Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Scenario Consultation - Just the Cold Facts

A writer posed the following scenario to me:
  • Heroine is a gourmet baker trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), but late of the other CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology.
  • Heroine keeps a gun in the walk-in refrigerator at her bakery inside a safe with a digital lock.
  • Heroine is locked in the refrigerator by the VBG (Very Bad GAL, in this case).
  • Heroine retrieves gun.
  • Heroine knows something about the refrigerator that the VBG does not and gets out.
  • Heroine is confronted by VBG, and shoots VBG in the rear end so as to avoid killing (this is a cozy mystery).
Initial Questions Asked by the Author

a)      Would it work to have a gun in a refrigerator?
b)      What kind of gun would be good?
c)       Would the gun need some special weight of oil or lubrication to keep it in working order?


After reviewing the scenario that the author supplied, the following nucleus of operative facts emerged:

1.       The heroine needs to be a veteran of the National Clandestine Service;
2.       The VBG is unarmed;
3.       The heroine’s weapon needs to operate after long term exposure toe 28 – 40 degree Fahrenheit temperatures; and
4.       The heroine needs to use less than lethal means to subdue the VBG.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

a.       National Clandestine Service
Contrary to popular belief, most CIA employees are (with rare exceptions) neither exposed to nor trained in the use of firearms.  Those in the scientific branch of the organization, the Directorate of Science and Technology, research, create, and manage technical collection disciplines and equipment.  That is to say, they are the whiz kids who brought us the U-2, among other things.  The people who engage in cloak and dagger are from the National Clandestine Service (formerly known as the Directorate of Operations).  If the heroine is going to know her way around a firearm due to her past career, some changes will need to be made to her resume.

b.      VBG Unarmed
Our VBG doesn’t have a gun.  That means that if/when the heroine shoots her, she’s engaging in the unlawful use of deadly force.  As in “attempted murder.”  Not good for a heroine, and not good for a cozy mystery.  The author will need some other way to subdue the VBG.

c.       Operation After Long Term Exposure to Cold
Militec-1 Gun Lubricant
This issue becomes more interesting in light of the idea that the heroine can’t, or at least shouldn’t, use deadly force.  The short answer is that when it comes to guns, modern lubricants such as FP-10, BreakFree CLP, RemOil, Tetra Gun Grease or Militec-1 function well, without thickening, down to subzero temperatures, and that dry lubricants like Dryphite Graphite Gun Lubricant work in even more extreme conditions.  However, the refrigerator’s conditions are in no way extreme when it comes to firearms.  Of course, if our heroine isn’t using a gun…all bets are off with respect to lubricant.

d.      Less Than Lethal
Let’s start with the stipulation that shooting someone *IS* deadly force. Period.  End of story.  Next, let’s also stipulate that guns aren’t lasers, and that the bullet doesn’t magically go where you will it to go.  Under ideal, target range conditions, an expert shooter, using a match conditioned pistol is happy with a circular error probability (CEP) of two inches.  Now let’s inject our heroine and her situation here.  She’s scared.  She’s got more adrenaline than blood in her veins at this point (not really, but you get the idea).  She doesn’t have infinite time with which to set up the shot; it’s more of a snap shooting thing.  I have news for you.  In that situation our expert would be happy to hold a three inch CEP at ten feet.  And three inches, with a gun, makes a huge difference. It’s the difference between an ugly, bloody, but minor gouge on the VBG’s butt and a shattered hip bone or a torn femoral artery.  In one case our heroine has crippled the VBG, in the other she’s killed the VBG.  Hardly ideal for a cozy mystery.


1.       Change the heroine’s resume.  Make her a former NCS officer.  This way she’s had exposure to all sorts of firearms and nasty things.

Police Issue X-26 Taser
2.       Nix the gun.  No good thing can come, in a cozy mystery anyway, of the heroine having a gun.  Instead, have her stash a few police issue X-26 Tasers around the bakery, including in the walk-in refrigerator.  The Taser fires two small darts attached to between fifteen and 35 feet of wire (depending on the cartridge used) which don’t have to actually penetrate the VBG to work (they just need to be within an inch or two of skin).  When actuated, the Taser zaps the VBG with an initial 50,000 volts at .02 to 0.4 amps, dropping to 1,200 volts at nineteen pulses per second.  The result is that the body cannot communicate with the somatic (voluntary) nervous system (but can with autonomic functions that control the heart and breathing), and “neuromuscular incapacitation” through a means known as “electro-muscular disruption.”  That’s a long way of saying that the VBG immediately collapses and does the flounder on the floor until the Taser is switched off.  And, once it’s switched off the effect is over, with no lasting effects.  No lasting effects is GOOD for a cozy mystery.

3.       Storage in a refrigerator will, as with any electrical storage device, only benefit the Taser.

By replacing the gun with a Taser, we get to incapacitate, but not harm, the VBG, satisfying the requirements of the cozy mystery genre.  There are many other less than lethal technologies available that produce similar results, but few are as readily available and well known to the general public as the Taser.

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