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Good Time for a Bad Decision: Recovering Family Members in a Home Invasion

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If their residences are invaded, some gun owners plan to arm themselves and conduct a movement to contact and confront the attackers. That is a bad idea. A more survivable plan is to retreat to a safe room and shelter in place.

I can already hear the grumbling.

“Hiding in my bedroom sounds cowardly.”

“I’m going to go get the S.O.B. that’s breaking in.”

I get it. There is a visceral revulsion to someone intruding on your sanctuary, and you want to put an end to it. In some states, you might even have the legal right to do so. But I am here to tell you that, brother, it is not worth the risk. Macho pride isn’t worth snot if you end up on the floor, unable to help your family avoid assault.

Most importantly, if you shelter in place, you have the tactical advantage. I don’t care how good you think you are: Leaving the safe room is giving up that advantage. You may be a special operations veteran with 20 years of experience in close-quarters battle, but you know what you don’t have at 2 in the morning in your residence? The rest of your team. You are by yourself. Venturing out of your safe room to make contact is a bad idea, and nothing is going to change that.

But sometimes, you don’t have a choice.

AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT Circumstances like these drive home the need for weapon-mounted lights on home-defense firearms.

‘Wait, Didn’t You Just Say…’

Yes, I did, but consider this scenario: Your alarm goes off in the middle of the night, and you enact your shelter-in-place plan just like you’ve rehearsed. You conduct your headcount and realize your 10-year-old daughter is missing. You hear her scream at the far end of the house.

At this point, there are no good decisions. You can either leave your safe room to try to rescue her, or you can stay where you are, protect your other family members and hope she survives. Neither decision is good, but you have to choose one of them. Most of us couldn’t live with ourselves if we left one of our kids to his or her fate, but a movement to contact doesn’t suddenly become a good idea just because the other option is worse. 

First Things First

Before you leave your safe room, get help underway. If you haven’t already done so, activate your alarm and call 911. Expect to be engaged by another attacker and lose the ability to call later. Get the cops responding now.

If you have body armor, put it on. Some people think it’s too extreme to have armor at home, but it can prevent you from becoming a casualty and making the situation worse. Wearing body armor can also minimize wounding by responding cops if they mistake you for an invader.

If you have a dog, send it ahead of you. A dog is a force multiplier. It can alert you to hidden intruders and divert an attacker’s attention away from you, if only for a split second. If it comes down to it, your dog’s job is to get shot instead of you.

Now, Let’s Move

When it comes down to actual movement, you’ll need a balance of speed and security. Opting for maximum speed will sacrifice security, making you an easy target for an intruder you don’t see. If you choose maximum security, you’ll never reach the other end of the house in time and should probably just stay in your safe room. You need to split the difference.

Under a circumstance like the one we’re discussing here, you don’t have time to clear your house. You are not opening doors, clearing dead space and checking in closets. You are simply moving in the most direct route possible from your safe room to the family member in trouble, which gives up security for speed.

Keep your gun at high ready, with the center of your field of vision just over the sights. Where your eyes go, your muzzle follows. Your adrenaline will be jacked, so the safety on your firearm should be on. Keep your trigger finger fully extended and outside of the trigger guard and, when you see something, make sure you have positive identification of a threat before you go off safe and pull the trigger. Be ready in case your family member breaks free from the attack and comes running toward you. There really isn’t anything that is higher stakes than a situation like this; a reflex pull of the trigger could cause you to kill the person you are trying to save. Your trigger finger should stay indexed on the frame of the firearm, outside of the trigger guard, until you’ve made the measured decision to fire.

The light on your gun is there to help you find the wall switch, so activate lights while moving through the house. Turning lights on is good for you and bad for an intruder — if for no other reason than you will be able to move faster and more safely with the lights on than with them off.

 

The safety on your firearm should be on. Keep your trigger finger fully extended and outside of the trigger guard and, when you see something, make sure you have positive identification of a threat before you go off safe and pull the trigger.

 

Stay in the center of the hallway as you move, checking that each door is fully closed as you move. If it is, move to the opposite side of the hall, cover the door as you approach and watch for movement of the door or doorknob.

Remember that where your eyes go, your muzzle follows, so your muzzle should be pointed at the door. Do not neglect to still pay attention down the hall; no one said this would be easy. Do not stop at doors, but continue in a fluid movement, slowing down only as much as is necessary to detect movement inside the hallway to your front or rear.

If you think an intruder is on the other side of a closed door, you have another bad decision to make: You can either keep going, leaving a threat behind you, or you can expend time countering the threat. I would probably keep moving and put distance between us.

If a door is even partially open, your risk just went way up, and you need to keep your eyes and muzzle on the opening as you move. Go past the opening slowly so that as you move a little more, you’ll see a little more without exposing yourself. This is known as “slicing the pie,” a foundational skill that is just as important to learn as drawing from concealment.

With a team, you can have one person covering front while you clear the opening, but by yourself, you need to drop coverage to the front. Depending on the setup of walls and hallways in your home, you may have to turn your back on whatever is to your front to avoid being shot by someone in a room that you are moving past.

Starting to see why movement to contact is a bad idea?

Countering the Threats

When you get to where the attack is happening, don’t just go charging in; slice the pie until you can see the threat. Assess the situation based on what you see, what you are armed with and your skill level. If you have a shotgun, you’d better know how it will pattern. One stray pellet can be catastrophic. You absolutely need to know what the difference is between your point of aim and point of impact at close range. You may need to enter the room to change the angle between you, the attacker and your family member. If you enter the room, slice it before you enter. There may be more than one attacker in there.

If you have to shoot, send one round at a time, then re-evaluate. This is a dynamic situation, and the attacker or your family member may move, which may leave you not clear to take another shot.

 

When you get to where the attack is happening, don’t just go charging in; slice the pie until you can see the threat. Assess the situation based on what you see, what you are armed with and your skill level. If you have a shotgun, you’d better know how it will pattern. One stray pellet can be catastrophic. You absolutely need to know what the difference is between your point of aim and point of impact at close range.

 

Next Steps

Once all known threats are neutralized, either by incapacitation or surrender, you have yet more bad decisions to make. Do you stay where you are, expecting the attack to start again? Keep the attacker covered and have the family member move behind you if he or she is able. If the attacker is conscious, have him or her face away from you, keeping hands in plain sight.

Or do you head back to the safe room? You haven’t been able to maintain security, so you need to assume more attackers can move or already have moved in behind you. The intruder would also be free to attack you as you move back toward the safe room. You may also run into responding police. Your least bad option is probably to remain in place.

Eventually, the police are going to arrive. If they see you pointing a gun at someone or, God help you, at them, they will have a split second to decide if you are a threat or an innocent. If they choose wrong, you are going to get shot (and maybe more than once). If your hands are empty and in plain sight, the police can take more time sorting out the particulars. You can expect to get handcuffed until everything is sorted out; be compliant. Tell the police you are the victim, but don’t argue with them when given commands. They need to clear the scene before paramedics can enter. If you or your family member needs medical help, arguing with the cops can delay lifesaving treatment.

Tell the police the basics of what happened and that you will cooperate with their investigation after you have spoken with your attorney. Then, stop talking. Don’t discuss it with your family in front of the police. Don’t post on social media. If you are a USCCA Member, call the USCCA’s Crisis Response Team if you don’t already have an attorney on retainer.

Plan Z

Make no mistake: This article is not everything you need to know about moving to contact with home invaders. Hopefully though, it will help you anticipate what problems you may face if you’re attacked in your home. Training and preparation can help you overcome those problems, but never forget that moving to contact is beyond a last resort.

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