Defending The Realm

We’re going to talk about defending one’s home, be it a house, apartment, trailer, or whatever. We’re not discussing personal defense: There are too many variables re individuals, situations, etc. to pass along a general overview.[1]

Much of what follows on home defense has been published years ago. While there have been some changes and advancements in technology since then, the same basic principles apply.

The objective of home defense is keeping an intruder out or, if they are in the home, getting them to leave as quickly as possible without harming anyone.

Attempting to restrain an intruder is a risky proposition at best, a fatal error at worse.

Let the police do the arresting.

There are two types of intruders: Rational and irrational.

A rational intruder wants something in your home, either something of value or the chance to assault you for their pleasure.  A rational intruder does not want to be arrested, injured, or killed.

If a rational intruder thinks they are likely to be arrested, injured, or killed they will leave the premises as quickly as possible.

The easiest way to deal with a rational intruder is to convince them it is too risky to attempt to enter your home.

Most intruders are sneak thieves seeking targets of opportunity. Keep them out of your house for 90 seconds and they’ll move on to another target.

If you live in a house, keep the exterior well lit, trees and bushes cut back from possible points of entry, any doors or windows not facing the street or a neighbor’s house locked or barred.  Do not give an intruder the opportunity to work on a point of entry unobserved.

If you live in an apartment, keep fire escape windows and balcony doors locked or barred at all times when not in use.  Keep first floor windows and doors locked or barred.

Wherever you live, try to maintain courteous relations with your neighbors. One phone call by them regarding suspicious activity around your home can save you a lot of grief.

The best first line of defense against an intruder is a dog. We are not talking about so-called attack dogs but just a regular household pet.  You want an animal that will raise a racket if someone tries to break in, alerting anyone who may be in the home.  Even a small dog is fine for that purpose and a medium size dog is still enough of a physical threat to dissuade most intruders.

If you live in a rental unit that does not permit pets, get a recording of a dog and play it on endless repeat when you’re out. Intruders who think they hear a dog may opt to move on.

The second best line of defense is a fully charged cell phone. Keep one on your person at all times. Have the charger by your bed at night.  If you believe there is someone in your home, call 911 and in a loud voice give your address and say you believe there’s an intruder in your home.

A rational intruder, not wanting to be arrested, injured, or killed, will get out before the police arrive.

Stay on the phone until the authorities show up. Better by far you call them out for a false alarm than you become the victim of a crime.

If you live in an area where the police are slow to respond, tell 911 your home is on fire and you are trapped. The police may take their own sweet time responding to a rape or murder, but the fire department will show up quickly to save the bank or landlord’s investment.[2]

Do not threaten an intruder and / or attempt to bargain with them by saying you will call the police: Just call the police and stay on the line until they arrive.  Rational intruders know any call to 911 will result in somebody showing up even if the caller claims it is a false alarm, and so they will leave to avoid being arrested, injured, or killed.  If they think you haven’t called yet they may be willing to risk attacking and overpowering you to keep you from calling.

The third best line of defense is a burglar alarm system with a panic button. Burglar alarms can be circumvented, and a crafty thief who thinks your home is a good target may deliberately trigger the alarm several nights running to get you to turn it off permanently in disgust.

Still, any alarm system is better than none and a panic button that sets off a loud alarm will drive away any intruder who doesn’t want to be arrested, injured, or killed.

Tasers and pepper spray are good defense against a rational intruder who has entered your bedroom. Do not leave your bedroom to stalk an intruder with them. Do not pursue an intruder out of your home, even if they have taken something valuable.[3]

Do not use a knife, baseball bat, or any other improvised weapon to confront an intruder unless they are actually attacking you: It’s too easy for them to disarm you and use such a weapon against you since you need to get within arm’s reach of them.

None of the above will stop an irrational intruder.

An irrational intruder is someone who is so mentally impaired or emotionally unbalanced that they are either unaware of the risk of being arrested, injured, or killed or else their determination to attack you is so great they don’t care if they die in the process (viz. stalkers, deranged exes, etc.).

An irrational intruder will probably not flee if pepper sprayed or zapped with a taser, but doing so may buy you a chance to exit your home while they are temporarily distracted.  Depending on where you live, this might be a good option, especially if you have nearby neighbors who can help you.

The fourth and last best line of defense is a shotgun.

You do not want to defend your home with a pistol or a rifle. A shotgun fires multiple pellets, a pistol or rifle fires only one bullet at a time.  The odds of hitting your target are greater with a shotgun firing birdshot than with a pistol or rifle firing a bullet.[4]

Shotgun pellets, while quite devastating at the close range one finds in a house or apartment, do not have the same velocity as conventional pistol or rifle bullets.  As a result they are less likely to penetrate a wall, travel several blocks, and then kill somebody in another home.

Do not point your weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot, do not shoot unless you intend to kill.

If the intruder is in your home, do not threaten or warn them: Shoot at their midsection (i.e., right at the bottom of their ribcage).  Do not fire a warning shot.  Do not try to injure them by shooting at a limb.  Do not try for a head shot.  Aim for the largest part of their body and fire.

All this presumes you have reason to fear an attack by an irrational intruder. If you do you should keep the shotgun loaded and nearby in anticipation of an attack.

If you have a weapon for sporting or display purposes and not home defense, keep it securely locked up and separate from its ammo at all times when it’s not in use.

Anything other than a loaded weapon ready and available for instant use or a weapon safely secured where an intruder can’t use it is a recipe for disaster.

This goes in spades if you have children.

Never ever use a firearm of any kind for home defense if you are not willing to use it to kill an intruder.


Do not pursue an intruder who has fled your home even if you believe they have taken something of value.  Nothing is worth your life…

...or theirs.

If you do shoot an intruder in your home, tell the police you did so because you were in fear of your life or the life of someone else in the home.  Then shut up until you get a lawyer.




[1]  Other than to say if you are in a situation where a personal sidearm is a logical method of self-defense (say you close up a business late at night, or travel alone in sketchy areas) then a revolver or multi-barrel single shot pistol is probably a better choice than an automatic for the simple reason they won’t jam.

[2]  Such is the world we live in.

[3]  Things can be replaced; a human life can’t.

[4]  Shotgun shells contain pellets of varying sizes.  Buckshot will do a lot of damage but since the pellets are larger, there are fewer in a shell.  Birdshot will do just as much damage at close range but have more pellets available to do damage with, and lack the penetrating power to go through several walls to hurt an innocent bystander.  Avoid beanbag rounds; those “less lethal” shells are for use by trained police officers in riot conditions.  Shotgun sizes (except for the very smallest) are called gauges and are determined by the number of lead balls the diameter of the shotgun’s barrel that it takes to equal one pound; hence a 10-gauge shotgun would take ten balls, a 16-gaguge shotgun would take sixteen.  The smallest commercial available shotgun is the .410 (which is a caliber; i.e., diameter, meaning the barrel is .41 inches across).  A .410 shotgun will indeed kill a human being, but for home defense a 20- or 16-gauge weapon might be best for a person who feels they can’t handle a larger one.

[5]  I have been very clinical in describing various weapons and tactics.  Before purchasing a weapon for home defense, I’d recommend turning off your Google safe search, going to image search, and looking for various combinations of “gunshot” + “fatality” + “wound” + “shotgun” + “victim” + “crime scene”.  Know what will happen when you pull the trigger.

Conversation # 30,107

Authority & Responsibility