There are two schools of thought on how an armed American should confront a home invader or invaders. (Hint: carrying a banana is not one of them.) They are . . .

1. Announce yourself

If you hear someone in your home who shouldn’t be there, if you have time, call the police (a job best left to a significant other or responsible child). Then tell the bad guy or guys that the police are coming, issue a command and announce the fact that you’re armed. “The police are on their way. Leave now! I’ve got a gun.”

Advantage: The bad guy or guys may leave. There are plenty of burglars who would do so rather than face armed opposition, especially if they know the cavalry is on its way. Also, there may not be invaders. If the “invader” is an amorous teen or a drunken neighbor, announcing yourself gives an unwelcome guest a chance to identify themselves and avoid a terrible tragedy.

Disadvantages: You are revealing your position and giving the bad guy or guys motivation to attack quickly and violently, before the police arrive.

Considerations: If you’re going to issue a warning and a threat, assume a defensive position. In other words, don’t be in the bad guys’ line of fire. For example, stand at the top of the stairs (out of the line of sight) or in a bedroom and wait for them to come to you. (Turn on the lights.) This gives you a better chance of winning a gun fight and, again, avoiding shooting the wrong person.

2. Don’t announce yourself

If possible, call the police as quietly as possible. Sneak up on the bad guy or guys and eliminate the threat. Do not turn on the lights.

Advantages: Speed, surprise and violence of action are the keys to winning any fight. Especially surprise. If the home invader or invaders don’t see you coming, you have the first mover advantage. That could well be the difference between life and death.

Disadvantages: Surprising the bad guy or guys may trigger their fight response. If you haven’t pulled the trigger already, if you’re not psychologically prepared to pull the trigger, you lose the first mover advantage and could lose the fight. Also, you may suffer from tunnel vision and not see multiple invaders. And the chances of misidentifying unwelcome guests is significantly higher in the dark. As are the chances that responding police may mistake you for the bad guy.

Considerations: There’s a reason why police and military rely on teams for room clearance: it’s incredibly difficult and dangerous to go it alone. If you plan on adopting this strategy, you should master the art of room clearance; including “slicing the pie” (going around corners), using a flashlight to ID your target (otherwise . . .) and using cover and concealment.

—–

I’ve used plan A: announcing myself. I fully appreciate the advantages of surprise, but the potential downsides of sneaking up on a bad guy are too great and my room clearing ability too small. YMMV.

74 Responses to Two Approaches to Confronting a Home Invader: Guns for Beginners

  1. If my bedroom was on the same floor as my children’s rooms, I would get between them and the intruder and then announce myself.

    Since we have a master on main, my priority is to get upstairs (clearing on the way) as quickly as possible to protect our kids before announcing. If I run into anybody on the way, option 2 it is.

  2. Readers should examine anti-predation protocols. All possible angles are explored. This is part of “warding.”

  3. For most people in most circumstances plan A is better. If you’re at the top of stairs with a shotgun or you are a competent pistol shooter then scumbags can charge up the stairs all they want. Good luck with that one.

    Going off hunting them is only advisable for a very compelling reason. Live unaccounted for loved one.

    Alternatively when investigating suspicious noise moving and clearing the room is advisable. But once there’s a confirmed threat barricade and call the cops.

  4. Another consideration- if you do end up shooting the home invaders, by announcing yourself, you could potentially make things easier on yourself in the legal aftermath. You announced, which gave the BG’s a choice to abandon the plan or carry it out. Of course whichever course you take will all depend on the situation.

  5. A very bad idea to move down a narrow hallway (fatal funnel), particularly when you don’t know who or what is at the other end. Barricade the bedroom door, call 911 and wait for the Cavalry to arrive…

    • Sometimes that isn’t an option if there’s vulnerable people in other sections of the home. You may have no choice but to engage and engage quickly. That’s where an alarm system and/or an aggressive dog come in handy. There’s a racket and it gives you a chance to survey before potential intruders can close in on vulnerable residents, i.e. children.

      • Absolutely correct, and you already know whether such people (needing your defense) are present in your home, you don’t need to hesitate to make any decision about that.

  6. “Hint: carrying a banana is not one of them.”

    I disagree. A phaser with both “stun” and “vaporize” would be great for confronting a home invader.

    Oh, wait…

  7. 1) Skip calling the police
    2) Put on your ballistic helmet, grab your ballistic shield, and mount your bayonet on a broom handle
    3) Loudly rap your shield at the top of the stairs and announce “Those who are about to die, we salute you!”
    4) Phalanx them out to the porch
    5) Scream your favorite quote at the top of your lungs (I.E. “For the Emperor!!”, ” This is Sparta!!”, “Molon Labe!!”)
    6) Kick them into the bottomless pit in your yard (you DO have one of these, right?)

    • Holy mixed tropes batman!

      Besides, no true servant of the emperor would use anything other than a hedge trimmer mounted on a sword hilt. (Or at a bayonet on an absurdly high caliber and short barrel carbine.)

  8. You do not have time to have a conference with a crook he or she will kill you whether they are loaded with a weapon or not when they enter your house they should be dead meat get my drift. if you think you got time to talk it out. you will be surprised at the results in the courtroom. time and money. save the next person from doing what you should have done think about that. To surprise a intruder would be a surprise but letting him take over the whole house would not be that’s why we are trained with our weapon to use it as we need to. protect what we have to protect

  9. Under most circumstances I would choose option 1. My wife knows her job is to arm and secure herselfcall the police while I deal with a threat.

    Pumping the action on an 870 and telling someone “the cops are on their way, I am armed and will shoot you if you do not leave now” should do the trick. If it doesn’t, the 870 will.

    I don’t want to shoot someone. At best, it ruins my day and puts someone else’s blood all over floors and walls I have to clean. If I can avoid cleaning blood off my cats, I will try that option.

    • Yep. Top of the stairs. Racked a pump 12 and bad guy left in a hurry.

      That drawing fire bit is a hollywood trope. Tweakers don’t work for Hans Gruber and you ain’t in the Nakatomi towers.

    • You wouldn’t need to clean blood off your cats, they’re pretty good at licking it off themselves

    • Agree. I have heard one of the worst sounds to hear in a dark room is the unmistakable sound of a 12 gauge pump being pumped. Nothing else like it and everybody with any sense at all knows what is about to happen next. But the mess and damage…. But you do what you have to do.

  10. I see announcing yourself as being analogous to open carry–you loose the element of surprise but you give the bad guy (or whom ever) a chance to reconsider making you a target.

    In the end, since we can never know the intent or the determination of a potential assailant, holding ones cards tight to the vest seems always preferable.

  11. Sneak up on the bad guys? I’m sorry, I don’t know of any reputable instructor who would recommend that. The only time that a single-man room entry is ever advised in the CQB doctrine that I’ve been taught is when the room is too physically small to fit multiple people, like a half bathroom or a closet.

    Granted, if there is a home invader, it may be prudent to leave a defensive position to protect family members, such as children. But if that is not a concern, it makes no tactical sense to throw on your NVGs and try to go Sam Fisher on a bump in the night. Mastering pieing the corner and other CQB techniques can be useful, but it doesn’t replace a solid defensive plan.

    Further, speed, surprise and violence of action is NOT the best way to win every fight. Defenders have historically had much better odds, per person, than attackers. Those are the fundamentals of CQB, but if you dont need to engage in room clearing to accomplish an objective, its better not to engage in it at all. If there is an attacker in your house, why would you give up a defensive position behind a thick wood dresser (unless, as I mentioned earlier, if you need to get to your children)?

    While I agree with your ultimate choice of option A, I think presenting both as viable options is a little irresponsible, as it may muddy the tactical waters with new gun owners preparing a home defense plan.

  12. 3. Let loose your 100lb German Shepard. Arm yourself and family, and call cops. If the german shepard doesn’t convince them to leave, they needs shootin’ by you or the cops.

    • Unless the intruder shoots the dog, of course. Doesn’t matter how big the dog is. If the intruder is armed, game over for the dog, probably. May give you some time to get your stuff together in a defensive position, of course.

      • You certainly know that there is an intruder that is going to get shot.

        Standing at the top of the stairs with your golf club, polo mallet, AR yelling “is their anyone down there” isn’t much of a plan either.

      • A dog is pretty hard to hit when it full out charges. A trained German Shepherd can do some serious killing pretty fast. My dogs go for the throat, not the arms. I have worked with attack dogs for 50 years, a well trained K9 in your house in the dark at njght is IMO the best home defense you can own. They were awsome in the Nam, totally awsome !!!

    • If the bark of my 12 pound Shih-tzu doesn’t deter the intruder, her constant licking and rolling over on her back for belly pets will.

  13. I’m more of a roll out of bed, get gun and pause quietly, for a moment to assess. Depending upon what I hear will determine what course of action I will take.

    You can bet your sweet bippee I won’t go charging down my hallway or stairs, without knowing what I’m up against. It’s against my religion (Church of Devout Cowardice).

    In my area, it’s most likely to be idiot kids or teenagers. Depending on what they’re doing will also dictate my reaction.

  14. Tranquilize them, carry them to the basement, chain them to the basement ball, apply the ball gag, have you way with them until they expire. Ignor their protests.

  15. Why not Option 3)

    Yell out that you have called the police and they are on the way, DO NOT tell them you are armed. If they come around the corner, you sill have a few surprises in your quiver.

  16. There is a lot to be said for dogs as protection and certainly alarm devices. I’ve got two 100 lb GSDs and two Chihuahuas, and nobody’s getting anywhere near us without me knowing about it. That said, though the Shepherds would die trying to protect and the chihuahuas can be mean little shits, I don’t want any of my dogs harmed. All they gotta do is alert me and I’ll take it from there. And when I travel, I feel pretty good knowing that Doobie and Ruby are home to watch the homestead. They’re not the Chihuahuas.

    • We have multi stage alarms. Even the cops told a neighbor you would be nuts to break in that place after experiencing it first hand.
      We have a monitored alarm. One day I came home and tripped it by accident. I shut it off immediately but missed the call from company so cops were dispatched. They came and the first early warning kicked in, two large and one small parrots in cages on the back porch. They have a warning call that they use if any strangers come within 50 feet of the back fence. That warning call alerts the 4 dogs. Dancing from a chihuahua to a 100 pound rescue pitbull mix. They all start barking like crazy and run to the glass back doors. Now if your a burglar you haven’t even tripped the alarm yet but of we are home we know your there. I came out and showed them ID and apologized for the trouble. The whole time the birds are going nuts, dogs going nuts, etc. They left and saw the neighbor and said to him we don’t know why he bothers with the alarm, nobody is nuts enough to try robbing that place.

  17. The possible scenario’s are endless. The important thing is to come out alive. Having to protect children complicates things and limits defensive options to Vince Lombardi strategies.. I always planned to take the “little old lady” defense and stay in bed after grabbing an easily accessable firearm and calling the police. If the perp comes in they say hello to my little fren.

    But today break ins have become more of a team sport and I expect a visual assessment to be required and then the variables are limitless. The best you can do is know you capabilities to control the situation. I see little option but to to put together a Lombardi based defensive plan.

  18. Generally speaking the sight of a fish belly white fat man buck naked clears people from my house. Even those that are supposed to be there.

    Guns? I don’t need no steenkin’ guns.

  19. Somebody has to say it: that was an awful video. Pointing the (apparently unloaded) revolver at the guy, a boring and shaky video, and the “safety lesson” at the end…

    How did you guys stumble upon this?

  20. There is yet a third consideration in the mix: capturing or incapacitating the home invaders to ensure that they don’t harm your neighbors or return to your home another time.

  21. Everything I’ve been taught and practiced regarding room clearing during my 6 years in the Marine Corps and 2 years as a Sheriff’s Deputy absolutely hinges on teamwork. In my mind, clearing rooms by yourself is very foolish. Even with a teammate I’ve found myself in numerous situations where I’ve wished I had more people. For me, 3 is the magic number and 4 is optimal. One is damn near suicidal.

    If it’s me by myself, I’m announcing my presence and putting myself and my loved ones in a position where whoever it is must come through a fatal funnel, preferably a long one, to get to us.

    • Williams,

      If you ever decide to take on a Native American name, yours should be “he speaks truth”.

      A person is extremely vulnerable if he/she clears his/her home all alone. This is a serious consideration for the matter at hand.

      For me, it would break down to whether or not I absolutely knew how many attackers I was facing and where they were. In other words if one home invader starts kicking in the front door while I am home, I will stage in the room with that door and be ready to stop that home invader. If I return home to find the front door smashed in, I will not attempt to clear my home myself unless loved ones were at home and unresponsive. Likewise, if home invaders manage to quietly break in while I am sleeping and their noise does not wake me until they are creeping toward bedrooms, I am not going to go looking for them.

  22. One big problem with #2 is that it may end up getting you charged with murder. #1 is clearly aimed at reducing that probability. If you have a shotgun, and they only have a handgun, or maybe even a knife, were you in imminent reasonable fear of your life or great bodily injury? Many states, you are going to have an uphill fight to prove such, esp. if you are the real aggressor (ignoring that they are illegally in the house in the first place – but that often is not sufficient).

    Also, calling 911 before anything happens is one of the best ways of showing who is the initial aggressor and who isn’t, and who is the innocent party and who isn’t. Calling 911 is what innocent people do, and not calling them is what the guilty do. If you don’t call 911, expect that the prosecution in your murder trial will get this to the jury to question your claim of self-defense. And, if you don’t call them until after the interaction, expect to have to show why you didn’t have time before the interaction.

  23. Is no one going to point out how dumb that video was? He pointed a real gun at someone and then said don’t play with guns. Im all for practicing with real guns and snap caps in the home but not pointing it at someone. Also he said that guns are dangerous and “they will kill you.”

    • Yes it would have been more appropriate to use a BlueMolded Safe training gun for the purpose of this video. If you notice @ 1:15 he does perform a quick safety check for himself and the audience. With the comedy flare in this demonstration it does feel a bit contradicting.

      As for the statement “they will kill you” is incorrect. The gun is an inanimate object and doesn’t have the ability to pick itself up and harm someone, the user will kill you.

  24. I understand this was a demonstration video, but if anyone of you have digital safes, its highly recommended to disable the audible ‘beeps’ of that device.

    I also do not entirely agree with the message of this video. Yes a firearm is more effective then a banana, we know that. Set the comedy aside and discuss the serious matter of dealing with a home intruder. In my opinion you shouldn’t go straight after the criminal, many things can go wrong. If the circumstance are in your favor, gather and protect your loved ones first before announcing your presents with a firearm. Always have a round chambered, no racking or pulling the slide. The attacker can call your bluff and you have to be willing to use it if the situation escalates. It’s better to avoid the confrontation all together and stay close to keeping your family safe.

    In most states the law allows you to use deadly force if you’re in a “life threatening situation”, not if the guy steps into your home to steal your ipads and take off. You have to consider the legal aftermath from taking someones life in a home defense case. Were you and/or your family in direct danger of the intruder?

    • “If the circumstance are in your favor, gather and protect your loved ones first before announcing your presents with a firearm.”

      [holding 12 gauge]

      “ATTENTION INTRUDER! I uh, got a tie for father’s day! And well I’m giving my daughter a tea set for christmas! She really wanted Barbies but I don’t think they set up a positive example for young girls! Leave now or I will tell you every confection in the gift basket I bought for secretaries day!”

  25. One thing that needs to be mentioned is that even in a home invasion situation, you technically have to shoot to stop, not to kill. Owning a gun doesn’t give the homeowner the right to carry out an execution.

    If someone invades, and you shoot and he’s down and not moving, that’s where it has to end. Keep an eye on him and call 911 if you haven’t already. Calling 911 first helps your case. You aren’t allowed to finish him off with a head shot.

    If he dies in the process of waiting for the cops & EMTs to show up, then it’s technically “OK” by the law. He had a chance of survival after he went down.

    Important distinction. No matter how pissed you might be, you can’t deliberately kill an invader.

    A good article http://folioweekly.com/Hot-Bullets-Cold-Truth,5556 – YMMV depending on the state, but it’s still very relevant.

    • In relation to your comment, have you seen the many articles where the intruder sues home owner for shooting them?

      • As an LEO I can tell you this: if you shoot someone, whether they die or not, prepare to get sued. People who make a living committing burglary usually come from equally stupid parents who think they can sue for anything, despite all evidence and common sense to the contrary. And they may find a lawyer who can spin their idiotic story to make it almost believable. But if you act within the confines of the law and in a way that a “reasonable person” would in the eyes of a jury or judge, you will be fine and their suit will be dismissed.

        People love to sue the police for doing their job. Even when Junior goes full potato and grabs for a cop’s gun, he’s still Mr and Ms Potato’s baby boy and can do no wrong.

        • As the gist of the article is, yes, this does happen. If you take a ride and beat the rap, the family probably will sue you on some sort of spurious grounds. After all, the lawyers get paid either way.

          And also even if the legal victory is yours, keep an eye out for pissed off relatives. Mr & Ms Potato might get a gun and come after you. Or the potato’s fellow gang members. You’ll definitely want to move after a home invasion regardless of the outcome.

  26. A naked man with a .44 in one hand and a broadsword in the other, charging and screaming, generally does the trick. Oh, did I mention I live alone? It helps IFF greatly.

  27. I have announced myself many times at 3:00 am. The problem is, the raccoons and the squirrels frolicking in the attic, and the faulty window sensor at the other end of the house (true stories) don’t seem to care or respect my voice or my Glock. On a serious note, if I CONFIRM that there is an intruder, I barricade myself and my wife (it’s just me and her in the house) put our range ear protectors on (they are by the gun) and point my semi auto Benelli M2 at the door.

    The question is: Do you call the cops every time you hear a noise or the alarm malfunctions at 3:00 am? No. I have to go out an check (“clear the house”, “slice the pie”,or whatever you call it).

    BTW, Florida “Castle Doctrine Law” specifies “the presumption that a criminal who forcibly enters or intrudes into your home or occupied vehicle is there to cause death or great bodily harm”. For those of you who are “Type B”, Florida allows you to shoot without warning.

  28. I would say Option A, as long as you can get to the vulnerable family members first. I also would advise against turning on the lights in the room you are in. I would suggest, hopefully without being exposed, turning on the hall way lights, stair lights, living room lights, etc., but not the room you are in. You will partially blind the intruder to the room you are in, as it is hard to see into a dark place from a well lit place. You can then make a positive ID on the intruder before firing, if necessary.

    • I was going to post the same, but you beat me to it. Option A but don’t turn on lights that will expose you was the recommendation at my recent CCW class. The instructor also said to leave the cell phone on so that the dispatcher will record when you give the announcement that you have called the police and you are armed, and the perp had better leave. This gives a lot of weight to your later statement that you were in the right and the perp was in the wrong. As others have posted, the instructor also recommended to not go hunting. Again, take a defensive position and let the intruder come to you. At that point you have the law on your side in most states if you have to shoot. In our next house, already purchased, an invader would have to come up what amounts to a spiral stair and then make a turn in a hallway to get to the MBR. It would be a bad thing to try. 3 to 5 yard distance coming up the stairs. Only question is which weapon would be pointed in his direction.

  29. Tacticle 12 guage pump racking for announcing. Even some one unfamiliar knows that sound is a precursor to a life altering event. Semi auto for back up or vice versa.

  30. 3. Uncle Joe method: go to window and fire both barrels of your double-barrelled shotgun.
    That will show them!

  31. A long time ago, I had to deal with intruders. Only had a metal softball bat. Did not announce myself, just came out swinging while the first guy was in the process of entering. I was VERY lucky that things went well for me.

    If I were to face the same situation today, I’d be armed with a shotgun rather than a ball bat. I do have several fatal funnel positions available in my home. Believe I’d pick the closest known safe funnel, rack the shotgun, and announce myself…if only because my room clearing skills as a one-man team are just not up to snuff.

    Then again, my 100 lb. Rottweiler may take care of things before I get the chance to say anything…

  32. I would just say that what you choose to do in a situation like this is going to be based on the exact circumstances in which you find yourself.

    If I have reason to suspect someone is in my house, I’m going to be very careful about announcing myself but I’m not likely to go hunting. It would all depend on the situation. Usually I would prefer to hang out where I am, armed and call the cops from my cellphone. In some cases I might announce myself, but for the most part I’m going to keep quiet and try to avoid being found. If I am found, I will try to use surprise to get them to run or surrender but if they don’t comply immediately I’m going to light their ass(es) up.

    On the other hand there are times I might “go hunting”. If the wife’s in the basement and they’re between me and her, you better believe I’m not going to say anything, I’m going to let the gun do the talking and people are about to get shot. If I rack a shotgun and you’d don’t run you’re rapidly going to be be leaking some necessary fluids. Same thing if I come to the top of my stairs and downstairs in the living room there’s some guy pouring a gallon of gas on my couch, I’m not gong to say anything, I’m just going to open fire.

    I’m not the type to “warn” people about their impending demise. Your warning was the fact that my doors and windows were locked and three large dogs went ballistic. Those doors and windows were locked for your protection, not mine. If you decide to ignore the warnings I’ve given you, well you’ve chosen to play games with your life.

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