Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
The increase in the overall crime rate of the last couple of years has brought with it an increase in home invasions as well. That’s not surprising news, but unwelcome nonetheless. Chances are pretty good that this has a lot to do with the vast number of first-time gun buyers in 2020 and 2021.
But just owning a gun is no guarantee that your home is safe if you hear something going bump in the night. Having that gun is one thing; knowing what to do with it is something else entirely. Just rushing off to see what’s going on is dangerous, even in your own home.
And the chance of an armed intruder isn’t the only danger you face. What if you trip over one of the kids’ toys with your finger on the trigger? Stray bullets may not account for a high number of firearms related deaths; but this is a category where even one is too many, especially when that one is a family member.
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Before the Intruder Arrives
There are things you should do as part of your home defense strategy, before any invader has a chance to show up at your door. Proper preparation prevents a lot of mistakes and we’re talking about mistakes that can cause a lot of misery.
To start with, become proficient with your gun. That means proficient in shooting accurately, as well as proficient in the mechanics of utilizing the gun; things like loading, changing magazines, turning off the safety, and just handling the gun. Practice shooting while holding a tactical light or using the tactical light you’ve installed on your gun.
Spend some time practicing walking around your home, holding your gun in the ready position, while looking to see if anyone is there. You don’t want your gun pointing at the floor or the ceiling; you want it pointing forward; but don’t extend your arms, as someone can knock it out of your arms as you round a corner or pass a doorway.
Rather, hold it up close to your chest, ready to be pushed forward into a two-handed hold. That gives you the choice of an instinctive shot from that position, if needed, or taking the well considered, aimed shot.
The next thing is to learn your home, inside and out. Can you walk through your home blindfolded, without tripping over the furniture? Walking through it at night is almost as bad. If you can’t find your way around, without being able to see, you’re probably going to make a bunch of noise, letting the intruder know where you are and that you’re looking for them.
As you’re working out how to move around your home in the dark, think about how you can get from one part of the house to another, unobserved. Are there alternate hallways or paths you can use?
Look for and memorize all the blind corners you’re going to have to deal with, as well as what your home looks like, in the dark, looking around those corners. Figure out what path you should take to clear the home, starting from different places.
Finally, make sure your family knows what to do – keep put until you find them. The last thing you need is for them to be wandering around the house bumping into each other when you’ve got a gun in your hands. This isn’t a sitcom and there’s nothing funny about almost blowing a family member’s head off.
When You Hear that Noise
There are a number of different ways of handing things, when you suspect that someone has gotten into your home. Your decision as to what course to take depends on how proficient you are (tactically speaking), how many shooters there are in your home, and how long you expect it to take for the police to arrive.
The law plays a part here, as there are still a few states which require you to abandon your home, rather than defend it. But I’m going to assume you aren’t living in one of those states.
Of course, just hearing a noise in the night doesn’t mean that your home is being invaded. It could very well be just one of the children, getting up to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. For the most part, you’re better off assuming that’s the case, unless you heard something like your front door being kicked open or a window being broken.
At that point, the basic options for action are:
- Calling the police
- Escaping your home
- Clearing your home yourself
One of the big questions is how soon you call the police. This is not a one-time question; you’ll be asking yourself this one over and over again until you are sure your home is secure and your family is safe.
We all hear noises at night, and if you call the police every time you hear one, it won’t take long before responding to that call becomes a lower and lower priority for your local police force. While the police are there to protect you; you need to be sure that there’s a reason to call them before wasting their time.
Clear Your Bedroom
No matter what, your priority has to be ensuring your family’s safety. Clear your bedroom first, including the bathroom and walk-in closet. You should do a first sweep with your eyes, as you’re waking up and getting your bearings. If you don’t see anyone, and you still hear suspicious sounding noise or have some other reason to believe that someone is in your home (like a barking dog), then it’s time to take action.
Before leaving your room, put on a robe, grab your gun and make sure it is properly loaded. Keep your finger on the side of the trigger guard, rather than inside it. That won’t slow your shooting down much and it can prevent an accident. Take a flashlight with you, preferably a small but bright tactical one.
Check The Other Bedrooms
Hopefully your home is built with all the bedrooms close together. If that’s the case, it’s easy to move from one bedroom to another, gathering your children and moving them to the master bedroom. Once they are there, you can keep yourself between them and the intruder, keeping them safe.
But what if your home is one of the newer floor plans, where the master bedroom is on one side of the living area and the bedrooms are on the other side, designed to give the couple more privacy? Then you have a more complex problem, as you have to get your whole family together, in order to be able to protect them.
That means taking your wife with you as you cross the living area to get to your family. You can’t stay between her and the intruder and the kids and the intruder at the same time if the bedrooms are split.
This is where your superior knowledge of your home helps. How can you best get from your bedroom to your kids’ bedrooms, hopefully without being seen? That includes crawling behind a sofa, if that will help.
Get Your Family Together
Your first goal is to get your family together where you have them safe, not to find the intruder. If your wife is a shooter, so much the better. She can watch your back while you watch the front. But don’t just put a gun in her hand and expect her to know what to do without training.
As I mentioned a moment ago, get your family together in one room, where you can protect them. Then you’ll want to stay between them and the invader(s). This might be a good time to call the police, if you haven’t already done so. Better yet, have your wife call the police while you keep guard.
Clear the Rest of the House
You’re going to want to clear the rest of your house, finding the invaders and making it secure. So the question is… should you? That’s a difficult question because clearing a building by yourself is dangerous.
If your wife is a shooter and can go with you, that protects your back. But who protects the children then? Can you clear your home from where you are while keeping yourself between any invader and your children as you move around the home?
The decision about clearing your home depends on safety. How safely can you do it? How well can you protect your family while clearing your home? That’s a decision you’re going to have to make on the fly.
Personally, I’d rather be proactive than to just hide. Proactive might mean getting my family out of the home and then standing guard to wait for the criminals to come out. But it could also mean clearing your home. Just make sure that whatever decision you make is based on your family’s safety and not your desire to be a hero.
At the same time, you want to avoid shooting unless you have to. While the law allows the use of deadly force in self-defense, the courts have to agree that it was self-defense, after the fact. This could very easily become the “your word against their word” type of court case where you can’t win. Better to let them go, just as long as your family is safe.
Slicing the Pie and Other Tactics
The danger in clearing a building, especially by yourself, is that you can’t see in all directions. While you’re looking in one direction, someone could come up behind you or shoot at you from the side. In addition, there’s the danger of blind spots, whether that be corners that you have to go around or doorways you have to look through.
The methodology for dealing with these blind areas is called “slicing the pie” and its name is pretty descriptive of what you’re doing. The idea is to get in a position from which you can see a small sliver of the area beyond the blind corner and inspect it, looking for any intruders.
Once you’re satisfied that there is nobody in that sliver, you move slightly, giving yourself another sliver to examine. Keep doing this, until the entire blind area has been exposed. Then you can enter the area, crossing the doorway quickly, so that you aren’t making a target of yourself.
There will probably be numerous places where you have to slide the pie, including each room you pass, each branch in the hallway, each corner, and stairwells. This is not a fast process, regardless of how easy Hollywood makes it look. You want to stay quiet while you’re doing it so as to avoid telegraphing your position to the invaders.
If you choose to use a tactical light, the proper way to use it is to flash the light briefly, making a “snapshot” in your mind of what was revealed. Then move away quickly, before anyone can take a shot at you.
Any use of a flashlight is going to do more to reveal your position, than what it is showing you, so care must be taken to ensure that you only use the flashlight when necessary and that when you do, you don’t just stand there like a target.
Wrapping the Situation Up
At some point, you’re either going to scare the criminal off or confront them. If you scare them off, you still want to call the police so that you can make a police report. That’s going to be necessary for any insurance claim that you file. If you have a confrontation with them, it might be more serious than that.
If you are forced to shoot, don’t admit that information to the police. Rather, call the police and say, “This is (insert your name and address), I’ve been the victim of a crime.”
If you have a concealed carry permit, say so; then state the nature of the crime that the criminal committed against you. If an ambulance is needed, say so, even if you think you killed the intruder. Don’t tell them any more than that, especially about any action that you have taken. Then get off the phone.
Please note that 9-1-1 operators are trained to keep you on the line and keep asking you questions. That’s dangerous for you from a legal point of view. The line about “anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law” doesn’t have a corollary. You can’t talk yourself out of being charged by the police. Let the evidence and testimony by others do that for you.
Holster your pistol or put it down. You don’t want to be holding a gun when the police arrive. The only exception to that would be if you managed to capture the perpetrator and are holding them at gunpoint.
In that case, have them get on their knees or on the floor. Then inform the police dispatcher that you are holding the suspect at gunpoint. Otherwise, the arriving officer will be forced to assume that you are the criminal.
Finally, if you have concealed carry insurance, call the number on your card. That should put you in touch with a lawyer, who will stay on the phone with you, keeping you from having to talk to the police.
Even if you’re innocent and it was a clear case of self-defense, you don’t want to tell the police until you’ve had time to calm down, think it through and be sure you know what happened. Any comments you make while confused may very well show up in court.
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Well, you identified several options when an intruder is heard in the house, but I don’t agree with your recommended approach for an empty-nester couple. If there is a child(ren) in another bedroom(s) then yes I’d venture out of my bedroom to ensure they are safe, but only after my call out goes unanswered by the child, calling the police, and arming myself. However, as an empty-nester, I would first initiate a call to the local police and let my wife handle the conversation. Secondly, I would arm myself and position both persons in a defendable place in the bedroom. Thirdly, I would then shout out that the police are on the way and that I am armed and prepared to shoot if approached. Fourthly I would wait until I hear the police at the front door before making my way down from the second floor to the first floor to let the police enter. As a general rule, I don’t go looking for trouble, as in, go searching the house looking for a noisy intruder, and prefer to avoid legal entanglements from discharging my firearm by finding an intruder…best fight is no fight!