When an Intruder is in Your House

With some advance preparation, you should be able to protect yourself in this scenario.

First, you should always have a saferoom in your home. While these can be elaborate vaults, a heavy door and solid lock on the master bedroom is usually sufficient.

Second, you should have good locks on all the doors and windows, and you should not leave them unlocked when you retire for the evening. This will mean the intruder cannot just walk in, but must break in, which should give you some advance warning. A loud dog (of any size) is a great warning mechanism.

There may be a few gung ho readers who will grab their gun and go prowling through the house searching for the intruder, but as anyone who has any training knows, it is much easier to defend a safe room than sweep the house. Here's your best bet:

  1. Retreat to the saferoom and lock the door.

  2. Call the police. Stay on the line if they let you.

  3. Get your gun out and load it (if you don't keep it ready and loaded). Point the gun at the door.

  4. If the intruder approaches the door or tries the handle, yell out "I've called the police. I have a gun. If you try to come in here, I'll shoot." This should be enough to scare any smart criminal off.

  5. Unfortunately, not every criminal is smart -- or maybe the intruder is out to get you. If the intruder persists in pursuing you and kicks at the door or tries to break it down, fire a shot through it. Aim just inside and above the doorknob.

  6. If the onslaught continues and/or the intruder actually enters the room, aim the gun and shoot until the intruder no longer presents a threat (i.e. falls to the ground, turns and runs, etc.)

  7. When the police arrive, have them check the house thoroughly.

  8. Captain Dave is not an attorney and does not give legal advice (see our disclaimer), however it is his opinion that in the above situation you would be exonerated because you used lethal force to defend yourself from the threat of death or grave bodily danger. This may be a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less accurate: It is better to be judger by 12 than carried by six.

The scenario is a little different for families with children, or those with house guests, infirm parents or others in the house who do not sleep in the master bedroom . For a family, the best bet is to have one gun-equipped adult guard the stairs or hallway leading toward the bedrooms while the other collects everyone and retreats to the safe room. Don't bother explaining, just grab children and run.

A pistol is ideal for standing guard at the doorway and is easy to store and can be quick to load (with speed loaders or a charged magazine). It allows you to be mobile and is harder to take away from you than a long gun. Unfortunately, it is not he most effective weapon for stopping an assault.

A 12 or 20 gauge shotgun loaded with buck shot is a usually more likely stop an attack with one shot. It is perhaps the ideal weapon for use when barricaded in the safe room. For women or smaller stature adults, the butt of the gun can be braced against a wall or the bed's headboard to prevent recoil (a wooden stock may break, but so what?)

A rifle or carbine may (depending on the caliber) have too much penetration ability for safe use in an urban area (the bullet could pass through your house, endangering others in the neighborhood).

Captain Dave recommends having both a pistol and shotgun in the safe room.

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