Home Defense: A Comparative Discussion

April 4, 2017

 

Our home is our castle, and we all feel safe at home. So if this sacred place is intruded upon, it does more than break and enter. It shatters the perception of safety within our castle, and leaves uncertainty in its place. All of us have, at times found ourselves considering how we might confront an intruder. How might we address the bump in the night, if at all?

In this article we will discuss some different home protection strategies and compare the pros/cons of each.

 

 

My first suggestion to any homeowner who finds themselves startled awake by the sound of an intruder in the home would be to call 911. The first-responders who arrive to address your emergency are professionals trained to deal with criminals, and they have the best odds for a favorable resolution to your situation. And realistically speaking, we want the creep arrested so they can pay for their crime.

 

However this safest of strategies still leaves you in a precarious position.  Calling 911 doesn’t unlock the front door for the police. So you may have to consider leaving the safety of your bedroom to let the cops in, thus potentially crossing paths with the intruder. Also, calling 911 does nothing to stop the creep from coming into your room and doing God knows what. The former can be addressed by having a hidden key outside your home. You can relay the keys position to the 911 operator, thus granting access to the police who arrive. The latter however, may require more consideration.

 

 

So we start with securing the bedroom. Installing a regular door handle with a lock on the inside should provide enough protection to stop any burglar from entering the room. When you are awakened; simply grab the phone, call 911, close the door and lock the handle. If the perp has more sinister intentions, he will have to kick the door in. This will give you time to shout, “I have a gun and I am on the phone with the police!!” Hopefully this will deter the perp from advancing and they will leave to avoid both gunfire and the police.

 

Odds are that this will be the end of your ordeal. However if the perp DOES continue to advance you will be happy you have some options. But before we talk about specific weapons and tactics, I want to discuss some underlying principles behind reacting to these situations.

 

  • Training: Whatever method you decide to go with, practice it often. In the moments during an actual break-in you will likely be startled awake and groggy. You will be in a low light environment and you will have an adrenaline surge. All of these will affect your ability to think through a response. All research I have done on this suggests that you will instinctively resort to your training, so having actually practiced will be crucial to your ability to respond to an intruder. You don’t want the first time you employ your defensive ideas to be while you are half awake in the dark while under an adrenalin load. Watch this video

  • Deterrence:  We have all heard the adage: “Best block, no be there…” And I believe this is by far the best approach to any criminal situation. If there are ways to make a potential burglar decide NOT to choose your home for invasion, this is the best option. When talking about deterrence, the terms “Soft Target and “Hard Target” are often used. These terms refer to the difficulty and the incentive your property offers potential criminals.

    • A home with dark places to hide outside, valuables visible through windows from the street and no security system is a soft target as it offers easier opportunity for obvious rewards with little chance of failure or capture.

    • A home with active motion lighting, an alarm sign in the yard, a dog and no valuables visible through windows offers significantly less incentive and greater chances of failure or capture and is therefore a harder target.

  • Outcome: This aspect involves the effects and ramifications, on you and those both directly/indirectly involved, both immediately and on the near future.

 

The best defensive strategy would be easy to practice, provide optimal deterrence and have the most favorable outcome for all involved. With this in mind I recommend the plan below for your home protection. To look further into exactly WHY I think this is the best plan, I go into exquisite detail following the plan I recommend. So look it all over, think it through and come to your own conclusions. In the end it is your home and you should make the decision on how to protect it.

 

As for me and my family, here it is:

 

A combination of deterrence through evaluation of your own home, enacting measures to "harden" vulnerable areas and a plan to protect in place using a 12 gauge pump shotgun loaded with number 8 bird shot rounds for defense.

This combination plan offers:

  • General deterrence to help avoid the crime altogether and a better understanding of your homes weaknesses.

  • A reaction plan that protects your family from an intruder, protects your neighbors from your potential gunfire, lets the police deal with the intruder and allows you to defend yourself with force if needed.

  • Offers the best possible outcomes:

    • Crime didn’t happen

    • Intruder left when he heard you yell and chamber a shotgun round

    • Police arrested the intruder

    • Intruder attacked your family in your safe room, they were shot and stopped, but they lived to be prosecuted

    • Crazed intruder attacked your family in the safe room, was shot several times, was killed in self-defense and your actions were justified in the eyes of the law

 

Here is the plan in detail:

  • Evaluate for vulnerabilities and deal with the soft spots. Take walk after dark and observe your home from the street. Go “case” your house and your neighbor’s houses looking for visible things of value and protection.

    1. Can you see the nice flat screen in the living room? Put up blinds or curtains and close them at night.

    2. Is there adequate security lighting or is the yard and driveway dark. How about a Dog, or a security system sign? Got on Amazon and fix these soft spots.

    3. Are their valuable tools visible in the open garage?  Close the garage door every time.

  • Seeing things form the burglar’s point of view will show you a lot about what kind of target your home is.  From this assessment you can begin to address the “Soft” areas of your home and make your home a “Hardened” target, thus passively avoiding the crime altogether. This is by far the best outcome. Here are some links to items that will go a long way to making a thief choose another target:

    1. Sunforce 82080 80-LED Solar Motion Light:

    2. First Alert Yard Sign:

    3. Barking Dog door alarm:

    4. Alarms systems: It should be noted that alarm systems are a great addition to any home protection plan. However the use of an audible siren is questionable. Instead, I recommend the alarm company call your home to confirm your safety, use a code word in case you need help but can’t say so, and are able to call police for you if needed.

  • Create a “Protect in place” plan: Gathering you and your loved ones in a “Safe Room” in the home, calling the police, defending yourself if needed and waiting for help to arrive.

    1. Plan ahead using a whistle, alarm or word to initiate the plan.

    2. Practice in daytime, at night in the dark and event use surprise drills at night to be sure your loved ones react in a safe manner if the time ever comes.

      1. Older kids should help gather younger kids and everyone should gather in the designated safe room.

      2. This safe room should have a phone and charger (even old cellphones with no plan can still call 911), a flashlight/extra batteries, a first aid kit, candy for little children (to calm them and keep them quiet), written address of your home and specific direction through the house to your safe room so the police know where you are.

      3. Hide a front door key in something like this so the police can let themselves in. Keep a note about what and where it is hidden key is so you can tell the 911 dispatcher:

      4. The bedroom door should also lock.

        1. Get a locking handle like this, they are pretty easy to install:

        2. Another option is a simple door guard like this.

    3. Once everyone in safe in place, remain quiet and listen. This lets you know what is happening in another part of the house and you will hear the police arrive. Meanwhile, let the dog go and let him/her bark. This may scare off the intruder and you will know if the intruder moves toward your location.

    4. When the police arrive they will loudly announce their presence and clear the house as a team. As they approach your location, grab the dog if you can and loudly tell them you are the homeowner and you are all hiding in the safe room.

    5. If you are armed tell them so, tell the 911 dispatcher and follow their directions. (more on this later)

    6. “Protect in place” used as your only plan does little to deter a criminal from breaking in, however it does a lot to protect your loved ones and yourself. It allows professional law enforcement to clear the house and has the second best outcome in that any creep in the house is dealt with by law enforcement, will likely be arrested, your family is minimally affected emotionally and your neighbors remained uninvolved. The only better outcome is for the crime not to happen. Here is a great article that goes into more detail about a "Protect in Place" plan.

 

  • Go buy a decent shotgun and number 8 birdshot rounds. Take it to the range and shoot it so you get a feel for it, then take it home to clean it.

    1. A 12ga shotgun can be purchased at any retailer who sells firearms, and their cost starts at around $200 and goes up from there. For your purposes a low cost firearm would suit your needs just fine.

      1. *** Secure the weapon in your safe room*** You will have time to get the weapon out once your family is safe in the safe room with the door locked.

        1. Ask for a trigger lock. This will keep anyone from accidentally shooting the gun and they usually come free when you buy a gun. Hide the key in the safe room but don’t tell the kids.

        2. Buy a case and put a padlock on it. This is an even better option, hide the key in the safe room but don’t tell the kids.

        3. Buy a gun safe big enough for your shotgun. This is the most expensive but the best option because no one can potentially steak your gun and you can lock up other valuables. (I personally have a gun safe like this)

      2. Be sure the manual provided shows disassembly of the weapon, and ask the sales rep how to disassemble, clean and reassemble the weapon. Also pick up a cleaning kit with lubrication oil, and I recommend a “bore snake” as part of your cleaning kit. Here is how to clean a shotgun with a bore snake.

    2. Click this link to see Example rounds.

    3. One of the few gun ranges in the Indianapolis metro area who allows shotguns with the rounds I recommend for home protection: Tim’s Shooting Academy, (317) 399-7918.

  • Put it all together. Place your deterrence items, hide your front door key, prepare your safe room, practice your “Protect in place” plan and get familiar with your new weapon. That way, when you are startled awake at 2am, rushed with adrenaline and someone is in the house… you are safe, the intruder is worried and the cops are on their way.

 

 

Want more info?

Wondering just what the heck I was thinking when I came up with the recommendation?

OK!

 

Let’s discuss in detail some defensive tools and tactics I used to decide how I would protect my home. These can help you decided how you can best protect your home too.

  • General Deterrence: Taking actions that make your home a harder target.

    1. Can be done proactively at low cost. Helps to show where you are vulnerable so you can address these vulnerabilities.

    2. Evaluate: I encourage you to take walk after dark and observe your home from the street. Go “case” your house and your neighbor’s houses looking for visible things of value and protection.

      1. Can you see the nice flat screen in the living room?

      2. Is there adequate security lighting or is the yard and driveway dark. How about a Dog, or a security system sign?

      3. Are their valuable tools visible in the open garage?

    3. Seeing things form the burglar’s point of view will show you a lot about what kind of target your home is.  From this assessment you can begin to address the “Soft” areas of your home and make your home a “Hardened” target, thus passively avoiding the crime altogether. This is by far the best outcome. Here are some links to items that will go a long way to making a thief choose another target:

      1. Sunforce 82080 80-LED Solar Motion Light:

      2. First Alert Yard Sign:

      3. Barking Dog door alarm:

      4. Alarms systems: It should be noted that alarm systems are a great addition to any home protection plan. However the use of an audible siren is questionable. While it startles the intruder and may result in their running away, the people inside are also startled and have no way of knowing if the intruder is gone. In any circumstance using a loud siren alarm, the homeowner is left deaf to any other sounds and is encouraged to go shut off the alarm. As the control pad is likely placed close to an entrance point, going to shut the siren off likely means confronting an intruder if they are still present. With this in mind, I do recommend an alarm system, but I recommend against an audible alarm siren. I recommend the alarm company call your home to confirm your safety, use a code word in case you need help but can’t say so, and are able to call police for you if needed.

 

  • Protect in place: Gathering you and your loved ones in a “Safe Room” in the home, calling the police and waiting for help to arrive.

    1. Plan ahead using a whistle, alarm or word to initiate the plan.

    2. Practice in daytime, at night in the dark and event use surprise drills at night to be sure your loved ones react in a safe manner if the time ever comes.

    3. Older kids should help gather younger kids and everyone should gather in the designated safe room. This safe room should have a phone and charger (even old cellphones with no plan can call 911), a flashlight/extra batteries, a first aid kit, candy for little children (to calm them and keep them quiet), written address of your home and specific direction through the house to your safe room so the police know where you are.

      1. The bedroom door should also lock.

        1. Get a locking handle like this, they are pretty easy to install:

        2. Another option is a simple door guard:

    4. Once everyone in safe in place, remain quiet and listen. This lets you know what is happening in another part of the house and you will hear the police arrive. Meanwhile, let the dog go and let him/her bark. This may scare off the intruder and you will know if the intruder moves toward your location.

    5. When the police arrive they will loudly announce their presence and clear the house as a team. As they approach your location, grab the dog if you can and loudly tell them you are the homeowner and you are all hiding in the safe room.

    6. If you are armed tell them so, tell the 911 dispatcher and follow their directions. (more on this later)

    7. Protect in place” used as your only plan does little to deter a criminal from breaking in, however it does a lot to protect your loved ones and yourself. It allows professional law enforcement to clear the house and has the second best outcome in that any creep in the house is dealt with by law enforcement, will likely be arrested, your family is minimally affected emotionally and your neighbors remained un-involved. The only better outcome is for the crime not to happen.

 

  • Clearing the house yourself: This is the least recommended option, but some homeowners will choose this plan so I feel it should be discussed. This plan should be practiced often, in daylight and in the dark, using the weapon you choose (Unloaded of course)The weapon platform selected for room clearing should balance dexterity, stopping power and proper penetration.

    1. Baseball bat: A bat can be used with one hand, allowing the other to hold a flashlight and open doors.

      1. A bat has some stopping power at the right distance, but is limited by the restricted space within your home. A bat is more of a medium distance weapon and is less effective if you are rushed by the assailant, or if they have a gun.

      2. A bat will not penetrate walls, and is therefore safer than other firearm options.

      3. A bat is somewhat threatening at medium range, thus giving it a low deterrence level. Overall its limited usability in close quarters makes this option less desirable.

    2. Mace: Mace is easily used with one hand, allowing the other to hold a flashlight and open doors.

      1. Mace has limited stopping power based on the type and container size, but bear in mind it will also affect you to a lesser degree. So you will effectively mace the area, with a focus on the bad guy. Once deployed it is likely you will also have trouble breathing and your vision may be affected, thus leaving you less defended.

      2. Mace will not penetrate walls but the mist may drift some and could affect others (including children).

      3. The threat of mace is only felt in close proximity, but its use can be completely disorienting. This combination makes it a low to medium deterrent. Overall I see mace as only slightly better than a bat.

    3. Shotgun: The longer profile will be more difficult to use in close quarters, so practice with this platform in even more important. A shotgun requires the use of two hands, meaning you will either sacrifice aim or trigger pull when opening doors. You will also have no hand to hold a flashlight. That being said, proper preparation of your weapon can eliminate the need to hold a flashlight, and makes lighting even more effective.

      1. A flashlight mounted on the shotgun illuminates the area of aim, and can add other features like a strobe effect. A strobe effect can almost completely blind and disorient an intruder while leaving your senses intact, all the while keeping the intruder at gunpoint. A strobe option flashlight creates an excellent deterrent.

      2. Another deterrent is the loud sound of a round being chambered into the shotgun. Imagine an intruder hearing a voice say, “Get OUT of my HOUSE [rac-RACK]!!” The sound of a shotgun being chambered is universal and should send any crook running for their life, thus adding to the deterrent factor of the shotgun.

      3. Standard number 4 shotgun rounds will go through the wall into the next room if you miss, but will not penetrate the outer walls of your house easily. This keeps your neighbors safe from your shootout, but could hurt someone in the next room. To keep the kids safe in the next room, I recommend using number 8 bird shot rounds. These are among the lightest shotgun rounds but they still pack a punch. They will definitely damage the intruder but have less chance of killing them, and when they make it through the wall their energy is significantly less than any other rounds. Check out this video that illustrates this. This means you aren’t likely to kill someone on the other side of the wall if you miss, but if a crazed meth-head survives the first round and keeps coming… you have more for rounds for them. They WILL go down in short order if you keep hitting them.

      4. Outcome with this weapon platform is better because the goal is NOT to kill anyone if possible. The ultimate goal is to stop the threat safely. NOT killing means you won’t have to defend your actions in court while facing a murder charge, and if the perp keeps coming this justifies your deadly force (The Castle Doctrine and Stand-your-Ground Laws are a defense against prosecution, not a guarantee). Meanwhile the kids behind the wall (and your neighbors) are safe from your gunfire. Small children will also find a shotgun too large to operate, making this a safer gun to have in the home.

      5. The combination of greater distance deterrence through audible warning, disorientation with a strobe, safe but available stopping power and decreased child usability makes this my recommended option for clearing the house and defending against assault is your protect in place. HOWEVER this recommendation is void if rounds higher than the number 8 bird shot rounds are used. Please watch this video for a demonstration of the over penetrating effects of more powerful shotgun rounds.

  • Handguns: Handguns can be used with one hand, allowing the other to hold a flashlight and open doors. Some handguns have mounting systems that allow flashlights and lasers to be mounted to the handgun, making vision and targeting better.

    1. Handguns have stopping power that is relative to the caliber of rounds being used. Larger calibers provide more stopping power. Also, handguns contain many rounds, allowing you to continue firing until the threat is stopped.

    2. Deterrence with a handgun alone is relative to the perp’s ability to see the gun. The sound of a round being chambered is not as loud and recognizable, however the presence of a laser makes the gun more intimidating.

    3. Penetration: Any caliber of ammunition fired from any handgun will readily penetrate 4 layers of drywall, meaning if you miss any handgun round will at least pass through two walls and could exit the house completely. This means anyone in the line of fire will not be protected by walls, even exterior walls. This included the smallest available handgun rounds, .22 as shown in this video. Of note: Some handgun rounds are specifically designed with this in mind, and claim to prevent over-penetration through walls. Real-world testing shows these rounds DO PENETRATE MULTIPLE LAYERS OF DRYWALL and still retain enough energy to be deadly. Watch this video to see this proven.

    4. Outcome: The outcome of this type of weapon platform is questionable. The convenient size of a handgun makes it easier to carry and store closer to the bed at night. However this also makes it easier for children to handle, making this more dangerous to have around. So if you choose a handgun I highly recommend a quick access safe to store it in, like this one.  The mounting of a flashlight and/or laser will improve dexterity, visibility and targeting, however missed rounds will over-penetrate wall placing innocent bystanders in harms way. The mixed outcome increases the odds of an unintended negative result to the use of this weapon platform, making this a lesser choice for home protection.

  • Rifles: The longer profile will be more difficult to use in close quarters, so practice with this platform in even more important. A rifle requires the use of two hands, meaning you will either sacrifice aim or trigger pull when opening doors. You will also have no hand to hold a flashlight. That being said, proper preparation of your weapon can eliminate the need to hold a flashlight, and makes lighting even more effective.

    1. Rifles have stopping power that is relative to the caliber of rounds being used. Larger calibers provide more stopping power. Also, rifles contain many rounds, allowing you to continue firing until the threat is stopped. Of note is that bolt action rifles may require reload after each round and may only hold 3-6 rounds.

    2. Deterrence with a rifle alone is relative to the perp’s ability to see the gun. The sound of a round being chambered is not as loud and recognizable, however the presence of a laser makes the gun more intimidating.

    3. Penetration: Any caliber of ammunition fired from any rifle will readily penetrate 4 layers of drywall, meaning if you miss any handgun round will at least pass through two walls and could exit the house completely. This means anyone in the line of fire will not be protected by walls, even exterior walls. The most common type of ammunition (.553 NATO) used in the most common rifle platform (AR-15) is tested here and also compared with the most common handgun ammo (9mm).

    4. Outcome: The outcome of this type of weapon platform is questionable. The longer profile of a rifle makes it more difficult to use in close quarters and store closer to the bed at night. The larger size does make it more difficult for small children to handle, however loading a round into the chamber is not as challenging on a bolt-action rifle as a shotgun or semi-auto handgun (for example). With this in mind, a gun safe is highly recommended. However the size of the safe needed for a rifle makes it more difficult to store close to the bed and access quickly. The mounting of a flashlight and/or laser will improve dexterity, visibility and targeting, however missed rounds will over-penetrate wall placing innocent bystanders in harms way. The mixed outcome increases the odds of an unintended negative result to the use of this weapon platform, making this a lesser choice for home protection.

 

I know that was a lot of information, but when protecting my family I felt it was important to really dig in to the realities so I could make a good decision based on good information. Ultimately I feel all this digging-in supports the plan I recommend.

My hopes are that you too will consider some or all of the information above and take action to secure your home against potential threat, even if you decide on a different plan, just considering all this makes you better prepared.

 

Thanks for reading.

Leave your thoughts and comments below,

and be safe out there.

 

~ Jake ~

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