In the early 1990s, a disturbing trend emerged in cities across the Western world: the “knockout game.” This so-called game involved groups of young people targeting unsuspecting pedestrians, aiming to knock them out with a single punch to the head. A left or right hook to the temple is far more devastating than a punch in the nose.

The incidents unfortunately evolved into more brutal attacks, with groups joining in to stomp on a victim once he or she was down. Tragically, these attacks sometimes led to fatalities, as was the case in Decatur, Illinois, in September 2009, when three teens stomped a 61-year-old bicyclist to death.

These group attacks, also known as swarm attacks, are akin to the behavior of killer bees, with multiple offenders descending on a single victim from various angles. Encircling victims, often from the sides or rear and landing blows to the back of victims’ heads, the attackers aim to render their targets unconscious or worse. Offenders most often target individuals who appear vulnerable, such as those in their 50s to 80s.

One chilling example occurred on December 6, 2023, at a Kroger supermarket in Columbus, Ohio. Donnie Smith, a 53-year-old father of three, encountered three teenagers inside the store, leading to a verbal altercation. Store security ordered the teens to leave the building, but unbeknownst to Smith, the three were waiting in the parking lot. They ambushed Smith, mercilessly beating and kicking him while he was down. Witnesses recounted the attackers were “laughing the whole time they were [beating him].” Despite being rushed to the hospital, Smith succumbed to his injuries two days later.

Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Swarm Attack

Situational awareness, preparedness and knowing how to conduct a threat assessment can prevent you from being chosen as a target and save your life. It’s imperative to recognize the severity and intent behind these assaults. A full-force blow to the head, especially when delivered by multiple people in rapid-fire succession, can be deadly.

When traveling through unknown or high-crime areas, elevate your awareness to Condition Red. Whether walking through sketchy neighborhoods or pumping gas at a station, remain vigilant of your surroundings. Criminals look for out-of-towners or people who are not paying attention to their environment. If something feels off or your instincts warn you, trust them and seek safety elsewhere.

Always be alert and aware, staying several steps ahead of potential attackers. Before beginning an assault, aggressors may conduct what is referred to as a probing attack. This is when a group that has no business with you begins to approach. Think to yourself, why would several teenagers be advancing toward you at this hour or in this place?

Weapon Selection and Readiness

You are more likely to be involved in this style of assault than an active shooter incident. Readiness and weapon selection are vital to self-defense in a close-range situation. Swarm attacks should be deflected with the proper use of force, up to and including deadly force once the attack begins in earnest.
Learn how USCCA Membership can help if you need to defend yourself.

Once you realize a group of assailants is probing you for a possible swarm attack, you should immediately begin your defense. In my opinion, the best option for close-range self-defense shooting is a five- or six-shot centerfire revolver. Ideally equipped with a concealed or bobbed hammer for discreet carry and quick deployment, .32 H&R Magnum, .327 Federal Magnum, 38 Special, 9mm, .357 Magnum or .44 Special will work well as self-defense calibers. And equipping your firearm with Hogue Laser Enhanced Grips or Crimson Trace Lasergrips as a primary sighting device enhances accuracy, particularly in low-light conditions.

Revolvers are ideal as defense against a swarm attack due to their reliability and simplicity. The pull weight of the double-action trigger can help to avoid negligent discharges, and with no manual safety to fumble, revolvers are less prone to malfunction, making them ideal for high-stress encounters. Concealed hammer revolvers are capable of being fired through a pocket without jamming. Furthermore, a snub revolver can be fired from nearly any position without malfunction, including from the ground.

My concealed carry setup revolves around my trusty five-shot Smith & Wesson 638 .38 Special revolver, which I had equipped with Crimson Trace Laser Grips for added precision. Recognizing the need for better grip and handling in a swarm attack scenario, I recently upgraded to a Hogue 60080 Red Laser Enhanced Monogrip, ensuring a secure grip during rapid draws. Coupled with my Gould and Goodrich B802 thumb break OWB holster, my revolver remains easily accessible while maintaining discretion. To enhance stopping power, I’ve loaded it with Remington .38 Special +P 158 grain Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollow-Point High Terminal Performance ammo, a tried-and-true choice for law enforcement duty since the 1980s.

Stay Prepared Against Group Attacks

Preparing for such scenarios involves more than just owning a firearm; regular training is essential to becoming comfortable with snubnose revolvers. Practicing close-range shooting techniques, including one-handed firing and shooting from unconventional positions, builds confidence and muscle memory for real-life situations.

Try the following drill to improve your accuracy:

  1. Set up three silhouette targets at distances of 10 feet and closer.
  2. Assume a one-handed shooting stance, with your non-shooting hand protecting the side of your head in a boxing position with a closed fist.
  3. Begin by putting one round on each of the three targets.
  4. Follow up with two additional rounds placed on any two of the targets to finish the course.
  5. Include contact or near-contact shots as part of the drill, even if they tear up the target during firing.
  6. Practice acquiring your target using the laser dot to maintain sharp focus on the threat.
  7. Experiment with firing from the hip and with the shooting arm locked out to simulate different shooting scenarios.
  8. Aim for the “X” ring of a B27 type silhouette target, not the chest, to improve accuracy.

Swarm attacks pose a significant threat to personal safety, requiring proactive measures for defense. Stay vigilant, arm yourself appropriately and train diligently to improve your chances of survival. Remember, it’s better to be prepared and proactive than to be caught off guard and defenseless.