Let me preference this by stating each state and local jurisdiction have different laws concerning self-defense. Any article cannot give you a complete strategy. You must research the laws of your particular jurisdiction before you create your practical home defense plan.
I live in Tennessee, and my state’s laws allow the assumption that if someone forcibly enters your home, you may reasonably believe they mean to cause you grave bodily harm. This is the basis of the “Castle Doctrine” that allows self-defense in a person’s residence.
As I have stated many times in previous articles, self-defense is a serious matter, and when deadly force is involved, the stakes increase. Deadly force should NEVER be used for the sole purpose of protecting property.
At our home, we focus on prevention. The best strategy allows for making your home unattractive to criminals. We do that by keeping the outside of our home visible by trimming our hedges around our windows, not having a privacy fence that would allow a burglar to work without being seen, and keeping tools, ladders, or other items that could be used to gain entry into our home secured. We do not make it easy for a criminal to enter without being seen. We also have an alarm system with a yard sign and window decals that declare that fact (I would suggest that you keep the yard sign close to your home to prevent its theft by people who want such a sign without buying a system). We have a dog that’s purpose is not to scare a burglar away by its ferociousness, (it’s a puppy), but to alarm us that someone is outside by his playful barking. If you do not have a dog, it is not hard to acquire a large chewed up dog bowl and some toys to set by your back door, giving the impression you have a dog. I heard many times while I worked in the prison that convicts don’t like houses with dogs. Similarly a single woman may choose to buy a pair of very large sized men’s work boots, cover them in mud, and keep them by the back door. Lastly, while we do have hedges underneath our windows, they deter access to those windows by being a variety coated with thorns.
Should an attacker still pick our home, we have a home alarm that is monitored 24 hours a day. This is a relatively inexpensive monthly cost that is more than made up by our extra peace of mind. Our system includes a motion detector that covers the entrance to our bedroom hall. There is no way a criminal can get into the hall that leads to our family’s sleeping quarters without setting off a 90 decibel siren and having the police called.
In our bedroom we keep some additional tools that help us deal with a criminal threat. We keep a tactical flashlight to positively identify threats; this flashlight does double duty as an emergency light source for non-criminal emergencies like fires. We keep the cell phone charger in the bedroom, so that even if the phone line is cut we still have means to communicate. There is also a chemical light stick with a set of house keys attached; this is to throw to the police when they arrive so they don’t have to kick down my door. Lastly we have in the bedroom two pieces of equipment that are solely used for self-defense. We keep a .38 revolver and a pump action shotgun for the unlikely event that a criminal first ignores the signs that we are not an easy house to rob and then the piercing noise of the siren.
Now that we have dealt with our setup and the tools, we need to go over our family plan. Let’s assume someone breaks into our home in the middle of the night. Being asleep, it is not easy to go from not being ready to fight-mode. Because of this stress, it was important for us to go over our plan, agree on it, and practice occasionally. If the alarm goes off, my wife and I would awake startled and scared.
Our plan calls for me to get the shotgun and go outside our bedroom and cover the hall. My wife is to get the revolver, the cell phone, the keys, and the flashlight and cross the hall, BEHIND ME, to the kid’s room. She is to then to get on the phone with the police and describe what is happening. The monitoring system will call to verify if we need help. If they do not get an answer or we do not use a correct code word they will also call the police. It should be stated that my wife will stay on the line the entire time with the police during the entire incident, that phone is our lifeline. The call will be recorded, and will help later to show that our actions were lawful, it also helps get information to the responding police, because the last thing I would want would be to be standing outside a kids room holding a shotgun when the police burst in responding to a home invasion call! I will stand in the hallway, in a barricaded position behind the bedroom doorframe watching for our attacker to attempt to make his way down the hall.
Notice I have not talked about any fancy room clearing tactics, or checking the house, or doing anything that could be considered offensive in nature. While, depending on the circumstances, this might be legal, it is not a tactically sound move. House-clearing is a dangerous and highly specialized skill, and is not safe to try with only one person. If I was to try to move from room to room, an attacker might be able to sneak past me and get between me and my family. However, if I stay immediately in front of my family, there is no way a criminal can get behind me. Since my wife knows when the police arrive, I can safely assume anyone I see is an attacker. From a moral aspect, I also do not want to hurt anyone, I don’t enjoy fighting, and I can only imagine how scared I would be in that situation. If a man wants to break into my home and steal my VCR, he can have it, as far as I am concerned, but if he bypasses the living room and tries to get to our sleeping quarters, I assume they are not there for only for theft, and I would respond with deadly force.
Lastly I should talk about the thought process my wife and I went through when selecting our firearms and the ammunition we chose. We picked a revolver because I believe they are the easiest to use under stress. You can pick one up, and pull the trigger and if it is loaded it will fire. It is easy to visually check to see it’s loaded, and they are uniquely suited to be kept loaded in a bedroom drawer for months at a time because of their simple working mechanism. The revolver we use is a .38spl because that is the caliber of revolver we own. We chose to load this revolver with high quality self defense hollow-point ammunition with a +P (higher pressure) designation.
The shotgun was also an easy choice. I have a modern, new pump action 12 gauge shotgun. We did not add a lot of fancy gadgets to it; it is completely stock, except for the long 33 inch hunting barrel was replaced with an 18.5 inch police barrel. I did this so that it is easier to handle. At the range of our hallway, the length of the barrel will not affect the round in any significant way. I kept the shoulder stock because it keeps the shotgun easy to fire. A pistol grip shotgun looks impressive, but it’s not effective, and later it might be said you own a “killer” shotgun that’s only use is to kill people. The shotgun is loaded with #8 shot, and it holds 5 rounds. We chose #8 shot because I do not want the rounds to be able to pass though the wall of my home and escape into my subdivision. #8 shot at the range my hallway provides will act almost like a slug, as it will not expand very much. I did not choose a shotgun because it keeps me from having to aim, a shotgun at that range is like a big rifle, it will not cut a person in half just by firing it down the hallway, I do not care what any gun magazine, or gun-shop guru says, that’s just not going to happen.
I thought a good bit about loading a less-lethal round as a first shot, however, after talking to the wife, I decided against it, I chose to do this because I have done everything in my power to prevent an attack, if a criminal gets to the point where he forces me to shoot him, I might not have time for a second shot. Also at the ranges of my hallway, most less-lethal rounds may still kill anyway because of the short distance from the barrel. Lastly, I would not want an anti-gun or politically inclined lawyer to say if you had one more rubber bullet that would have stopped him, you fired one, why did you not have two, that must mean you have wanted to kill the poor man. I know that sounds crazy, but courts have allowed burglars to sue (and win) for injuries they received committing felonies.
That’s what we use at our home, and while it does not cover all possible scenarios, we as a family have talked about it, rehearsed it, and even the child knows what to do. It might not work for you, but if you take our plan as a guide and apply our thinking processes, I am sure you can create a plan that works for you.