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Sara's beloved (courtesy

As you may know, I’m living on my own in California until my house sells while my husband works in Wyoming. When our son turned three years old, my husband made the drive back to The Golden State. We’d made plans on the phone and I was expecting him on Friday around noon. However, his boss ended up letting him off work early so he could come see us. He decided to surprise me . . .

After falling asleep around 9:30, I woke up at just after midnight to the sound of my front door opening. My husband wasn’t supposed to be home until noon. I immediately reached for my gun on the night stand. As I was preparing to switch on the light, I recognized his footsteps.

“SARA! It’s me! Don’t shoot me!”

I put the gun down and went to greet him. He made the right decision identifying himself, even at the risk of waking our kids.

I’ve heard tragic stories of people shooting their loved ones by mistake. I’ve also read articles about drunk people entering the wrong house and paying for their mistake with their life. As gun owners we can assume that a stranger in the wrong place at the wrong time is a threat. But we must always be sure of our target and its intentions before pulling the trigger.

Some people recommend calling out to a home invader, issuing a threat of deadly force. This gives the bad guy(s) a chance to leave or, if they are not what they seem to be, identify themselves. Other gun owners believe they should remain silent, so as not to give their position away. Either way, one way or another, it’s imperative that you know your target.

Our new house will have an alarm system. That will help reduce the risk; it signals the person triggering the alarm that they should ID themselves or leave. Outside the home, it’s important not to shoot to protect innocent life unless you know that’s what you’re doing. (There are such things as undercover cops.) Hold your fire unless you’re absolutely certain that you’re doing the right thing. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no going back.

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  1. Completely unexpected arrival at oh-dark 30…

    Good thing you weren’t up already, gun in hand, because you heard a strange noise 5 min. earlier.

    Very thought provoking. I believe I’ll make it a habit from now on to call ahead if a similar situation arises…

  2. I remember the story of the grandmother shooting through the bedroom door at” noise” that turned out to be her grandson after a trip to the bathroom late night….

  3. A dog would know if the “visitor” is familiar or not, long before you will, and respond accordingly.

    One more reason to have a dog.

    • Depends on the dog. Just about any dog will ‘alert’ potential danger BEFORE they recognize it is a family member.

        • Our dog knows my wife’s car alarm from others. I hear a chirp and watch the dog, by his signal I unlock the door or not, and we live on the second floor rear of our building about 180 to 200 feet away from the car park. Same dog sees me wearing a motorcycle helmet from 15 feet away growls ferociously until he hears my voice then comes to me subserviently. helmet is older than he is , he is two years old-you’d think he would know it by now.

        • Agree. My dogs can tell my cars while they are approaching in the long driveway and tell family members from strangers.

        • Yes, but don’t become too complacent. If your wife drives a 2008 Accord and a stranger coming also drives a 2008 Accord, I’m sure your dog couldn’t tell the difference.

        • Believe me, I know the difference between “Mommy is home!” barks and “Mailman/Jehovah’s Witnesses are at the damn door again” barks.

    • Well, SOME dogs will. Know your dog and what drives it before counting on it to alert you to a loved one. (alas, our dogs go bat-youknowwhat-crazy when there’s ANY noise in the house in the wee hours, and so far 100% of them have been kids (or me).

  4. Sage advice.

    Always know your target.

    I’m of the mind to announce my presence, with all kinds of lights and fury. If they’re still around,
    they can then be easily identified as friend or foe, and dealt with accordingly…

  5. “just after midnight”

    If you drop in on someone unexpectedly after dark, it might be a good idea to grab your phone and call them from the driveway. This way, you identify yourself before the speculation begins, without spoiling the “surprise.”

    • That is my rule if I come home early from work, for whatever reason…. even if I’m in a hot hurry because I gotta drop a mad deuce. I wait until the bedroom light comes on, otherwise my girlfriend might put my lights out, permanently.

      • I used to be married to a woman that I didn’t trust too much. When I came home early, I would knock on the front door, then run around to the back door!

  6. Our family has a simple rule: we always identify ourselves when enter our home. If it is late at night and some may be sleeping, we identify ourselves with our quiet voice … but we identify ourselves nonetheless.

  7. i’d rather have you point a gun at me than do what he does for a living. i would be shaking uncontrollably at those heights.

    • “i would be shaking uncontrollably at those heights.”

      You’d be surprised.

      I don’t exactly like heights, but with a harness like he has I didn’t have a problem on a low (60 ft) tower.

      Now a 1500 ft broadcast tower changing out the strobe light? Not for me….

      I hear the guys who build cell phone towers have a very high fatality rate.

  8. My mother pointed a cocked 357 Ruger Blackhawk at the man coming through the front door when she was alone with me as an infant and my 2 year old brother one night before my father was supposed to come home from a work trip. She waited to see who it was before firing and so my father was spared when she realized it was him. He jumped back through the door when he saw the pistol though.

    Happens somewhat frequently. Like you say making sure pays the highest dividend. I’m glad y’all are all safe.

  9. If your house has an alarm system that phones the dispatcher, and you’re living in a rural area in Wyoming, know this:

    Volunteers (fire & EMT’s) quickly tire of being rousted out of bed to respond to false alarms. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a ADT system, local ADT-lite system, or a Life Alert alarm. Paid 911/emergency services have ways to make people get serious about their false alarms (ie, they can charge for false alarms, etc). Volunteer departments have no such mechanisms in the law, but we’re still accountable to the government to respond to all calls.

    After more than three false alarms at an address, when the volunteers show up to your address, they’ll most likely be bringing a grumpy attitude with them.

    And if you think the volunteer firefighters/EMTs become grumpy at false alarms… wait until you meet the FF/EMT spouses at some point in the future.

  10. In my household there it seems like strange noises at night happen a lot. Everything from a sleepwalking 3 year old getting in to the refrigerator, snack cabinet, turning on TV, or dumping a tub of Lego’s on the floor(Which sounds like someone breaking glass). Then I’ve got friends and family who come over drunk late at night. A bird that somehow got in the house and waited till 3am to freak out. It’s always something. I admit I get up with my pistol in hand though I’ve never even come close to shooting because I’m not willing to shoot(or put my finger on the trigger) until I identify the individual and situation. And if you identify the individual as a possible hostile without being noticed… take a second to think about whats behind your target and what’s behind you if your target returns fire.

  11. Too bad this story didn’t include the important step of fetching the flashlight along with the gun from the nightstand. My wife would be blinded by a flashlight long before a gun got pointed even remotely in her direction no matter how unexpected her presence. This was a good lesson learned to share.

  12. We don’t play games like that and explicitly discourage others from showing up and surprising us. Even someone coming home on time, if the other got home early and crashed on the couch, could pose a problem. The sleeper could have hit a deep sleep and be slow to gain full awareness of their surroundings, even as the partner clearly announces their entry. Anything’s possible, so communication is the key.

  13. Know your target? So no shooting strangers, only acquaintances…unless you make the acquaintance of the stranger, thereby knowing them and being able to shoot them.

  14. Once upon a time, I shared a 4 bed/bath student apartment with other folks. It was cheap, I could rent 2 of the bedrooms, and share utilities, for 60% of what a studio or 1 bedroom cost.

    Plus, it was a ground floor apartment, slab on grade, my safe fit in the closet bolted down with the door still able to close, and my room was the ‘front’ room, with my bedroom window beside the front door, facing the front parking lot where I parked my work truck with tools.

    had 4 issues at that complex.

    1 was the idiot local kid who liked to hide in bushes and use a internet sourced hi power laser pointer to play sniper with folks, that was always good to spike my adrenal response.

    2 was coming home to find that one of the other folks in the apartment had left the front door propped while he smoked, and his new ‘friends’ had cleaned out the apartment of easy to grab and pawn items. My computer was still there, change jar was gone, the portable safe that USED to go behind the seat of my truck, on days I was not driving to the base, was missing, and so was the loose open box ammo off the shelf above the safe. Thank God, the only thing in the portable safe was some range ammo and a cleaning kit, left over from a range trip that weekend. all the bulk ammo and all of the firearms were still safely secured and waiting for me. They got good prints where they had tried to tip the safe and ammo storage locker over, and gave up when they realized that 4X 3/4 anchors beat most human bodies power output.

    3 2 weeks later, after said apartment mate had been evicted, at my request, by the landlord, he had still not picked up all of his stuff from his room. someone I had never met showed up, banging on my front door, and informed my that the person who had moved out had sold him the remaining stuff, and he was there to pick it up. I told him to go take a flying leap. He tried to push the door open, then got mad when I displayed the 870 that was in my other hand and informed him that entering the apartment would result only in pain and death. He called 911, claimed I tried to kill him, and parked blocking my front door with his back to the door to await police response. The officer who showed up was one of the two who had investigated the robbery call 2 weeks before. He spoke to me, apologized to me, then waited while the visitor left and returned with a signed bill of sale. The officer then helped me toss the items in question out onto the sidewalk in front of the building, after telling the visitor he had no right to enter the building, and that I had every right to shoot if he tied to force his way in. Extremely polite interaction with a LEO, always nice to have LEO’s who don’t mind armed citizens. He did not even blink at the fact that I had one of my handguns visible on my belt during the whole encounter.

    I slept at the time in a lofted bed, which did NOT leave enough room to sit up in bed without careful thought beforehand. Made for lots of open floor space in the room for a workbench, desk, etc. The ladder of said bed was at my feet, and the window is at the base of the ladder. A friendly local, possibly the kid who like to play laser tag every few weeks, had decided that putting a box of fireworks, all tied up with fuse, into the empty metal dumpster and lighting it was a great idea. I woke up to explosions, sat up, put a dent in the ceiling, slid down the ladder, and made it to the window to look at, head pounding, in time to see a running figure, and a dumpster being lit non stop by flame and explosions from the inside.

  15. Dad used to work at a mine. One night there was a cave in and he and his crew never made it down the shaft. They closed the mine for a while and pop came home several hours early. It was the middle of the night and my step mom was asleep in her room and had 3 kids in their own rooms snoozing away when the dog started going nuts and headlights and engine sounds were outside. She head a car door very obviously closed so as to be quiet and thought someone was sneaking up. She grabbed her pistol and took position with a view of the front door. The door knob starts rattling and she yells out, “Stop right there or I’ll kill you!” in such a way that there could be no confusion about who was scared and who was in danger as a result. Dad dove off the porch yelling, “Lovie, DON’T SHOOT””IT’S ME!”

    She was for sure going to kill whoever walked through that door. Didn’t matter who it was. She’d been taught about break-ins and had too many things to defend to be mellow about it.

    Dad was smart and knew her well (he trained her) and knew that she didn’t make idle threats. She waited for target identification instead of killing him through the door. Good choice. He made a hasty exit from the area where potential targets were and identified himself before she could identify him as a target. Good choice.

    If any one of those good choices hadn’t been made there’d have been someone dead for sure. The first thing dad pounded into my head when he took me hunting the first time was, don’t shoot at sounds. Identify your target with your eyes and be sure. Bullets aren’t good decision makers.

  16. Know your target. Good training. Keep up the good work. Teach your children well. No double standards put the DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote.Pass the word.

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