Good intelligence can make or break a Special Forces unit’s mission. Prior to performing a surgical strike, teams will spend days, sometimes weeks, gathering information about the enemy’s pattern of life and the layout of the target. Assaulters need to know the floorplan of buildings, breachers need to know the exact type of doors they will destroy, and snipers need to know where they can gain vantage points. Ultimately, the quality of the intelligence received influences a team’s probability for success or potential for catastrophe. So how can you use intelligence for home defense against armed intruders?

For starters, the upside of preparing for home defense is that you already know the layout of your home. You live on the objective and already know the location of major entry points such as doors as well as minor ingress paths such as bathroom windows. You also possess knowledge of your family’s pattern of life. If a thief breaks into your home on a Sunday while you’re at church, you will experience the frustration of burglary, but your family will be unharmed. However, what if the thief enters in the afternoon? The late evening?

Predicting the location of your family at any given moment in the day is both difficult and unnecessary. Instead, identify their general pattern of life. When are your wife and kids typically home? At school? Soccer practice or running errands? Simple visualizations and preplanning exercises help you mentally rehearse actions for countering a home invasion. If your family isn’t home, facing an armed intruder may not necessarily be easier, but you need not worry about them becoming caught in the crossfire.

However, if your family is home, you should predict their most likely location. Despite your marksmanship abilities, you need to consider the consequences of rounds missing the enemy and continuing through drywall and into other rooms. Understanding how to shoot a threat is important, but so is anticipating your family’s reaction. With what level of anxiety will your family respond to an armed intruder in your home? Is there a preplanned location they should go to for safety?

Smarter Planning

home defense hallway

If you charge through your house to engage threats, you might end up paying a heavy price. Lying in wait at a hard point might be a better option.

Rehearsing with your family for a home invasion might make all the difference. We teach our children what to do in other emergencies. During an earthquake, stand in a doorframe and get away from glass. During a tornado, get underground. During a home invasion … ?

You don’t need to rehearse under martial conditions in your household. In fact, that might be counterproductive to preparing your family for success. What you should consider is having a discussion so that your family is on the same page. Similar to other crises such as natural disasters, your rehearsals don’t need to be excessive, but awareness of the actions to take is critical. The decisions your family makes depends on their realistic capabilities under duress. Although a “father-son defend the home against intruders” scenario may sound enticing, you should be realistic with your child’s ability to take another life or remain calm under extreme stress.

Whether your spouse or children grab guns to defend your home is a personal decision you will have to make. Unless they are in law enforcement or the military, expect them to be overwhelmed by a home-invasion situation. Do not confuse their willingness to shoot recreationally with their ability to handle a gun safely in a defensive situation. There are other ways you can keep your family proactive against armed intruders, such as identifying key terrain in your household.

Your home most likely possesses more concealment than cover. This shouldn’t prompt you to start sandbagging your walls, but instead indicate where you can gain a terrain advantage in your house. Hallways and stairwells are channelization points that will offer you a tactical advantage in a home defense situation. For example, if your family’s bedrooms are upstairs, there might be no reason for you to rush downstairs to engage a thief. Instead, you can consider waiting in ambush on the second floor.

A Solid Home Defense Arsenal

home defense carbine

Carbines today allow for a lot of attachments that make defensive shooting easier. But you’ll also need to consider overpenetration, something concerning all ammunition. Ultimately, it comes down to the type of firearm you own and the ammo it fires.

With regards to weapon selection, there is a lot of argument back and forth between what type of firearm is the best. Advocates for pistols proclaim that carbines and shotguns will overpenetrate through drywall. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to different weapons platforms, but the bottom line is that you and your family must be familiar with the arsenal you have. If you only own a pistol, then they must be familiar with that pistol.

Personally, I think that carbines are the best home defense weapons. Carbines will always be easier and safer for your family members to shoot than pistols, and mechanically easier to operate than shotguns. Although a pistol might allow for more maneuverability in the hands of your wife or children, pistols are less safe because under-trained shooters have a tendency to flag objects or persons with the muzzle. Placing a red-dot optic on top of a carbine also decreases the amount of effort required for marksmanship. Even if your wife or daughter does not have a good firing stance or solid cheekweld, for example, she will still more than likely hit the target if she sees red on the bad guy and squeezes the trigger.

Bad guys also like to do bad things at night, and a carbine-mounted light allows for easy on and off illumination. Most pistol lights require a shooter to manipulate a light with his or her support hand. For the experienced tactical shooter, this might not be an issue, but you won’t always be the one that is using the weapon. A carbine also increases the amount of chances you have to hit the bad guy. Burglars are typically not looking to get in a fight and will flee the moment a homeowner opens fire. A standard 30-round carbine magazine allows you to send a volume of fire at an armed thief that indicates you’re prepared to defend your turf.

Overpenetration is definitely a consideration with .223 Remington rounds, but it is a problem with all ammo. This is why proper marksmanship training is so important. It isn’t enough to just shoot your home defense weapon once every three months. Furthermore, you should always consider the lowest common denominator of marksmanship in your home. If you are out of town, who is going to grab the gun? Your wife? Your daughter? You don’t need to spend every weekend on the range or enroll your family in a spec-ops veteran’s tactical course—although it might drastically change their mindsets—but you need to increase the probability that your family will successfully ward off an armed intruder. If you can’t spend the resources to train regularly, consider talking to them about the subject so that they at least have an idea of what will happen in the event of an armed robbery. If ammunition is too expensive, remember that dry firing is free.

If you think it’s best that your spouse or children also grab guns to defend the home, it is critical that they understand the importance of respecting a weapon. This extends beyond basic safety and should incorporate mindset. Close-quarter combat lives and dies within fractions of seconds. If a shooter is unfamiliar with the rapid decision-making process required to pull the trigger in a defensive scenario, he or she might become a liability instead of an asset. It is also important that he or she understand the difference between complacency and exaggerated anticipation. Handling a weapon is empowering, but with our minds improperly patterned, we may find ourselves in a “hammer looking for nails” situation. Deter that misguided mentality through adequate defensive training and rehearsals with your family.

Minimizing Risk

home defense layout

It’s important to identify key terrain in your house that provides you with a tactical advantage ahead of time.

Another consideration that is often overlooked with regards to home defense is basic first aid. If a shootout erupts in your living room, you should be prepared to care for any injured family members and yourself. You don’t need to become certified as an EMT, but familiarity with basic hemorrhage control techniques could afford an injured family member a few extra minutes of consciousness until help arrives. Or do you not wait for help? Do you instead load up your injured wife in your truck and speed straight towards the hospital?

We should also avoid decisions that unnecessarily place ourselves at risk. If the police have been contacted, and you’ve already corralled your family into a safe area, it might not make sense to start stalking through your house to engage with armed suspects. Knowing that you are letting your home be vandalized will feel incredibly invasive, but rushing out to defend your house might put you in a dangerous situation. It is very easy to miss a corner, a closet, or just enter a room ahead of an armed suspect and find yourself with your back to the threat.

If you do need to defend your home, remember the old military lexicon of “even the best plans fail to survive contact with the enemy.” Be prepared to adapt and think on your feet. The decision made deliberately and with speed is better than the perfect solution that requires too much time to execute. Visualize contingencies and your remedial actions. What happens if your flashlight or red dot fails, or worse, if your gun fails to shoot at all? Do you continue forward with hand-to-hand combat? Run back to a stronger point of protection? It is easy to “what if” a scenario to exhaustion, but rehearsal and discussion with your family helps remove some of the fog of armed engagements.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aaron Barruga is a Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pacific theater of operations. He is the founder of Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement on vehicle tactics, CQB and active-shooter training. For more, visit guerrillaapproach.com.

This article was originally published in ‘Personal & Home Defense’ Spring 2017. To order a copy, please visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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