Picture this: You are in a crowded venue, protected by an unarmed security guard and a sign declaring you are in a “gun-free zone.” Suddenly, a man dressed in jeans and a hoodie, brandishing a rifle, enters and shoots down the security officer, then turns away from you and begins shooting into the crowd. You are unarmed, with nowhere to run or hide. You realize your death is mere moments away.

You turn to your four buddies and declare, “He will kill all of us if we do nothing, but he can’t kill all of us if we do something. SWARM!”

What Is ‘The Swarm?’

The Swarm is a military tactic that has been utilized in combat since Genghis Khan conquered most of Asia with his swarming Mongol Hordes. Generally, “to swarm” means to attack an adversary with multiple attackers from multiple sides at once. The idea is to direct overwhelming numbers toward a vulnerable spot at a vulnerable moment to accomplish victory over an adversary. In the case of a rapid mass murder, it is a viable tactical option when a large number of unarmed victims are facing imminent death at the hands of a determined monster.

Before specifically describing the Swarm, let’s compare outcomes of two incidents — one incident where it could have been used but wasn’t, and the other where it was used successfully. The first case study will also demonstrate two misconceptions about active shooters that are regularly presented as a fact:

  • The “active shooter” is a uniquely American phenomenon. (It absolutely is not.)
  • A place without firearms is a safe zone. (Over and over again, this is tragically proven false.)

And with that, we’re off to Norway.

Utoya Island

On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik initiated a complex plan, whereby he set off a bomb in a crowded area of Oslo, Norway, to occupy large numbers of Protective Services Personnel. The explosion, which killed eight and wounded 209, was just a diversion.

While chaos reigned in Oslo, Breivik, dressed as a police officer and armed to the teeth, calmly rode a ferry to Utoya Island, which was a popular youth vacation spot. Upon arriving, he opened fire on the unsuspecting vacationers. Many ran, but Breivik patiently hunted down victims and mercilessly slaughtered them. Of the 564 people on the island as he arrived, 69 were killed and 110 were injured. Police finally arrived to arrest Breivik, but not before he was able to use the half hour it took them to arrive to murder.

No one fought back.

Cazenovia, Wisconsin

In the second case study, on Sept. 29, 2006, at 8 a.m., Erik Hainstock, an angry high school student, entered Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. Maintenance man Dave Thomson spotted Hainstock entering the school with a shotgun at the ready and bravely wrestled the shotgun out of the would-be murderer’s hands.

Undeterred, Hainstock continued his advance and drew a pistol out from under his jacket. He leveled it at school principal, John Klang, who had placed himself between Hainstock and other students. Klang deliberately took hold of the pistol as Hainstock fired. Klang managed to wrestle Hainstock to the floor, disable the weapon, disarm Hainstock and sweep the pistol out of reach. During this desperate struggle, other students swarmed Hainstock and held him on the floor until police arrived.

Klang’s courageous actions saved every life in that school except his own. This incident has been chosen to illustrate that:

  • The Swarm can effectively be used to save lives.
  • The Swarm should only be used as a last resort because even though it succeeded in Cazenovia, for Principal John Klang, it truly was his last resort.
NEVER LOSE SIGHT of the fact that if you can escape a mass casualty attack, you should do so. Whether you want to try to stop the attacker is another matter and should not necessarily be your “default setting.”

NEVER LOSE SIGHT of the fact that if you can escape a mass casualty attack, you should do so. Whether you want to try to stop the attacker is another matter and should not necessarily be your “default setting.”

Employing the Swarm

The best conditions under which to orchestrate a Swarm during a mass-attack situation are when:

  • You have no firearm available to you.
  • The suspect’s attention is focused elsewhere, especially during a reload.
  • If you do nothing, you will die.

How to Orchestrate the Swarm

The first thing you need to do is communicate quickly to your impromptu team. This can be done if you and others are locked-down in a room as you prepare for the possibility that the attacker might find you, or it can be done in the presence of the assailant while he or she is distracted.

Step 1: Notify others of your intent: “If we do nothing, he will kill us all. If we do something, he can’t kill us all. Let’s swarm him.”

Step 2: Give assignments. Look into the eyes of each person and tell him or her what his or her job is:

“You control his right arm.”

“You control his left arm.”

“You control his right leg.”

“You control his left leg.”

“I will control his weapon.”

“We move on ‘Move!’ and hit him all at once, then lift him off the ground, take him down to the ground and hold him there.”

Step 3: Give the “Move!” command. After the movement starts, there can be no half measures, even if one or more of your assignees freeze. Chances are, in a large group, others will figure out what is happening and join in. It is imperative that the person assigned to the weapon:

  • Control the muzzle direction.
  • Create a malfunction in the weapon by hitting the safety or the magazine release or moving the action out of battery. If it is a revolver, hold the cylinder stationary or jam the webbing between your thumb and index finger between the hammer and the firing pin.
  • Neutralize the shooter with knees, elbows or environmental weapons.
  • Disarm the suspect.


The best defense against a rapid mass murderer is a well-placed shot sent by an honorable gunfighter. However, if you have been disarmed by circumstance, why should you sit and wait for death or great bodily harm when you can Swarm?