Home Defense, part 3

In the conclusion to the home defense series, I want to take a very brief look at the different tactical options that are available during a home invasion. In part 1, non-lethal and common sense ideas for home security were discussed, including trimming hedges, getting an alarm, and cutting back trees. Part 2 looked at the various weapons available to a homeowner, from less-lethal items such as pepper spray, all the way up to shotguns and rifles (sorry, no crossbows – ed.). Today, the previous two entries come together in the actual tactical situation of a home invasion.

Have a plan
This is the most important piece of advice regarding a potential intrusion into your home. You should have a plan, and all your family should know the plan and know their role. It should be noted that “having a plan” applies to a lot more than just home invasions, you should have a fire emergency plan, or if you live in an area with natural disasters, a plan for that as well.

Every person who reads this blog has a different living situation. Some of you are single. Some of you are married, some of you have kids. Your plan will probably not be the same as mine since our situations are different. What I’m doing is presenting my plan, as well as some guidelines and other thoughts.

Your most effective weapon
Isn’t a 12 gauge, it’s not an M4, it’s not a Ruger GP100. It’s your mind. While you can never be truly ready for a home invasion, you can certainly be more prepared than most. Unfortunately, to do so involves accepting an uncomfortable fact, which my wife rather eloquently stated yesterday: Just because you feel safe, doesn’t mean that you are safe. I knew I married her for a reason.

There exists what I believe to be an erroneous belief that in a moment of crisis, you will “know what to do” – I don’t buy that for a minute. In a moment of crisis, you brain will default to whatever training you’ve hardwired into it.

The situation
It’s 2am, and your home alarm system goes off. You ascertain that the alarm was triggered by the glassbreak sensor on the glass door. The alarm panel indicates that the door is now off it’s track. You silence the alarm (not cancel) so you can hear, and you hear someone banging around inside your house.

This is one of the reasons that I strongly recommend home alarm systems, as it makes it easy to identify if there is a legitimate intruder in your house. Additionally, if you’re unable to call 911 yourself, the alarm company will contact the police for you. However, if at all possible, I recommend that you call 911 personally. Generally speaking, the police are more likely to respond with rapidity if there is a real person saying “there’s someone in my house” than if Brinks calls and reports an alarm.

The plan
For me, the plan is exceedingly simple. Mrs. Ahab calls 911 and removes herself from the line of fire; our bedroom is set up in such a way that I can achieve semi-concealment and a stable firing platform with a clean line of sight at our door. The bedroom door is the “go-line”, if an intruder crosses that line they’re met with the commencement of hostilities on my part. Mrs. Ahab’s job is stay on the phone with the 911 operator until the police are outside our door.

Part of this is where mindset comes into play. We have made the decision that nothing in house is worth dying, or killing, for. We have no children, so there are no other people in the house whose safety we’re responsible. So, our mindset is “TVs, phones, and appliances can be replaced. Lives can’t.” The correlation to that is that we have made the decision before the fact that no one crosses the “line in the sand”. Again, it’s important to make this decision, and revisit it on a regular basis. In a crisis, your brain is going to go to “default mode”, and your rules of engagement must be hardwired in.

In a perfect situation, the alarm scares off the goblin, the police show up in a timely fashion, and then I fix my broken door. I am not willing to bet my life on a perfect situation.

  • Note – if you don’t have an alarm system, the above applies if you can adequately ascertain that there is in fact an intruder. If you have to leave your bedroom to investigate (a risky proposition) the advice in the following section applies, from a tactical standpoint. If you must leave to investigate a noise, once the source of the noise is determined, get back to your safe area. Don’t go badguy hunting, get back to the safe room and call 911. Or clean up the glass and scold the cats.

Going mobile
I know what you’re thinking – it’s probably “I have children”. The unfortunate reality of this is that it requires you to leave the relative safety of your bedroom, and go mobile. Unfortunately, this is where things can go all squirrelly. Obviously, leaving your room changes your tactical position from that of a static defender to a more mobile operator. Ask anyone who has ever had to clear a house, or a boat, or any other kind of fixed structure. It is positively nerve wracking.

Your children must be aware of what to do if the alarm goes off. Our plan is for the children to remain in their rooms, doors locked, until I come and get them. Have a password set up so that your kids will know it’s you on the other side of the door. Under no circumstances should they open that door to anyone without the password.

Something that a lot of people don’t think about in this area is tool selection, say you’ve selected a 12 gauge shotgun as your home defense weapon, but you have a small child that needs to be carried back to your safe room. You can’t really carry a small child and keep your two handed weapon ready. If your children are all ambulatory, take the shotgun when you retrieve them. If not, leave the shotgun with your wife in the safe room and take a handgun.

If you’ve gone mobile, it’s also important that whomever is on the phone with 911 inform the operator that you’re mobile. Wouldn’t want to be swapping lead with cops. Similarly, once you’re back, inform the 911 operator that you’re back.

Let there be light
I like flashlights. I keep one by my bed, “just in case”. In case the power goes out, in case of a lot of things, a flashlight is handy. People will argue back and forth for days, months, years, about whether or not you should have a flashlight if you go mobile. I am decidedly “pro-flashlight”. If your home defense weapon is a two hander, such as a shotgun or a rifle, it makes sense to have the light mounted on that weapon. If your weapon is a pistol, I am conflicted about whether or not a weapon mounted light offers any advantages.

Here is one personal tidbit about light. Don’t go around turning on lights . In the middle of the night, your eyes are as adjusted to see in the dark as they’re going to be. You know the layout of your house better than any intruder, and that gives you a small advantage. Plus, if you’re carrying a flashlight, turning on lights defeats your ability to use your flashlight to blind/dazzle an intruder.

The main reason why I am “pro-flashlight” is target identification. Your ability to positively identify your target is extremely important, and I can’t stress positive target identification enough. Don’t shoot unless you’re sure of the target. Don’t shoot unless you’re sure of the target.

Worst case scenario
The worst case scenario in any home invasion is one where you have to pull the trigger. If you’ve set everything else up correctly, it means that somewhere one (or more) of your precautions has broken down, and now violence is your only option.

This is the primary situation where you mindset is most important. You have to made the decision to pull the trigger well beforehand. It’s not a cold-blooded decision, it’s not a decision to kill; it’s a decision that you will take whatever force is necessary to defend your life and the life of your family. You absolutely cannot decide what you will kill or die for in the heat of the moment – it must be made before the fact and constantly revisited, to the point where it truly is hardwired.

I am aware that the above statement could be misconstrued to sound rather bloodthirsty, however it’s nothing of the sort. I have personally witnessed people freeze up at the moment of critical action, simply because their mind had no default setting upon which to operate. They hadn’t made the decision before the fact, and were unprepared when the moment arrived. Again, it’s not a bloodthirsty sentiment. It’s a simple fact – you must be mentally prepared to take action.

Have a plan – if you have children, make sure they know the plan. There is no way I could address every tactical situation that could unfold during a home invasion; and I am aware that I have painted with a very broad brush.

What I cannot emphasize enough is that you must be mentally prepared. I am fully aware that subject of mental preparedness could encompass several dozen articles all by itself; nevermind the fact that each individual prepares themselves mentally in a completely different way. The ultimate point of this is that the old saying of “you fight like you train” is completely true. In the event of a crisis, your brain defaults to whatever training you have assimilated. Just as you train your ability with a firearm, you must train your mind for the moment of action.