So you’ve got your badass bugout rig, hawaiian shirt, panoramic night vision set, your best boogaloo buddies in the bed of the truck sitting on lawn chairs duck taped together, ready to rock and roll like it’s downtown Aleppo. But you’ve got one problem…those Goodyear ATs just ain’t bullet or puncture resistant.
Well…whatcha gonna do?
Don’t worry, there’s a fix. Making your tires more resistant is not as hard or as expensive as you think. Farmers, off-roaders and hunters have been doing it for as long as there’s been tires. The first hurdle to understand is that your daily driver is not the rig you’re doing this to- that is to say, if you’re worried about the daily commute, this is not for you.
The role of a non-tactical vehicle (NTV) is to support ground operations. It is used as an insertion platform (meaning you ride on it until you’re a couple miles out from the objective), a retransmitter platform (a radio relay), a mobile resupply hanging out behind the column to lighten the fighters’ load (think pack mule), an finally, a mobile ambulance. A patrol generally wants to keep the vehicle out of the line of fire, because its not designed to be up-armored and unless you’re driving a heavy duty pickup, its not going to last long with AR-500 bolted on it. But that’s a whole other conversation.
The first rule of thumb is to get the heaviest load range tires for your vehicle. If this is a truck or a Jeep, they should be load range E. A tire’s load range is the approximate weight the rubber compound is designed to handle- the heaver the load range, the harder and more durable the rubber on the tread will be. Load range E is the heaviest you’ll get in a light truck tire. Next look at the Ply rating. The ply is the number of layers of rubber which makes the composite for a tire’s tread. The thicker, the better. On my two rigs (both mid-2000s bullet-proofed Powerstrokes) I have 10 ply tires, which is as heavy as it goes for the load range. Check the sidewalls as well. Normally these are a single ply for primarily highway use tires. Off-road rated tires will have two ply, making it a lot harder for angry ex-girlfriends to slash your tires. I run Cooper Evolution Mud Tires which are meant for heavy duty off-road use but still ride and handle well enough on the highway at reasonable speeds.
Simple enough, but not enough to make your tires as hardened as possible. The next thing you want is to run inner tubes inside the tires. What this does is add another layer of protection by adding a tire-within-a-tire. So if your tread, sidewall or bead (the part of the tire that goes inside the rim) is damaged or blows out, you’ve got something that’ll keep it inflated long enough to get to a stopping point. I’ve seen farmers who’ve completely shredded tractor tires when running bush hogs (also known as a disk mower) clearing grown up fields. Inner tubes are pretty much a requirement at that point. The same is true for rock crawler rigs and overlanders that might be miles down a trail off road. I have them in the tires on my ATVs also after popping a tire a few miles into a creekbed in the wintertime when I was a kid. Wet and cold makes things stick to memory. I think they’re a mandatory addition to pretty much any rig you’re building up as an NTV.
And on that note, the other must-have addition is Slime. Slime is a tire sealant that you can coat the inside of your tires with, making them resistant to losing air when punctured. When used together with an inner tube, you’ve basically made your own run-flats. The only other thing I’d add to the mix, but is not street legal in most places, is a set of bead-lock wheels. These are popular with rock crawlers by adding another bolt-on rim to sandwich the rim to the bead, so that you can run the tire nearly flat without the rubber coming off the wheel itself. Just keep in mind these may not be street legal where you are, so caveat emptor. That said, if you combine all these elements you’re going to have nearly indestructible tires. They’ll ride like a horse drawn buggy, but a comfy ride ain’t the purpose of a Non-Tactical Vehicle.
The last thing to note is that while making our tires more durable, don’t forget that no amount of gear overcomes bad tactics. Your NTV is called that because its not an uparmored vehicle and wasn’t generally designed to be. Its roll is to support the team on the ground, not for them to use as an assaulting weapon. Sound tactics are gonna keep it from getting shot in the first place. I’ve seen a lot of NTVs get shot and blown up, and there’s not a whole lot to keep AK rounds from chewing them up pretty bad. So keep that in mind.