If you ask gun owners why they purchase firearms, most indicate for home defense. This is a very good reason to own a firearm, but it’s far from comprehensive protection in that scenario. Having a gun in your possession is the first and very important step for surviving violent confrontation. However, just like owning a piano doesn’t make us a concert pianist, owning a firearm doesn’t make us proficient in its use.
There is no shortage of instructors standing by to take your money and train you on the ins and outs of home defense. Some are very good instructors with worthy input, but many are not. Our advice is to gain an understanding of sound home defense principles prior to seeking out expensive instruction. We’ll lay out some key home invasion survival concepts to help you on your journey.
1 HAVE A PLAN
No amount of expensive gear and piles of guns and ammo can ever overcome poor planning. A tricked-out AR-15, night vision equipment and lots of carbine instruction will never help as much as prior planning and sound decision making. Conversely, an individual with a solid plan that’s been rehearsed by all family members doesn’t need much equipment to repel an armed invader.
Any good plan starts with a clearly defined goal or mission. Should someone break into my house, my immediate goal is not to confront the invader. My highest priority is to secure my daughter and bring her to my wife who will likely be talking to the police. If we take some time in advance to think about what’s most important in our home, we will likely come to similar conclusions. If we have children, we need to round them up and put them where they can be protected.
A well-rehearsed plan is essential to our success because it allows us to remain proactive and confident in what is likely a terrifying event. In the absence of a plan, homeowners are apt to make all the wrong moves, like turning on lights and calling out, “Who’s there?” This is what people do when they’re scared and not thinking straight. They want to do something, so they make mistakes that broadcast their location to an unknown threat when they should be arming themselves and moving quickly to accomplish the preplanned goals.
After we have our home defense goals clearly defined, we formulate how to accomplish those goals. All goals and plans should be simple, like one-sentence simple. In our house the goals are to secure our daughter and call the police. That’s it. Executing a complicated plan is almost impossible when the threats we face can vary substantially.
If our highest priority is to secure our children, we will likely have to move to their location. Expecting children to be alert to danger and prepared to function in the face of overwhelming fear is risky and likely to fail. In most cases, the wise choice is for one or both parents to move to the children.
We see a lot of advice and instruction on how to move through our home while defending it. The worst mistake to make is to think that one or two people can effectively clear a home. They can’t. Unless the home is tiny, one or two people cannot maintain visual contact. Even if we thoroughly search a room, once we leave that room a threat can move in behind us and occupy it. While one or two people can search a home, it is extremely difficult and time consuming for them to secure a home.
Moving from your room to your child’s needs to be fast and as secure as possible. Identify potential problem areas when formulating a home defense plan. In my house, the stairs are between my room and my daughter’s room. The stairs pose a problem because they link the first and second floors, so it’s probable any threat will eventually materialize there. When I execute my plan, I’ll quickly pass by the stairs and give them a quick peek, muzzle first, on my way to my daughter. I’m not stopping for a detailed search of any room between hers and mine, but should I see anything on the stairs I need to be ready to engage.
I try to keep all the doors closed in the hallway to my daughter’s room to help make my passage as secure as possible. Closed doors give me concealment from any threat that might be in the room. An open door is a quick and easy target indicator that someone is inside the room. However, even if I find an open door I’m not stopping to investigate. The potential location of the threat is secondary until my daughter is safe.
Some advocate pieing corners as we work our way through our home. This is good advice but it should be done quickly or else we risk exposing our children to the threat for a longer period of time. The longer it takes us to get to our children, the more time our adversary has to get there as well. Time is not your friend in a home invasion, so move fast to protect your kids. Keep doors closed so you don’t get sucked into looking in every room on your way to your children and don’t take forever to peek around corners.
3 NOISE AND LIGHT DISCIPLINE
Assuming the potential home invasion occurs at night (this being the most difficult scenario to defend against), we should be prepared to execute our defense plan in the dark. As much as we might have the temptation to turn on all the lights in the house when we get scared, we must not do this.
Turning on the lights in our house does nothing to protect us and only broadcasts our location to our adversary. We might think a well-lit room is worth the risk. It is not. Instead, it makes it easier for us to be seen. While we don’t need a lot of gear for successful home defense, we do need a flashlight, preferably one mounted to our weapon.
A weapon-mounted light allows us to retain the offensive regarding light. We can see what and when we want without letting everyone in the house know where we’re at by turning on a light. We should only use our light to identify potential targets, meaning that it will only be on for a second or two at a time. Do not use a light for navigation through your home. Leaving a weapon-mounted light on for periods longer than a second or two telegraphs our location while letting any threat remain hidden in the dark. This is worse than turning on every light in the house. Also, just because the light is mounted on your firearm doesn’t mean we have to point our gun at something to light it up. Even when pointed at the ground, a good light gives off enough illumination for administrative work.
When we keep light and noise to a minimum, our knowledge of our floor plan becomes a weapon that we can use to our advantage. Our attacker is unfamiliar with our home and will need a light source to navigate or he runs the risk of making noise as he bumps his way through the house. He’ll use a flashlight, turn on a room light or make noise. Any of those actions favor us because it tells us where he is.
Resist the urge to call out to your attacker. It not only lets him know where you are, it also tells him you’re scared. The less you talk the more dangerous you’ll be. When faced with the unthinkable, like a home invasion, we’ll likely experience the overwhelming desire to chalk it all up to a terrible misunderstanding that can be talked out. After all, that is how normal, rational people like us work out our problems. Understand ahead of time that anyone that forcibly enters your home is not normal or rational and there is absolutely no good reason for him to do so. Conversation with such a person is best minimized and likely a waste of time.
4 CHOKE POINTS
Most every home has at least one choke point that can be used for tactical advantage. Choke points occur when we have a small area that must be traversed to move from one area to another. In the great outdoors, choke points consist of canyons, bridges and other constricting terrain that channel movement down to a small point. The same principle applies in our homes. Hallways, stairwells and select doorways all represent choke points that force a person to use them if they want to move from one part of the house to another.
Choke points represent a homeowner’s best defense against an unknown attacker. Once we have our family secured, we can orient our gun on a choke point and wait for our adversary to enter it.
Hallways and stairwells are fantastic because they also limit movement to one axis and, if our firearm is oriented along the same axis, give us the greatest possibility of hitting our target should we be forced to fire. Not only do choke points limit our adversary’s ability to move, they give us the most time to effectively engage. To get away, they have to make it to the end of the hallway or the bottom of the stairwell. When used properly, choke points place the odds of a successful confrontation in our favor and they should be used as often as possible.
While it’s important to have clearly defined home defense goals and a well-rehearsed plan, we must also remember that our attacker has a say in what he does and might not cooperate with our awesome plan. In order to prepare for the unexpected, we’re better off if we adhere to basic principles when dealing with the unexpected.
We should limit our movement as much as possible. If we’re up against one attacker, we can move on them and likely retain the advantage. If we’re up against two or more (and they’re smart enough to spread out once in our home), we are at a tremendous disadvantage and can’t afford to go poking around in the dark. The risk of getting so focused on one attacker that we don’t see the others is great. Should we get attacked, we’ll have no idea of what exactly we’re up against, so always assume multiple invaders. Thugs rarely have the courage to operate alone, so keeping our muzzle pointed at a choke point once our family is secure is the best approach.
Criminals can attack any time. The best defense is one with layers that buy us time and allow us the ability to maneuver. Alarm systems make noise and can alert us to an attack but don’t do much to slow one down. Old school approaches are effective and often overlooked.
One of the cheapest and best ways to protect our family is to reinforce the doorframes on our home. A quick online search of “reinforced doorframe” yields many companies that make inexpensive products that work on your existing doors. The most likely scenario we’ll face in a home invasion starts when some turd kicks our door open: The alarm might start squealing, but said turd is still in your house causing you grief. Reinforce the doorframe and they’ll be outside beating on the door, giving you plenty of time to circle the wagons and get armed. 3M has a bunch of window reinforcement solutions that are a great idea for ground-level windows.
Home defense is serious business, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Start by determining what, other than you, is worth protecting at the possible expense of someone’s life. Once we have our goals set, develop as simple a plan as possible to meet those goals. Keep it simple, don’t rely on lots of expensive or complicated gear, and have some depth to your defense. Do these things and you and your family will come through a crisis just fine.