Sound asleep in your bed at night—your “sweet dreams” are interrupted by the sounds of breaking glass downstairs. Your significant other reaches over and shakes you with a nervous “Honey, I think someone’s in the house.” Getting out of bed you ask your spouse to call the local police as you arm yourself with your trusty 12-gauge pump. What next? Do you go down the stairs and search, and if so how do you do it? Also, is your shotgun optimized for performance in its role as home defense firearm? What options and accessories can/should you purchase for your scattergun to make it a worthy home defender?

Having a firearm for home defense is only one part of the equation. Being able to shoot under realistic conditions is another. But the third and often neglected part of firearms usage for self-defense are the tactics such as use of cover, searching techniques, room entry, and suspect challenging and covering. Additionally, modifications and accessories as well as ammo can be selected to improve your gun’s performance.

There is a segment of instructors in the self-defense field that state that at no time should the home defender go in search of bad guys in their domicile. Suggestions such as ensconcing yourself and your family in a safe room and awaiting police arrival are recommended. The problems with this concept are multifold. Firstly, the violent nature of today’s offender has increased. The honorable “cat burglar” no longer exists, if indeed he ever did. You’re more likely to be awakened by a suspect under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or both smashing his way into your home in the middle of the day or night. Even if theft is his primary motive, other crimes such as sexual assault can occur if the predatory criminal sees the opportunity. Push-in or home-invasion-type robberies—when armed robbers enter your home knowing that you’re there— are increasing as well. How about criminals with no connection to you or your home attempting to kick their way in to escape the police or other criminals? If this sounds farfetched you haven’t been reading the paper or live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, which may make you more of a target not less.

In addition to the above scenarios there’s also the issue of time. How long will it take for uniformed police officers to get to your house? A burglar brazen enough to assault your home in the dead of night (or during daylight) knows that they have minimal time to get the goods they’re after and make their escape. That means a few short minutes. When my late father passed away, a burglar who read the obituaries came a calling in the dead of night. Cutting a porch screen and pushing open a back bedroom window, he probably thought he had it made until he entered the hallway and initiated a motion sensor in the alarm system a police officer son (yours truly) had purchased for his parents years before. When the alarm sounded the burglar opened up the deadbolt on the front door and walked out, sadly never being arrested for this and likely many other burglaries.

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