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‘The Walking Dead’ Zombie Archetype

[This article touches on the zombies as portrayed in AMC’s series The Walking Dead based on the albeit limited observation of the only two episodes to have aired so far.]

Those who have been watching the Walking Dead might have noticed the zombies are portrayed as slightly different that the usual archetypes. [fairly complete list here]

For the most part the zombie genre is divided into either Slow Zombies or Fast Zombies. The classic Romero zombie is the slow Shambler, hungry for any living flesh (not just brains – that was added to the meme by Return of the Living Dead in 1985). The Shambler is not much of a threat when encountered alone but in groups is very dangerous. Movies like 28 Days gave us the Fast Zombie – the furious, charging fire-and-forget undead missile.

However, the writers of The Walking Dead have taken an approach that is (in my opinion) very novel and engaging.   New Jovian Thunderbolt has a write up on it here (with some good comments, too).

As he puts it, The Walking Dead zombie is an evolution of the classic shambler.  I agree.  The portrayal so far is that each one evidences a slight shadow of the former person the zombie was. I believe it’s a change for the better; it adds to the creepiness, and adds a tug of sadness for the creature from the viewer. No longer is the individual zombie a faceless husk to be merely avoided or put down but a reminder of a life lost.

Until they attack; then it’s headshot time.

Range Report: Shooting the Medusa Revolver

I recently had the rare privilege of shooting the what some consider to be ‘ultimate survival handgun’, the Phillips & Rodgers Medusa revolver.  Like many, I’ve kicked mentally kicked myself for not buying one when they were in production.  However, a long time friend of mine recently purchased the one pictured below and was kind enough to let me shoot it.

Phillips & Rodgers Medusa Multi-Caliber Revolver

Phillips & Rodgers Medusa Multi-Caliber Revolver

As many of you know, this innovative multi-caliber handgun is capable, according to the manual, of shooting 25 different cartridges (all in the .353. to .357 cal. range; Ex: .380 ACP, 9x19mm Parabellum, 9x18mm Makarov, 9x21mm, 9x23mm, 38 Super, 38 Colt, 38 Long Colt, 38 Special, .357 Magnum, etc.).  Beyond what the manual recommends, it can actually fire 104 different cartridges from around the globe.  It is capable of doing so mostly due to its unique extractor that allows headspacing of both standard rimmed (most revolvers) and rimless cartridges (most semi-autos).   Other features to accomplish reliability and safety across so many cartridges include special steels, a patented firing pin design, and individual forcing cones in each chamber.

The extractor has what are best described as spring loaded ‘fingers’ that exert slight outward pressure to grasp the extractor groove of a rimless cartridge to keep it from falling deeper into the cylinder and away from the firing pin, maintaining proper headspace.  Because there is a channel under each extractor, when a standard rimmed cartridge is inserted that chamber’s extractor compresses into the recess allowing the cartridge to headspace on the rear of the cylinder like any other revolver.  Due to this design, every round loaded does have to be  pressed into place because of the friction of the extractor that rides along the cartridge until it literally snaps into place.  Rounds do not drop into place and you won’t win any speed contests that require reloads.  Another consideration is that semi-auto cartridges that usually headspace on the case mouth may hang up on the extractor and may have to be tilted into the chamber one at time to avoid putting undue stress on the extractor tabs.

An interesting feature of the Medusa is that since the chamber’s extractors can flex independently of each other, it is possible (in a pinch) to mix ammunition within the same cylinder – but I don’t recommend it. Here’s why: before shooting it I did a bit of research on the gun.  Being out of production, I wanted to know if there are any special considerations to adhere to when using one.  As it turns out, there are.  After reading two excellent articles about the gun (here and here).  I stumbled across an auction on Gunbroker.com for another Medusa that had two of the extractor tips broken off.  While the rest of the gun is built like a tank (the cylinder even uses the same steel as F16 gatling barrels), care must be taken to protect the extractor.  The auction description speculated that the extractor fingers might have been damaged because the owner did not adhere to the owner’s manual that states that longer cartridges should be fired before shorter ones when mixing ammunition at the range.

I am certainly glad that I read that!  I wouldn’t want to damage this unusual (and borrowed and out of production) gun.  Although the auction’s description of the manual’s recommendation is not entirely specific – the manual’s intent is that when shooting different types of ammunition during the same range session, begin with cylinder-fulls of  the longest cartridges being shot that day before loading and shooting the shorter rounds [i.e. work longest to shortest].  This allows the fouling to stay ahead of the casings and therefore prevents excess friction required to extract the brass, reducing strain on the extractor.  To be on the safe side, we did not mix cartridges in the cylinder.  That way I knew the position of the fouling to be consistent.

So how did it shoot?

Superbly.  However, no eldritch lightning or other mystical energy leaped forth from the barrel to smite the target.  If you’ve shot a Smith and Wesson .357 mag revolver, the sensation is  familiar.  The Medusa does have more of a rock solid heft that is quite comforting and the lockwork does move with precision.  Even closing the cylinder is reassuring as one feels it lock tight as a bank vault.   The trigger is nearly ‘glass rod’ crisp when firing single action and smooth in double action.  Take note that the Medusa does not have a ‘competition’ action / trigger pull (nor should it, this is a working gun); it is full weight as it must to be able to reliably ignite any primer from any cartridge that it chambers.  Some of the perceived weight of the trigger pull is lessened by the old-school wide and grooved trigger.

That said, with the Medusa’s heft, full lug barrel and crisp trigger, shooting it is very comfortable.  Our distance for sighting in was 20 yards and when dialed in for .357 magnum, the gun only shot about 2 inches low at the same distance when using .38 special and 9×19 mm.  When we were careful, groups ran about two to three inches across all loads, shot offhand.  At 15 yards, I had no problem quickly running down a line of bowling pins.  All ammo fired during the outing was factory loaded.  I am certain that from the bench (or in the hands of Jerry Miculek), better accuracy would be realized.

My Pard & the Medusa in action, saving the back country from zombies and rabid bowling pins.

My Pard & the Medusa in action, saving the back country from zombies and rabid bowling pins.

We started with .357 mag ammo and moved to .38 special and then to 9 mm Para.  Late in the session a cylinder of .38 special found its way into the gun and slightly sticky extraction was evident due to the fouling from the previous 9mm’s.  After careful extraction of the spent brass, a little spray of CLP loosened things up again.  The intricacy of the cylinder and extractor assembly would seem to warrant some addition care in cleaning this firearm.

Many consider the Medusa the perfect survival (or CoMWeC, SHTF, TEOTWAWKI, etc.) handgun and they may be right, but there are considerations to observe when using one.  Even then, it’s still a handgun.  For my part, I particularly admire the ingenuity of design, excellence of execution and exceptional utility that the Medusa offers.  Someday I hope to add one* to my collection.  It was truly ahead of its time.

[*P&R also made Medusa replacement cylinders for Ruger single action .357 mag revolvers – one of those would be sweet!]

Zombies in the Backyard!

Today, I went outside to enjoy my coffee in the brief coolness of the morning and was startled to find a (small) hoard of zombies!

Aahh!  Zombies!  [It's good thing I prepared for this..]

Aahh! Zombies! (It's good thing I prepared for this.)

Thankfully I was prepared for just such an emergency.  Quickly shifting my coffee to my off-hand, I drew my pistol as I fell back to my fortified and well stocked bunker where my carbine stood ready to engage the threat from a position of relative safety.

A hapless IDPA target, having lapsed into condition white, was not so fortunate and fell victim to the hungry ghouls.

Zombie Targets about to eat IDPA Brain

Zombie Targets about to eat IDPA Brain

The targets of course are from ZombieTargets.net and are available in four designs.  I ordered 3 packs of 10 of my favorite three (Chuck, Steve, and Bob) and was very pleased with quality of product, excellent customer service and the speed in which they were shipped.  They were even packed well: the targets came rolled in a sturdy mailing tube, bound with rubber bands and padded with foam – not a single crease in one of them could be found.  The targets themselves are printed on 60lb paper and measure 23″ x 35″.  Each target has subdued target zones that approximate scoring zones on competition targets.  [Of course, you and I know that only a shot to the brain pan will stop a zombie, anything else just wastes ammo.]  The quality of print is superb, detailing the artwork very well with sharp contrast.  If you look closely, you can see the bite mark on Bob’s arm that damned him to walk the Earth as a member of the undead.

It occurred to me that a side benefit of zombie targets (besides being way cool and fun to shoot) is that they are ‘image’ friendly.  Not that many of us care but…  Let’s suppose that you are standing around with a bunch of friends having a splendid afternoon turning money into noise and to mark the occasion, a buddy snaps a few photos of you on the line.  You take the photo to work and leave it on your desk.  If you had been using ‘other’ printed targets of bad guys in ski masks and such, those photos could later be declared by your hoplophobe co-worker as showing you at (horror!) a militia meeting.  However, with Zombie Targets you simply laugh at the buffoon and say, “Hey, I saw ‘I Am Legend‘. What have you done to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse?”

.Be Prepared. [But don't take all of Max Brooks' advice on firearms.]

Be Prepared. (But don't take all of Max Brooks' advice on firearms)

Update: I see that Sharp as a Marble has a piece about shootable zombies in color;   Zombie Nazis even.  So now there is choice for today’s zombie hunter: You can opt for  the 1968 Romero Classic Night of the Living Dead route (no digital colorization for me, thank you very much) or for the more modern interpretations such as Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, or better yet: Shaun of the Dead.



Twelve Dollar Frito Pie

Yep.  You read that right.

Lucky for me it was on special.  Instead of the usual menu price of $11.95, today it was only $8.95.

It's on Special!
It’s on Special!

Yes, I was lured to the above establishment (through no fault of the restaurant itself) on the prospect of a business opportunity only to find myself in a sales pitch for a pyramid scheme.  Cr*p.  To compound the insult the attendees had to buy their own lunch.  Double Cr*p.  Furthermore, my bill had a pre-added gratuity.  Triple…

If you ever find yourself in such a situation ask yourself, “If they are making so much money, how come they can’t pick up the tab?!”  You might also ask, “Why, if the product is so great, do they not offer double blind independent studies as to its effectiveness?” and, “Why is the product education portion of the ‘seminar’ only 15 minutes, while the explanation of the compensation structure takes a full hour?”  I expressed my displeasure by semi-whispering snarky comments during the presentation to the lady to my right and stayed a bit late to unabashedly critique the ‘product’ with her as people were leaving.

BTW, I did order the $8.95 Frito Pie.  Mostly because it was about the cheapest entree on the menu, but also so I could say that I’ve tasted Nine (or Twelve) Dollar Frito Pie.

It was better than most Frito pies that I’ve had.  It was served in a heated fajita skillet with about half a pound of Fritos serving as the foundation of this gastronomic delight.  Covering the base of chips was a layer of melted  shredded cheddar cheese and a goodly amount of ‘homemade’ chili with tasty pork and beef.  To complete the dish, a dollop of real sour cream and a garnish of cilantro crowned the peak.  I can’t recall for sure but there might have been a bit of shredded iceberg lettuce somewhere in there as well.

Ultimately, as impressive as the fare was, it was still just a dressed up Frito pie and about half-way through I was wishing I’d ordered the Cuban sandwich.

How To: Install a Mag Cinch (with Pictures)

Previously, I had not experimented with rifle magazines ‘jungle clipped’ together.  As my gunsmith said, “I’ve haven’t yet had to shoot anything more than 30 times”.  A quick search of the interwebs quickly found apocryphal stories of jungle clipped ammo where recoil caused the spare (non-seated) magazine to eject live rounds every time the gun fired, leaving the hapless shooter trying to reload with a mostly empty second mag.  Which I suppose could happen… maybe…

Still, it’s a gun accessory I wanted to investigate (and seemingly a popular one for all the versions available: Mag Cinch, Blackhawk?, Command Arms, Springer Precision, Mako Group, etc.)  Also, with the AR15 being the ‘Mr. Potato Head’ of firearms, isn’t it incumbent upon AR owners to try as many accessories as possible?

The Mag Cinch by Buffer Tech isn’t the original jungle clip (I believe that title belongs to duct tape) but they do have an innovative, simple and yet solid method of securing the mags.  Reading the instructions left me with a fair understanding of how to attach them but there weren’t any pics (not even at Buffer Tech’s website), something my right brain appreciates.  Another search of the world wide tubes did not reveal an instructable-type pictorial, which sounded like a waiting blog entry to me.  Thus I present to you: “How to Install a Mag Cinch”

I purchased the model for 30 round AR15 magazines.  It comes with two cinches that each look like this:

A single Mag Cinch; 2 come per pkg for a 30rd mag

A single Mag Cinch; 2 come per pkg for a 30rd mag

Note #1: The final step of securing the Mag Cinch involves trimming off the excess nylon webbing so getting it right the first time is in your best interests.  Buffer Tech sells replacement straps for $1.25

Note #2: About the first thing thing I realized when trying to take the pictures of the process was that black brackets with black webbing on a black magazine don’t show detail very well.  However, I found a solution…

Nylon Webbing from Fabric Store: $1.29 per yard

Nylon Webbing from Fabric Store: $1.29 per yard

Yes, it’s Toxic Green nylon webbing from a local fabric store.  I bought a yard and cut it in half with a hot knife (Box knife heated by propane torch) to prevent fraying.  Using a leather punch, I made a hole in the center of each half and Ta-Dah! –> replacement straps.  The selection at the fabric store allows for a wide range of choices like: tan, purple, florescent pink, black, safety orange, blue camo, rainbow (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or even Ted Nugent-approved zebra stripes.

Re-assembled with photo friendly straps

Re-assembled with photo friendly straps

Let’s Begin.  Here are the instructions from Buffer Tech [mostly verbatim with some added commentary]:

WARNING!  Important: read instructions carefully before attempting to install. Test completed assembly in unloaded firearm to insure proper clearance prior to use.

1) Adjust screw out fully, screw should be [sic] barely engage threads.

2) Place Mag Cinch unit around magazines, making sure that the large part of assembly is on the front of the magazines.  Stagger magazines so that the right one is about 1.5 inches lower than the left.  This cinch will sit at the bottom edge of the left magazine.

Position of first cinch

Position of first cinch, amount of offset may vary

3) Pull ends of webbing tight.  Use needle nose pliers to twist ends tight.  It is critical that webbing is tightly holding magazines prior to step 4.

Tighten w/ pliers; do 2x each strap, from top & bottom

Tighten w/ pliers; do 2x each strap, from top & bottom

4) Tighten screw until Mag Cinch is holding magazines snugly.

5) Repeat steps 1 – 4 with second Mag Cinch.  Adjust this unit so that it sets atop the first unit.

6) Insert magazine assembly into unloaded firearm and adjust fit to suit your needs.  Make sure you can operate charging handle, ejection port cover, safeties and other operation features.

[*This is a must; the recommended 1.5 inch offset was too much for my setup and would have impinged on the knurled screw for my Holo Sight]

Cleck clearance on the left

Last chance: Check clearance on the left

...and on the right

...and on the right

7) Tighten both screws until the magazine is firmly held in place by the webbing.

Tighten firmly

Tighten firmly

8 ) After you are sure that the unit is adjusted, cut off excess webbing.  Exposed webbing can be sealed with a lighter or match.  [*Or use hot knife to cut and seal the ends at the same time; you might want to put a piece of cardboard over the strapping that you don’t want to cut to protect it during this step.]

Trim and seal with blade

Trim and seal with blade

Afterward it should look like this:

Finished installation

Finished installation


1) The Mag Cinch holds the magazines very securely.  There is no movement at all. If forced, I almost think that the mags would give way before the cinch would.

2) The overall result is fairly large – not something that is conducive to putting in a magazine pouch.  Methods of comfortably slinging the firearm with cinched mags are reduced due to the bulk.

3) While I haven’t had the chance yet to shoot with the cinched mags to see if the ‘spare mag’ ejects live rounds during recoil (unlikely), using the MagPul P-Mag dust cover on the left magazine would certainly prevent that from happening.

4) From a practical standpoint, I’m not completely sold on ‘jungle clipping’ mags unless using them in a war zone or for action matches (3 Gun, etc.). However, if your particular storage requirements dictate having an unloaded rifle the Mag Cinch might offer a solution.  In that case, you could leave the right side magazine empty yet seated in the rifle’s mag well but also have a full magazine less than an inch away, ready to go.  I admit this defies most logic [After all, who wants an empty mag on a fighting gun?] but may allow greater readiness in situations where such policies / laws exist.

5) I need a better camera and light box setup

6) I’m pretty sure that my ‘Cinched magazines won’t be lost for lack of visibility or be confused with anyone else’s.

Box from Brownells: Happy Day!

I had mentioned that Brownells catalog #62 just came out and that you should get one.  Seriously, get one.

Anyway, you can’t have a new Brownells catalog and not order something, so when I mentioned it to a friend, he replied that he had been wanting a few magazines for his rifle.  Badda-boom:  instant excuse to place an order.

Here’s a pic of his part:

Flat Dark Earth. It's the 'New Black' except that it's Tan...

Flat Dark Earth. It's the 'New Black' except that it's Tan...

15 P-Mags and 10 Brownells Tac-Mags (MagPul followers & chrome silicon springs)

When my lovely bride saw it she pointedly asked, “What’s all that?”

I replied with relish, “A Good Start.” 😀

Book Review: ‘Emergency: This Book May Save Your Life’ by Neil Strauss

I finished reading ‘Emergency: This Book May Save Your Life’ by Neil Strauss.  It came to my attention when Michael Bane recommended it on his blog a while back.  I bought it solely on the desire to find out how a professed New York City liberal journalist, fearing the collapse of the Western World (due to the election of G. W. Bush, rise of terrorism, etc.) prepared for all manner of disasters in his personal journey to gather the skillset to become a self-sufficient individual.

From living off the land, to learning to sail, ride motorcycles, fly a plane, render first aid, use a knife, fight hand to hand, cache supplies, shoot guns, butcher game, escape pursuers, open offshore accounts, gain dual citizenship, and much more, Strauss puts it all down on the page in a manner that is easy and entertaining.  He does it without braggadocio, in fact he includes a healthy dose of humility explaining how his misconceptions and ignorance at times led to additional ‘discomfort’.  It is a thoroughly enjoyable read with some very humorous moments and I did learn quite a bit.  Of particular satisfaction to read was that as Mr. Strauss’ skill level increased, so did his confidence.  That in turn allowed him to release much of the fear he had regarding his own survival and allow it to be replaced with a desire to help others in times of crisis.

I found many aspects of the book fascinating – not always from revelations on how to survive, but from viewing his experiences as written through the lens of a non-conservative (the ‘other side of the looking glass’ per se).  Some things that I take for granted (thanks to time on ranches and farms, hunting, growing up in the Boy Scouts, etc) were major epiphanies for him [Ex(1): It’s not the job of Govt to save everybody; Ref: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, (2) Guns are not evil, they are tools. Etc.] yet other things I hold as fact, Mr. Strauss still disagrees with, such as [Minor Spoiler Alert] at the end of the book he celebrates the election returns, hoping that BHO hasn’t arrived too late to fix the country.  What?!?!  For all the time and effort that you expended to learn and experience all that you did: How do you feel now, six months into the Obama Admininstration, Mr. Strauss?   For that question alone I hope he writes an epilogue for a post-BHO reprinting of the book four years from now.

Either way I recommend this highly entertaining book and have already suggested it to several friends.