The typical scenario we mostly worry about is the night-time break-in while we are all snug in our beds. While we are fortunate it is somewhat rare, it does happen. So when you awaken to the sound of breaking glass or your spouse shaking you awake to tell you someone is in the house, what steps should you take? These steps are not necessarily limited to night-time entries but can be used for basic principles. Your gun should be close at hand (If you have young family members or guests get a safe box that reacts to your palm, hand or finger prints for safety, like the one pictured from Gun Vault)
- Call the police on 911 and keep the channel open, do not hang up. If possible, have your spouse or another family member call the police as soon as you can. Keep a cell phone in the bedroom. If your phone lines have been cut (common if you appear to have an alarm system) you’ll still be able to summon help. It’s important to have the line open because the dispatch center records all 911 calls and if things get hot in your home this recording is a vital piece of evidence that will prove you were in fear of your life and acting under duress.
- Identify your target as “friend or foe” before you fire. We’ve all heard the stories about someone shooting a “burglar” in the dark only to find out it’s a family member. Rule #1 is make sure of your target. You might consider a high quality small LED flashlight by your bed. It’s useful in other emergencies, too.
- Where are all your household members and guests? This works with rule #1 above to locate and identify other family members and any guest(s) to ensure they aren’t the ones moving around the house. More importantly, it prevents you from being surprised by a “friendly” coming out of the bathroom. Check on the kids’ rooms, check your guest’s location and be sure you know where they are.
- Don’t go looking for trouble. If at all possible, don’t go downstairs or into the front of the house to investigate. Most homes offer a hallway to the bedrooms and that’s easily defended, versus having to “cover” all the hiding places in your living room, den, kitchen (with all those knives), etc. Besides which, you’ve probably just woke up, your eyes are bleary or maybe you have a tendency to cough or sniffle a lot. In any case, getting up and moving about will probably alert any intruder(s).
- Move family to a safe room. If you have children you may elect to move them to the room that is your safest room of the house. This is usually the master bedroom where you have your firearm, telephone and a last-ditch escape route out of the house. Remember the risk of trying to move elderly relatives and small children who may cry upon sudden awakening.
- Be sure your family is behind you, out of the line of fire. If you moved everyone to a safe room, you should be the closest to the door so you have a clear line of fire. If you can’t move everyone into one room, you may have to take a position in a hallway where they are behind you. The last thing you want is to be squeezing the trigger on Danny Dirtbag at the end of the hallway when your child sleepily steps into the hallway!
- Never block an intruder’s escape route. If you can avoid it, never put yourself between an intruder and his most likely escape route. Doing so can put you in danger if he’s surprised and bolts for the exit towards you. It’s better to let them flee than find out he’s faster, stronger or more determined that you are.
- If your intruder discovers that you are awake or present and shows himself to you, in a firm voice (as firm and controlled as you can muster at the moment) give them the command “Don’t Move!”. Assuming you see no weapons in his hands, follow this immediately with the command “Get face down on the ground, now!”. If the person turns and flees, fine and dandy. If you can see that he has a knife or gun use your best judgment. If you feel the situation cannot be controlled verbally or he is moving towards you, remember to put your front sight on your target. At most household ranges elevation doesn’t matter too much. If you see the front sight sticking up in the middle that’s probably “close enough”. You should cease firing when the person stops being a threat.
Regardless of whether the intruder has fled, been wounded or killed, be sure to wait for the police to come check the house to be sure he — or a companion you didn’t know about — is not hiding somewhere. If you hear or see him fleeing outside, turn on all lights, including exterior lights until the police arrive, but always be alert for a second, unseen intruder! If the person refuses your commands be very careful. He may pretend he doesn’t understand English. Or do nothing. If he makes any movement towards you, he isn’t being deterred by your firearm and is an immediate threat to your safety. A key point: watch his hands! If he seems to ignore your commands watch his hands carefully. If you can’t see both hands you don’t know if he has a weapon!
The Squirrel has a note about “machismo”. For those who think they are tough-guys, remember that you will have just woken up. You’ll be be bleary and probably disoriented and a bit scared. And you might cough after standing up. Perhaps you’ll find your arm is totally asleep. The intruder has the advantage in most cases; he’s dressed, pumped on drugs or adrenaline, his eyes are used to the dark and he may be armed. No matter how “macho” you think you are, your voice may crack like an adolescent’s, your hands will shake and your heart will be pounding in your ears. Don’t ever count on being ready! Think ahead!