By Kevin P.
Like a lot of gun owners, I train to shoot. Shoot fast, hit the target. In IDPA, you move, find the target and shoot it. I’m a B+ shot, usually in the top third or quarter in my pistol matches. (I do better when the really good shooters don’t show up, ha, ha.) I’ve been shooting, training and casually competing since I was in the Boy Scouts. But I’ve never trained not to shoot.
A couple of months ago, we had what began as a typical evening. At around 11:30, I locked up the house and made my way to bed. My wife had gone to bed an hour earlier than me, and was already fast asleep. I checked on my three teenage daughters, and all were in bed upstairs and asleep or on the way. I checked the garage door, the front door, and the windows. All were locked tight.
Our ground floor master bedroom has a typical sliding door leading to the backyard. We normally keep this open an inch or two for ventilation (screen door closed). There’s a stick in the sliding track that keeps it from opening any further. Outside that door is a motion sensor floodlight. We also have two little dogs that bark (and bark, and bark). A harmless but reliable early warning system, (mostly for the UPS guy, the mailman, and other people walking their dogs outside). All in all it’s not the White House, but a pretty secure setup, if we do our part.
I actually checked the weather on my phone before going to bed, because if there was going to be rain, I planned to close the sliding door. No rain forecast, a mild night, so I left it open. I went to bed, and fell asleep quickly.
Fast forward to 3:15 a.m., when I woke up, cold. That’s strange, I thought, as it wasn’t a cold night. I sat up in bed, looked over to see the sliding door, plus the outside screen door, both wide open. No motion light, no dogs barking, no sounds at all, just an open door. And me, groggy, but suddenly going 90 mph.
I sat there for a moment, hoping that I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. I looked around the room, half-expecting to see someone standing there, deciding what to do with me. I listened closely for footsteps or any unusual sounds. Was one of the kids sleepwalking? My wife, maybe? (Stranger things have happened. . .) Or, was this really as bad as it looked?
I thought about the element of surprise. If someone was inside, did they know that I was awake? Were they elsewhere in the house? Were they *right there* in the room with me, out of my line of sight? Or had they come and gone, leaving the open door behind them?
After a moment of. . . nothing . . . I quietly woke my wife and told her the only thing I knew for sure: “the door is open.” To her credit, she instantly realized what that meant, without any of the blearily-eyed disbelief that I felt. “I’m going to my closet.” I whispered. “Ok.” she understood.
I handed her a phone, and quietly walked across the room to my gun box, opened it and retrieved my “nightstand” gun (also my IDPA, range toy, and sometimes CCW) a GLOCK 35 with a blinding 100 lumen Streamlight weapon light. I chambered a round, the sound of the slide sounding like a thunderclap. Damn, that was loud. So much for surprise.
My next thought was with my kids upstairs, but first there was our room to deal with, especially because I intended to leave my wife alone in it.
I first closed and locked our bedroom door. I needed a moment and anyone else in the house sure-as-sh!t heard that slide rack anyway. I checked our closets, the bathroom, and under the bed. Behind the shower curtain? Nothing. I checked again. Still nothing. I looked around. My watch, some of my wife’s jewelry, even my briefcase, were all untouched. Not a burglary…was that good news or bad news?
That left the living areas downstairs and my kids’ rooms upstairs.
I unnecessarily explained to my wife that I was going to check the house. We could either call the police, but they wouldn’t respond quickly enough for me. A lot can go wrong in 10 or 15 minutes. Or had it already?
At that point I realized how foreign this was. Although I’ve been shooting for decades, I’d never trained to clear a house, much less by myself. I’d done it once or twice under other circumstances. Those times, there wasn’t and shouldn’t have been anyone there. This was different. I knew that I had three loved ones in front of me, any one of whom might be up and walking around. Plus my wife behind me. Plus the dogs; I didn’t want to shoot any of them.
High ready retention with my right hand, handheld flashlight in my left, ready to fend off whoever, I opened the bedroom door and set off.
Never have I felt this flavor of stress. Although I am comfortable handling a gun on and off the range, all of a sudden it felt heavy and foreign. The fact that I could not see around corners was messing with my head. All I could see were obstacles, cover and concealment, and little of it in my favor.
Should I go slowly, absorbing the sounds and smells around me, potentially sensing the presence of a person before actually encountering him? Or should I go fast and loud, blowing by anyone potentially hiding in the shadows, until I made it to my kids rooms? And then, which of the three rooms? There seemed to be no right answers, just varying degrees of wrong ones. I chose to go slowly. Maybe I could still have some element of surprise. Yeah, right.
Long story short (too late), the house was empty. I searched it, then searched it again. All the outside doors were locked. The cars and keys were untouched. The dogs looked at me, confused, and went back to sleep.
Peeking out the windows, there were no strange cars parked on the street. Of course, I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. As I thought back, all I could do was count the mistakes that had I made. That stick in the sliding door track? It was out. I didn’t check the night before, and it was probably left out earlier in the day. That’s on me.
The next morning, I couldn’t see any footprints, no signs of forced entry or other attempts, nothing else amiss. Whoever opened our sliding door probably didn’t think there was a bedroom on the ground floor, and backed out on seeing us asleep in bed. Or the motion light turned on and scared them away. Or who knows what. Nothing was touched, no one was there.
Needless to say, we double-check the doors now. We have a camera system now. There are motion sensors in the side yard now, the most likely way to the back yard. Did I mention that I lock the doors?
By the way, that 100 lumen weapon light was awesome. Too awesome. I blinked it on to look in my wife’s closed, and instantly blew my night vision. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) I’ll still keep the light on the gun, but will always keep a low power flashlight sitting next to it.
Like any good armchair operator, later I searched YouTube for videos on single-person house clearing. Turns out there aren’t many, because there really isn’t a good way to do it. Lock the friggin’ doors, that’s how you do it.
So in hindsight this was probably the perfect non-shooting defensive gun use. It was there, in my hand, if I needed it. Thank God I didn’t. May we all be so lucky, and may we all be prepared.