Riots vs. pogroms

Modern homes are not built as fortresses. They are only as strong as the people defending them.

I hear quite a few worried comments about the possibility of civil unrest in the US. Looking at the precedents, I see three directions it could take: riots, pogroms and freelance criminal activity. The latter, individually perpetrated crime, is what we have now and outside the scope of the post. I suspect that we’ll see much the same level, plus or minus a few percent. For the sake of clarity, I would define riots as mass looting, attacks and other criminal impositions conducted without government sanction. Pogroms would be the same but conducted with either tacit or overt official support. Police might either stay out of the fray or actively suppress minority resistance.

A typical pogrom against European Jews seldom met with much resistance as people were afraid of “provoking them further”. A typical African pogrom tended to have such an overwhelming disparity of numbers and arms that the victimized communities simply disappeared into mass graves. Historically, American riots have been smaller in scope and duration, with the exception of 1967-68.

One reason why the New Orleans situation concerned so many was the questionable behavior of the civil authorities. Some cops were later convicted of murder, more than a few got away with raiding the lawful people and disarming them. For the near future, the position of police and similar agencies may become the greatest factor in the development of riots.

A typical American city (that excludes certain un-American aberrations like New York and Chicago) has enough hunters and recreational shooters to be impregnable to a typical rioting mob. Not counting various purely defensive arms like handguns and shotguns, every good neighborhood has several people with scoped rifles capable of reaching out to the limit of available line of sight. A modern deer or varmint rifle is no less accurate than most WW2 sniper rifles and has far better optics. A 200 yards shot on a deer is not a stretch for a typical hunter, and kill zone on a deer isn’t any larger than that on a hoodlum with a Molotov cocktail in hand.

Proximity to windows gives a wider field of fire. If rioters have long guns of their own, a position set back from the windows offers better concealment. A room acts as a flash hider and muffler, making it very difficult to spot the defender.

From the 1992 LA riots, we know that at least some criminals kept up attacks despite being fired upon with pistols. Being able to observe their victims and overwhelm them with numbers apparently made up for the risk of getting shot. We also know that rifle fire from extended ranges, especially with the shooter being invisible, cause instant retreat. In 1992, people were willing to fire at extended ranges due to the absence of authorities — 50 yards is not a typical self-defense range and most people are conditioned not to fire until backed into a corner and almost at contact distance. Lawful people are also conditioned to perceive individuals rather than groups or mobs as threats, so most would not fire into a hostile group. Putting buckshot with “to whom this may be addressed” dispersion into a group can be very effective but goes counter to the peacetime conditioning. The number of conversations with 911 dispatchers where people in dire and immediate danger keep asking for permission to fire suggests that the main factor preventing massive casualties to rioters is the lack of the will, not the lack of firepower. That will is notably bolstered whenever a riot affects residential areas rather than business districts. A store may be abandoned, but a home with a family within is likely to be defended to the last.

Even an antique shotgun with a handful of shells is often sufficient to back up a mob. Birdshot lacks range, but buckshot is effective out to 25-30 yards and slugs work against vehicles and other cover.

In terms of equipment, night vision would be at the top of the list. Since rioters favor nighttime and wear no uniforms, the defenders would have to be able to observe them and be very sure about the hostile actions before firing. Due to possible electrical power failures, it would be prudent to locate emergency store lights in advance. The same goes for weapon lights and floodlights. In terms of disadvantages, defenders are greatly restricted in maneuver. If they wait until point blank range before opening fire, they can be enveloped from the sides and burned out. That eventuality makes long-range response more attractive.

Even a lightweight hunting carbine like Mini14 is sufficient for urban defense. It's entirely adequate out to 200m, and that's longer than direct line of sight from ground level in most cities.

From observing the past events and looking around my own city, I suspect that mass civil disturbances would be unlikely to spread far from the point of origination — if they even happened. The victims would be the “low-hanging fruit”, probably the neighbors of the perpetrators. Violence would be expressive rather than instrumental, with looting being secondary to mayhem and arson. The greatest danger for residents of other, more remote neighborhoods would be from having to travel past choke points — observing traffic rules and evading attacks is often mutually exclusive tasks. Normal people still have to go to work every day, their kids have to go to school. Any place other than the flashpoints of riots, a person bent on mischief would have to ask himself for whom the scope objective bell tolls. Sniping as a method can be used for both good and evil. Fortunately, the mindset required for rioting is not the same as required for sniping, so the likelihood of a mob being supported by deliberate rifle fire is not very high.

In sum, I don’t view rioting as a likely danger for most of the US. I also think that the peaceable, lawful population has the ability to thin the ranks of rioters drastically should that ever become necessary. To that end, it’s good to know your weapons and have them accessible if necessary. It’s also worth having more than a partial box of ammunition on hand.

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26 Responses to Riots vs. pogroms

  1. Darrell says:

    I’ve heard that the American 180, a .22 lr mini-Thompson sort of automatic rifle with a 170-220+ rd pancake mag, was originally intended for use by guards during prison riots. The idea was to aim at the pavement in front of the crowd and ricochet the rounds into the rioters’ legs. Sounds like a winner to me. The A180 is probably the only full auto gun I could afford to feed, much less to own. I’ve shot them several times, tons o’fun.

  2. Lyle says:

    Good essay.
    Yeah, my particular neighborhood (mostly residential) would be about the worst place on the planet for a mob, unless they had close air support and tanks, and even then they’d be at a disadvantage. I’d be willing to bet there are more high powered rifles than people. Those that own them are experienced at scouting, stalking, intercepting, concealment and killing (also known as hunting) and there are more than a few heavy rifles. We also don’t take lightly to troublemakers. Even among the more leftist, there is some sense of right and wrong, and most people are property owners. So I’m not worried about my corner of the relm. I keep loaded guns and ammo stores mainly as a matter of principle. I’ve also noticed all the choke points, for the same reason.

    Also; Dogs. I love ’em and I hate ’em, but no one (and nothing) moves at night in my neighborhood without setting off the dogs in multiple locations.

  3. Lyle says:

    Business districts and government property will be (and have been) the main targets for rioting mobs.

  4. PT says:

    As someone who lives inside an area with a history of bad riots in the 60’s I think this is a good post.

    Of course my M1919a4 and my RPD would probably get more use than my bolt action guns. Maybe I should get some spotter rounds for my bolt guns.

  5. Chris Eger says:

    This is great, Oleg. you really covered the spectrum on this one. Reblogged!

  6. Mattexian says:

    Having that “more than a partial box of ammo” isn’t enough, that ammo also needs to be in a ready-to-go package, so that you can grab it with your firearm and be loaded in a second. Bandoleers are very good for this (as the pic of MZW shows).

    • pdxr13 says:

      Cartridges, on stripper-clips, in cardboard stiffeners, in cloth bandoleers, in steel waterproof camm’ed M-60 cans. M-2 cans are too heavy. Even a 10 year old girl can carry a single M-60 can from here to there. Conceal the can in some civilian luggage or cardboard box, if appropriate to your attire.

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  8. BLADE says:

    Good Writing, I live in the country and work in the city. The gas tank is never under half and I carry enough “supplies” for a 2 day hike if needed should the choke points get too choked and once home ‘Life is Good’.
    Save the Rainforest…………………………………………………… for Knife Handles !!!!!!!!

  9. Will says:

    Just a correction for buckshot: It is lethal to at least 100yds, just that you won’t have a concentrated pattern for an individual. But, it will certainly be within minute of mob at that distance! Essentially, it will be the equivalent of emptying a ten round handgun at the mob. Odds are you will injure a few, might kill someone. Problem is you won’t have ten bodies on the ground to get their attention. Keep doing it, though, and they WILL notice.
    I would consider employing it at that range, if it is determined that the mob is totally out of control, and you want/need to keep them from passing a particular location. That’s if you don’t have a rifle capable of targeting individuals at 200yds to start with.

    The real question is, what works better, both short term, and long: if you wound dozens, who mostly limp/crawl away, or kill a handfull?

  10. Rivrdog says:

    Oleg, you are describing a military situation here, so military tactics deserve some consideration.

    In such riots as you describe, the first thing that should happen is an immediate muster of a self-protection association. That association should have the goal of protecting all the properties within it, and that goal must be attainable. Any property within the general perimeter that is NOT defensible should be abandoned and it’s occupants taken into the general protection of the association.

    The use of fires upon hostiles beyond the perimeters should be considered as a military tactic. Overlapping fields of fire must be established, and the collapse of perimeters must be planned for if the outer perimeter becomes indefensible.

    The perimeter(s) of the self-defense association should be well marked by large improvised signs. The leadership of the association will probably be challenged by local authorities, especially in cases where the local political administration is dependent upon the lower (rioting) classes for it’s political existence. Such challenges should be met with polite, but firm resistance which informs the political administration that defense of persons and property is the only objective, and force will only be directed at lawbreakers. That leadership must plan in advance for contingencies relating to their association being outlawed by decree of the local political administration. If that administration authorizes the use of deadly force against such associations, the only effective solution is an orderly bug-out. It’s unlikely that the local political administration will be left to it’s own devices. FEMA or TSA or some other Federal outfit will probably be available to aid the local administration and act as a goon squad.

    The bottom line: be prepared to use defensive force, but also be prepared to un-ass if the political or military situation dictates.

  11. The Rifleman Next Door says:

    nothing would quell an urban group about to riot and overrun a street or neighborhood that is not of their “colour” better than a tall guy’s head exploding into a pink mist in the front rank just before they’re ready to charge….showering those behind him with bits of scalp, bone, hair, blood and brain tissue….

    even better if they didn’t hear the shot or see the flash…..if that doesn’t give them enough pause to about-face and live for another day then I say let God sort ’em out because they’re all going to go down…..

  12. Ken says:

    I really don’t have a bugout option. I’ve designed my plan into staying put and defending my property and neighborhood. With that in mind I bought a 308 m1a with a good scope. At 6-800 yards they will not hear the rou d that kills them. Should a riot mob be headed my way my plan is simply start dropping them till they turn away. Even if they have ak’s or m16’s I’ll be engaging them well beyond thier effective range. Twenty or thirty rounds in their front ranks will quickly persuade them the pickings are greener elsewhere. They can loot and burn their own hoods to their hearts content. In my hood it will be Korean shop owners ruling the day!

  13. The Rifleman Next Door says:

    Those Slidefire Stocks made by Slidefire Solutions in Texas matched with Surefire 60 or 100 round high cap magazines make for a great “poor man’s full-auto” combination. I’ve mag-dumped the 60-rounder at 50 yards in full-auto at an 8-inch shoot ‘n see and have found the bullet stream to be very easy to control.

    There are some tactical drawbacks however…you cannot switch shoulders with a Slidefire stock because the bumpfiring mechanism is dedicated to the shooters grip hand only….also, firing prone in full bumpfire-auto is a bit tricky.

    However, if you keep the stock locked in semi-auto you can put some serious damage downrange and save your full-auto bursts for clustered targets, approaching vehicles, or to sew panic in the mob before they get too close.

  14. dart67eb says:

    What concerns me the most in my suburban neighborhood is fields of fire. Any misses WILL hit somebody’s house. Some hits with a .30 will too. Sandbagging inside the house is not an option at this time. Sandbaging outside will ruin opsec. Any ideas before I try to convince the wife we need to rip out the walls and go all “Patriots”?

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  17. James says:

    Body armor would be worth having as well.

    Think about it, most of us have thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in guns, ammo, and accessories but some scumbag with a $300 9mm could end it all. Go drop $5-600 on light weight armor for each person in your family.

  18. dart67eb says:


    It’s in the works, but I’m thinking more of when people are sleeping during the period before total SHTF when the first drive-throughs start.

  19. dart67eb says:

    I’d also hate to hit the neighbor’s kids no matter how ill prepared their parents are.

  20. chainsaw says:

    I have discussed this with guys I work with. Most Res-neig-hoods have main streets with side streets. I have told the guys that blocking off the side streets with some of the older cars would not be out’a line, that becomes your preimeter. The “golden hoard” would be directed “elsewhere”, just not down this street. There wouldn’t be drive by’s because there would be no way in or out, with out becoming a sponge (full of holes).

  21. Will says:


    probably for the first floor only: Construct boxes of sand that will fit under the bed, on wheels or drawer slides. You’ll probably need at least three levels of boxes stacked when done. Use slides/ramps to get them up on top of each other. Remove the legs from the bed, and probably the box spring, and set it down flat on the floor. The size of the bed will determine how much coverage you end up with, along with the orientation of the projected threat. Might need to store a few more boxes around the room, to get enough coverage. Boxes hidden inside what look like dowry boxes, etc., may be the way to go. You’ll want to design the boxes with overlapping ends, so you don’t have gaps in the sand coverage.

    If you suspect you might require it on a regular basis, you might consider putting the bed on a vertical lift setup, maybe suspended from corner posts (four poster bed), so you can simply drop the bed down at night, and raise it up for daytime appearance. If the sand-boxes are left in position, walkabout room may be tight, however. I would consider putting the stacks on heavy duty rollers/tracks to get the floor space back. Your bed will sit a bit higher, but so what. Be creative!

  22. Jumbo says:

    @ dart67eb

    Cover and concealment can be inconspicuously provided by building elevated planting beds three feet wide, three feet high, all along the front of your house. Build them about 3-4 feet from your house to leave enough room for air to circulate so it doesn’t trap moisture against your house. It also provides room for a defensive position to drop behind in case you’re in your front yard when the shooting starts. Fill them with rock, sand, dirt and plant thorny flowers or veggies.

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  25. Richard says:

    I see several ideas concerning “ready” ammo.
    Long ago I set up a plan that has some sort of pack/carrier for each weapon in my house ,starting with buttpacks for the .22/22 mag/17 mag and going past shoulder bags for loose buckshot to a small backpack for the .308 auto and mags.
    Each carrier is kept with its weapon with mags, speed loaders etc ready to go so that whatever the given situation being responded to all that has to be done is to grab and go.
    No looking for ammo in separate boxes.
    There is room for a couple of energy bars in each carrier.
    The system saves a few seconds that could be critical one day.

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