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In this 1981 made-for-TV movie A Gun in the House, actress Sally Struthers is terrorized by a brace of home invaders. Fortunately, eventually, she manages to escape and win a foot race to her underbed firearm. Yeah, good luck with that. Home carry, people. Home carry.

Unfortunately, Ms. Struthers’ character Emily tries to walk the bad guys out of the house at gunpoint. Also the wrong answer, as we see. She should have shot them both immediately after retrieving her revolver.

Legally speaking, you may use deadly force when you or other innocent lives are in imminent, credible danger of death or grievous bodily harm. (Google your state’s laws on the use of deadly force.) In this case, credibility is well and truly established.

An imminent threat is considered an act of violence in the process of happening. Does someone waving a knife at you at, say, 10 yards, pose an imminent threat (as opposed to someone actually trying to stab you)?

That depends on what’s called the totality of circumstances. Who, what, when, where and why. As interpreted by the police, prosecutor, judge and/or jury. But if someone’s in your house and poses a lethal threat, regardless, you’re most likely good to go.

(I believe in issuing a warning before shooting if possible, but certainly not in this case, and there are plenty of TTAG experts who counsel against it.)

In the movie, the legal system puts Ms. Struthers’ character through the wringer for what was clearly a good shoot. Make no mistake: this can happen to you.

If you’re involved in a defensive gun use (DGU), provide the cops with basic info on the bad guy (should he be somewhere else, having failed to assume room temperature), witnesses and evidence. Then lawyer up and shut up. Do not recount the actual events without a lawyer!

And while you might think the bad guy’s return is an over-dramatization, that can happen, too. If not him, fellow gang members or family could come back to enact revenge. “Emily” uses a baseball bat to dispatch the returning gun-wielding perp, but really, a firearm would have been the better choice. Which is why owning one home defense firearm isn’t enough. Yes, the cops may confiscate all your firearms after a DGU, not just the one(s) you used. But will they?

Another mistake: approaching a wounded or seemingly dead (in that made-for-TV kinda way) bad guy. Either keep shooting until the threat stops or leave the scene.

If you can’t leave the scene before the cops arrive — if, for example, you’ve got family members you have to protect — keep your distance! Be prepared to fire again. Or use some other weapon. Dropping the gun in favor of tackling the bad guy? That’s just silly.

Lastly, whether you’re at the gun range or running around your house like an idiot, making yourself a target for responding police, keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. You don’t want to shoot the wrong person.

TTAG commentators: did I miss anything? Oh, and check out the ending. That’s where the mainstream media was in 1981. Hopefully, not now.

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      • BS. Shooting high chest does nothing but let off blood. The perp still has anywhere between 15sec and 1min of full capacity to kill you. Immediate incapacitation can only be achieved with a shot to the brain stem or high spine.

        If you cannot hit the brain, the headshot is wasted either way. If you can, then isnt the faster the better? Even if you only hit the face, it’s much more disruptive to their effectiveness than a thud to the chest. And there’s this thing called body armour.

        The Mozambique drill got the priorities wrong. It was invented, according to Wikipedia, by some random PMC over a single gunfight, where the first two shots didnt stop the enemy anyway.

        • I once worked with some UK trained folk and their tactic with an SMG (MP5 at the time) was that if you didn’t have an immediate CNS shot, dump rounds into the high chest until you did, but always put one in the head before moving on.

      • Sadly, a cop in Dallas heroically charged the killer and shot him in the chest – where the killer’s body armor deflected the bullet. The killer then blew the police officer away. A head shot would have had a different result.

        So we get into the debate – better chance of hitting the target vs better chance of terminating the target.

        • That’s why we still shoot high chest immediately after the headshot, regardless of whether it’s a hit or not.

        • And it’s an endless debate. But in the long run, it will always be affected by a wide range of situational variables that you, as the person with a split second to make you decision, has to make. There are a lot of them, but some are:

          1. Range.
          2. Your personal shooting skill, both moving and standing still.
          3. Are you personally taking fire or is the shooter concentrating on another target?
          4. What are you armed with?
          5. Is there intervening cover for you or him or both?
          6. Are there other people involved,. and are they between you and him?
          7. Are you wounded and using one hand or your off hand?
          8. Are you using a pistol or a revolver, which will affect follow-up shots?
          9. What kind of a position are you in, ie. are you prone and shooting under the cover of another object such as under a vehicle or even a table?

          There’s more, but you get the idea. My personal philosophy? Go for the head shot in the vermilion zone first. That’s an instant DRT shot.

          But if I feel there are other things that make that an unlikely hit I will put a couple of rounds anywhere I can, to include ankles and knees. A case in point, in the 1997 North Hollywood bank robber shootout the perps were in full armor, but one LEO shot under a car and hit the guy’s ankles. Do whatever damage you can as fast as you can.

      • I remember from US Navy security forces training we were taught to hold the pistol low and bring it up to get a good target picture as it is much faster than starting with the pistol high, which we were originally taught. The Mozambique Drill would seem to support going from low to high.

        • Low to high is the way I was taught. Letting the muzzle rise work for you instead of against you is the way to go.

        • Low to high (and from weak side to strong side for that matter) is correct when the target value is the same. I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of transition speed to get a faster stop, though.

    • Always! And I mean ALWAYS finish them off with one to the nuts just in case by some miracle they are able to survive or are revived by EMS/doctors they are rendered unable to procreate.

      Th, Th, Th, THAT’S ALL FOLKS!

  1. I keep a couple of spares and ammo at an off site location in case the cops take all my guns after a dgu. We have a waiting period in CA and I want to tool up immediately after. Just in case.

    • Everyone should have a family member/friend, or two, who they do this with…

      A long gun cases in your buddy’s attic with a cheap WASR AK, some old steel mags loaded with Spam Can 7.62, and a second-hand S&W SD9 loaded with target ammo might be like barried treasure one day.

      Not that my specificity in my description implies anything .

      • A good idea, unless you live in a slave state where every gun you own is registered…

        • There are ways to get things done for the highly motivated.

          BGs prove that fact everyday.

        • My guns are registered. It’s not illegal to have some of my guns in another location. A dgu happens at my home and the cops will have to investigate. I can’t see them getting a warrant to go to my off site location just to retrieve guns when I give them the gun involved and, and with my lawyers help, my co-operation.

          If involved in a dgu I fully expect to lose all firearms in the area of the dgu. That’s why I go to the expense and hassle to always have other options to gun up. One is none.

  2. Does someone waving a knife at you at, say, 10 yards, pose an imminent threat?

    Sure they are. That’s way to close to the 21 foot rule.

  3. Now I know why Sally Struthers doesn’t act anymore… (she never did to begin with!)

  4. Oh, geez, the ending:
    “I’m required to return this (gun) to you”
    “Do I have to take it back?”

  5. Man I don’t remember this made for the boob-tube messterpiece. Just as well. Sound advice RF. I’ve seen lots of silly TV shows/movies where the heroine just scream/faints or swoons instead of pulling the trigger…MY woman would blow the sob away.

    • I was watching this when my wife came home from the grocery store. She thought I was watching porn. It was the part where the bad guy crash through the window. Then the heavy breathing and grunting started. I did get a little turned on. Then I remembered…Sally Struthers. Anyway, I had to show my wife what I was watching. I fast forwarded to the end when the woman did not want to take the gun back. My wife gave the screen the middle finger.
      Not knowing the plot, I told my wife that the husband was the rapist and they were just role playing but things went too far when the partner got shot. How else do you explain the stupid scenes where she doesn’t shoot the guy?

  6. Agree except for the verbal warning. Its okay to warn if they are outside and you are inside but not when they are already in your crib. Also, not sure I agree with telling the police anything at all until you have talked to counsel except for telling them that I was in fear of my life and basic info on me like name, confirm that you live in the house and who else is in the home presently. Then you should promptly STFU.

    • To claim self defense, you will have to acknowledge (not admit) that you shot the bad guy. Therefore, you lose nothing by saying so at the beginning. Just say that he broke in and gave you no choice but to shoot. Make sure the cops see where he broke in so that isn’t forgotten. At that point, tell them that you will make a full statement after consulting your lawyer and don’t budge from that position. You need 48 to 72 hours to settle down after the incident. Before that, you will forget significant details. Even worse, your brain will make up details to fill gaps in your memory. You’re not lying. You’re just repeating the misinformation your brain generated. Unfortunately, an overzealous prosecutor may use your honest mistakes against you.

  7. Triple tap, then repeat as necessary. If multiple targets, everybody gets two before anybody gets three. There’s a reason why I have a loaded gun on every floor of my house along with the one on my belt. Pajama bottoms have a hard time keeping the holster up.

    But then again, if I get into a gun fight in my house where nine rounds of .45ACP +P is not sufficient to get me to a better gun, I can officially complain about having a bad day.

  8. If the BG can withstand the military surp 00 buck I’m shucking in my HD shotgun, I won’t have to keep my distance, because I’ll help him carry the TV outside.

  9. “Does someone waving a knife at you at, say, 10 yards, pose an imminent threat (as opposed to someone actually trying to stab you)?”

    If they begin to advance towards you at some point you’re gonna have to bust a cap in their ass. You cannot allow that person to close to a range where the knife is effective.

    I’ve been involved in a hand to hand brawl involving a knife. It’s not fun. Don’t do it. Shoot that fucker before they’re close enough to personally introduce you to Mr. Pointy or run away.

    • Per the discussion at the top, at 10 feet, unless you get a CNS shot, they can still tear you up with a knife even if you shoot them first. And you may well bleed out before they do. Basically, I agree with you 100%. Perhaps it’s not rational, but at very close quarters I fear an edged weapon more than a pistol.

      • Well, first off, the proposition was 10 yards, not 10 feet. At 10 yards, under stress, I have no confidence I can make a successful head shot, COM is my goal, and my only fear in that case is a jam preventing shot #2. Otherwise, running at me, even if I missed, gives plenty of time to take an aimed second shot at closer range, and then duck aside while preparing for yet another shot. I think it is far more likely (hit or miss) that his motivation would be to get the hell out of there, somebody is shooting at me, no fair!

        If he makes it out the door and collapses in the yard, I’ll wait a while (maybe 10-15 minutes) keeping close watch to assure he doesn’t wish to re-engage, before calling cops. If he makes it off the property, I guess I missed, but the cops are not necessary. If they can no longer help, why call them?

  10. BOOM…and, that’s the end of the movie.

    Sadly, the way they went really is slightly more entertaining.

    And no, ladies, having a gun won’t protect you from making retarded choices, lol

  11. Number 4 shot in the chest area takes the fight and sight out of anyone. You will need to repaint and buy rugs.

    • No #4 for me….. I’d go with #1 shot. Finally found a couple boxes of the Federal LE #1, so I think I’ll stick with what an old-timer told me works best. He actually had to ballistically persuade someone out of his house, and that someone left on a slab….. so I’ll take his word for it.

    • While on the police department in the 80’s #4 buck was the “soup de jour” for shotgun loads. It was required for use in the 870’s. There was a guy robbing stores and such, and a tip led to a stake out. He came in demanded money, and took a full load of #4 in the chest from about ten feet. He turned and ran (after shooting back) four blocks before collapsing. Autopsy determined only one pellet had penetrated through his rib cage, and nicked an artery on his heart (can’t remember which one). The other pellets were found under the skin or in his clothing. He was wearing a heavy fleece jacket at the time. Next morning they took all the #4 from the officers and replaced with 00. I had confidence in the round before, but not after that.

      • Yes, I worry about that after reading such stories. On the other hand, my neighbors aren’t that far from me. I worry about over-penetration, too. Using low-recoil (hopefully lower velocity) 00.

  12. Keep your finger off trigger. Identify before you liquefy. Don’t talk, shoot. Let the medics check the body later. What does “hold a bad guy at bay” mean?

  13. So the police have a legal right to seize all your guns after someone invades your home and poses a threat to your life or is intent on bodily harm? Doesn’t that seem against, uh, idk, every amendment in the Bill of Rights?

  14. Lol! I love the legal advice. And the implication that you will use multiple guns in the highly likely event that a whole gang of criminals invades your trailer. Maybe get an alarm system? Just a thought. Though I’m sure you’re too scared about police response times. Guess you better hope they get there after you put the gun down, because they will absolutely shoot you.

    • “Maybe get an alarm system?”

      I suspect your post isn’t serious, but alarms are fine and have their utility. They can provide some warning when someone is breaking in. It can be the difference between being awake and on your feet and waking up with a gun in your face or a knife at your throat. An alarm can also notify the police for you, which gives you one less thing to do (though most companies will try to call you first, then call the cops, so dialing 911 yourself is probably faster if you have the time to do so).

      But that’s the limit of what an alarm can do. I suppose the operator might have some comforting words for you. I would rather use any time I have to focus on surviving. And for that you need some way to prevent an attacker from harming you and your family. That could take the form of a well-protected room which can hold off an attacker for 11 to 45 minutes (and up). Or, it could be a weapon. Some go with both. Up to the individual, depending on their preferences and circumstances.

      • Alarms serve as a deterrent. Burglars are much less likely to break into a home that is protected by an alarm system. I know in your fantasy alQeda has sent a team of assassins to steal your freedom, and no alarm system in the world will stop their jihad against you (I assume in your fantasy you are also someone important unlike real life). Of course with your mindset, I have little doubt the person most likely to be injured by your firearm is yourself or a loved one.

        • For someone who so carries on about “fantasy”, you sure do invent a bunch of crap from your own imagination, which no one else has mentioned! Have you been handed some kind of a script?

        • Yes it was entitled: I have no respect for you and your pathetic paranoia, you firearms industry schill/coward. It was by M. Night Shyamalan. Shocking twist you’ve wasted you life and money barking at shadows.

  15. I would like to add that you are never justified in shooting through a door
    The legal theory is that the danger is at one remove
    You are required to wait until they break through the door
    Here in Florida we have had several homeowners announce to the person pounding on the door that they have a gun and will defend themselves
    After shooting thru the door they have hit
    Drunk neighbors knocking on the door of lookalike houses
    Confused accident victims seeking help for others still at the crash site
    Non English speaking foreigners out trick or treating ( on Halloween)
    Family members on drugs
    Lost Alzheimer’s people

    Also, do not go outside and search for trouble
    That’s the job of the police
    Arm yourself, turn on your camera and call police
    Cameras will prove you were the victim and had no choice but to shoot when they broke in
    ( don’t reload and empty another magazine into the downed perp on camera)
    Remember that stupid thing you see every person do in gun videos looking both ways after shooting?
    It is a great idea to do it to break your tunnel vision after a shoot to catch his friend flanking you

    • All that sounds reasonable. However, I recently thought about a case in Minnesota. A gang of 20-30 young men went to a residential neighborhood, and threatened to kidnap and rape a homeowner there. Explicitly threatened her. Apparently they were Somalis who stated that they had the right to do this under Sharia law. After making the threats, they came onto her property. The homeowner went inside and the gang of men chose not to pursue her, so all ended well. But if a small mob of people make explicit threats like that, then invade your property, as a jury member I would consider that an imminent and credible threat.

  16. These hypothetical and anecdotal situations always make for interesting conversations and theorizing. However at the end of the day, if a BG enters your home, you do whatever you have to do, at times letting that animal instinct or reptilian brain take over. Because if anyone comes into your house uninvited, especially at night, they are not there to talk to you about Jesus. I’m just glad that I live in a state that recognizes that fact.

  17. Two responses to comments above:

    While this is kinda a cheesy movie, I have to disagree about negative comments about Sally’s acting skills. She was a sheltered housewife and mother. I personally thought she brought her A-game to this role. I could see her actions, reactions, and emotions as honest for a woman in that situation.

    Also, that she was “not proud” of what she had done (saving her life and that of her child’s) and didn’t really want the gun back – can you blame her? At every step, the government of California discouraged her. Cops telling the neighborhood group you can’t shoot someone JUST because they break into their home. Waiting 14 days to pick up your firearm after purchase? The DA going against the senior detective and charging 1st degree murder. All this after a horribly traumatic attack.

  18. I always home carry. In the house, BBQ’ing, mowing the lawn, and typing this comment right now.

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