What does the recent social upheaval happening all over the world mean to you and your ability to defend yourself and your home? Many people’s home defense plans are predicated on a collapse of civil order…. today’s city dweller often lives in conditions that make it look like that collapse has already happened.
So, while you are preparing for tomorrow’s unknowns, it pays to be ready for what could happen today.
The essential lesson to be learned is that you must be both prepared to defend yourself before an attack and be prepared to account for your actions afterward. It seems obvious, but few people give it much thought until after the attack when they are traumatized and possibly being bombarded by questions from the police and the press.
Justifying self-defense against a home intruder is not nearly as difficult as in the case of a possible mugging. In some mugging cases, there is a substantial amount of burden placed on the shooter to prove that there was, in fact, an attack going on at all.
In home defense, the criminal intent of the intruder is much clearer, as is the threat to the family within. This gets (pardon the pun) to the heart of justifying the use of deadly force … the reasonable perception of a threat of physical harm to self and family.
The problem of break-ins falls largely into two categories: intrusion when you’re home and intrusion while you’re out. The static, passive, and semi-active defenses that should be employed to protect an empty house are also the first line of defense you’d use to protect yourself when you’re home.
The first thing to remember about home defense while you’re away is that booby traps are out! The use of deadly, active devices for property defense may seem to make sense and maybe emotionally satisfying, but they can land you in a great deal of trouble.
There was a homeowner who set up a shotgun booby trap in his oft-burgled garage, got the burglar, then got jailed. The principle is that if you or other members of your household are not in danger, there is no justification for the use of deadly force. Don’t give up, just be smart and be prepared. Home defense planning should become your main concern if you are considering bugging-in when SHTF.
Three Tiers in Home Defense
Your home should be protected, first, by a three-tiered system of barrier defenses, alarms, and hiding places, or safe areas. This system will protect your belongings when you are out and will provide a first line of home defense when you are home.
Barrier defenses are the first tier. Primarily this involves doors, windows, and locks. City dwellers are facing a greater threat, but homeowners are often more vulnerable. Limiting visible and physical access is the key. This is easier to do with an apartment, but not impossible with a house. It never ceases to amaze me that most Americans sleep behind a fortress of glass. If there is ground floor access to your windows, ordinary windows and glass sliding doors just won’t do.
There are many very effective means to lock your glass doors and windows (dowels in the door tracks, nails in holes drilled through the window frame . . . and plenty of commercial devices, as well), but even the best are only as strong as the glass that they secure.
Wire glass and one of several strong glass substitutes, set in metal frames and tracks are one approach. A more effective and, unless you are building or rebuilding a home with security considerations in mind, an easier technique is to install window gates. These scissors-pivoted steel straps slide open and closed along a pry-resistant track like an accordion.
They have been in commercial service, protecting glass-fronted stores for many years. Smaller units are now popular in many ground floor apartments and on many first floor residential windows as a means of home defense.
One of the great advantages of the window gate is that it can be opened in the event of a fire. It is an important factor to consider when choosing barrier defenses. Steel or wrought iron grilles are unbeatable protection from intruders, but pose a serious threat to life in the event of a fire, unless they are hinged and can be opened easily from the inside.
Grilles might be considered for basement windows if this is not a normal “living area” in your home. Windows should be protected if they can be accessed from adjoining apartment terraces (side or above), from porch roofs, garages, or even from your apartment roof.
That’s right, from your apartment building roof! Don’t underestimate the desperation and determination of a drug-craving and drug-affected criminal. I once assumed that an alley-facing top floor apartment window was out of reach. I was wrong. Because I would never dream of lowering myself from the roof, on a rope, to open a window, I figured no one else would.
I was burgled twice before a neighbor’s kid told me that he had seen a “junkie” get in this way. I have worked with hundreds of addicted ex-offenders and, believe me, this feat of daring is nothing compared to some of what they did to satisfy their habits.
Top floor apartment dwellers and those with terraces above or next to theirs might well consider using the same precautions appropriate to ground level dwellers. Curtains are an important way to limit a criminal’s visual access, necessary to prevent the determination of the habits, belongings, and presence of those that live within. Curtains that let sunlight in, but protect privacy are available.
For more information on how to protect your windows against burglars and Mother Nature’s fury, I recommend you read this article.
Doors for Home Defense
Door selection is a critical aspect when it comes to proper home defense. A steel door mounted on a steel frame is your best bet. It should be equipped with a fisheye wide-angle viewing lens. You should always positively identify callers and chain latches or door windows are an open invitation to unwanted company.
If you must do with a wooden door, avoid the hollow, interior type. Regardless of what locks are installed, they can be easily battered apart. A solid wooden door with a sheet metal covering outside is best if a metal door is unavailable.
If the door, no matter what type, is mounted on a wooden frame, ordinary locks are insufficient protection. The door may hold, but battering will tear out the frame side of locks and hinges. When there is doubt about the strength of your door frame, a bar lock should be installed.
This type of lock is also known as a “Fox” lock, a police lock, or a buttress lock. The locking mechanism is mounted in the middle of the door, and a strong, cold-rolled steel bar runs from the center of the door, inside, diagonally to a socket set in the floor. The bracing is against the floor and does not depend upon door edge or door frame strength.
While we’re on the subject of locks, I’d like to point out the burglar’s favorite type. It is the in-knob button lock. That is the type that has the cylinder for the key in the middle of the outside knob and has a locking button in the middle of the inside knob.
To lock it, you push the little button and pull closed the door. To open it, you slip a credit card between the frame next to the knob, pry it apart with a screwdriver, or for those in a hurry, simply kick it to pieces.
If you have this kind of lock on anything more important than your bathroom, get rid of it! Some folks have this in addition to a good lock and use the good lock only when they’re out. Not using the full potential of your barrier systems while you are home is a fundamental error that could cost you precious time to react to an intruder, and ultimately cost you your life.
A good idea is to use an in-door deadbolt lock, which is a lock that uses a solid metal bolt that cannot be slipped. In combination with a rim lock, that is, a lock that employs “L” shaped hooks that, when locked, drop into a bracket of “eyes” mounted on the door frame.
These two locks work well in combination with each other. The in-door deadbolt uses the strength of the door itself to prevent in-ward pressure from opening the door. The rim lock (also called a “Segal” or vertical bolt lock) prevents the door and frame from being pried apart in order to slip the deadbolt out of its socket.
The rim lock will actually tend to pull the frame along if the door is pried, preventing a gap between the in-door bolt and the in-frame socket. If an in-door lock is not feasible, consider a bracket lock which has flat steel bars running either horizontally or vertically from the locking mechanism, through the door and frame-mounted brackets.
The horizontal bracket lock has the added advantage of reinforcing both the open side and the hinge side of the door.
The Bulletproof Home book is a good place to start in planning your home defense and barrier defenses. I urge you to be creative, though. Each dwelling has its own unique needs and vulnerabilities. Try and think like a crook. How would you try and get in if you were really desperate?
Alarms for home defense can vary from cheap, simple pull-string door or window alarms to complex and expensive microprocessor directed multi-sensor central station alarms. If properly employed, even relatively simple alarms can be an extremely cost-effective investment for home defense.
The secret of a successful alarm system is not in the alarm, at all; it is in alerting your neighbors to what your alarm sounds like and telling them what you’d like them to do if they hear it. Especially in a city, people become extremely insular, and the incidence of auto and business false alarms is high. They tend to be ignored . . . almost not heard, at all!
Most people are happy to be of assistance if asked, and especially if such help does not place them in danger. A promise of similar assistance, should they get an alarm system helps, too. You need not give neighbors the details of your system. What they need to know is what it sounds like when it goes off, and what they should do.
Ask them to call the police and ask them to look out their window and door peephole to note the description of the intruders, their auto, and auto license plates. Let them know that you don’t want them to investigate the alarm themselves. That kind of assistance, though commend-able could get them hurt and you liable. Their prompt call to the police, though, will turn your alarm from an expensive noisemaker into an effective tool against crime.
Some neighbors have made mutual defense agreements. In such cases, contingency responses to alarms will be more “active” in accordance with your prearrangement. Do understand that such arrangements also carry obligations and liabilities.
The simplest sort of alarm is a small box siren with a pin and string. The string eyelet is put on a hook mounted on the door frame at other than eye level. If, when the door is opened an inch or two, it is not unhooked, the pin will be pulled out of the alarm box by the opening door, and the siren will sound. These little wonders can sometimes still be found for less than $10.
More sophisticated and certainly more expensive multi-sensor systems are available. If installed by commercial alarm, companies expect to pay plenty. These systems start in the $500 and go up according to the size, complexity, and functions of the system. Nowadays, you have systems with motion detection cameras, call-in options (to call the owner or security agency)and all sorts of options that can be customized based on your home defense needs.
If you are willing to put the work in yourself, system components and instructions are available online from stores such as Amazon or eBay. You can build your own budget-friendly, home defense system if you inform yourself before making the purchase.
The various home defense systems you can find online are good, and you can often find great deals. Such an option is less expensive compared to having your alarm installed by professionals. You can usually start off in the $300 to $500 range and add to the system as your needs and pocketbook allow.
Installing your own home defense system has several advantages. You (and only you) will be more intimately aware of its capabilities and limitations. You will be more able to add to and repair it. A good system should have a number of sensors.
These may include micro magnetic switches on windows and doors that detect them being opened, window foil, or suction cup sensors that detect breaking glass, motion detector sensors near doors, or especially important areas.
This last type is available with infrared light emitters and detectors, which make them harder for intruders to spot. Usually, a mix of several types of sensors is most effective. It is interesting to note that a variety of other purpose sensors are on the market that can trigger your alarm to warn you of other problems, such as fires, smoke, flooded basements, and electric power outages. These are particularly easy to add if you installed your system and can work with it.
Some of the drawbacks of this type of alarm are that it will not detect motion outside of its range (usually the room it is installed in), and it can be triggered by the movement of household pets and has been known to cause a false alarm.
Most alarm systems can be disabled by the homeowner either by an external key or pushbutton switch, or an internal switch used during a built-in time delay after the legitimate dwellers have entered. Some home defense systems have the option to turn the system on and off easily from your smartphone.
The trick, if you want to protect your safety, as well as that of your property, is to turn the system back on after you enter. You really don’t want the first warning you have of intruders to be waking up to see a group of strange faces looking down at you from around your bed.
This, by the way, actually happened to a friend of mine in 2005. Fortunately for him and his family, his nocturnal visitors were only interested in his belongings, and he and his family were unharmed.
Hiding places fall into two major categories: the strong and the concealed. Concealment can be as simple as the purloined letter method. This is hiding something valuable, among others similar-looking but more common. Put your diamonds in a bowl of obvious costume jewelry.
If I ever get any diamonds, I’ll have to consider this? Seriously, I really don’t think that this is a very good idea. For a hiding place to be effective, it has to be very clever. Sugar bowls, freezers, inside books, and the like are out!
The best idea for a cubbyhole for your valuable is a combination of strength and concealment. An in-floor safe, secured by iron rods set in concrete and covered by a section of flooring is great if you have the sort of home where this is practical.
In-wall safes are sometimes more practical, but a bit less secure. A good, low budget alternative is to say to heck with secrecy and get yourself one of those massive old fashioned office safes. Regardless of age, they work well, and car be obtained second hand.
Once in place, remove or disable the wheels, or secure it in place with heavy case hardened steel chain so that burglars can’t simply roll it out of your place and open it elsewhere at their leisure.
When it comes to home defense, an interesting concept is the “safe room.” If you have a house and have, or consider getting a basement fallout shelter, a steel door and good locks make it double purpose: shelter and saferoom.
This makes it a safe place to put people as well as property. If no basement shelter is available, an interior room fitted with exterior type door and locks can be made to do nicely. The safe room should have an independent alarm system, and if it is to be considered a viable retreat for the family, a means to communicate should always be kept inside.
Any serious home defense planning needs to address the topic of perimeter protection. If you live in an apartment building, this may not be of importance for you, but homeowners have to really consider this.
Creating a protective, live defense perimeter around your residence could potentially ensure your long term survival chances. If you set up your barrier protection correctly, you have more potential of keeping those random stragglers from even finding your place.
History has proven that one of the most difficult obstacles/barrier to infiltrate or breach by humans (without any heavy destructive equipment, of course) are walls.
However, it is always quite expensive to put up a sturdy wall all the way around your place. Not to mention that your homeowner association may not like that idea. Sometimes a bit of common sense served with a dose of ingenuity can serve you well. This is the time to improvise!
When planning perimeter protection, you are going to want your perimeter barrier to be a circle of defense that is pretty much as far out as your property goes (unless you live on a hundred acres out in Nowheresville). This is opposed to allowing them to get extremely close to your main retreat. If an intruder can’t move forward and gain access to you in your actual shelter, then you will have created a sufficiently protected perimeter.
Perimeter alarms for home defense
If you live in a secluded area where help may take a long time to reach you, you will need some early-warning devices. Anti-intrusion signals. Perimeter alert alarms are devices rigged to set off a series of noises, the sign that someone has crossed a boundary.
These alarms can be built on a range of different styles and designs, spanning in price from a twelve-pack of beer to state of the art units.
Perimeter Intrusion Obstructions
Intrusion obstructions refer to things that will help to deter anyone from ever even attempting to enter your boundaries. Think of a fence or wall that may force intruders to think twice about their actions.
The main problem is that high chain link fences or barbed wire fences are not only extremely pricey, but they are very easy to breach, you’ve only got to be a good climber or have a pair of wire snips.
You must take into consideration of the psyche during times of distress (and before). If you make your home look like a FEMA prison camp, it will feel like one as well. The eyesore can actually make your experience during the SHTF scenario all the more dreadful.
And again, these will not do much to keep humans out (unless, of course, it is electrified, but this will have to be of the same standard that prisons use to be even slightly sufficient). Going this route will actually be drawing more attention to you, your family and your bug out/in location.
There are a plethora of inexpensive fencing ideas, such as pyramids of tangled razor wire rolls. These, depending upon how much perimeter you have to cover, can prove to be pretty pricey as well.
I feel that for home defense, your true best bet is to know how to create a “natural” perimeter barrier obstruction. The best way to begin is to get to know your perimeter.
If you live out in the sticks, a natural barrier will serve two purposes:
- first, the obvious, making it difficult for an intruder to get onto your land,
- secondly, it will serve to keep any stay wanderers from ever being intrigued to begin with.
One way to go would be to strategically placing old, felled trees in piles randomly along the perimeter. Next, start intertwining branches and bramble in among the logs. The main idea here is to make the arrangement look as natural as possible.
You can get pretty damn technical and improvise as much as you want with this type of barrier, and still stay below budget.
As you begin building this natural fence, if you can swing it here and there, get a bundle of razor wire or good old fashioned barbed wire, or even use boards with exposed nails, and intertwine them into the fence.
Remember that proper home defense also requires a couple of ways out, as you never want yourself entirely trapped in your own compound. As you build your natural barrier, make a few points that can be used as exits. Make them low enough not to be noticed from the outside, and small enough that they can be “plugged” until ready to use.
If you construct your natural fence properly, it will be nearly impossible to traverse over them without falling, tripping, and twisting yourself into some sort of awful injury and entrapment.
At one time, there were a number of states in which night burglary was a capital crime. It is a break-in in which the burglar can reasonably assume that the folks in his target residence are home and vulnerable, as opposed to most burglars who strike during the day and are interested only in theft, not in harming the inhabitants.
This gets to the meat of the problem: insuring your personal survival in the event of a break-in.
The first thing is to ensure that your three-tiered home defenses are in place and operative when you’re home. The barrier defenses and alarms may prevent entry or scare off the intruder. If not, they will give you the time and the advanced warning that you and your family need to adequately deal with the attacker.
It is important to note that once he has entered your home by breaking in while you are home, he ceases to be merely a thief and should be considered an attacker.
Contingency plans must be made, and all members of your family should be thoroughly familiar with them and with the actions that each of them must take. For your home defense plans to be realistic, your alarm system must be active.
Once warned, you must have immediate access to sufficient weaponry to secure absolute local superiority of force. This means, don’t depend on the hunting rifle you’ve got locked up in the basement if you are sleeping upstairs in the bedroom.
Each plan should contain a provision for the designation of a weapons user (depending on who is home, and who knows how to use the weapons available) and a plan for the other members of the household to take shelter.
This can be as simple as falling to the floor or retreating to an interior or “safe room.” The point of all this is to obtain a clear field of fire, or a killing zone and making sure your loved ones are not in it, and that your family cannot be used as a shield or hostages In intruders.
A safe room with wireless communications is a particularly good idea if, because of superior numbers or weaponry you are unable to obtain absolute local pre-dominance of force. It is a good idea to have somewhere to retreat where you can summon help.
If it came to pass, however, that you do need to defend your home and family with deadly force, you might not want to mention the existence of a possible safe retreat. Anything that might be seen as reducing the direct danger to you could be construed by law enforcement authorities as a reduction of the justification for you using deadly force … more about this later.
One thing that is mandatory to mention in home defense is the proper training in using your firearms to neutralize a threat.
Almost all shooting school instructors teach that the conditioned reflex is supreme in a self-defense situation. In armed confrontations, you will, under stress, react as you’ve programmed yourself to do. This is true, as the repeated practice builds a set of conditioned reflexes that can serve you well in deadly danger.
Often, a self-defense situation requires decision making, not a reflex to open fire. If you’re awakened by a noise, it may be a night intruder or a member of your family moving about. This is why giving yourself a space-time cushion is vital. You need time to observe, think, and decide on a court of action. There are tactics to give you this space and time you need to evaluate the situation.
To learn more about how to give yourself time in a stressful scenario and act properly without letting feelings cloud your judgment you should read this article.
Weapons for Home Defense
The selection of home defense weapons is not absolute. Your choice depends a lot on the conditions in which you live and upon who will be using them and, of course, what you can afford.
Non-firearm weapons should not be dismissed from consideration. Arrows and crossbow bolts were killing people long before anyone ever thought of guns.
A Louisville Slugger under the bed is still a kind of nice idea, and I’ve never heard of a kid accidentally getting shot with one, and you can use them for the occasional baseball game, as well. Seriously, though, if this is all you can afford, it is worth having.
For the realistic achievement of absolute local superiority of force, some kind of firearm is usually considered necessary. The choice of weapons for home defense is the source of endless debate since everyone has their favorite choice.
There are some considerations that should be taken when making this choice, that I’d like to suggest.
The factors you are looking for are:
- stopping power (you want to knock him down now, not just have him drop dead later),
- selectivity (a hand grenade will stop him, but it is not selective enough not to stop everyone else in the room as well),
- utility (it should not be too awkward or difficult to prepare to use).
Where you live and who is going to use the weapon will have a lot to do with judging selectivity and utility. In general, two popular choices are shotguns and heavy caliber handguns.
In rural areas, magnum handguns, 00 buckshot, solid shot, and even a rifle (a bit awkward for indoor use) may be good choices if they can be used without danger to others in your home. In the city, neighbors are always a consideration.
A good choice is a relatively short-barreled shotgun loaded with birdshot and within reach. It has, at short range, tremendous stopping power, yet it is less likely to go through three walls and kill your next-door neighbor, as well!
If there are young children in the house, a handgun in a lockbox is a great deal safer. There are pushbutton lockboxes that can be opened easily in the dark on the market.
Magnums may have too much penetration potential to be safely used for home defense or self-defense. A good alternative is the.45 ACP. A heavy, subsonic, proven man stopper, it is less likely to go through an attacker and hit your neighbor. Another possibility is the .38 Special, or a .357 revolver with .38 Special wade cutters loaded.
A nice (nice and nasty, that is) round to consider in several calibers available is the one that the projectile falls apart into discs and bearings upon impact. It tends not to go through walls but has proven devastating on human targets.
When choosing a weapon, make sure it is one that your wife, for instance, is able to use . . . or provide her an alternative, make sure it will be effective and make sure that it will not get you into more trouble after you use it than you were in before you used it by killing your neighbors.
I’m sure you have your preferences but do consider preparing for afterward, while you are preparing your home defense. This article will show you a selection of firearms that every prepper should have for various uses (including home defense).
P.S.—a flashlight is handy to have near your weapon!
If you don’t want the nightmare to begin after you have defended your home and family, it is essential to prepare for the aftermath before you are actually under the gun. Sure, you have a right to defend yourself; just make sure you don’t have to defend yourself against an eager prosecutor or the press.
If the danger is over, make sure the first person you call is your lawyer. Yeah, sad as it sounds if you are actually out of danger call your lawyer first and listen to his advice about what to discuss with the police.
He may advise you to discuss your experience fully with the police but may advise you to wait until he has discussed the case with you acid is present for your questioning. If he tells you to be quiet, don’t discuss it, even’ with your buddy on the force.
All kinds of conversations, casual or not, legally or not, have been used against people. I don’t mean any disrespect to the men and women of the criminal justice system, just don’t put yourself in a position that will force some of them to be on the opposite side of the fence from you! We are living in changing societies, and often times the men and woman in the right end up sitting on the accusation bench.
After you have defended yourself, get your family together and discuss what has happened so that by the time the police arrive, you will not inadvertently contradict each other — if you are alone, run through the episode in your mind so that you have your story straight. It is important that the authorities are clear that you were defending yourself and your family against a direct threat.
You may have been under the impression that the intruder was carrying a weapon. Many night burglars do so, don’t forget to mention that you saw what happened to be a weapon when you do make a statement.
Make sure not to forget to mention, as well, the fear, the terror that you felt (this is definitely not the time for macho pride), and don’t forget to mention that you warned the intruder to get out (you did, didn’t you? … of course you did!), and make sure the authorities know that you did ma perceive of any way to escape from the intruder.
Yes, you can defend yourself, but understand that the degree of justification you have for using deadly force to be reckoned by the degree of reasonable fear of harm you felt at the time of the intrusion.
“Gosh, officer, I wasn’t afraid. I could see he wasn’t armed, and besides, we could’a got away any time we wanted.”
“Gosh, citizen, I guess you’re under arrest, then!”
Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not totally unreal. Another point to remember is to avoid discussing the details of the case with friends and neighbors unless it is a calculated attempt to reinforce the popular (and true) impression that you did indeed perceive a deadly and inescapable threat to you and your family and that you were terrified into defending yourself.
You may feel really terrible for taking another life, even if unavoidable. You may feel like a beast . . . if so, tell only your lawyer about it, and only in private. Statements said under emotional stress, and upset may come back to haunt you!
Casual conversations have a way of showing up in court.
In conclusion, don’t be paranoid … he prepared. Be prepared to be safe before, during, and after a break-in. Don’t break the gun laws of your community when preparing your defense. Don’t do things like using a sawed-off shotgun when a short, but legal length gun will do.
Don’t stash an unlicensed handgun for emergencies when a bit of work gets you a premises permit (almost anyone can get one of these).
Be aware (beforehand) that you will be held accountable for your actions after an incident. This does not necessarily mean that you’ll be arrested or tried for a crime, but be as prepared with defenses fur the authorities as you are for defenses for the crooks.
Yes, it is better to be judged by 12 than to be can-led by six, but if you’re smart, you won’t have to be either judged or buried!