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Downstairs (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

“Honey, wake-up! There’s someone downstairs!” Hit the panic button, gather friendlies behind you (handgun in hand), call the police, secure your long gun, assume a defensive position, wait for the cops. Hey, it’s a plan. A better plan than attempting to clear your house, where all kinds of things can go horribly, bloodily, permanently wrong. And yet . . .

There are times when you have to clear your house To locate the aforementioned friendlies. To reach the panic button. To get a bigger gun. To take that turkey, avocado and bacon panini off the grill.

You might think navigating through your home during a home invasion is relatively easy, if the dictionary definition of nerve-racking. You know your house better than Kate Moss knows how to cut a line of cocaine. You’ve been taught how to “pie a room” (Oh! Wise guy!) You may even have drawn the curtains and practiced.

But before you move through your home consider this: if the bad guys aren’t retreating (best case) they’re either advancing (least worse case) or waiting in ambush (worst worse case).

The bad guy doesn’t have to know squat about a particular house to know where to place himself—or themselves—to ambush a homeowner. They can also hear the good guy coming. They get first mover advantage, the choice of terrain and the element of surprise. You get luck, if you’re lucky.

Aside from God’s beneficence, there are two important strategies that can help you win a home clearing encounter of the ballistic kind. First, speed, surprise and violence of action. (Yes, I’m counting that all as one.)

Hollywood teaches us to creep through the house, shotgun at the ready. That’s what’s called dramatic tension or, as I like to call it, death with a stick. If you’re going to clear, clear and clear fast. Be ready to engage (remembering that you still have to know your target and what’s beyond it). At the very least be a moving target.

Upstairs (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Second, use mirrors. Position mirrors so you can see into otherwise obscured areas where you’re likely to encounter a violent threat.

In the pictures above, the wise homeowner realized that getting a visual on a bad guy at the door or on the second floor required him to expose himself (so to speak) in the “funnel of death” (a.k.a., the staircase). The mirror solves the problem.

During a nighttime nightmare, strategically positioned mirrors have a secondary benefit. When you shine your light on them, the bad guy or guys mistake the mirror as the source of illumination. Silly bad guys. Tricks are for kids!

You don’t have to turn your home into a house or mirrors to increase your odds of surviving a home invasion, but a few strategically placed mirrors would be a good reflection of your forethought and planning. Both of which save lives.

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  1. I have a friend who set his house up like this. He also took the additional step of mounting a thousand-watt halogen “panic light” in what would be the riser of the step just below the mirror in your picture.

    The way his house is laid out he can be at the far end of the upstairs hallway, hit a switch on the wall and that light will come on illuminating 3/4 of his downstairs (an open plan house) allowing him to see a good portion of it, AND blinding anyone in the doorway or entrance foyer.

    So far he’s only used it on the cat, but he said it worked pretty well.

  2. If awoken in the middle of the night, my wife and I have a plan: I grab the guns, she grabs the phone and we both grab the same corner, facing the doorway.

    Not to long ago, I would up clearing my own house, which I never expected to do. I took the dogs out for their morning walk, leaving the front door unlocked, as per usual. (the only person out at 5:30 am in my neighborhood, normally, is me) Anyway, I had gotten just down the block and a cop car came rolling down the street, moving at maybe 10 mph, going the same direction I was, obviously looking for someone. Yours truly promptly turned around, headed home and entered the house, gun drawn. I felt like a fool and it also made me realize that, as much as I don’t ever want to have to clear a house, I might have to do it at some point.

  3. I would be heavily opposed to clearing the home,ever. Its a dicey proposition with a team of people backing you up, and one person versus an unknown number of assailants is suicide.

    On top of the great risk of being disarmed or shot in ambush, there’s the perception in court that you “sought out a deadly confrontation” by clearing your home. If the bad guy kicks in your bedroom door there’s little doubt of who the perpetrator was. Remember, the defensive incident isn’t over until the court clears you of criminal or civil charges.

    • By the same token, it’s important to avoid being so “brainlocked” over legal concerns that you are paralyzed and unable to take necessary action to protect your life. Finding that balance is some hard decision making.

    • It also depends on what state you’re in. Here in WA, forced entry is automatically grounds for justifiable homicide, as it assumes if someone forces their way into your home, you can reasonably expect the worst and that your life is in imminent danger. And “forced entry” is a loose term… if the bad guy walks in through an unlocked but close door, that qualifies. The only way one *might* get charged is if it’s painfully obvious that that there was never any threat to anyone.

      There is a joke from cops I’ve heard here that if you have to shoot a guy on your front porch, be sure to drag the body into the house so you won’t get charged.

      • when i used to live in Kalifornia a cop told me the same thing with a straight face, then that he was heading to idaho, a “more defense-friendly state” in 3 yrs when he retired

    • Sorry, but I disagree. I will have to go secure my kids so I won’t be hiding in a hole hoping for the best. I will be moving through the house.

  4. large mirrors also give the tactical advantage to make the layout of your house confusing to intruders. Is that a another room? a doorway? or a mirror? in the dark it’s hard to know. I’ve walked into a lot of mirrors in during my blurry college days.

  5. If you’re forced to clear your house you rappel out the second floor window and then from the outside of the house you throw grenades in and once they’ve gone off you come in and finish off any survivors. Simple. Effective.

  6. I’ve got 8 hardwired infrared illuminated CCTV cameras inside and out, a DVR, with monitors both downstairs and upstairs, all powered by a huge 12v Interstate battery.

    It wasn’t all that expensive either; equipment was about a grand buying direct from Guangzhou on ebay, and installed myself.

    But mirrors are definitely cheaper and the MTBF is far superior!

    The DSL modem/router and amateur handheld radio charger are also powered from it, which makes it nice for weather emergencies when the power quits.

    P.S. If you buy directly from China on ebay, you’ll save tons of money, but use a dedicated email address solely for ebay purchases, and then junk it and rotate to a new email every now and then. They will sell it to spammer/scammers.

  7. I have three short people in my house I’m quite attached to, so I will plant myself defensively at the top of the stairs (two story) as Mrs. Homedefender gathers said short people. Next, light and gun at the ready, I hold my post concealed by the wall while she uses the phrase “home invasion in progress” to the 911 dispatcher rather than the passive word “burglary.” Mrs. Homedefender will be armed as well. She is good with long guns, and I think you want to play to your strengths, so she will likely rock a shotty. She hunted with her dad, and she shamed some of his buddies at meat shoots.

  8. Setting my house up with mirrors – finally, a self defense tip my wife will be on board with instantly.

  9. Interesting post. I would suggest getting rid of that cheap door with the big glass windows in it. A five year old could break through it.

  10. Every home is different. We have a tri-level. I wish there were good places to put mirrors but there aren’t. Fortunately, unless our canine suddenly gets brave, we’ll be hunkering down (weapon (s) drawn).

    One huge advantage is that sound carries. Moderate flatulence is easily detectable, just about anywhere in our home…audibly, that is…

  11. Have any homeowners considered using flashbangs as a means of defense when encountering a bad guy? Yes, I know that they have the potential to backfire, but then again so does carrying a firearm.

    • Unfortunately the feds make you register each one and pay a $200 tax.

      Plus no company will sell them to you.

  12. Mirrors work both ways – a bad idea. Motion sensors tied to an alarm with a keychain panic button bedside is a much better way to go.

    Alarm, Alarm, Alarm

  13. I question advocating high speed CQC type tactics for clearing your house…

    Those type tactics are really unsuitable without training, practice, teammates, hard armor and suitable long guns…

  14. Any plan trumps no plan, but as they say, no plan ever survives first contact intact. Thus a flexible and layered plan trumps a rigid, one sided plan. Further a simple plan trumps an overly complicated one. Which is the ‘right plan’? That depends on a lot.
    If you’ve objectively and accurately analyzed your strengths and weaknesses, have been realistic about the threats you potentially face, have armed and trained accordingly, have a layered home defense strategy . . . well, this is a whole article of its own.
    A plan that makes good use of the basics and creative use of advantages you possess is the plan I’d go with. Given the scenario of a noise in the night I’ll assume the master bedroom as a start point. Given the layout of my modest home, that puts me in a room at the end of a hall that has visibility from its door to the bathroom and office/front bedroom doors which are left open at night and into the kitchen with approximately 1/3 visibility of that room. My wife and I (her somewhat reluctantly) have drilled our reaction to the bump in the night often enough, and implement it as practice even when relatively certain the alarm is false: She up for her flashlight and pistol and to the inside corner of the bedroom giving her cover from a closet and water heater from the rest of the home, I to my pistol belt with flashlight and spare mags and shotgun with attached tac light.
    Out the door goes the dog. . . a vicious mauler of a monster attack dog an excitable Yorkie who is so happy to have company (who surely came to see him) that he immediately runs to the ‘visitors’ location and barks incessantly at them, which pretty well pinpoints their location, all the while running back and forth to thwart being picked up (he hates to be picked up by strangers). That is my advantage, in a house so small, it’s impossible to fail the location test with the dog baying the target. Since there are no closed doors, and with dusk to dawn night lights in strategic corners (the rear most ones from the door) of every room, and no conceivable way that there is an intruder behind me, it’s a matter of peeking to see the now silhouetted intruder and taking him at gun point with the blinding light of the tac light on the shotgun.
    Because of these layers of advantage (small house, only other occupant trained to bunker behind me, location of my sleeping quarters, strategic lighting, and the dogs innate behavior) I feel very confident clearing the house, and the choice for me is pretty simple. If my situation were otherwise, I might choose to bunker in, but as is I feel up to the challenge, having stacked the deck heavily in my advantage. In a different environment. . . well I suspect I’d stay at it with my typical sub-clinical paranoia and creativity until I had stacked the deck again, in ways as yet unimagined in my new surroundings.
    The question to ask yourself is what have you done to stack the odds in your favor, what strengths and advantages do you have, what weaknesses? Once these are honestly answered, your plan should come clearer. As it does, consider how seeming small things might turn disadvantage into neutrals, and neutrals into advantages. If that’s a mirror here, or a reinforced wall there, a remote that allows you to light up a room while still concealed outside it, more training for your housemates or whatever. Just be honest and assess with a critical eye, them make incremental improvements until you’re comfortable clearing, or comfortable bunkering.

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