When a stranger knocks on your door at some ungodly hour, it’s best not to open it. Should you pretend you’re not home? Probably not. Professional thieves tend to knock on a door before breaking in — making sure there’s no one home before they make their move. By not responding to your doorbell or a knock, you’re increasing the odds that the bad guys will invade your home. On the other hand . . .

Once you respond — through a closed-door — the bad guys know where you are. They just might bust down your door and attack. Which is why it’s a great idea to have a really strong front door and an even stronger reply to strangers: “GO AWAY NOW! The police are on their way.” A bit harsh for Jehovah’s Witnesses, perhaps, but appropriate for anyone seeking “help” at 5:00am.

Issue your warning with a handgun in one hand and your cell phone in the other. If your visitors refuse to leave, call 911 and say loudly “Hello, police? Someone’s trying to break into STREET ADDRESS.” Alternatively, instruct someone on the home team to do it. In either case, make sure you don’t stand right in front of the door.

In the video above, the homeowner opens fire on his aspiring houseguests from the middle of the doorway. I guess he didn’t watch enough war movies to know that doorways are “the funnel of death” — a confined space creating a perfectly-framed target. Nor did our homeowner realize that once you commit to dominating a space, retreat isn’t [usually] your best option. And if you do retreat you should really retreat, finding cover or concealment.

Anyway, why take all that risk? Why not warn bad guys to go the hell away? And if they don’t leave, if things seem dangerously dire, why not place friendlies behind you, assume a defensive position (preferably hidden), call the cops and wait for the enemy to come to you?

Some people don’t want to surrender the element of surprise. Some people live a long way from police; they can’t hold a defensive position long enough for the cavalry to arrive. No one strategy covers all possibilities. But generally speaking, the more you can do to stop a gunfight before it happens, the better. And the less you go looking for trouble, the less likely you are to find it. Defend defensively, until you attack.

44 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Defend Your Home Defensively

    • I’m no lawyer, but I’m sure that the legality of shooting through a door depends on the totality of circumstances: time of day, what led you to conclude there were bad guys on the other side of the door, the imminence of the perceived threat, the actuality of the threat and whether or not you are or were the Vice President of the United States.

      • Be sure of your target. I think the camera verified an immediate threat because they had a firearm capable of shooting through the door as well. And not saying this is a good tactic, but if the homeowner went out the back door and circled around, he could legally, in GA, shoot the guys breaking in. Through the door or in the back, no difference. A forcible felony was in progress. Justifiable.

    • spartan117,

      I am not a lawyer. The following is MY personal opinion and is NOT legal advice:

      If I had live video feed of a man with a rifle, in hand, in that stance, with an accomplice trying to pry my door open, especially at 0’Dark thirty (whee hours of the night/morning), I would be inclined to start shooting through the door.

      A prosecutor might consider it a gray area and try to prosecute me. I would rather roll the dice with a prosecutor and jury than roll the dice as to whether or not I could immediately incapacitate all gunmen before they incapacitate me as they come through the door.

      As I see it, a single potential home invader who is fiddling with your door latch with a prybar — with no visible weapons beyond that prybar — is not yet an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. A rip crew with rifles in hand (that can kill you while your door is still in tact) who are stacked up and and actively attempting to enter are an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. That is why I would be inclined to shoot through the door in that particular circumstance.

      • Yep, normally I don’t get the guys who are so scared with a gun in their hand behind a locked door that they feel the need to start blindly blasting through the door. However, in this case you see a crew of guys armed with an AR-15, I would go back to the safe and get the FAL and start to make busy.

      • Pretty hard to imagine a prosecutor bringing charges against the homeowner under these circumstances, even here in Commiefornia.

    • I know all states are different, but when I took the North Carolina concealed carry course back in 2008-ish, the nice lawyer on the video tape was pretty clear about shooting through doors. He said that if they are forcing entry, (kicking, prying, slamming) you are green light go to shoot through, because they are beyond a reasonable doubt posing an imminent threat.

    • In NC you can legally shoot thru the door or shoot if they are climbing in your window. No duty to retreat, no civil liability. Just let them lay where they fall.

  1. Having a 120 pound dog that sounds like he weighs 200 pounds going ape-shit at the slightest sound outside is the first line of defense. Firearms second.
    Letting the loser bums know what’s coming to them if they come in is third.

    • Have ANY dog, or preferably two of them. Even the yorkies would do.

      Most any dog will respond to the knock on the door by running to it and barking, which 1) alerts the owner and 2) lets those outside know there’s somebody inside. Professional thieves are less likely to risk the amount of noise and trouble required to silence even two small “yappers” running around barking their lungs out, much less confronting something larger. And then having to deal with an already alerted and likely armed owner on top of it.

      Have the 12 gauge to back your dogs up and have the will and skill to use it.

    • I have a 60lb basset hound that sounds like a large dog. He’s short but fast because he’s all muscle, so you won’t see him until he’s knocked you to the ground, and he can hear and smell you a mile away. Also, if he’s sleeping soundly and you jar him awake, he will draw blood.

    • It’s more true than you know. In my neck of the south, criminals tend to be from the Urban areas. People in their demographic are raised with an irrational fear of dogs, water and PoPo. Most wouldn’t even try to get into a home with a dog inside, not to mention the alarm system and NRA stickers on the door. They will move to an easier target.

    • All this and more.
      A dog or four that will bark at anyone prowling outside a window or door are worth their weight in bullets. I won’t say their barking is all the warning the bad guys will get from me, but it should definitely be enough.

  2. Lhstr, bad practice never point or pull the trigger if you cannot identify the target, period. Do not stand in front of the door, if you have a peep hole use it always stand aside the door. Be safe out there.

  3. Personally I prefer the acting crazy and armed routine.

    It doesn’t really matter who it is outside, they’ll go away when you start screaming “You goddamn Martians aren’t abducting me again! I got yer probe right here motherfuckers!” *racks shotgun*.

    Plus, if it’s your neighbors who need help you’ll have a great laugh at the next neighborhood barbecue, assuming that is, that they didn’t require some sort of life saving assistance in which case well… at least they won’t annoy you in the middle of the night again.

    Acting really oddly will get you out of a lot of situations actually. People just don’t want to deal with crazies or people who act in seemingly completely irrational and obvious ways. Some drunk being an obnoxious hardass at your local watering hole? Go flamingly gay. They’ll leave you alone.

    • ——————–
      Personally I prefer the acting crazy and armed routine.

      It doesn’t really matter who it is outside, they’ll go away when you start screaming “You goddamn Martians aren’t abducting me again! I got yer probe right here motherfuckers!” *racks shotgun*.
      ——————–
      LOL!
      I’m definitely using this!

  4. No “good” answer, but timely in keeping us always thinking about “what would you do?”.

    UPS/FEDEX/USPS can deliver up to 9pm, but invaders can operate in that time slot, too.

  5. Pretty sure when invaders have a good-sized gun showing in your surveillance monitor and they’re trying to pry your door open with a crowbar, shooting first from solid cover is the better idea.

    May not be legal in all states, but the old saying “better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6” applies.

    Charging out after them is a terrible idea. He’s very lucky.

    • My father once told me. “Son, I can get you out of that Jail, but I can’t get you out of that box”. This really stuck with me.

  6. Thank God manufacturers sell AR’s with no iron sights so that idiotic crooks and bad guys will have no way to properly aim.

  7. I must respectfully disagree with the homeowner, the best way to catch them is not a camera but being able to walk up to their no longer animated body

  8. A local CCW instructor and range owner in my area says if there is threat (someone trying to break in your house) and there is a weapon (crowbar or AR) then you can shoot thru the door. That is his interpretation of our states castle doctrine laws. Remember laws are written by lawyers. First clue that you maybe don’t want to rent or own in that neighborHOOD is burglar bars on windows and doors.

  9. Looks like somebody needs a KSG! 🙂 Slugs in one tube. Buck in the other. Glad I got mine! 700% or so increase in firepower over my coachgun.

  10. Did everybody miss that they went around to the side and started shooting when they found that he was in the house? This does not look like a robbery at all.

    • I indeed missed that detail.

      Nevertheless, the fact that the home invaders moved to the side of his home and shot inside does not negate the possibility of a jelly-bean home invasion. The home invaders may have simply been really mad that the home owner shot at them and decided to dish out some revenge immediately.

      This lends credence to the notion that an attacker who is fleeing with firearm in hand is still a credible, imminent threat of death or great bodily harm … because they could simply be moving to evade your shots with every intention of continuing their attack.

      Now, if the attackers dropped their weapons and started running away, that is a different kettle of fish. But gun still in hand? They are still a credible threat in my mind.

  11. “Some people live a long way from police; they can’t hold a defensive position long enough for the cavalry to arrive.”

    Agreed, but then what? If you live in a genuinely rural area, response times are generally much longer. If you’re out there by yourself, the dynamics of a home invasion are obviously different and might well resemble a siege if the bad guys are determined and understand how long it’s going to take for the cope to arrive.

  12. “Some people live a long way from police; they can’t hold a defensive position long enough for the cavalry to arrive.”

    Yeah, that’s me. Takes them AT LEAST 45 minutes. I am my own police, no choice. I am fine with it, I just wish the rest of America would understand the police aren’t always just a phone call away.

  13. My state (Wisconsin) is riddled with late-night boozehounds walking home from the taverns at three a.m. I’ve had them bang on my door thinking it was their house. We have a tradition here in Wisconsin of not shooting our drunks. What’s a poor gun owner like me to do?

    • A bright porch light and a distinctive front door do wonders. that, plus a low wrought iron gate (that didn’t even lock) clued in even the drunkest frat boys in my old hood.

  14. Yes I too remember that one well. The Woman also needed help as her car had broken down and the paranoid numb skull on the other side of the door just blasted through it and killed her.

    I also remember the Japanese exchange student that was trick or treating and got blown away just for walking up and knocking on the door.

    You never know even in your own State how a jury will rule. Examples in Ohio.

    One man had his shed broken into several times and the last time he gunned down the guy trying to run away and was convicted for murder.

    Yet in another Ohio case a store owner chased a robber down the street and gunned him down with an Uzi and was never prosecuted.

    And yet another in Ohio when a Bar owner caught a kid sliding down a rope from the ceiling , completely helpless, and blasted him with a shotgun and killed him and never was prosecuted.

    And there was the guy in Texas that saw his neighbors house being robbed. He was warned by the police not to interfere as they were on the way but he gunned down and killed both robbers walking out of the house with some house hold goods in their hands. Even after many public protests he was not prosecuted.

    In many States its against the law to shoot someone who is stealing from you unless he happens to be attacking you with a weapon. When I got my concealed carry license we were shown a video of a guy stealing a radio out of a car and the home owner came to the door with a shotgun but legally could do nothing to stop the bad guy because he was not threatening him, only stealing from him.

    Even if you are not prosecuted by the police that does not mean that the survivors cannot sue you anyway especially if there was no threat to you because the castle doctrine, (even if your state has it) many times many not apply in that particular case.

    Considering the costly legal nightmare you go through after a shooting most of the time its better to let the guy take what he wants because what he gets is usually hundreds of times less costly than the court costs and lawyer fees for even wounding him let alone killing him.

    In many States its illegal to shoot someone over theft of property.

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