clean air supply and clean water. I’d have onboard air and water filtration systems. The rear of the rig would have a convertible bench that turns into a bed. The center console would contain a loaded minibar for the post-battle celebratory drink.
Exterior mods: To help haul extra gear, I’d add a Smittybilt Defender roof rack with mounts for a jack, shovel, lights, and axe. I’d add a full arsenal of Pro Comp Explorer LED and HID lights, too. Gotta make sure I can see the enemy.
Any other bolt-ons: I’d have custom front and rear bumpers made with Smittybilt X20 12,000 winches to pull me out of a jam if needed.
Communications/mobile/electronic mods: I may end up spending a long time in the Excursion, so I’d add a complete Kicker sound system with a stockpile of MP3 files covering ALL heavy metal and hard rock from the last 30 years. A CB radio and Lowrance GPS to help me find my way.
Street/trail dual-purpose mods you’d make: Because I will probably end up driving over rubble and rocky terrain, I’d add skidplates on the belly to protect the gas tank.
Weirdo/unconventional bulletproofing mods: The entire rig would get the full bulletproof armor treatment and a low-profile flat black paint job. I’d add gun ports on the sides so I could defend my position without exposing myself.
Survival mods: Oversized fuel tanks would be essential to keeping the Excursion running for extended periods. I’d also add an onboard generator, air compressor, welder, and a loaded toolbox. I’m not much of a welder, but I’ll probably have time to learn.
How you’d pack your truck: Lots of guns and ammo. As much clean underwear and socks as I can fit in the truck, too. I’m a junky for Reese’s Pieces, so I’d bring a good stash of them. First aid gear, sleeping bags, blankets.
What’s your best guesstimate on what this vehicle would cost to build, adding up all your stuff: I would guess this truck would cost about $100,000 to build, maybe more.
OK, that’s unlimited budget. But if you had only $2,000 to spare for this project, what would be the must-have items on a budget: If I only had $2K, I’d probably go with the oversized fuel tank and a set of Xtreme MT2 tires.
“Who can I trust for good advice? There are a lot of weekend warriors, self-proclaimed forum experts and ‘it’s the best thing since sliced bread’ evaluation articles. Go to a range, see who’s competent, take a class, and see what the instructor is shooting. Try it before you buy it.” Those pearls of wisdom come from Kenneth Pfau of FNH USA. So, if you’re new to firearms, what kind of stuff do you need to consider? Ask yourself first how it will be used. Hunting? Personal protection? Blamming in the desert? “If at all possible, I would suggest you shoot the model you’re thinking of purchasing,” suggested Ken Jorgensen of Ruger Firearms. “The difference between in-store perception and the on-range reality can be significant.”
But the biggest buying mistake you can make? “There seems to be a belief among men buying for their woman that it should be a small gun,” said Ken at Ruger. “Small guns are usually more difficult to shoot for a number of reasons and, depending on caliber, have considerable recoil. Hands-on experience before buying is very important.” Kenneth at FNH USA points to another mistake: “Trying to save a buck on a gun that won’t do the job you need when you need it the most. Quality comes at a price; materials, testing, service life. Choose a gun that has a track record of use from a company that knows how to build something that has delivered 100 percent results 100 percent of the time.”
And what exactly is the difference between firearms? It’s about distance. Explained Ken at FNH USA, “The firearm was designed to poke holes at distance, thereby keeping danger away from getting close to you. A Derringer is good at that from 3-7 feet, the modern pistol out to 10s of yards, and the rifle out to 100s of yards. Aside from distance, the second factor is portability. It’s often not practical to carry a big rifle on a hike or urban area.” Additionally, a rifle will usually give you more options in the potent-caliber department as well as longer range shooting and the possibility that if you’re a newbie, you’ll be accurate.
Survive the End of the World With a Firearm
Ken Jorgensen, Ruger Firearms
What you’d want for zombie apocalypse: My choice would be a Ruger SR762, as it uses the .308 cartridge, is an autoloader, and utilizes detachable magazines. I would also want one of the Ruger SR series pistols and would be sure to use Zombie Max ammunition from Hornady.
What you’d want for a Mad Max situation: I would want a Ruger M77 Hawkeye rifle in a Magnum caliber with reasonably powerful optics for long-range shots in the open country. Also, a large caliber semi-auto pistol, such as the Ruger SR1911 for the up-close situations.
What you’d want for an alien invasion situation: It is hard to determine the definitive firepower for all alien situations. My choice would be a long-range rifle for the reach-out-and-touch-them scenarios (maybe knocking down spacecraft) and a semi-auto carbine like the Ruger SR556 for everything else.
What you’d want for a Hunger Games situation: I would want more than one semi-auto pistol, such as the SR9c, and lots of loaded magazines.
Ken Pfau, FNH USA
What you’d want for zombie apocalypse: Zombie stopping requires massive accurate firepower. I want something that holds a lot of rounds that I can shoot accurately for those perfect close-quarter headshots. My choice would be a PS90 with a red dot with multiple 50-round magazines and backup Five-seveN pistol with an array of standard 20-round magazine topped off. Both guns shoot the super effective 5.7x28 round with minimal recoil and flat-shooting 40-grain bullets. Best of all, I can give either gun to the wife or kids and they will hold off the hoards as I prepare the fire-moat.
What you’d want for a Mad Max situation: I’d want my go-to gun to be the FN SCAR 17s topped with a Leupold Mark 8 1.1-8x24mm CQBSS M5B1 scope loaded up with piles of 7.62mm. The 1.1-8 Mark 8 gives me great field of view from 10 feet out to 600 yards. On my hip, I would have an FNX -45 Tactical with a Leupold Delta Point red dot. With 15 rounds of .45, I can deter anything that comes close. And, as a backup if things really get hairy, I’d want an FN SLP Tactical Shotgun with an RCI XRail magazine extension (think of a shotgun version of the Gatling Gun) giving me 23 rounds of 12-gauge motorcycle stopping power.
What you’d want for an alien invasion situation: With aliens, you don’t know what you’re up against. Therefore, I would want to start throwing big bullets their way from as far away as possible. I would want an FN Ballista in .338 Lapua for the job. The .338 Lapua has proven itself to be both antipersonnel as well as antimaterial in case I need to blast through some kind of energy shield. The Ballista delivers sub-MOA (MOA or Minute of Angle is 1 inch at 100 yards or 6 inches at 600 yards) accuracy out past 1,000 yards and if they keep coming and I run out of .338 ammo, I can switch the barrel out for the 7.62mm barrel and shoot my SCAR 17 ammo out to 800 yards.
What you’d want for a Hunger Games situation: If I was chosen for the Hunger Games, my gun of choice would be a SCAR 16s in 5.56mm sporting a Leupold Mk 6 1-6 power scope with a pile of Gen3 Magpul 40 round PMAGS. The SCAR is light and easy to carry, highly effective out to 400 yards, and impervious to any kind of dirt, mud, water, grit, or grime. If I’m being tracked and tracking, I want the advantage of distance with the ability to point and shoot quickly in close quarters. Of course I would also put a Surefire SOCOM Monster Sound Suppressor on it to keep from being found by the report.
Weapons Buyer’s Guide
What: 915/916 Triage knife
Some features: Axis locking mechanism and modified sheepsfoot or opposing bevel-style blade, corrosion-resistant blade, and hooked-shaped safety cutter. The Triage also has an automatic variation version.
Cost: Starts at $170
Why Benchmade says it’s the ultimate survival item: “The Triage family of knives are a dynamic triple utility tool that include a knife, safety hook, and carbide glass breaker.”
What: Gideon Tanto
Some features: The 5-inch fixed blade has a tanto design; the full tang design pierces and slashes. The handles are made of CNC-machined textured G10, and there are two holes in the blade for easy tethering.
Why Blackhawk says it’s ultimate survival item: “From opening a can of rations to fashioning a spear, the Gideon Tanto is tough enough to stand up to any job.”
What: Gerber Gator Kukri Machete
Some features: The machete is 19 inches long, with a blade length of 12 inches. It has full tang construction, is 1050 steel, and uses a Gator Grip handle.
Why Gerber says it’s the ultimate survival item: “A three-way cutting tool based on a centuries-old design. With a pointed tip for piercing, a wide midsection for chopping, and a narrow neck for detail work, the Kukri is a true multipurpose blade.”
What: Ken Onion-Designed Redemption
Some features: A 9.50-inch, ¾ tang blade. A G10 handle has been contoured with swells, curves, and grooves for grip. Ken is a knifemaker.
Why CRKT says it’s the ultimate survival item: “A survival tool, not a weapon.”
What: SCAXE2G Survival Hatchet
Some features: See the word “axe” in the name? This one is about 15 inches long with a 3.8-inch blade, and has a ferro fire steel rod in the handle. Read: sparks. It also has a stainless steel head and ergonomic green phosphorescent rubber grip. Read: glow in the dark.
Cost: Around $35
Why Schrade says it’s the ultimate survival item: “It has the ability to perform many survival and bushcraft tasks with its sharp titanium-coated head and rear pommel designed to hammer and crush.”
What: G21 Gen4
Some features: Light recoil, and stopping power of the .45 auto round with 10/13 round magazine capacity. The modular back strap allows for a custom grip based on each shooter’s hand size. There’s also a reversible enlarged magazine catch.
Why GLOCK says it’s the ultimate survival item: “In the case of impending apocalyptic doom, you’ll want a gun by your side that’s both lightweight and powerful. This is a practical pistol harnessing the robust .45 caliber round.”
What: ESEE-3 Mil Clip Point
Some features: This sharpened clip-point specimen has a 1095 carbon-steel blade and a cutting-edge length of 3.38 inches. There are also thumb-grippers on the spine.
Cost: About $105
Why EMGEAR says it’s the ultimate survival item: “As a bonus, the clip point penetrates rotting zombie flesh with ease.”
What: C11 Delica Model (Combination Edge)
Some features: It’s your basic knife—as basic as things can get. The Combination Edge means just that: combo. So, you get a plain edge for fine cutting and another edge for the separating task that needs a little more oomph.
Why Spyderco says it’s the ultimate survival item: “Proven, reliable, straightforward. No bells, no whistles.”
Get: Spyderco Knives
What: Camp Series Machetes
Some features: Three sizes of blade are available: 10, 14, and 18 inches, which means the Camp Series is capable of doing just about anything, from making kindling to clearing brush.
Cost: Starts at about $65
Why Kershaw says it’s the ultimate survival item: “The Kershaw Camp 18 will never run out of bullets. It won’t jam or clog, even when covered with decomposing zombie yuck. As the longest of the three Kershaw Camp Series blades, you’ll be able to stay far away from zombies—while still being within vital decapitation range.”
Get: Kershaw Knives
Some features: Pump action, bullpup design—a 12-gauge shotgun that holds 14 2¾ shells in two mag tubes under the barrel. It weighs about 8½ pounds when loaded.
Why Kel-Tec says it’s the ultimate survival item: “Load slugs in one tube if you need to reach out far, and buckshot in the other tube for close quarters. The 12-gauge shotgun shell is widely accepted as the go-to zombie killing round!”
Get: Kel-Tec CNC Ind.
What: Vector CRB
Some features: It has KRISS Super V recoil mitigation system for reduced felt recoil and muzzle climb.
Cost: Around $1,900
Why KRISS says it’s the ultimate survival item: “Chambered in .45 ACP in 13- or 25-round magazines, the Vector is the ideal choice for close-quarter combat.”
Get: KRISS Newco USA
What: McMillan Custom Hunting Knife
Some features: McMillan and DiamondBlade’s Friction Forging. There’s a 4-inch blade and 8.70-inch overall length. It has a drop-point blade and 65-68 Rockwell edge hardness.
Why McMillan says it’s the ultimate survival item: “Expect the friction-forged blade on this knife to cut through most of your outdoor needs whether you’re camping, fishing, or carving through some evil zombie deadites....no matter the level of decay.”
“It’s better to be prepared than to have the first time that you’ve had to shoot at a live person or a moving person be during a deadly force encounter,” Jeromy suggested.
Since reality-based training is Jeromy’s specialty, we headed to Bernet Farms in Scappoose, Oregon, and its vast acreage for just that. “Things happen in real time. You react on the fly and make snap decisions. Life doesn’t allow you to plan.” But it does allow you to prepare and also to become self-reliant; part of being prepared is to not have to lean on someone else to take care of you.
And having an idea of what it might feel like to be chased or have to shoot at something is part of preparedness. “Standing stationary and shooting a hole in a paper target—is that very real? I don’t think so because I don’t know of any gunfight or deadly force encounter or even a fight that everyone just stood there and let you do whatever you needed to do,” explained Jeromy. “Everything is constantly moving. People are moving even if they’re standing still.”
He started us off with NLTA. Those in the know know that stands for nonlethal training ammo, like what’s used for paintball.
Zombies and other attackers don’t just come from down range; they come from all different directions: front, side, and behind. “You ever try doing headshots on the move? It’s a mother.” That’s why reality training can be so effective. “We get outside of our comfort zone and push things as much as possible so that we can be able to make those split-second decisions, be able to understand what our gun is doing when we’re moving, when we’re turning. If I just go out with my gun straight out, I’m going to be surprised by something.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say a gun is my weapon of choice. What I will say is I want to be prepared. You want to pick the right tool for the situation.”
Jeromy gave us a few firearm usage tips:
1. Handle your firearm the same way every single time: Grip it the same. Pick it up out of the holster the same. Handle the magazines the same. Doing so “becomes muscle memory and that’s a safety thing, too.” It’ll soon become your innate shooting grip.
2. Buy a firearm based on your comfort level. How comfortable are you at doing reloads? How about malfunctions? Does the gun fit in your hand? How well can you shoot it? “No one is going to buy a gun because it feels good in the case.”
3. Shoot at different things. “A lot of people don’t think about, ‘OK, what are my follow-up shots going to be like if I have to fire more than one round? What’s the ammo capacity? What’s the penetration?’”
4. “I’m not going to listen to what somebody says. I’m going to go out and test it myself. I mean, I’ll use theirs as a gauge to start but I don’t want to believe in anything until I see it happen for myself.”
5. Before you buy ammo, first figure out your intent behind owning the gun, and what threats you will face. Is your weapon for home security in case someone breaks into your house during the night? Then you probably don’t want ammo that will penetrate the walls. And it may seem obvious, but make sure the ammo will work in your firearm.
6. “If I could give buyers one word of advice, it would be ‘train.’ You could have the most high-speed gun with all the bells and whistles, but if you don’t know how to run it, and run it reliably under all circumstances, it does you no good.”
7. When aiming, bring the sights up to your eyes, not your eyes up to the sights.
8. The more you can stand up straight, the less fatigued you will become. Some crouching is natural, and it usually looks cool in movies, but you’re actually going to fatigue yourself. You’ll also be able to turn farther. Ideal: Bend at the waist, hips back, shoulders rolling up into the gun, so that you’ve got as much mass behind the recoil. Grip the gun firmly, but allow your trigger finger and thumbs to be relaxed; that helps with a good, quick trigger. “When people miss, they miss low.”
What’s a SIRT Pistol?
We did a lot of training with a SIRT pistol (www.nextleveltraining.com). The SIRT is based off a Glock pistol and is fullsize, but it’s basically a laser gun/diagnostic tool. It’s a great alternative if you can’t get to a range, the weather is bad, you don’t want to spend money on practice ammo, or just want to fine-tune your skills, anywhere. We trained with it on trigger control and having a good line, as well as with moving and stationary targets. You can also practice magazine changes and drawing from a holster
Wait, No More Beer?
“We talk about guns, big knifes, and pointy, sharp objects, and we talk about tactics. But one of the biggest things for surviving the zombie apocalypse or any kind of deadly force encounter is physical fitness,” Jeromy noted. “Having a good level of physical fitness and maintaining that is going to play into how you survive an incident.” Tired, sluggish, can’t keep up? Heck, that happens on the trail just while spotting someone. We’re d-day doomed. “If I had two words of advice? They would be ‘health’ and ‘train,’” Jeromy remarked. “If there truly is a zombie apocalypse, you better get up on your training. You better practice those headshots and a dead run.” So, we sought out the annual Run for Your Lives event (www.runforyourlives.com), a 5K trail course packed to the gills with obstacles that force you to practice running/walking, crawling, and climbing over obstacles and running away from things in order to survive. There’s even a night run to take it up a notch, which we tried out—and forgot our headlamps. Preparedness fail. However, there were 367 other people trying to survive 373 zombies along with us and we came in Fourth and Fifth. In your rotting face, undead.