THE KILLER CARAVANS by Kurt Saxon   copyright 1979

     When the collapse comes, whether from a total economic 
breakdown or nuclear war, surviving city dwellers will scatter like 
their cockroaches when they turn on their kitchen lights. Millions 
not killed by the war, the fires, the rioting and the street 
battles, will take to the countrysides.
     The roads leading out of the doomed cities will be hopelessly 
clogged with wrecked vehicles, looking like any foggy morning on 
the San Francisco freeways. As many city vermin as will be trapped 
in the jams, scads of that rubbish will make it to the main 
arteries from the cities to the smaller towns.
     These will be the "lucky". The provident will have left before 
the chaos. But the lucky will get out by sheer luck, with little or 
no gear, no extra gas, probably a gun or two, a box of canned goods 
and a few bottles of booze they looted. But not meaningful survival 
     Until they get to the nearest town, it will be dog-eat-dog. 
Every man for himself and let the devil take the hindmost. If they 
stop for an overturned car ahead, it will just be to search the 
passengers for any useful items and to siphon out any gas left in 
the car.
     Finally, dozens of individual vehicles will reach the nearest 
town. In most cases, the townsmen will have the roads barricaded. 
They could not hope to accomodate hordes of improvident city types, 
so will, all too often, just block their way and turn them back at 
     This method is wrong and I'll explain why in my next 
editorial, "Roadblock". But at this time, I want to tell you what 
will happen as a result of total roadblocking, which will be common 
around most American towns.
     You can easily imagine such roadblocks, made of cars strung 
across the road, bristling with guns held by determined townsmen. 
Signs reading, "Go Back or Get Shot!" or "Yankee Go Home!", and 
suchlike, will let the refugees grouping at the roadblocks know 
they are unwelcome.
     Although, up to then, these refugees will have been 
individuals, they will now form into mobs. Being improvident and 
having no chance on their own, instant leaders will spring up 
before the roadblocks and offer the mobs their protection and 
     In times of catastrophe and confusion, the average person is 
too often willing to follow anyone who says he has an answer. 
Anyone with any sort of previous authority, or who will do the 
thinking for those unable to think, will find a ready-made army to 
go wherever he leads and do whatever he orders.
     "Lucifer's Hammer" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 
describes two such leaders and many of their sub-leaders, all 
relativelyy unqualified in times of order. But when the comet came 
close to Earth, the most unlikely leadership was accepted, and like 
Jim Jones of Guyana, brought savagery and death to all their 
     The two main leaders in "Lucifer's Hammer" were a black Army 
Sergeant and a white religious fanatic. It was an interracial 
group, made up mostly of a band of soldiers, black activists and 
white losers picked up on the line of march.
     Food was scarce so cannibalism became, not only acceptable, 
but mandatory. The eating of human flesh was part of the initiation 
into the band. If one would not eat, he was eaten.
     This was first ordered by the Sergeant, as an immediate 
alternative to starvation. It was later made a commandment by the 
religious co-leader, as a sign of faith in the idea that they were 
God's chosen. Only the chosen would be blessed with victory over 
the surviving technologists who had brought God's wrath on a sinful 
world. And God would forgive their cannibalism and any other 
horrors committed while bringing His Kingdom into fruition.
     His degenerate ravings are pretty much mirrored on TV by Billy 
Graham, Rex Humbard, Pat Robertson and Anal Roberts. The kind of 
people who swallow everything these perverts say, ended up 
swallowing human flesh, just as eagerly. So, like swarms of 
locusts, these cannibalistic fanatics proceed to ravage and destroy 
the only hope for a future civilization.
     There will indeed be such leaders as Sergeant Hooker and the 
messianic Reverend Henry Armitage. There will also be bands made up 
of cults living inside or outside of cities. These cults will move 
out first and do what they will with the uninitiated or those who 
will not convert.
     But the most common bands will be groups turned back from 
roadblocks. These, as well as the rest, will form Killer Caravans, 
pooling their resources. The leader, whether a politician, soldier 
or self-acknowledged messiah, will have a ready-made, media 
brain-washed band of killers to do his bidding.
     His first act will be to kill off the uncooperative and anyone 
who can't see him as the rightful head. At first, the loudest will 
be followed. If this loudest doesn't keep the majority on his side, 
his position and/or his life will be in jeopardy.
     Of course, if the loudest proves really incompetent another 
might kill him without fear of the majority. Also, the loudest 
might appoint a deputy or two, both to keep the malcontents in line 
and to keep one of the deputies from taking his place.
     So with the leadership established, the malcontents killed off 
and their property confiscated by the group, the Killer Caravan is 
formed. It has its leaders, either military or charismatic, or 
both. It has its armed foragers and looters. It has its compliment 
of women and children as dependents.
     But what it lacks is a direction, a place to go, a purpose. 
All it has as a social organism made up of improvident 
establishment hacks, urban workers and welfare loafers, is the 
collective will to survive.
     With resources pooled and the unwilling either dead or driven 
off, the Killer Caravan forms up. It then moves back down the road 
to any promising side road giving access to a route around the 
restricted town.
     The side road they choose might pass your home. With too 
little food to last, and nothing to lose, they will most certainly 
move against you. The Killer Caravan might number from 20 to 100 or 
more people.
     Regardless of how much or how little you had stored away, the 
Killer Caravan would strip you of everything. Nor would they feel a 
need to spare your life. After commandeering your vehicles, 
weapons, total food supply, they would hardly expect you to feel 
anything but hatred for them. Giving in to them would be no 
guarantee that they'd let you and your family live.
     First, they'd camp on your place until there was nothing left. 
There'd be no sense in believing they'd actually settle in on your 
property and share it with you and help you work it. They wouldn't 
be farmers, anyhow and since you'd have only one or two cash crops 
and a subsistence garden, such a mob would have no reason to take 
over your holdings on a long-term basis.
     No, they'd camp on your place for a day or two and gather up 
everything you had that they wanted. After a short time, there 
would not be enough to feed the band and they'd move on to the next 
farm, probably leaving you dead.
     These are the kind of people the boondockers must prepare 
against. You should set up a communications network with your 
neighbors with walkie talkies. Chances are, the Killer Caravans 
would attack only one farm along their route at a time. This would 
give your neighbors a chance to meet at the first farm on their 
route so as to meet them in force.
     Fighting Killer Caravans would be different from defending 
against lone refugees and their families. In the case of loners, 
you might be generous, set out food enough for them to get to the 
next area, and with a moderate show of force, save yourself from 
all-out attack.
     But with Killer Caravans, you must show deadly force at once 
and keep it up until the survivors are discouraged into moving on. 
First, they will have no alternative to attacking you, as they will 
face chronic shortages which will halt their caravan without 
replenishment. Second, their morale will depend on victories. With 
the low morale of the members, the leaders might just as well pass 
out the poison.
     Regardless of the numbers in a caravan, there is little 
likelihood that it would be made up of professionally trained 
ex-servicemen. Even so, if you can impede them, and inflict a high 
enough casualty rate, they will move on, even if they have to do so 
on foot.
     The common conception of a Killer Caravan is of a 
well-organized, well-equipped, well-armed, disciplined unit. It is 
said that such caravans would sweep all before them. "Lucifer's 
Hammer" paints a picture of an almost overwhelming horde.
     If such a group would take a few farms and stay put, they 
could start their own survival community. But the Killer Caravan 
would not have the quality of personnel to become a successful 
survival group. They would be vulnerable, relying mainly on the 
disunity and incompetence of farmers along their route.
     I would have a ball eliminating a Killer Caravan. I would 
plant mines at the entrance to my farm. The POOR MAN'S JAMES BOND 
shows how to set them off electronically without wires. Of course, 
I would not have them armed, or even implanted until the collapse 
had actually occurred. But then I would implant and arm and when a 
caravan vehicle entered the gate into my property; pow!, there'd be 
a flaming wreck blocking the entrance.
     I would also implant such mines behind trees, fences, 
outbuildings, etc.; wherever a caravaner might shoot from. Then 
blam, boom, splat; I'd have caravaners filling the air.
     If I were stuck with a wooden house I'd install sprinklers 
along the roof. And under the eaves, I'd string garden hose with 
holes in it so the outside of the house would be drenched, in 
anticipation of firebombs. Of course, I'd have a gas generator to 
operate the well pump.
     I'd cover my windows with chicken wire and open them all up; 
again in anticipation of firebombs and also bullets. (No need to 
get all the windows shot out.) This would be done if I had not had 
time to install metal shutters with rifle ports.
     In each room would be a chair with a pillow or rolled blanket 
tied to the top of its back for a rifle rest. Each chair would be 
slightly back from the window, seat forward, as I wouldn't want the 
raiders to see any guns pointing out.
     I'd rely on my 30-06 bolt action Remington 700 with the proper 
scope for the distance from the house to the road and nearest 
hiding places. Upon seeing the raider, I'd kneel behind a chair, 
cushion the rifle on its back and shoot him in the right shoulder, 
if possible. (Anyone with the minimum of practice can hit a six by 
six inch target at 200 yards, almost every shot.)
     You might think a clean kill would be better, but not when 
you're dealing with a Killer Caravan. A body is just one less mouth 
to feed. But a man with his main shoulder shot would be a useless 
drain on the food and medical supplies.
     Also, in the heat of an action, the others would be far less 
apt to identify with a corpse than a mate screaming at them for 
help. Further, a few such injuries would cause the women to bitch 
and urge them to move on. Another thing about wounding a raider is 
that with the scarcity of medical supplies, his suffering and 
probable death would give his fellows a lot of food for thought. If 
it occurred to them that the object was to wound and maim, any 
number of them would be apt to vote to move on.
     If, instead of moving on, they attacked in force, I'd shotgun 
them. Mine holds 11 shots and shoots as fast as I can pump it. 
Single ought Buck at 12 30 caliber pellets each round are quite 
effective at 100 yards. Hardly aiming, I can get three pellets in a 
one foot circle at that distance. That's the same as being shot 
with nine .30 caliber Carbine rounds. Really sets a man down.
     I would never shoot a woman or a child, unless they were 
shooting at me. Dead wives and kids enrage the husbands and make 
them just as intent on revenge as on taking the position.
     With dogs on the place to let me know if the attack took place 
at night, I would use a new tactic. I'd have already booby trapped 
the entrance with a mine and so would flee upwind from the caravan, 
carrying an electronic detonator. While they were making their 
plans, I'd open a half-dozen one-pound containers of sodium or 
potassium cyanide and place them strategically around the caravan 
so the wind would blow the gas their way. (See the PMJB for making 
     Then I'd pour in hydrochloric acid, going from one to the 
other, holding my breath and staying upwind. Then I'd run and let 
the generated hydrogen cyanide do its work. A few breaths of 
hydrogen cyanide causes death in about a minute and it takes only 
100 parts per million of the gas in the atmosphere, even with 
protective clothing.
     If it were a nearly windless night, I'd punch holes in the 
tops of the cans. One by one, I'd pour in the acid, cap the cans, 
and throw them into the group. Then I'd flee upwind and lurk around 
for a couple of hours until the Killer Caravan was no more and the 
gas had wafted away.
     Of course, this would wipe out the women and kids. But I'd 
consider them doomed anyway. Even so, would you rather it had been 
you and yours? Just imagine if Rev. Jim Jones had led his 900 
crazies against your homestead. Would you care what happened to any 
segment of that weird pack? If you would, you don't have a chance.