I always find articles and blog posts about home defense weapons, equipment, and tactics to be fascinating. I don’t know that any other event (short of “bugging out”) conjures up more opinions or spurs our imaginations more than having to defend our homestead against some sort of attack. There is plenty already out there on caliber, platform, over-penetration issues, birdshot vs. buckshot, etc. I’m going to approach this a little differently.
It should go without saying that a layered defense is your best defense. This starts outside the home with good lighting, bushes trimmed back, thorny bushes planted near windows where an intruder could try to gain access, and signage referencing your alarm system. Sturdy doors and locks are a must (don’t forget the door from the house to your attached garage, if applicable). All doors and windows should be locked when not at home, and ladders that a thief can use to access second floor windows should be stowed and locked away (shed, garage, etc.). A dog can be helpful, even if only as a form of secondary alarm system. You should also interface with neighbors (I’m lucky in that I have one of those nosy senior citizens across the street who is home all day and misses nothing that happens!), write down license plates of unusual cars in your neighborhood (photos are good, too!), sanitize trash (shred documents, avoid putting empty boxes from commonly stolen items out at the curb without cutting them up and putting them in a can, etc.), and avoid putting “free to a good home” items out by the street (these just tend to attract the wrong people). Putting a “no soliciting” sign near your front door or property entrance can discourage the door-to-door types. Essentially, you want to make your neighborhood an uncomfortable place for bad people, and make your home a hard target within the neighborhood.
I am going to start where most people do not: safety. All of your firearms should be under lock and key or otherwise under your control at all times. If you have children of your own or live in a home that children frequent, this is of vital importance. I am not a fan of storing loaded guns in various rooms of the house for easy access in case your door gets kicked in. Such guns are too easily accessed by the wrong people, be it relatives, friends, children, or thieves. I keep almost all of my guns in the big safe, with a bedside gun in a quick access safe near my bed. If I am awake, then most of the time I have a gun on me, and this becomes my de facto “primary home defense gun”.
Semantics time. When questioned, many people will describe their primary home defense gun as something that sits near or under their bed. To me, this is incorrect, for it presupposes that something bad will only happen when you are near or in your bed. Break-ins/home invasions can happen at any time. Indeed, most home burglaries take place in the daytime when most people are at work. So, while you may have this under your bed for unannounced callers at 3 AM,
what will you do if they come while you are doing dishes at 8 PM, or reading the paper (or this blog) over your morning cup of coffee?
I love it when people say that their primary home defense gun is a (insert brand/make of shotgun/carbine here). Since I don’t stroll around my house with a long-gun slung on me, MY primary home defense gun is whatever I have on me at any given moment. Many will no doubt scoff at this, but for me the “primary” can be something as minimal as a Ruger LCP. Yes, you read that right. Why? Strictly convenience. I know, I know, we’re all supposed to be super-commandos and “switched on” at all times. For ME, I’ve found it convenient to have in a pocket holster while playing with the kids, mowing the lawn (I live in a suburban neighborhood in a place that’s not exactly gun friendly, so working outside with a larger gun, potentially openly carried or easily revealed, just isn’t going to work), cooking, doing the dishes, etc. Since these situations mostly involve me being within my home, I should have some warning about a break-in, and the LCP literally becomes the “fight my way to a bigger gun” gun. I don’t know of too many people who are determined to walk through 7 rounds of .380 fired from 10 feet away. The LCP is bare minimum, and I often have something more substantial on me, like a 9mm handgun.
For things that go bump in the night, I like to have two weapon systems available. I categorize them as “infantry” and “artillery”. The “infantry” weapon is the one you carry with you from the bedroom to perform “infantry” functions, which can include rescuing loved ones in another part of the house or checking on a noise you heard that might have just been the cat knocking over something in the kitchen. This might be the same handgun that serves as your daily concealed carry pistol. However, if you have the means, in this case I like to go with “more bigger is more better”. A larger gun (maybe a bigger version of your carry gun, like a Glock 17 if you normally carry a Glock 26, a full-size M&P if you normally carry a compact or Shield, etc.) will hold more rounds, probably be more accurate, have less recoil, and, if equipped with a rail, can have a light mounted (I sense an upcoming blog post!). Mounted light or not, keep a good quality flashlight with your “infantry” gun.
“Artillery” is the weapon system that probably will not leave your bedroom (this is the one that most people describe as their “primary”). This should be a long-gun, and you should practice deploying it from a set spot to be fired in a specific direction. For example, this might be a shotgun or carbine that you deploy from the far side of your bed pointed at your bedroom door. A weapon-mounted light is especially useful on a long-gun, since such systems require two hands for their operation. I mention that it should be deployed in a specific direction in order to minimize potential “issues” with friendlies in the house or even neighbors if you miss or if the rounds overpenetrate bad guys and walls. Plot out beforehand which directions are best for its employment, and which are best avoided.
Whatever you choose for your “bump in the night” situations, it’s a good idea to keep a simple bag with a few key items with it. Though I have read of some people who keep a plate carrier with 6 loaded AR mags next to their beds, this is probably not realistic for MOST people. Since you’ll probably be less-than-fully-dressed when something happens at 3 AM, a simple sling bag may be one way to have some gear with you if you have to move through the house. Such a bag can include extra ammunition for whatever weapons systems you’re employing and one or more blow-out kits (See John’s article here), as EMS is not going to enter your house to administer aid until the police have cleared it; it’s up to you to solve any medical issues in the interim. A flashlight should be included, and some favor electronic ear-protection which can protect your hearing while amplifying any “bad guy” sounds. Other handy items to have are small strobes (I like the simple red or white ones from the dollar bins at Target) to mark your room for the police, if necessary, and I like to put a spare house key on a ring with a glow stick or strobe attached that I can throw out the window to police.
The Safe Room
Many will advocate the use of a safe room, and I would tend to agree with this concept. Obviously, a lot will depend on the layout of your home and who you share it with. Generally speaking, this will probably be the master bedroom. Keep in mind that unless you armor your walls, bullets can penetrate interior walls relatively easily, so how “safe” your safe room is may be in question. At the very least, it should limit entry to the room by an individual. Having a solid door with good locks, not unlike your front door, is probably a good idea. A charged cellular phone should always be available in this room (in case land lines are cut or down) along with extra medical gear and possibly ammunition.
If you do not live alone, then having a team approach to home defense is very important. For the “bump in the night”, this could mean one person fulfills the infantry role of securing the kids while the other sets up the bunker in the safe room. Then one might guard the safe room door while the other calls the police. Please note that, unless all the adults have had close-quarters battle/room-clearing training—along with some low-light training—going on a search and destroy mission for bad guys in your home is not recommended.
When preparing your own home defense plan, take into account the most likely threats in your neighborhood, weapons and equipment you already have available, and then build from there. Remember that the point is not to withstand an attack by a platoon of Spetsnaz, but just to make the bad guys go someplace else. Finally, PRACTICE with everything. Practice getting your gun into action, slinging your bag, hunkering down or securing children, reloading from the bag, etc. All the best ideas and gear will do you no good without making sure it works and making tweaks as necessary.
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