Chapter Three: How to Defend Your Home With A Shotgun: And the World’s Best Shotgun Is . . .

A burglar alarm. Think of it this way: you don’t want to have to shoot anyone with a shotgun. For one thing, it’s a messy business. Imagine blasting someone with a cannon at short range. Like that. For another, it’s traumatic. Some shotgun gurus say that a successful shooting will not leave you emotionally scarred; you’ll realize that you did the right thing to protect yourself and your family. You’ll feel the satisfaction of a triumphant warrior. Bullshit. The moments preceding, during and after the murderous mayhem may not haunt your dreams, but they probably will. Besides, it’s not all about you; do you really want your wife and/or children to see a human being blown to bits? And then there’s the fun of dealing with the police and the judicial system . . .

Even if the cops want to hand you a medal, they won’t. You’ll be “processed”—which is equal parts boring and humiliating. If you thought that the person on the receiving end of your shotgun blast wanted to steal your money, wait ’til you see your lawyer’s bills. Not to mention all the paperwork.

In today’s litigious society, there’s every chance that the “victim’s” family will file a civil lawsuit against you. They’ll want every dime you ever earned AND every dime you WILL earn. That’s if you’re lucky. The “survivors” may decide that vengeance isn’t the Lord’s. If you don’t spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder, you should.

Oh, and the police will confiscate your shotgun pending a criminal investigation. They may take any other guns in your possession, as well. (Well discuss this in more depth in a later chapter.) So you’ll be both paranoid and unarmed.

All this is predicated on the idea that you will shoot and kill the home invader—as opposed to, say, your brother-in-law. Or your daughter’s boyfriend. Or a drunk neighbor. Or a friend. Or your own child. The above scenario is also based on the idea that you will shoot and kill the home invader—as opposed to trying to shoot him (or them) and NOT killing him (or them). Which could be a blessing. But would probably be a curse: the worst/last mistake of your life.

Of course, you may have to shoot someone with your shotgun. That you’ll face a do or die dilemma. That’s why I’ve written this book: to increase your odds of shooting a home invader with a shotgun while minimizing the chance of a horrible accident, a fatal failure to execute or excessive legal blow-back (is there any other kind?).

The chances that you will have to shoot someone with a shotgun are small; roughly on a par with the likelihood of suffering a shark attack whilst getting hit by lightning. How to Defend Your Home With A Shotgun will prepare you for this unlikely event. But it’s best avoided altogether. (Shooting someone, not this book.) Why put yourself through all the stress of shooting someone with a shotgun if you don’t have to?

Buy a burglar alarm.

Burglars and other home invaders don’t pick houses at random. They look for “soft targets”: homes where they are unlikely to be detected and/or encounter resistance. If they have a choice between a house with an alarm system and one without—and all but drugged, deranged and illiterate criminals do—they will choose the alarm-less one every time. (As you might expect, this is a particularly prevalent response in areas of the country where gun ownership is at its highest.)

A sign saying you have a burglar alarm on or near your house is an effective deterrent. An effective deterrent is better than a shotgun. Period. Should the home invader trigger an actual alarm, they’re good to go. Literally.

When a criminal hears an alarm, they know the cops are coming. Aside from seriously drugged and/or deranged individuals (every society’s got ‘em), future felons avoid law enforcement like the proverbial plague. When an alarm sounds, home invaders also know you’re awake and, possibly, armed. Your neighbors are “situationally aware.” So it’s lose – lose – lose as far as an invader’s concerned.

In almost every case, future felons “flee.” Saving you all the trauma and hassle of having to shoot them. How great is that? As Apple maven Steve Wozniak would say, insanely great. But wait, there’s more!

An alarm system is also the single best way to avoid an accidental shooting. If someone isn’t a home invader intent on robbery or attack, an alarm triggers a life-saving WDIM moment. “Whoa Dude! It’s me!” This is, of course, doubly true for anyone you know who knows you have a shotgun (which should be a strictly limited group).

And just like that, you’ve prevented a horrible, irreversible tragedy. OK, yes, a clever home invader could use a family member as a “human shield” and trick you into thinking that the alarm was a mistake. While we can’t deal with every possible case here, I’ve devoted an entire chapter to the possibility that everything will go horribly wrong (“Shit Happens”).

Meanwhile, again, still, it’s all about the plan. And the best possible shotgun defense plan starts with a burglar alarm. Did I already say that? It’s worth repeating. An alarm is a clear and unequivocal sign that it’s time for you to get your game face on. If you don’t already know it—if you didn’t trip the alarm in response to a home invasion—the alarm tells you and your loved ones that it’s time to put your shotgun-based home defense plan in motion.

And why not? Perhaps you’ve heard of “The Castle Doctrine.” That’s the fundamental legal principle that says your home (and in some states your car and workplace) is your “castle.” You have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself and/or any innocent person within your home from trespassing and violent attack.

In other words, legally, you have the right to shoot someone who enters your home to rob or attack you. As long as the invader wasn’t your drug dealer and you’re not involved in some criminal enterprise (like, say, drug dealing), you can fire your shotgun at a home invader and kill him (or them) and not go to jail.

Yes well . . . that’s the theory.

Society in general (i.e. not Texas) doesn’t like it when civilians kill people. The police, in particular, much prefer to reserve the power or life and death for themselves. So even if a felon with a rap sheet as long as your shotgun barrel enters your home at 2am with a loaded .45 gun in his hand and you shoot him dead, you will still have to prove that you HAD to use deadly force.

If the police/prosecutor/judge and/or jury knows that the now-dead invader ignored a burglar alarm, that you were waiting for the police but ran out of time, you’ve vastly increased your odds of triumphing in any post-shooting legal investigation or prosecution. You’ll save yourself time, money and untold amounts of stress. 

Back up a mo.

This book covers two basic scenarios: a home invader who bursts in through your door and one that tries to “sneak” in, usually under cover of darkness. There are no stats on which of these two nightmares is the most likely. They are two very different situations, requiring two very different shotgun defense strategies. So both get their own chapters. Suffice it to say here, an alarm system is your first line of defense in both cases.

Even a cheap, standalone trip-wire system—a motion detector and an alarm that isn’t connected to the police—is better than none. If you can be selective, buy an alarm system that arms your home’s perimeter (doors and windows) while you and your family get on with life inside. Make sure it has a single press panic button on the keypad AND a key fob panic button. Carry the fob on you at all times. And yes, sign-up for the service that connects you to an alarm company’s monitoring system.

[Quick aside: alarm companies with monitoring services call you immediately after the alarm triggers to see if you need help (i.e. if it's yet another false alarm). They ask for a code word indicating that you are who you say you are and that everything's OK. Don't forget to establish a "panic" word: a code word that says "No, everything's NOT OK. Someone's holding a gun to my head."]

As far as money is concerned, remember that you can buy a damn fine alarm system for the price of a suitable, high-quality home defense shotgun (which includes a gun safe, ammunition, training and range time). If you rent your abode, you can buy and install a perfectly adequate “plug and play” alarm system that you can remove when you move.

I would be remiss in my dedication to your safety if I didn’t point out that an alarm system and a baseball bat is a far more effective home defense strategy than a shotgun, ammunition, gun safe and NO ALARM SYSTEM.

That said, combine a good alarm system with an appropriate shotgun and a simple, coherent home defense plan and you’ll have all the tools you need to protect yourself and the ones you love from a home invasion.

That’s why this book is based on you, the shotgun owner, having a burglar alarm. Without it, you dramatically decrease your chances of survival, increase your odds of a deadly accident and open yourself up to criminal prosecution. I simply can’t, in good conscience, recommend owning a shotgun unless and until you own an alarm system. Once you do, everything gets easier—even if your worst nightmare should come to pass. As you shall see.

[Note: this is an excerpt from my forthcoming book How to Defend Your Home with a Shotgun. The text is subject to revision. Reserve your signed first-edition copy by emailing "Book" to robertfarago1@gmail.com.]

Chapter One: How To Defend Your Home With A Shotgun: Never Underestimate Your Enemy

Chapter Two: How to Defend Your Home With A Shotgun: Don’t Over-Estimate Your Abilities

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

9 Responses to Chapter Three: How to Defend Your Home With A Shotgun: And the World’s Best Shotgun Is . . .

  1. avatarDonal says:

    Good article. I look forward to reading the entire book.

  2. avatarJim Sutherland says:

    I live in a small Canadian city and we also have a lowlife problem. A girl who used to work for me had four of them try to break in last night -two front door and two back door. She had a fully lit house but her boyfriend and giant dog were not with her. She had no weapons in the house, but the scumbags were deterred by her Brinks alarm, if not the actual warning sign outside her residence. I guess the maggots could hear alarms even if they couldn't actually read alarm signs.

  3. avatarPch101 says:

    Sound, sensible advice.

    For what it's worth, this would have helped a friend of a friend of mine, who killed an intruder whom he found naked in his kitchen.

    As it turns out, the intruder was not a rapist or a robber, but a drunk neighbor who had stumbled into the wrong house. In addition to the obvious remorse felt by the homeowner, the killing traumatized his kids and destroyed his marriage, an ironic ending for a man trying to protect his family. Having an alarm go off in the middle of the night would have been annoying, but it would spared a life and a great deal of misery that followed.

  4. avatarMartin Albright says:

    There's also the option of a dog. I'm not talking about a doberman or a rottweiler or some trained killer dog, but just an ordinary dog that barks when it sees/hears something unusual (our dog goes crazy whenever a stranger comes into the house.)

    As with a burglar alarm, the dog's bark communicates a message to the would be burglar: This is not a soft target (after all, a vicious dog and a friendly dog pretty much sound the same when theyr'e barking.)

    The dog also acts as an alarm for the owner. Dog barks, lights go on, and even without the owner arming himself, the burglar has probably moved on to another target.

    Obviously dogs are not for everyone. Those with small kids, people who travel a lot, people who live in apartments or condos that don't allow pets don't have this option. And of course, having a dog for protection is a decision that could turn around and bite you in the ass – literally.

    But for those who have the ability to do it, a dog can be an extremely effective deterrent. It's anecdotal, but a detective in our little suburb once told me that in 20+ years he had never investigated a burglary at a house that had a dog in residence.

  5. avatarRobert Farago says:

    Martin,

    Funny you should mention that. I've been toying with the idea of recommending a dog; the world's second best shotgun?

    There are issues with that, aside from cleaning up all the shit and feeding them. What kind of dog?

    A lot of people buy aggressive dogs specifically bred for home defense. I reckon that's WAY more dangerous for kids than a shotgun. How many times have I heard "Oh he's a real softie?" Too many.

    The family-friendly pooches tend to be useless guard dogs. I never met a Labrador who growled at a stranger.

    I own two miniature Shnauzers. Perfect. Loud as hell, aware, fearless, always on guard. The problem: in a home invasion scenario, they're the Marines. They're going to get it first. I love my dogs but I'm OK with that.

    Not true for a LOT of dog owners. They jump into frozen ponds to rescue their pooches, refuse to evacuate in the face of a hurricane, etc. A dog could distract them from mission one in a home invasion. It might even cause them to do something stupid to save their canine.

    That said, I've devoted an entire chapter to teamwork. Dogs will be included.

  6. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Robert, I’m not sure the breed or aggressiveness of the dog matters. If it gets to the point where the dog is directly confronting the burglar, then the deterrent has obviously failed.

    Of course, the same could be said for the alarm. In any case, the dog isn’t there to attack the burglar (I agree that having a dog with those propensities is likely to cause more headaches for the homeowner than having a gun, since the dog is not likely to know the difference between a burglar and a mailman, paperboy, Jehovah’s Witness, etc.)

    But I’d be willing to bet money that 99% of all burglars would hear your Schnauzers barking and move on to a softer target. And even if they proved useless in terms of “Defense” the mere fact that they are acting as a 4-legged alarm system by barking (and seeing as how their sense of hearing is several orders of magnitude better than yours) makes them extremely valuable in any home-burglary situation.

    But then again, I’m a “dog person” so I’d have a dog even if it wasn’t an effective deterrent, and therefore the costs and disadvantages of a dog are ones I’ve already taken into consideration.

  7. avatarmatt says:

    I did a search on home protection and burglar alarms and found this string, as I've considered the Shotgun approach. Good considerations we should all make when determining the best way to protect those you love. Another good way to get warned before someone's coming is put motion sensors covering every entrance-way to your house. That motion sensor can trigger an alarm sound some sort of warning chime, or you can even get and audio output device that when the motion sensor is triggered, it sets off barking dogs audio event. Even if a burglar isn't scared of dogs, or recognizes that they aren't real, he knows your awake and ready and possibly armed now.

    Another good idea is to put a fake camera bolted above your door. Its cheap and easy. Who's going to do something criminal if its potentially being recorded and monitored? Ok, they could wear a mask, but another potential good deterrent for the dumb-criminal (would imagine dumb-criminals would be a majority).

    I still think a shotgun will be necessary to have in case there is a natural disaster or major community crisis such as terrorism. These events create opportunities for bad guys to reign while the police and government are focused on the disaster. For events like Hurricane Katrina, where the cops aren't going to be able to help everyone and the bad guys all come out to take advantage of the situation. I don't know of a community that is immune of prolonged power outages, natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Of course, as you know, the government might come take your firearms away, but thats a whole other chapter possibility! Youtube – Hurricane Katrina Firearms Confiscation.

  8. avatarrandall mckay says:

    I would recommend dealing with an intruder using the Jedi force. This method, as seen the historical drama Star Wars, will dissuade bad guys in a non violent way, and keep you and your family safe so the saga can continue.

    A gun is of course only as ‘good’ as its handler. Fear not fear itself, and anything can become a weapon.

  9. avatarMike says:

    This might be petty, but as I was reading this article, I noticed how many grammatical errors there are. I had to reread this article many times to make some kind of sense of the information. It would seem that the author should be as diligent about his writing skills as he is adament about conveying his information about personal safety with weapons of any sort.

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