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I met Instructor Zero at SHOT. Nice man. Good with kids. If I was going to choose someone to clear a room for me, he’d be an excellent choice. Actually, just about anyone would be a good choice, as long as it wasn’t me. Aside from rhumba-ing through a minefield, I can’t think of a more dangerous operation than room clearing. TTAG’s resident war hero Jon Wayne Taylor will tell you: room clearing’s a bitch best shared with a bunch of ballistic BFFs. And yet when my alarm system indicated a breach in the garage I went downstairs at o’dark to investigate (the schnauzers could’t be enticed from their perch on my bed). I figured it was malf and I didn’t feel like involving the local constabulary. First-class adrenalin rush. Stupid? Yup. You done it? What, when, where and how?

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  1. Practice with airsoft rifle when I lived in a larger place and had to get to the little ones room. Now the place is small and only have to cover a hallway. Good choke points and adequet cover, wait for the police department.

  2. I’ve cleared my own home a few times but never had an actual intruder. Once saw my own reflection in a mirror and even touched my trigger before realizing it was me. Damn wife moving mirrors around…

  3. I have, and the pasture, barns, detached garage…mostly looking for a bobcat we suspect is stealing chickens. Rascally cats.

  4. Yes, I’ve cleared rooms. On that list of scary things no one wants to do, you might want to add traffic stops and bank alarm responses.

  5. In real life? No, and I hope I never have to.

    Practiced it a lot…?


    Practice at home, with a buddy or a family member, in daylight, with an unloaded, or better yet, dummy firearm. It’s your house, learn it to the best of your abilities.

    Have your buddy (or family member) stand/hide in a location of a room, as you clear the room, have him critique your room-clearing.

    “I see your muzzle there, I know you’re coming for me, do it again.”

    “I see your feet there, do it again.”

    Critiques like that.

    There’s nothing “magical” or “special” about police or the military, they just know what works, and they practice it over and over again until they can’t get it wrong. There’s no reason you too can’t do the same.

    Go find an instructor, have them teach you how to clear rooms, then take that knowledge home, and practice it.

  6. Yep. Many times (3:34 am, alarm going like crazy, “back bedroom window fault”, etc. etc.). Decided to get some training after the first time when, while looking at the ceiling at some noises (raccoon), noticed my wife standing right behind me holding a .357 Mag behind my ass. “Honey, from now on I’ll do the gun part. Thank you.”

  7. Between my current stint in PD and my time as an 11B, yes, I’ve done it countless times in training and also real world. When it’s for realz it’s freaking terrifying.

    I honestly think it takes months of constant practice to get it down right. I know non military or pd training is expensive, so best bet for many is take a couple of 8 hour classes or find someone who knows what he’s doing to teach you and then practice practice practice in your own dwelling.

    A lot of folks don’t realize how many people it takes to effectively take and hold a building. It’s a lot. The military is focused more on taking and holding, the PD stresses more of an active shooter response of finding the direct threat as quickly as possible.

    • +
      It really takes a team, or at least a very familiar pair of people. You need to do it with a little abandon, with every door/stair entry and it’s very difficult if you don’t pace somebody. No easy way to do it asymetrically, when bad guys can back fill behind, or in environments where there are innocents.

      That being said, you clear every space you enter, to some extent. You survey, and look for eye contact, and assess threats, like it or not. It’s a permanent human nature thing. Because we’re all here stuck on this rock until we ain’t.

  8. yes, several times in the ol’ Afghanistan. What a rush. Never again if I can help it.

    Once or twice at home, bumps in the night and all that. We live in the cheapest apartment in town. Not the worst, but the cheapest place you can get without government assistance. Me and my lady are college students and we’re doing our best with what we got.

    On a lighter note, I’ve cleared countless rooms playing airsoft at a indoor field I used to frequent. The DMZ in Colorado Springs. That’s not much as a rush but loads of fun none the less.

  9. RF, consider installing IR cameras in the downstairs, garage and hallways with the monitor in the ‘Master Bedroom’…

    It will also work great busting your daughter when she tries to sneak in or out late at night (as kids are wont to do)…

  10. Yep. Last year. Was out in the garage, nobody else supposed to be home for days. Big thump sounded like my front door got kicked in, dog went nanners immediately. I pulled my pistol off the bench, grabbed my phone, queued up 911 on my cell phone just in case. First I checked the front door from outside the house, no sign of intrusion. Recon’d perimeter. No signs of intruder. Opened access to the house through the rear (lots of windows, sliding glass door, quiet entry, solid visibility of the common areas of the house, cover close by) and announced my presence, my weapon, my intentions and my demands then retreated to behind the stone and concrete barbecue a few feet away for cover and concealment. Waited a minute, no response. Repeated my announce with an additional message that nobody needed to get hurt. No response. Not a sound and the dog mellowed out. Cleared the common area which is basically one giant fairly open space, then the hall, then the rooms that branched off the hall. Found one of the cats had knocked the litter container onto the ground and it had taken a couple other heavy things with it. No intruder reasonably suspected so I did a really thorough look around including closets and crawlspaces and attic fairly certain nobody was around.

    If I’d gotten any response or had any legit sign of an intruder holed up in my house at any point the phone would have been instantly dialed and I’d have taken the opportunity to let the cops handle the rest as I either maintained cover or sought it pending their arrival. As it sat, I was fully aware that clearing solo when there’s any real possibility of a hostile hider in the structure is seriously ill advised, bordering on suicidal and only went as far as I did because I was reasonably certain at each step that there was an increasing chance of there being nobody there. It was good to use all that practice time I’ve put in and nobody die for it though and still more scary than I’d like to experience day to day.

  11. Yes I have. About 3:00AM, cleared my neighbor’s walk out basement after she swore she heard someone walking around down there. Fortunately, I had attended Thunder Ranch and had several live fire training sessions on room clearing in the Terminator. Looking back on it, I was stupid. I should have taken my neighbor out of her house and called the police. Thankfully, it was a false alarm and no one had broken in.

    • That’s a good point, about letting the cops handle it if it’s something outside of your house. There have been cases of people responding to disturbances outside their own homes, only to be shot by police who were either responding to that same prowler or who were in pursuit of someone from some other scene. Inside the house is scary enough and tough enough to control. I’m not excited about exiting the house and being introduced to an even more potentially chaotic scene with even more players.

  12. Well, I’ve never gone kicking down doors in Kandahar, but I’ve investigated the usual bumps in the night plenty of times. Whomever is disturbed from sleep first, reaches over to place a hand on the other’s chest, first to confirm that they’re in bed and not the source of the sound, then to wake them to start listening, too.

    We spring to action: me behind the chest of drawers adjacent to the bedroom door, reaching over to open it, she farther back behind the long bureau in line with that door, ready to blast an invader. The hallway splits in two, so we can approach the living room from two entry points and effect overlapping fire, if necessary.

    We’ve successfully investigated high winds that were banging the garbage can against the side of the house, and stray kittens that were playing on our back patio, among others.

    • Whomever is disturbed from sleep first, reaches over to place a hand on the other’s chest,…that could be misinterpreted for whopee time.

  13. What: Cleared rooms
    When: 2008 to present day
    Where: West Texas, Iraq, Maine
    How: Pistol, UMP, M4 Carbine, depended on what I had on hand. TTPs varied also.

  14. If something goes bump in the night, the wife calls the cops as we move to our safe corner that faces the bedroom door.

    If I come home and truly believe there is someone in the house, other than my wife, 911 will be called.

    I’m not Rambo and I didn’t escape from an abandoned mine recently.

    By the way, nice use of a line from “The Incredibles” Mr. Farago.

  15. Came home to discover back door was left open. Screen door swinging in the wind. Pistol came out. Cleared the house. Turns out my roommates left and forgot to close the door behind them. Thankfully no one took it as an invitation. I cussed them out for about an hour.

  16. Quite frequently actually, as I live in a bad neighborhood in a large metro. Calling the police isn’t really an option here, as they are 15 minuets at best and if I called them everytime I feared a break in they wouldn’t take me seriously after a month. Frankly, they also have more important shit to do here. So, I take it upon myself, do it every single time I come home alone, and every single time I hear a suspicious noise. And I’m always armed, even in bed.

  17. I will let the dogs clear it for me. If there is a BG and he hurts one of the dogs my wife will probably empty her M-9 in his face.

  18. I’ve done it a few times. The flash bangs aren’t too destructive, but the credit card takes a hit each time I yell, “Frag out!”

    • More than 20 years ago, when I was in college, I woke up to hear the second story sliding glass window of my apartment open. Walking out (I can’t remember if I had my 94 or an over-under with me), I saw the fattest raccoon I have ever seen in my life, pushing a large potted ficus plant out of my living room and onto the porch. I walked a few steps and said “Hey!”, he looked back at me, and then kept pushing. I took a couple more steps toward him and said “What are you doing? I think that’s poisonous”. He glanced back at me again, and then walked, slowly, back out to the porch and down a beam. City coons aint scared.

  19. I get naked and go thru a dark house muttering,”First it puts the lotion on…..”

    Never needed the gun to clear the house.

  20. Outside of Iraq, only once.

    I’ve gotten used to the type of ruckus our cats make when they are having super-crazy-fun-time at 0300 every night. Everything heavy that they can possibly knock over has been secured, and everything else is cat-proof and/or unbreakable. Meanwhile, our dog has likewise become desensitized to the cat antics and doesn’t care when they clear all of the remote controls off the coffee table.

    But the only time so far where I had to clear the house, was when I heard a godawful crash from the spare bedroom, all six cats came flying into my room and crammed under the bed, and the dog actually started growling. My girlfriend had her .38 and the insanely bright flashlight, and I grabbed the shotgun. She lit each room as I cleared them, and we finally made it to the back of the house without incident.
    Turned out that one of the cats (probably the 30lb Maine Coon) had decided he wanted to climb the drapes, which tore the whole thing clean out of the wall, which also brought down a full-length mirror and took out a cast-iron floor lamp next to my reading chair.
    The upside is now the cats are terrified of that room and the drapes, and haven’t gone back in there in months.

    • Turned out that one of the cats (probably the 30lb Maine Coon) had decided he wanted to climb the drapes, which tore the whole thing clean out of the wall, which also brought down a full-length mirror and took out a cast-iron floor lamp next to my reading chair.
      Been there, done that.

  21. I have not had a serious event to clear in my home. I investigated bumps a couple times or our dog barking to be on the safe side but I wasn’t overly concerned that anyone was there. By the way, the last time I did that, I truly appreciated having a handgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. I know handguns don’t have the stopping power that rifles have … it sure was maneuverable though.

    I did start the process for a neighbor that wasn’t home. One of my children found their dogs running lose and covered with icicles on a bitter cold day. I just figured they got loose so I trudged over to their house 350 yards away. When I got there I knocked on their back door and no one answered. As I started around to knock on the front door, I discovered that it was wide open and the screen door was propped open with a broom or shovel. Oh sh!t. Is it a home invasion? Did they have a carbon monoxide leak and opened the door? Is the home owner lying unconscious somewhere? My child is with me and if something goes wrong she would have to run about 200 yards in 8 inches of snow to the nearest neighbor — who might not be home. And my other child was at home alone where I expected her to be okay for the 1 minute that I could not see the front door.

    So, I told my daughter with me to back up 75 yards from their home with instructions to run to our home if something went wrong. I walked up their front porch and stopped about 10 feet from the door and yelled inside with handgun in hand. No response. At that point I backed off and called my county Sheriff. I am not going into a neighbor’s home and leave my children unattended/vulnerable if something goes sideways. Fortunately, there was no evidence of a home invasion and no intruders in their home, no injuries, and oddly no explanation.

    I learned from that experience that you really need additional assistance if you have additional family members involved, especially young children. In those situations clearing a home or even a room by yourself is dicey at best, and downright foolish at worst.

  22. In Iraq a couple times.

    When I was house sitting in college and thought somebody broke into the guys house.

    It’s uncomfortable. In my experience the two techniques are fast and violent or slow and methodical – pick one and execute it. Don’t do something halfway between them.

  23. Agree with On The Can. Every time I come home. Keys and anything else I’m carrying go in the left hand before I open the door. Usually most of the family is home and I can de-alert with the sounds of normalcy. Much more aggressively when the whole family has been out for some time and/or my wife and little girls are with me. We live in a relatively small home and when we return from a weekend trip or have been gone overnight I will literally check every space a human being could be hidden. It doesn’t take that long. My wife thinks that it is chivalrous of me to not open the front door of the house and let her precede me inside. Every other door I get. She’s happy, I’m happy and we’re as safe as we can reasonably make ourselves.

  24. I have practiced clearing my own home with a dry weapon. I will continue to practice and hope to never clear in real life. The training I have received and will continue to receive will be at night. In the dark. My partner will move items, unplug nightlights, etc to create unknown threats.

    I will not let my dog clear if I can help it. No need to send my four-legged partner in crime in a suicide mission! If I can, I will put him in a closet to keep him alive.

  25. Over half the vid had nothing to do with the title….and no I’ve never had to ‘clear a roomm’ though I have cleared a few bar fights in my time, but hey…

    Most of this vid is pure bullshit. Notice the wide open props used. No furniture or doors….get real or quit assuming all of us are inept! Please!

  26. We had a bump in the night once that set off a house alarm system glass break sensor downstairs. We get false alarms on those sometimes from the kids or me dropping a plate or whatever so I knew it wasn’t necessarily an intruder. If it was obvious there was an intruder, I would have stayed upstairs and called 9-1-1 immediately. Instead, I had my wife ready to call 9-1-1 , backup weapon at hand , if anything happened while I went downstairs with a pistol and light. Luckily I didn’t find any intruder nor broken glass. I think the bump was probably either one of the kids toys slipping and falling off a table at a really random time, or maybe it was a raccoon outside hitting the window in a crazy way or something.

  27. My house alarm went off on Christmas Eve 2014 when we were at my in-laws’ 10 mins. away. I knew the motion detector was set off so I knew it wasn’t a door or window entry. I’m no professional, but I watched the camera for several minutes before I arrived so I was fairly confident no one was in the house. I carried a full-size Taurus 24/7 G2 9mm pistol at that time and cleared it just to be sure.

    I believe it was likely the blinking Christmas lights on my Christmas tree that set off the motion detector.

  28. No, and I have no desire to. It’s a policing action even military does it. It has got to be one of the more (most?) dangerous things one can do in terms of a force on (potential) force encounter. Enemies can be anywhere. The place can be booby trapped or you could be walking into an ambush. There is a certain degree of luck involved no matter what anyone says. You only as good as your intel and too much is on line for me to give that much of a rip in terms of loss of life (for the other guy). Now set the building/house/hut on fire and let my enemies come out? Yeah, I could do that.

  29. Yup, with a squad in Germany practicing for deployment and in Baghdad, 2003. Not something I would want to do by myself, and as others have stated above, absolutely terrifying when done in real life against an unknown number of men armed with AK’s.

    I have done it some at home, trying to train my wife on what she needs to do in the event of a home invasion, whether I am home or not. I need to do it more, we have a new AOR every three years, so things change of course. I hope she never has to use it.

  30. Many times at work, and it’s all well and good until you find someone or they find you. At home if you really think someone is inside, it’s best to go to a safe room and wait, because there is absolutely no safe way to clear a building/house alone. None. We always used a bare minimum of two and four is better. That said, most people who hear a noise and are uncertain of it’s origin aren’t going to wait in a safe room for an hour to see what happens. The best thing to do is take some classes on the subject, because it’s too involved to post on a blog.

  31. As RF mentioned, I’ve done a bit of “room clearing”, with a pretty wide range of success rates. But I learned one very solid rule, never to be forgotten.
    The Mk19 is an exceptional primary weapon for structure clearing, if you are certain there are no valuable human assets inside the structure.
    Ponder this for your enlightenment.

  32. Plenty of times in training, usually backed up by a team. Luckily, never had to resort to doing it in Iraq or Stan.

  33. Practiced getting my wife and I across the hallway and up the stairs to the kid’s room in case I ever did think there was an actual intruder in the house. We can wait up there for the police or someone high enough to try and come up.

    I have checked out my house with a pistol in hand. Standard creaking house, bump in the night stuff. I never thought there was actually someone inside, but better safe than sorry.

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