By Alex Nieuwland, Suarez International Staff Instructor
In my area of operations, home invasion is gaining in popularity as a tactic used by criminals. Apparently, cold burglaries with very precise information are preferred, but if that won’t work home invasion is considered as a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Recently, I started looking for more information on countering this specific tactic. Most of what I found was well-meaning but impractical advice or products. There was, however, some good along with the bad that I thought was worth passing on.
Types of home invasion
We typically think about home invasions as starting with a kicked-in door. That is not necessarily the case. Home invasions can be subdivided by their means of gaining entry: force, deception, stealth, garage, and carjacking. Force is what we commonly think of when we think of home invasions: a kick to the door knob. Deception means a ruse is used to get an occupant of the house to willingly open the door. Stealth means picking or “bumping” the lock, or entering though an unlocked door. Garage means gaining entry through the open garage door. And finally, there have been cases where home invasion victims were carjacked before being forced to drive to their own homes.
By thinking about home invasions in this light, we can better prepare our defenses against them. I also found some countermeasures that were new to me:
The surprise doorstop
While you may have resolved to never open your locked house door for a stranger if there is any doubt about their intentions, never is a long time, and not every occupant of the home (your spouse?) may have bought into that. The surprise doorstop is some kind of device attached to the floor behind the door that allows the door to be opened a few inches while preventing someone from opening it further and entering through it. Unlike a door chain it is not apparent to the criminal until the criminal tries to force the door open further, showing his true intentions, and initiating the rest of your countermeasures.
The fatal funnel
Most readers will probably be familiar with the “safe room” concept, wherein one of the rooms in the house is hardened and equipped to act as the keep of your castle. Typically, a solid reinforced door is suggested for this purpose. Instead, a strengthened matte glass door could be used. If the home invaders try to force it, it would provide additional physical evidence that they were not satisfied with the valuables in the portion of your house already under their control, but wanted YOU and your family. At the same time, it would position the (backlit) home invaders in the kill zone of an ambush with a well-protected and well-armed defender on the inside of the door and a bullet trap in or on the wall facing the door on the outside.
To my mind, the shotgun would be the most suitable type of weapon for this application due to its ability to put multiple projectiles into the target with a single shot. A shotgun, however, is not the “wall of death” some claim it is. For example, at 7 yards, all of the pellets from my 18.5” barreled shotgun are still well within an 8” circle, so your marksmanship skills are still essential to your success.
The fatal funnel concept can be extended to other choke points in your house. For example, if there is a narrow doorway leading from your hallway to the rest of the house, an unexpected locked glass door or locked security gate would be unwelcome news to any home invaders forcing their way in.
Final thoughts: active countermeasures
Unfortunately, we live in a world where some don’t respect basic rules of human interaction. They’ll come to your house and try to do harm to you and your family for reasons we sometimes can’t even begin to fathom. How the story ends when they come knocking depends on you
In America, unlike in most countries around the world, homeowners are in a strong position when it comes to home invasions, particularly in states with castle doctrine. My state (South Carolina) is one of those states. The barriers around our homes, and even the walls of our homes themselves, don’t need to be 4 feet thick and 20 feet high with bars on the windows. What they need to do in the case of home invasions, is provide us enough warning to deploy our active countermeasures.
This is where most of the well-meaning advice proves to be impractical. Some suggest carrying a can of bear spray at all times or keeping a firearm locked up in your safe room. In my area of operations, I can expect the home invaders to be armed and bear spray would leave me seriously outgunned. Lone law enforcement officers don’t use non-lethal force in the face of a deadly threat, and I’m not planning on it either. In addition, as I’m sitting here typing this, there’s a pretty good chance one or more forceful home invaders could get to me, before I got to my safe room. So a locked up firearm inside my safe room just isn’t going to cut it by itself either.
Is bear spray or a locked up firearm really going to improve your situation if home invaders kicked in your doors right now? If the honest answer is “Probably not”, I’d like to recommend you carry your carry gun(s) concealed (loaded, of course), including when you are in and around your house, get excellent training and practice until it’s a deeply ingrained habit. The same skills that are taught in the Suarez International handgun gunfighting curriculum for use outside your house are still applicable inside your house.
In addition, there is a whole Suarez International class (CQB: Fighting in Structures) dedicated to teaching civilians how to search structures that may (or may not) contain armed bad guys and how to neutralize them. Yes, it’s dangerous, particularly if you are by yourself, but it can be done and in some cases it should be done.
Finally, shotguns are highly effective at the distances found inside homes. This Veterans Day, I will be teaching a one-day Dynamics of the Shotgun class in Columbia, SC that would make an excellent primer on the use of a shotgun for self defense.
Join the discussion on Warrior Talk here to add your views, experiences and other comments.
Update added on September 20:
Earlier today, a Tulsa homeowner used his shotgun on a stealthy home invader. The criminal, who may have attempted a forceful home invasion yesterday afternoon, died at the scene.