Personal Defense Tip: Don’t Shoot Through An Exterior Door

Side view of stylish white front door or modern house with red walls, door mat, white bench, tree in pot, stairs and beautiful lamps. 3d rendering

Shooting through a door is a bad idea. No matter who advises you to do so. Your ability to see your target is at best obscured or totally nonexistent. And it may be difficult to show that you believed that you were confronting an imminent, deadly threat. Shooting through an inside door may be less problematic than one that’s an entrance to a building. A person who has retreated to a bedroom or bathroom and who has locked the door may have fewer options than someone who is defending an entrance door, but still isn’t recommended.

If someone has already broken into a residence, they have shown themselves to be a threat. This is the essence of the castle doctrine in most states. But shooting through a door violates one of the cardinal safely rules: know your target and what is beyond it.

In one case in Las Vegas, the home owner, a fire department captain, wasn’t prosecuted for firing through his door and severely wounding an innocent bystander. Prosecutors ruled that his actions were reasonable, given the circumstances. The “reasonable person” standard applies to what the person making the decision knew at the time, not what the reality was.

From reviewjournal.com:

“There need not be actual danger when somebody defends himself or herself,” the prosecutor said.

Whenever evidence of self-defense exists, Daskas explained, the burden shifts to prosecutors to disprove the claim. In this case, prosecutors determined they likely could not.

“We put ourselves in the shoes of the homeowner, and we ask ourselves, ‘Would a reasonable person in that situation have the right to defend himself and his family members from that apparent danger?’ ” Daskas said.

The shooting occurred at 2:00 a.m. when the homeowner was awakened by the banging on the door. The person banging on the door had left a nearby party, was intoxicated, had left his car keys at the party and thought someone was playing a joke on him. The shooting took place in a neighborhood where the houses were quite similar to each other.

The victim, who had also attended the party, was approaching the door to tell the other partygoer that he was at the wrong house when the homeowner shot through the door a few inches from the peephole. In this case, the homeowner was sued by the victim. A settlement was reached for the limit of the homeowner’s insurance.

While shooting through the door was found to be justified in this case, it’s a bad idea. You may not have a great deal of time once the integrity of the door is breached. A damaged door, locks, or a broken window will go a long way to show that you were reasonable in your actions. The use of deadly force is more easily justified when the intruder has partly penetrated your defenses. A good example is this video from Washington state, in which the intruder with a machete destroyed the entrance door as he tried to force entry.

If you are thinking defensively, a stout security door or a stand-off barrier of some kind is a good solution. They will give you more time to assess the situation, and an intruder who has breached them will have shown a serious intent to violate the sanctity of your castle.

 

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Gun Watch

comments

  1. avatar Gordon Wagner says:

    Motion-detector controlled sprinklers… an idea I like more and more. Can I be sued for spraying water at someone banging on my door at three in the morning?

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      This is America, man. You can be sued for anything.

        1. avatar Mongoose says:

          Ha. That was my buddy’s dad.

    2. avatar enuf says:

      Love the idea.

      True tho, you can be sued for anything at anytime by anybody.

    3. avatar CPC says:

      The only way you could be sued is if the bad guy is standing on a 3,000 volt welcome mat.

    4. avatar Docduracoat says:

      I don’t understand why he wasn’t prosecuted.
      It is 100% legal to bang on someone’s door. Even late at night.
      He’s in no danger at all as long as the door is secure.
      It could conceivably have been emergency services personnel banging on his door to warn him that his house or his car was on fire.

  2. avatar SouthernPatriot says:

    Prosecutors and/or judges in the states which have the Castle Doctrine interpret differently that law allowing the use of deadly force to protect one’s family and self. Once the outer barrier (a stout exterior door) is breached or is almost breached and imminent danger is evident, a citizen is justified in shooting.

    As Dean stated, ” [Stout exterior doors or a barriers] will give you more time to assess the situation, and an intruder who has breached them will have shown a serious intent to violate the sanctity of your castle.”

    My father and mother confronted a very large thug and armed home invader in their home about 15 years ago. There was no arrest, no trial, and no long term incarceration paid by taxpayers. A dear friend faced an attempted armed home invasion, but when the told them what they were facing when they completed breaking in his door, they decided to try somewhere else (a convenience store about 2 miles down the same road).

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Okay, hold on.

      1) This event happened six years ago in June 2014. While the situation is relevant to any home defense scenario, no timeframe is mentioned. Poor reporting.

      2) Fire Department Captain foolishly blows holes through his door without fully understanding the situation, and completely violating Rule #4, resulting in an innocent person being injured (thank God not killed). And no charges of recklessness were filed?? I guess the City protects its own, indeed. If I had done the very same thing and blindly shot through my door and wounded someone in the street, I wouldn’t be here typing this comment because I’d still be in the clink. Geez.

      1. avatar enuf says:

        Exactly. Yet another example of some animals in the Zoo being more equal than others. The typical, not potlically connected or union defended citizen doing similar would have been arrested and charged. Very likely that very day during the initial police response to the call.

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      The “Castle” starts at the moat (ditch along the road/Right of way).

  3. avatar drav says:

    The second I saw the picture of the house I said ” That sure looks like Vegas…” sure enough I scroll down and I was right lol

    1. avatar MeRp says:

      Yeah about 90% of the single family houses there seem to be nearly identical to this one…

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    “Shooting through an inside door may be less problematic than one that’s an entrance to a building.”

    Oscar Pistorius would not agree.

    1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      Wrong, Oscar Pistorius would totally agree with shooting through closed doors, a fact he maintained all the way till the gavel fell… the person who would disagree quite heartily would be Reeva Steenkamp…

      1. I’m pretty sure that in that case, the bullets were flying in the wrong direction through that door.

      2. avatar Ralph says:

        I’m sure that Blade Runner disagrees now.

  5. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Just from a moral standpoint I don’t think that you’re justified in shooting someone through the door just because someone is pounding on it at 2:00am. It’s most likely as in this case, a drunk at the wrong house, or it could be someone in distress. Now if the intruder starts yelling threats through the door that’s a little different, but I still don’t see the need to shoot before the door is actually breached, if you have a firearm trained at the door from a defensive position. Once the door is breached you have every justification you need, both for your local DA and your maker, to open fire.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Even shouting threats, That’s time to call police. I know, it’s a PITA at 2 AM, but who wants to shoot somebody? He comes through the door, his a$$ is mine.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Shouting threats establishes the ill intent of the person on the other side of the door, although it doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of it being a drunk at the wrong house so I still wouldn’t shoot through the door. I wouldn’t advise against calling 911, but odds are the trespasser will be long gone by the time the cops arrive.

        1. avatar Alan Wayne Rose says:

          As long as you’re doing everything right, having a 911 dispatcher on the line provides audio of the event as it unfolds. Audio that can get you out of jail (or buried under it). I’d prefer to have hidden cameras pointing at both sides of the door. If things go badly in your decision making, hope the cops don’t find them.

      2. avatar Someone says:

        What police? Police is getting abolished, you need to keep up with the times. 😄

    2. avatar J. Zoss says:

      I tend to agree but it somewhat depends on ones definition of breached and the how fast the intruders progress is. For most that equals about a second unfortunately. If it is clear he is getting in he gets no time benefits from me.

      If a door is working as hoped at first but the person starts making real progress towards breaking it open or creating a hole in it I won’t necessarily blindly shoot through the door but I am also not necessarily going to wait until they can freely enter either before I take action to end the threat.

      Of course nothing remotely like that happened here and there was no justification for firing a single shot.

    3. avatar Hannibal says:

      “pounding,” yes. Kicking? Different story. Who knows which it was.

    4. avatar Biatec says:

      Agree completely.

    5. avatar Bystander says:

      There was an incident in Texas several years ago similar to this. Drunk/high person mistakenly pounding on the wrong door, one house over IIRC, at 3am. Homeowner fired a warning shot high through the door. Victim was very tall, and took the warning shot right through the head. Yeah, know your target.

    6. avatar enuf says:

      Agree completely.

  6. avatar Tsn4 says:

    The machete thing happened in Idaho. Used to have family in that town.

  7. avatar actionphysicalman says:

    I had someone trying to kick my apartment door in at 4am or so 20 some years ago. I kept the lights off and waited with a 1911 leveled at the doorway. I had very good vision and they would have been illuminated from the hallway. Not sure if I should have yelled to them that they were likely at the wrong door instead of staying quiet like I did. I may have been too frightened to say anything. Thankfully the door was fairly stout and they gave up before they got in. There was only about 12 feet possible between myself and the door so it would have had to have been a quick decision.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      That must have had commercial grade standards that were a step up from the typical residential door. All it takes is one push kick from a grown man to “open” the typical door.

      1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

        I could see the door buckling from the blows and there were at least four of them (blows). I was surprised that it held. It was St. Paul, MN so I am pretty sure I would have been arrested if the door had given in and my gun fired. That notion was bothering me at least as much as the fact that some crazy ass was trying to kick in my door at 4am. The progs have run that town for a long time and it was about 12 years before shall issue came to MN and civilian gun ownership was frowned on. I hated it there.

  8. avatar TT says:

    The shooter is damn lucky he didn’t go to jail. It looks to me like the shooter’s position as a high-ranking employee of the local government helped the local prosecutor decide not to charge the shooter far more than any belief that it’s reasonable to shoot people through doors. I have a tough time seeing what threat someone knocking on your door poses that justifies the use of deadly force.

    1. avatar JR_in_NC says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. I’m not clear on how pounding on a door (no matter what time it is) represents ability, opportunity AND jeopardy and that the threat of death or bodily injury is imminent.

      Thought as a I read the story: “One set of rules for them, a different set for us.” That prosecutor seemed to be falling all over himself to justify the shooting.

      1. avatar J. Zoss says:

        Agree with both of you.

    2. I see attempted murder. Should have called police to report what would have been a drunk and disorderly charge.

      The guy wasn’t trying to break in. He was trying to get someone on the inside to open the door. This should have been the reasonable assertion by the homeowner. When did stupidity become a defense?

  9. avatar Gabe says:

    This incidet is “Shotgun Joe” endorsed!

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Just get your double barrel Fudd shotgun and fire through the door! Make things tough on Girl scouts though.

      1. avatar KenW says:

        Is it OK for Jehovah’s Witnesses or Elders Bob and Brian from the Mormons?
        Girl scouts have good cookies so they are welcome to knock.

        1. avatar arc says:

          Jehovah’s Witness has some serious balls, or lack of common sense to be showing up unannounced at homes in the deep countryside. I rarely answer the door until I have a gun, know who or how many people are outside and if they are physically fit.

          Answered the door to someone unexpected today but he dressed and carried himself with a purpose for being at my door step. Turned out to be the G-man who needed to perform a routine inspection of my business; I passed.

        2. avatar Darkman says:

          Years ago I had a sure fire way deter to Jehovah’s and other religious types. Opened the door with a 7 foot Ball python draped over my shoulders. Raised him from a pup. Every time they came to my neighborhood after that. They always walked a little faster passed my house. As for now my house has an outer and inner door. If someone breaks through the outer door. They’ve shown all the intent necessary. The rest can be cleaned up with the hose.

      2. avatar Montana Actual says:

        It’s FUDD scythe now…

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Hard to swing a scythe in an entry hall…carry a sickle for CQC…or, a Gladius (battle tested for over 2,000 years).

  10. avatar JackieO says:

    If that was in NY, say hello Dannemora, your new home.

  11. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Doesn’t that pic show the shooting was in front of the GARAGE door? What is that about?

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      Pretty sure that’s just a Google Street View screenshot. Those aren’t evidence markers.

  12. avatar J. Zoss says:

    It isn’t free but a confrontation ending this way is mostly avoidable and also without making your house look like the entrance to a prison block. It is easy enough to keep both men that were present from breaching his door if that had been their intent.

    The ability to see and communicate with people at your door is more than just convenient. It is nice for letting strangers that show up at your door at odd hours that they are in danger if they intend to force their way in. It goes a long way towards preventing unnecessary loss of life and all the emotional and legal baggage that go with.

    Shooting mostly or completely blindly through a door should only be considered in rare situations where conventional methods might not work. It can have its place if a situation dictates but based on the report this was obviously not it.

    1. avatar gus says:

      a measure of the diameter of the bullet, given in decimal fractions of an inch (.45, .357, .40, etc) except when designed by socialist eurofags who use the metric system, such as the 9mm.

      note that the 10mm was originally “One Centimeter” which is neither a millimeter designation nor designed by a fag, resulting in sheer awesomeness.

      1. avatar Someone says:

        You know nothing.
        9mm precedes socialism. It was designed by Georg Luger and introduced in 1902 by the German weapons manufacturer Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) (German Weapons and Munitions Factory) for its Luger semi-automatic pistol.

        1. avatar gus says:

          you know less than nothing. socialism started with the French revolution in 1789, the Communist Manifesto was written in 1848, and Germans were talking about socialism in the Reichstag in 1848.

          designed by socialist eurofags, for socialist eurofags.

  13. avatar NJ2AZ says:

    agree with other posters who have said this smells like a “one set of rules for them..” situation. Can’t agree with shooting through the door just because someone is pounding on it. Like others said, id probably assume defensive position, get 911 on speakerphone, and be prepared to fire IF the door was actually breached. easy to armchair QB though..

    this is why the first thing i did when i recently moved was put a steel security door on my entryway. Someone determined could get in, but it should would be a production..and at that point i’d have no doubt a threat was imminent.

  14. avatar Shire-man says:

    Nonsense. Biden says blast both barrels through the door and there’s no way the VPOTUS doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    1. avatar CentralVirginian says:

      Damn 150 million gun deaths, its like the last avengers movie where half the population disappears.

  15. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    Not too long ago in my CC class (in NC) we were taught that it was somehow less ambiguous to shoot someone before they actually entered your home but were trying to break in. Once they got in you had to go through more mental games to determine if they were actually a threat. Pretty much universally, everyone in the class thought that this was completely ‘bass ackwards’. This wasn’t just the instructor’s interpretation, there was a video by the State Attorney General that spelled this out. How eff’ed up is that?

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      We have it much easier here in California. If they get through the door, it is presumed that the occupant acted in reasonable self-defense when he/she opens fire. Defense has nothing to prove–the prosecutor has to show that the occupant did NOT have a reasonable fear of imminent great bodily injury or death.

    2. avatar Dude says:

      Pretty messed up.

    3. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Inane.

      If they breached my door, they’re a threat.

    4. avatar Kendahl says:

      I checked my copy of Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense, Third Edition. According to it, in North Carolina, an intruder who breaks into your home, workplace or occupied automobile is presumed to have the intent to commit a violent crime against the occupants. I expect it’s intended to apply to an intruder big enough and strong enough to kick in a door but not to an unarmed, 10-year-old kid. The point of waiting until they get inside is to trigger the presumption.

  16. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Well ya’ll took my Biden barbs…but just racking the shotgun would scare any bad guy LOL.

    1. avatar KenW says:

      Years back someone sold a device that barked when a button was pressed as a deterrent for older women. Supposedly the bad guy would hear the barking and go elsewhere. If it is still sold they should add someone racking a shotgun to the mix.

  17. avatar Jon says:

    If you’re really concerned about safety, positioning cameras around the house that are accessible from your “safe room” might also be a good idea. You can also place one of the cameras at an angle in front of the door of your safe room. Then, if you need to shoot the intruder through the door, you will know roughly where they are and where to shoot.

    Having infrared cameras in your house will also let you know where in the house they are without having you dangerously trying to clear rooms one-by-one.

    1. avatar Jon says:

      Oh, I meant around the INSIDE of your house, not the outside:

      “If you’re really concerned about safety, positioning cameras around the house that are accessible from your “safe room” might also be a good idea. “

  18. avatar Jon says:

    “We put ourselves in the shoes of the homeowner, and we ask ourselves, ‘Would a reasonable person in that situation have the right to defend himself and his family members from that apparent danger?’ ” Daskas said.

    Oh, is that so? I thought it was “What can I pin on them to accuse them of murder and put them behind bars.” Trying to find out if they are innocent? Suuuuure, don’t make me laugh.

  19. avatar Fug says:

    Only way I am blasting through any door is if I can tell they are trying to break it down and I know they’re not cops. At that point I would feel confident it was a threat and missing is less likely.

    Still could be risky depending on exactly where you live, I would probably wait for a partial breach and make some attempt at verbal deterrence.

    Really makes me think about getting a weatherproof spy cam for the entrance to the home. Good for home security as well as avoiding salesmen and missionaries.

  20. avatar Royal Tony says:

    IGOTD easily. The pisser is the friend attempting corral the drunk is the one who got dosed.

  21. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Didn’t a similar incident as this happen in Detroit with a drunk girl on the porch banging on the door and the homeowner was convicted of manslaughter?

    1. avatar karlb says:

      Yes, but that IGOTD did not have the good sense to be a high ranking fire fighter.

  22. avatar Bungameng says:

    We just had a shooting through the front door case decided in the Czech Republic.

    A SWAT was called to arrest a Serbian guy who legally owned some firearms. They were breaking down his front doors with the usual “police, police” shouts when he opened fire (he claimed he thought they are some criminals). He shot only one round and the gun jammed (limp-wristed Glock I guess), hitting one of the cops in part of torso not covered by ballistic vest. Fortunately the mass of the door slowed the bullet down quite a lot so the tissue penetration was not devastating.

    The charges were attempted murder, 10-18. Court found him guilty but reduced sentence to 5 years in prison.

    The original case for which they had the arrest warrant and house search warrant proved to be fruitless.

    http://praha.idnes.cz/soud-s-cizincem-postrelil-policistu-dve-/praha-zpravy.aspx?c=A141027_143615_praha-zpravy_kol

  23. avatar John says:

    One rule for them, another rule for the rest of us.

  24. avatar Cam says:

    I have a morals question for everyone.

    If someone breaks into your house and you managed to get them at gunpoint, do you hold them there until police arrive or do you shoot them? Does your decision change if they’re carrying a gun or knife or nothing?

  25. avatar Larry says:

    You would think people would know you can’t shoot through a door? This is why some people should not own a gun. If you are that stupid, then God help you! You SHOULD be prosecuted!

  26. avatar Bill Baker says:

    Just as sort of a correction, but the link and the article says the machete thing happened in Washington state, when in truth it occurred in Pocatello IDAHO; a town not far from where I live.

  27. avatar OldLawProf says:

    What Castle occupant in the days of castles would have be let the barbarians breach the walls?

    There was a reason for moats, drawbridge, strong gates, and tall walls. There still is. An attention seeking knock is different from a breaching attempt in both duration and degree of force displayed.

    If they are trying to breach the door, you need let them succeed.

    Use good judgment, act, then SHUT UP and ask for a lawyer.

    1. avatar OldLawProf says:

      Typo in original. SHOULD be “need NOT let them succeed”.

  28. avatar Alan Wayne Rose says:

    Every time I see the “Don’t shoot through the door” argument, all I can picture is Jack Nicholson’s face as he leers through the axe hole in the door, saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

    1. avatar Delta795 says:

      In this case, though, all the warnings about not being able to see and verify the nature of your target no longer apply.

  29. avatar JOLJ says:

    A covered porch fall under the castle doctrine.

  30. avatar SoCalJack says:

    Camera were mentioned already. At a minimum at least get a porch camera. Ring and Kuna make cameras, Nest also. I’m sure there will be 4th of July sales. They’re easy to install and set up with the app. In addition to the porchlight camera I also have Kuna motion detection flood lights around my house.

  31. avatar Dale Menard says:

    The “reasonable person” standard is disappearing. Police must now know everything, including the future, civilians will soon be prosecuted by this standard too. BTW, never shoot through a door or a wall unless you can see the threat.

  32. avatar Dude says:

    As others have mentioned, I can’t imagine shooting through the door if I don’t know this guy is a threat. However, if I know he’s a threat, I’ll be shooting through the door. I’ve had a legitimate death threat made against me by a crazy felon. If that guy shows up at my door, especially in the middle of the night, I’m shooting to stop the threat before he gets in. I have the added benefit of living off the beaten path. Someone has to make a serious effort to even get to my front door, and the trees surrounding my house make an excellent stop for any stray bullets.

    I’ve seen a similar story on this site before, and I’m sure there are many others. This sounds like a good reason not to get drunk in the first place.

  33. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Sorry. If someone is trying to bash my door in, ( heavy shoulder blows) I may shoot through a door.

    Once they get in, all bets are off. They may also have a gun. My family is inside. They may be zipped up and get to me or my family while taking hits.

    Just banging on the door…911….wait to see. Also need to look around and make sure that the door-banging is not a distraction for someone else coimg in somewhere else.

  34. avatar Ralph says:

    Shooting through a door is a terrible idea. You could mess up a really nice door.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      Yeah, my front door is a custom one-off. If crazy felon death threat guy shows up at my house, I hope he goes to the kitchen door…

  35. avatar enuf says:

    The risk of getting it very, very wrong when firing thru a closed exterior door does seem awfully high. This man opened his door, fired thru a screen door killing a drunk, possibly head injured 19 year old woman who was seeking help following a car wreck. He did not impress the court with his claims of defending his home or the shooting being accidental:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Renisha_McBride

    “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” make good, logical sense.

    But there is also such a thing as stupid people and they can be found on both ends of the firearm.

    1. avatar Dude says:

      There’s another example. Stay home or have a responsible driver/handler, or just don’t get drunk. It doesn’t matter to Renisha if it was a bad shoot or not because she’s dead.

  36. avatar MGD says:

    The exception is a glass door. If you can see an imminent threat; that’s different.

  37. avatar Joe Biden says:

    I’d just tell those Dog Faced Pony Soldiers that I’ll see them in Hell right before I shoot them in the leg with both barrels.

  38. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Expert advise from someone who’s shot how many?
    Common sense, situation dictates

  39. avatar Hannibal says:

    Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to do it.

    But specifically speaking, there are times when it is the correct thing to do. Very, very rarely- but never say never when it comes to this kind of thing.

    There are also times when you should shoot someone in the back.

  40. avatar sound awake says:

    ive already wargamed this scenario:
    if there are multiple armed perps at my door in the process of kicking it in *im not going to wait until theyve made entry to start shooting*
    especially if law and order has broken down and theres widespread violence already present in my neighborhood
    ill give a verbal warning if i think theres time
    my shots will be placed in such a zone that will both “get my point across” and all but eliminate the possibility that an innocent bystander could be harmed
    if it is a group and there are no visible weapons present or only one individual with a weapon thats not a firearm i will wait until entry is made before firing
    if it is one individual unarmed they get a “verbal” followed by a “nonverbal” warning before the actual shot that potentially ends their life

  41. avatar N Texas says:

    Yea don’t mess up a nice door .. Not easy if person going crazy on your door ,

    they get into garage , have at it all junk anyway , however once inside the house broke door in/open

    and inside house , know your target and shoot straight . Easier said than done ..

  42. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    Another brilliant observation from the open carry obsessed pith helmet commando. Apparently this nut has moved on from his quest for carry reciprocity in Mexico, and his open carry trolling for confrontation in front of police stations in Texas and at rest areas in Arizona. Too funny!

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