Top 10 tips for home defense

It’s the one scenario folks fear most: A crash in the middle of the night followed by heavy footsteps coming toward you.

Someone is in your home.

Fortunately, unlike on television, most residential burglaries occur during the day when the homeowner is away. Burglars don’t want to run into you either. The typical daytime burglar boots a back door and then quickly ransacks the home looking for prescription pills, cash and guns. They’re in and out in minutes.

For the average homeowner, odds are also pretty low that they’ll ever have to face a nighttime “home invasion” — when a crew of heavily armed thugs bursts into the home.

Most home invasions are actually the result of a “business dispute.” The parties involved are often in the type of business that doesn’t resolve problems in court. They handle things the old fashioned way. Still, nighttime burglaries and home invasions do occur, even to good folks. so it’s best to be prepared.

Here are my Top 10 tips for home defense:

1. Have a plan: If someone breaks into our home, my wife knows to immediately call 911. She will tell the dispatcher that there’s an “armed intruder” in our home, while I focus on the bad guys. She will describe me to the dispatcher, including what I’m wearing. She will tell them that I am armed, so responding officers know there’s one good guy with a gun in the home. Once the basic info has been relayed, she will yell “the police are on their way.” Our plan calls for her to remain in the bedroom — armed, of course, and with our dog — until the situation is safe. Every family should prepare some type of action plan, which unfortunately becomes far more complicated if there are children in the home. At the very least, have a discussion with your loved ones about what to do.

2. Use aggression, speed and violence of action: Make no mistake, a home invasion can call for deadly force. In my humble opinion, if deadly force is merited, the homeowner’s response should be swift, lethal and extremely aggressive. Even if outnumbered, speed and extreme violence-of-action will often carry the day. Bad guys are typical bullies. They are not prepared for an overwhelming violent response. This is not a time for passiveness or timidity. This is a time to unleash hell. Shoot the bad guys. Put them down, and make sure they stay down. Win at all costs. Your family’s lives are at stake. I’m not trying to imply that a homeowner’s actions should be foolhardy or reckless. If deadly force is needed to protect your life and the lives of your family, it should be overwhelming until the threat is destroyed. Granted, this is not a mindset that’s easy for everyone to adopt. It’s something that needs to be learned. This is why realistic firearms training — gunfighting — is so important.

3. Use a carbine: Handguns are great as a last resort, but for most armed professionals, they’re merely something used to fight their way to a long gun. Compared to a rifle round or a dose of buckshot, handguns are anemic. Long guns are much better suited for serious defensive work. While many prefer shotguns for home defense — and they’re still a great choice — personally, I prefer carbines. A modern carbine is easier to shoot, holds much more ammunition and offers less recoil. The much-ballyhooed “ka-chunk” of a pump-action shotgun going into battery, which is supposed to cause any burglar to flee, is being replaced by the click of a carbine’s safety in homes across the country. My home defense carbine, an AK, is simple. It has a white light and a red-dot that self-adjusts for low light. That’s it.

4. Realize you have no cover: Picture your home with no furniture or interior walls. In terms of cover, that’s what you’ve got — nothing more than a big empty box. There’s nothing in your home that will stop a bullet. Sofas, chairs, even most appliances only offer concealment, not cover. This is why your response must be aggressive and violent. If you plan a Hollywood-style exchange of gunfire with armed intruders, you’re going to be hit. There’s nothing stopping them from shooting through walls and furniture. Instead, to win the fight, the bad guys must be overwhelmed by massive firepower delivered aggressively.

5. Use a weapon-mounted light, sparingly: While there are some who will disagree, I’m a big proponent of weapon-mounted lights — as long as they’re used correctly. They help distinguish between an attacker and a family member. Proper use of a light requires training and, unfortunately, not too many trainers offer classes in low-light shooting.  Basically, a tactical light should be “pulsed.” It should not be left on. Each time the light is pulsed the shooter should move. The light should offer at least 120 lumens, which is enough to disorient an attacker and kill their night vision.  Handheld lights do offer some flexibility. A brief pulse at a white ceiling is more than enough to illuminate a room so it can be cleared. Whatever type is used, white light should be used sparingly. After all, you’re familiar with the interior layout of your home. The bad guys are not. Use this to your advantage.

6. Practice moving to your children: After a crash and heavy footsteps, most folks can’t be faulted for arming themselves, calling 911, locking the bedroom door and then hunkering down until police arrive. This changes drastically if there are children in the home. Most parents are going to make sure their children are safe, of course, but if there are bad guys in the home, getting from your bedroom to your children’s can be perilous. Simple room clearing techniques, such as “slicing the pie,” can get you there safer, but nothing beats pre-planning. Walk the route to your children’s bedroom several times. Pay attention to fatal funnels — doorways and hallways — where you don’t want to be for long. Note the blind spots where a bad guy could hide. Is there a mirror or window that reflects a view of these blind spots? Can the danger areas be negated by moving a piece of furniture?

7. Don’t drop your guard, ever: The mere sight of the business end of an AR or a 12-gauge may cause the bad guys to throw up their hands and beg for mercy. What do you do then? They’ve quit the fight. Personally, I’ve garnered enough bad karma over the years to use deadly force in this type of situation, but until police arrive, they’re still a very real threat. Remember, an AR or shotgun also makes a tremendous impact weapon. A butt-stroke or muzzle-punch will drop most bad guys to the ground. Remember: an unconscious bad guy is a cooperative bad guy. Why take chances?

8. Have a loaded weapon ready: If you have to unlock your gun safe, load a magazine, insert the magazine, lock and load all before you’re ready to defend yourself, in essence, you’re unarmed. Nowadays there are quick-access gun safes for everything from handguns to ARs — even wall-mounted versions. Some operate through biometrics — requiring only a thumbprint. Others have key pads or keys. All offer quick access during an emergency situation, yet they have enough security to keep a loaded firearm out of the hands of an unauthorized user. Most are priced under $200. Note: anyone who’s willing to spend $1,000 on a rifle, $400 on an optic, $200 on a light and $60 on a sling can afford a quick-access safe.

9. Don’t alter anything: After the last piece of brass has stopped rolling and the bad guy has joined the choir eternal, you have just created a crime scene. Legally, it cannot be altered in any way. Over the years, I’ve heard far too many stupid tales from supposed experts who advocate arming an unarmed bad guy with a kitchen knife of ball bat. This is a great way to turn a lawful shoot into a long stretch behind the wire. After a defensive shooting, make sure your family is safe. Make sure the bad guys aren’t, and leave the crime scene alone. Call 911 if you haven’t already, and then call your attorney.

10. Don’t invite trouble into your home: Bad guys can arrive at any time of day. That guy who just knocked on your front door could be a deliveryman, a census taker, a lost motorist or a psychopath hellbent on murder. If you don’t know them, assume the latter. If I don’t know who’s knocking at my front door, I’ll bootleg a pistol. It’s a simple technique. The pistol is carried behind by back, in my right hand, muzzle pointed down, pressed against my right cheek. My left foot is forward, and I’m slightly turned to the right. It’s nearly impossible for the person to see that I’m armed, and a gun in the hand always beats a gun in the holster.

This list is far from comprehensive. What are your home defense tips?

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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