Thanks, Chromedog, that does help.
My brother and I have read through screwheads and there is some really good stuff in there....there's also some bad stuff. Like giving characters nanoplagues or cancer or whatever because they bought skinweave.
If skinweave is too powerful then don't let the players have it, or make it more expensive...but screwing players out of something that they bought, paid the HC for and obtained without breaking any rules is a bit lame when you're the one who can't figure out how to deal with it. Likewise the 'random guy in a club gets microwaved next to you' scenario...in which microwavers are called 21st century mace despite the fact the rules say they're ultra rare.
I'm not a fan of the GMing style that calls for screwing players over even though they're playing by the rules. If something in the rules is problematic, change it before the player gets their hands on it, or have a discussion with them about it.
Any advice for making combat a little more survivable without it being a cakewalk?
Giving everyone AP ammo seems like a decent idea. It keeps low-caliber weapons in the game despite skinweave and armored clothing being cheap and easy options, and also halves penetrating damage so even though it makes the players easier to hurt they're less likely to get limbs blown off in one shot.
On a related note, I kind of wish the hit location table used more than just a single d10. It's kinda lame that you're more likely to get hit in a fragile leg than the torso that composes most of your body and can soak damage best. In fact, you've only got a 30% chance of getting a torso wound at all. Anything else is blowing off a limb or your head.
One thing that demo session taught us was always buy all-over armor. The pregen characters had fairly random gear. most had an armor jacket but no leg armor. When almost half the shots are leg hits that's just brutal.