What Should a Home Defense Plan Look Like?
If you’re like me, you’ve spent years contemplating the perfect “bump in the night” loadout for that statistically unlikely perfect storm, where you ultimately face a team of bad guys who skillfully entered your home in an attempt to steal your valuables, shoot your dog and kidnap your family. I’ve found that members of the firearm community, generally speaking, sort of end up romanticizing this nightmare of a scenario. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. I’d personally rather have a proactive plan in place than just grabbing something from the bedside safe and hoping I can perform if that day comes. A phrase that comes to mind is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” This concept is engrained in the mind of a LEO from their first day on the job. I will never forget what my third phase FTO told me in regards to this concept. He instructed me to have a plan to kill everyone I contacted in the field. At first, I was taken back by this, but after further thought I realized that this concept could potentially be lifesaving. You never know when that stranded motorist you’re trying to help will try to kill you. I think this is a good mindset to have when reviewing our home defense plan. If we plan for the worst we will be pleasantly surprised when things go better than planned. Trust me, dealing with a home intruder will likely be the worst day of your life. It would be best to be ready for anything.
When we talk about the concept of a “bump in the night” loadout, or in a broader scope, a home defense plan, what we are really getting into is the idea of formulating a plan of action. This entails activating a strategic preconceived defense strategy that can (and should be) practiced and put into place by every member of your household. One mistake that members in our community often make is taking a surface level simplistic approach to home defense. Questions like “what caliber is most effective” and “what is the fastest and safest way to retrieve my home defense weapon” are about as deep as many people dig into this home defense plan. I strongly believe that a shitty plan is better than no plan at all, and this comes from someone that is accustomed to writing a term paper the night before its due. I believe we are doing a disservice to our family and the firearm community as a whole if we do not take proactive steps to formulate a strategic defense strategy and incorporate it into practice before that “bump in the night” actually happens.
Let’s start with the rudimentary stuff and gradually move into some more advanced material: the what, where, why and how.
What is your home defense weapon? This question has been asked by thousands and answered by tens of thousands. A quick youtube or google search for home defense weapon loadouts will yield an overwhelming result. There is simply too much material, mostly opinion based, to sift through online. I’d recommend looking at some well-known publishers like The Firearm Blog or The Gun Collective. Additional resources would be John Lovell with Warrior Poet Society, John Correia with Active Self Protection, and Clint Smith with Thunder Ranch. There are more resources available, but all these guys know their stuff and are industry professionals with a collective crap load of experience under their belts. These guys can give some excellent insight into what is effective and efficient in your specific scenario (i.e. small apartment building in an urban area, large secluded farm house, children, dogs etc.). Since this is my blog I’ll tell you what my set up is. You didn’t ask for it, but this is my blog. If you don’t like it too bad. I personally like to keep my options open. I train a lot with rifle and pistol so I’m comfortable with both platforms. In my former profession I trained more with a sidearm so I tend to keep a handgun in cruiser ready condition within my main safe. This safe is close access to my bed and I can reach it with easy access in seconds. This pistol is a Glock 19 MOS with a Vortex Viper red dot and Inforce APLC equipped. I strongly believe that any home defense weapon has a weapon mounted light. When you’re deciding what light to buy don’t succumb to a particular brand or gimmick. Buy something that is reliable with a good reputation, has exceptional battery life, strong output, and most importantly, is functionally sensible. Ergonomics is probably the most critical element to selecting a light. I like the Inforce because it has ambidextrous paddles in front of the trigger guard. These paddles have good tactile stippling so I know, even in pitch black, that my finger is on the paddle and out of the trigger well. Finally, practice with this light, and obviously the firearm. Go to the range, practice movement and transitions, reloading and indexing the light in shoot/no shoot scenarios. You can do this with a sheet of plywood and a paper target. It doesn’t take high speed expensive equipment to become competent. This is another failure of the firearm industry, but that topic is for another day. Lastly, I mentioned that I keep my options open. I also have an AR platform pistol that is set up in cruiser ready condition in the same safe. I can access either weapon if the situation dictates. The AR pistol is chambered in 300 blackout and is equipped with a SBA3 brace, Streamlight Protac HL-X weapon mounted light with a pressure pad, Magpul MBUS flip up sight set, and a Vortex Sparc AR red dot. I keep the iron sights engaged in the event that I don’t have time or the foresight to activate the red dot or flip up the sights. The last thing you want to think about in a situation where you need to defend your property and family is activating an optic or flipping an iron sight set. Some optics have sensors that will self-activate when they feel motion. I think this is a cool concept and likely very useful, but I honestly fear the scenario where I’m dicking around with a red dot in my skivvies, trying to get it turned on when someone is breaking down the door to my kid’s room. No Bueno. Let’s not get into caliber wars here either. I use 300 blackout for several reasons. I plan to put a can on this pistol in the near future, and running subsonic 300 black in a 10.5 inch barrel would help keep the ear ringing to a minimum. If you’ve ever fired a weapon indoors this will make total sense. Chose a round that has sufficient ballistics and can get the job done. For handguns I wouldn’t go below a 380 for ballistic reasons, but preference would be a 9mm or better. 9mm +P’s are an excellent self-defense option because of ballistics and capacity in modern pistols. For rifles I’d recommend a slower, heavier round. That’s one of the reasons I went with 300 blackout. 5.56 will do the job if you pick a good self-defense hollow point. I would avoid range ammunition, FMJ or steel core for any caliber. There is a lot more to this topic, and if you have a full house with multiple rooms and hallways please be mindful of over penetration.
We’ve covered the what, now let’s talk about the where, why and how. I briefly touched on a few of these points in the last paragraph. I mentioned that my safe is near my bed and easily accessible to me. I can have a loaded firearm in my control within 3-5 seconds from getting up. Where do you keep your weapon? If you’re an Oregon resident you may have to be rethinking this soon. A recent bill was passed that will further restrict where and how you store your firearms. Can you access it easily? Is access restricted to unauthorized members of your household like you children? Do you have guns placed all over the home that a sneaky intruder could locate without your knowledge like in an entry way drawer or an end table? How long would it take you to be gun in hand before an aggressive intruder was able to get in your home and confront you? These are all questions that need to be thought about and answered when developing this home defense plan. For me, I know my three accesses are far enough away from my bedroom that I will be able to arm myself almost immediately after entry. Another good concept to mull over in your head is what type of additional layers does your home defense plan have. Ring provides excellent home protection options that can provide some of these layers. However, I in no way advocate for a security device to be the only opposition to a criminal. A determined criminal can accomplish anything. The nice thing about the Ring system is that it can be implemented around your home for somewhere in the ball park of $600. This includes cameras, door and motion sensors. All points of entry in my home, including windows, are monitored. I have motion sensors set up as well for my garage entry in the event someone tries to get in through the roll up or man door and force a path into my home. Systems like this can be customized to meet your needs. What I like about the Ring system is that I can set motion alerts to my phone if something is messed with during the night. I can also lock down the entire house and have an alarm activate if I desire to configure the system that way. Most criminals are opportunistic and will likely be deterred if they see those security window stickers or the Ring door bell. If they know they will likely face resistance they’ll look for some other sucker.
Why a gun? This may seem like a simple question but the answer is not. One of your most valuable home defense tools is discernment. This means knowing when to fight and when to hold your position and avoid a potentially fatal conflict. It’s really easy to jump on the operator bandwagon and fanaticize that you will clean house if this scenario ever unfolds. I’ve had significant professional CQB training, and I can tell you right now that CQB/room clearing is probably one of the most dangerous things one can engage in. You are always at a disadvantage when trying to take a room, regardless of training or experience. Discernment is important because it can be the difference between some junkie running off with your flat screen and a whole host of bad things like prison time after a bad shoot, negligently shooting an innocent family member, or worse, your funeral procession. The second you walk out of that room to confront the intruder you are significantly increasing the risk, and proper risk assessment is critical before acting. Think about this. When someone breaks into your home they have a predetermined notion of how this will play out. They know their intentions, you do not. If they have a weapon, they likely intend to use it. They probably psyched themselves up before stepping foot on your property and have an idea of what they will do if and when you confront them. You have no way of knowing until a confrontation is made. There are a lot of variables here, and if you have kids, like myself, there is no way in hell you’re going to sit in your room and wait for the bad guys to leave. I accepted that risk the day my daughter was born. I will go room to room and make my castle safe for these babies, even though the risk is substantial and I could potentially be outgunned and outmanned. If you don’t have kids or other members in your family you are responsible for, I would recommend retrieving your weapon and setting up defenses. Be an active listener and stay quiet. Use cover if possible and concealment if not. Lock down all points of access. Put the bad guy at a disadvantage. If they hold a room let them have it. If they try to take a room you’re in, it will put them at a disadvantage and that would be your time to act. Stuff is replaceable, lives are not. If I was in a position where clearing my home wasn’t a necessity because I didn’t have children, and I was able to discern that the bad guys just wanted to grab some shit and run, I would, more likely than not, avoid potentially risking my life to save a flat screen or my Xbox. There are probably people out there that vehemently disagree with these notions, and that’s okay. They're wrong, but that's okay.
Lastly, I wanted to cover the how. This is the action portion of your plan, the logistical motion and flow. We briefly touched on layers of your home defense plan. I like to think of home defense as having three key layers. The outer most layer would be environmental advantages. What does your neighborhood look like? Is there a nosey Karen across the street that will contact law enforcement at the smallest indication of something sinister afoot? Do you live in a densely wooded area? Are there any external lighting features that could deter someone from considering your home as a target? How many vehicles do you have and where are they parked? Could a bad guy reasonably assume no one is home because of out of sight parking? Would someone be able to tell the difference between when you’re home and when you’re away? Most of the factors at this level are environmental, and many of them are beyond your control. For example, you may live in a residential neighborhood, but the city street lights are spaced in a way where your home lies in an unlit portion of your street. These factors may change the way you project your home security to the public. Deterrence starts at the outer most layer of home defense.
The second level of home defense relies more on proactive management of your home and its presentation to the public. This will likely cover dead bolts, window locks, locked yard access, and additional lighting. The more difficult or intimidating you can make the presentation of your home the better. Beyond proactivity, this level starts to dabble in defensive mechanisms like home security systems, attentive and intimidating dogs, motion sensitive lighting in areas where no one should feasibly be walking besides you or your family (side yards, driveway, back yard etc). The important thing about this level of home defense is correct analysis of your home and surroundings. Your home, much like a team, is only as strong as the weakest link. Be thoughtful of where your weak points are, where and how someone may find a kink in the metaphorical armor, and how you can combat that weakness and turn it into a strength. Lock your doors and have ample lighting for starters.
Finally, the inner most layer of home defense is you. If you’re reading this there is a good chance that you are a responsible party in your home. This portion of your defense strategy revolves around the interior layout of your home, the tools and equipment at your disposal, the members of your family, and the various scenarios that you can prepare for. A good plan is vital. If you know you will be clearing rooms should someone enter your home, you need to know how to pie a corner and use the environment to your advantage. Draw a simple floor plan of your home that includes all access points. Map out each room and run through scenarios on paper. Know how you will respond if a bad guy is in any given room in your home. When your family is away, download your weapon and make safe, then practice clearing your home. Practice this in high visibility as well as low light settings. Sit down with your family and have a conversation about what to do if someone breaks in. Assign tasks to each family member. Maybe mom barricades in the master bathroom and calls police while dad confronts the bad guy. Maybe the home is set up in such a way that it is more feasible for mom and dad to collect the kids and find a safe exit after calling police. Maybe the layout of the home dictates that mom and dad hunker down with the kids while the bad guys run off with the TV. Each scenario is entirely different and it is important to communicate these plans and procedures with our families.
The German military strategist Melmuth Von Moltke was quoted as saying “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” I don’t believe this means that plans are useless. Quite the opposite actually. I believe that Von Moltke meant that plans are a good thing, but that they can fail when they meet reality, and that we need to be able to adapt our plans to the circumstances. This is why it is critical that we build a strong three-part layer for our home defense plan. If one part fails, another is in place to help us win the conflict. Living in a well-lit quiet neighborhood and having a home security system doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to neglect the inner layer of your defense plan. Failure to plan for someone actually entering the home and having no idea how to approach that situation due to poor planning would be negligent. Inversely, having a solid defensive plan in your inner layer doesn’t mean you leave your home susceptible to crimes of opportunity by keeping your doors unsecured with poor lighting in a high crime area. The best way to love something is to protect it and hopefully I’ve left you with some thoughts about how to be the most proficient protector you can be.
Refuse to be a victim.