Ep. 11 Should I Shoot? Inside the Home

Burglar Breaking In To Home At Night Through Back Door


Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

Check out the last five episodes in this series:

It’s 3:30 a.m. and you were sound asleep until you heard the sound of glass breaking. You sit up in bed trying to shake the sleep from your head while your ears strain to hear anything. You ask yourself, was it a dream or did I really just hear glass break? You decide to grab your handgun from the nightstand safe and go investigate in your nighttime “repel boarders” gear — skivvies, barefooted with a pistol. Is there an intruder or is your mind playing tricks on you?

Off you go down the hall toward the kitchen when you hear the sounds of a cabinet closing. You yell into the dark kitchen as you round the corner, “I have a gun” and come face to face with your daughter. You have a loaded pistol pointed at your pride and joy. Your heart rate is at more than 350 beats per minute, and when you realize you almost shot your daughter, you feel faint and sick to your stomach. Your daughter couldn’t sleep so she went to the kitchen for a glass of juice. She dropped the glass pitcher and was trying to be quiet while she cleaned it up.

Luckily, the only damage was a broken pitcher. Things could have turned out tragically, and they do more often than they should. If you keep a gun in the house to protect the family, you have to put thought and training into how you will defend the occupants of your castle.

The first step is knowing the law. Does your state have what some call the “castle doctrine,” or the law where you, as the homeowner, don’t have to first attempt to flee before you employ deadly force? The second step is what I call fortification — making your home as impenetrable as possible without having to dig a moat around it. (I asked my wife — she said no.) Having a whole-house alarm system is a good start. Crooks are looking for the easy targets and, hopefully, the alarm sign will get them to move on. If not, the alarm sounding has a tendency to get people’s attention and cause them to get out of dodge. To support the alarm, have proper lighting around the perimeter of your home. For some reason, bright lights can keep the bad guys at bay. I’ve added a big dog to my home-defense plan. When she barks in the middle of the night, I don’t tell her to be quiet — I find out why she’s on alert.

I keep a gun handy for when the fortification work doesn’t work or the crooks don’t care about bright lights, locked doors, and an audible alarm. Luckily, we had an incident happen in our home many years ago where the alarm went off due to a bad sensor. We had a plan, I had the equipment — handheld flashlight, pistol with weapon-mounted light and a bandoleer to hold spare magazines, light, first aid gear, etc. I learned a long time ago that no plan survives fist contact, and our plan went to crap from the beginning. I didn’t realize how loud the alarm was when continuously sounding. The dog hid under the bed and I wanted to also. The noise was disorientating to the point where I had a hard time thinking and communicating with my wife. The 911 operator couldn’t hear her at all. Let’s just say we learned a lot from the experience and have made some adjustments to our “repel boarders” plan.

If you encounter someone in your home, you have to be able to identify the threat before you employ deadly force. (If you are in my house in the middle of the night and you don’t live here, you are a threat until I can prove otherwise.) I keep several handheld flashlights for searching and I have weapon-mounted lights on handguns, shotguns and rifles that are set up for home-defense. Searching with only a light on a loaded weapon means everything you cover with the light is also covered by the muzzle of the weapon. I would much rather shine a light into my kids’ eyes or the drunk neighbor who walked into the wrong house than a loaded weapon.

I’ve said many times before: I can’t tell you when to shoot. That decision has to be based on the perceived threat but inside our homes, the intensity level is much higher since we have to protect our family.

Make sure you make plans and that you practice them. I can tell you from experience that while going deaf at oh-dark-thirty is not the time for either.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Dennis November 14, 2016, 11:42 am

    I have a passion for guns but not for inside protection to many unknowns this feeling is only for me, I do beleive you are the line of defenc for your home. My choice of protection for home invasion is, quiet, no thret to loved ones, It’s up close and personall, and its always easy to get to because it is slid between your mattresses, it’s a Machetti, never a misfire and you dont hav to worry about it going threw a wall and hurting any one else.

  • wasntme October 23, 2016, 8:47 am

    If you are really this uptight about anyone being in your house and you have kids at home, you need to take a chill pill.

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude July 16, 2016, 4:40 pm

    WRONG! This guy Sammy has enough ‘credentials’ to know better? I think maybe your scenario example should have been ‘qualified’ in context.

    NEVER walk directly into the room you heard the noise coming from shouting ‘I have a gun’. How fucking stupid can you be?
    Why don’t you just put a flashing L.E.D. arrow on your chest saying ‘Here I am, Shoot me now! JESUS!

    In the example case ‘you’ should have first quietly gone into your daughter’s room and any other family members in different rooms in the house to make sure they were secure, If the house was still ‘undisrupted’ by further intruder ‘violence’, and all were sleeping, quietly creep around looking for the source. Many intruders first break a window, then wait outside to hear if anybody inside was alerted, an alarm went off, or if a police car shows up in a few minutes from a silent alarm call or 911 call.

    I would have my bedside pistol with a mounted 6oo lumen light NOT on yet because i have enough low level night lighting on throughout and skylights above to ‘see’ in the dark with my eyes still in night vision mode. I’d creep along staying close to walls as i moved, scanning rooms twice in case someone was hiding around. I’d stop at all doorways or room openings to listen and look before moving through slowly and very quietly with the gun/light ahead ready to pop on instantly. Perps ‘listening’ too. So if you are clomping around in your flip flop slippers, you defeat your attempted stealth mode.

    If you confront someone, you have a good chance of having total surprise to your advantage if the subject is occupied with randomly looking around himself. If you hear enough ‘noise’ to focus on one location, move toward it but don’t tunnel vision on that room or area, there might be more than one intruder in the expanse. Keep peripheral scope in your visual scans.

    As you approach the noise area, crouch down against the wall, weapon/light ready and listen again quietly for possible focus.
    Then try to ‘see’ where the noise is coming from before hitting the light. If you think you got something–shadow, or specific noise/movement, then hit the light on it and Scream POLICE FREEZE if it looks human! Heavy lumens usually give second or two of ‘Deer in the Headlights’ syndrome which should be more than enough time to determine your next action. And this should at least be ‘visualized’ routinely maybe before you go to bed once in a while to decide if you are just going to not take any chances if it is any kind of intruder, unarmed or not, and lay down some firepower, or give them a chance to surrender if they don’t immediately try to return their firepower in the immediate blinding illumination.

    This, of course depends upon your particular level of ‘abilities’ in such combat type modes. I don’t care for killing any more people in my life if i really really don’t have to. And someone like me almost never ‘has’ to in a situation like this. So I might try something different in the seconds they are blinded if they don’t instantly comply with my directives. But that’s your own choice in life.

  • Ron Stidham July 16, 2016, 5:56 am

    Great advise from all of the above. I live in the country, I have been robbed twice while sleeping. Later I found out who the culprit was, confronted them and the police. Was told not to shoot for any reason. They say the insurance will replace my lost articles. What about my lost money that I paid for the items that were taken, my sense of pride, my hatred for my so called neighbors. I don’t want to shoot any one, but its hard to not be able to protect my home when the police condone the criminals. By the way the thief was outside my home, not inside or it would have gone down a whole lot different. 45 ACP both mags!!

    • Jon Wilob July 23, 2016, 11:57 pm

      The main reason I feel the cops don’t want you to shoot anyone is because it makes their jobs more complicated. All that blood splatter, broken things, he told me this, she told me that….you get the drift. Gotta write all this down correctly…what a PITA. You empty two mags into a perp, or the wall for that matter, and you’ll be the one sitting in the jail cell….guaranteed! Also check your state laws and see if it has a “castle law” in effect. If it doesn’t wait for the next Stihl Dealer Days sale and buy a good size chain saw that will fit nicely between your bed and nightstand. Make sure it’s gassed up and starts easily. If your state doesn’t have the “castle law” you’ll need that saw to cut yourself OUT of your own house to make a run for your life from the intruder or face prison for defending your own home. This is no joke it has happened many times.

  • Frank E July 15, 2016, 5:18 pm

    Thanks for this series. Thought provoking, great advice and much appreciated.

  • Jim Rooth July 15, 2016, 1:18 pm

    After two tours in Viet Nam, I tend to be a light sleeper. There was a time when my older son entered the house very late one night trying to be real quiet. I met him in the hall with my pistol trained on him. I thank God for my Marine Corps training to know the target before engaging. I told my son to always enter the house normally. When he tried to be quiet and not disturb us, it set off warning bells in my head. I can sleep through an argument but a whisper can make me go on alert. And then there the time my neighbor (who worked second shift) started walking across the yard to my bedroom window. He wanted to know if I wanted to go frog gigging with him? As soon as he heard the hammer being cocked on my pistol, he started yelling my name and his name. We got two large frogs that night and he learned how loud a pistol being cocked could be.

  • tweedmus July 15, 2016, 11:05 am

    It is a good idea to make a defense load if you reload (or comparable commercial cartridge) that has enough stopping power but won;t penetrate walls. This generally precludes .223 or other rifle and magnum handgun cartridges, hardball ammo or others designed for max penetration. I would avoid fragmenting ammo as it doesn’t penetrate well enough to be effective (I had this proved to me when a friend was in a gunfight a few years ago). Although shotguns can be effective for this kind of use, there is too much of a chance that a long gun can be grabbed by a burglar when going around corners in an unlit house. My personal choice is a 2″ Colt agent with a .38 Special loaded with a 158gr soft lead swaged hollow point and 5 grains of Unique, good for about 800 fps. Other good choices would be .44 Special or .45 ACP or LC, but the drawback is a larger heavier gun and more recoil, as well as the harder alloy that autos need to feed properly.. Remember that a hit with a .22 is infinitely better than a miss with a 500 S&W, so shoot what you can hit with and practice with the gun you’re going to use, frequently.
    Also essential is a good flashlight stored with the gun; trying to do this blind is almost sure to end in disaster.
    The other thing is that the cartridge needs to be tested to determine the correct level of penetration; most gun clubs will let you bring sample materials to test on the firing line, just be sure to check with them first as to how to go about it and clean up after yourself.

    • Mongo July 15, 2016, 10:45 pm

      Be very careful about using handloads for defensive rounds. Massad Ayoob has some very important insight to this, particularly about cases in which a person shooting a bad guy in self-defense was convicted of manslaughter because he used handloads. In today’s liberal controlled courts (for the most part) I wouldn’t trust that actual law would be recognized by an over-zealous prosecutor paired with a judge who may be anti-2A. Too many factors that could tip the scales against you. I would much rather trust the tried and true factory loads, especially those used by LEO or other reputable ammo manufactures.
      Stay safe, stay aware and stay armed.

      • Mahatma Muhjesbude July 16, 2016, 5:34 pm

        Yeah, there was a big thing a while back with Black Talon ammo, too ‘deadly’ lol! Even police departments didn’t allow it.
        And litigation Scheisters will make even the most banal of .22 hollow points into bullets as dangerous as Fifty API rounds, but now they got two new ammos out there, one that seems to be commercially available everywhere now which are supposed to solve the problem and mitigate the ‘psycho’ use intent factor by being very collateral damage safety oriented? Because they are designed with enough potential energy to effectively penetrate for internal organ hydrostatic shock damage, but also frangible enough NOT to penetrate a body completely or still be blowing through house walls with enough power to kill others in that room???

        The ones I’m going to Reality test shortly in a .380 in both a side of pork shank and a standard 6inch interior house wall with 1/2 inch drywal panels is a DRT (Dyamic Research Technologies).The box makes some pretty bold statements. “…the most accurate long range ammo in the world!” Hmmm? I thought i tested all of that stuff already, lol! For the buck and a half a .380 round it costs, it better at least make me smile a little? The box claims it is a lead free bullet with some trick ballistic that turns the core into some instantly super “centrifical’ swirl of powder after impact and penetration with “terminal” effects?

        The .380 bullet reminds me of an old Winchester .32 caliber silvertip hollow point? The hollow point is deep in the 85 grain supposedly ‘high velocity’ round although i don’t see the actual fps listed anywhere on the box. They make this round in several calibers that i saw at this particular store.

        The other round that i did see a Youtube video on was the RIP .380 which is the only round this oompany makes at the moment, and i did ‘smile’ more than a little at its performance, mostly in gel and a exploding a watermelon. I don’t see how anyone can survive being hit by one of these RIPs, even in .380 caliber. Especially a double tap..

  • ArtP July 15, 2016, 10:14 am

    Coopers rules. Four and two.

  • ArtP July 15, 2016, 10:13 am

    Coopers rules. Four and two.

  • eddie046 July 15, 2016, 9:58 am

    Well as someone who lives alone I know anyone in my home without my knowledge is an intruder and up to no good!

  • Blake July 8, 2016, 11:06 am

    Your home is your castle. You know it better than anyone. Use that knowledge to your advantage. You can sneak around in the dark observing the intruder. Why face him directly and even the odds? Need to make sure who you are about to shoot before you pull the trigger. Don’t follow what you see in the movies. Use your head tactically.

  • SuperG July 8, 2016, 10:52 am

    I would only add that camera systems, which see in the dark, on the perimeter, have never been cheaper.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend