Overall Home Defense needs be a comprehensive plan…
- Good locks on all of your outside-leading doors and windows – a hard physical layer
- A Home Alarm System that you use at ALL times – a good electronic layer
- Good situational awareness and safety practices used at ALL times – good security practices
- A good home defense firearm – training on how to use it – practice with it – and a plan to use it.
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With the downturn in the economy, increasing drug abuse by many, and the increasing number of home invasion robberies (including robberies by people impersonating police), it’s a good idea to take some time to evaluate your own home security systems, plans, and practices. I recommend evaluating the following areas.
- Your PHYSICAL SECURITY LAYER
- Your outside-leading doors and windows
- Perimeter fencing (if possible)
- Your ELECTRONIC SECURITY LAYER
- A good alarm system with the ability to have the outer layer armed while turning off interior motion sensors
- Video Camera Systems – or at least a good doorphone/camera intercom at your front door
- Your SECURITY PRACTICES
- Using good situational awareness even in and around your home and in your neighborhood.
- Practicing locking your doors behind you when you come home – keeping your home secure
- Activating your alarm system in the HOME mode when you are home
- Having a good HOME DEFENSIVE FIREARM
- Picking the right firearm
- Getting training on how and when to use it
- Practicing frequently with that firearm
- Having a plan on WHEN and HOW to use it
On the latter, I have been doing a lot of research and testing, and I feel quite confident in recommending the FNH USA PS90. They don’t come cheap, but with the right ammunition they can be a highly effective and ideally configured home defense firearm. We’ll have more information and complete details on a recommended configuration in the next two months.
In the meantime, let’s start by covering each of the first three areas…
Your PHYSICAL SECURITY LAYER
Do you have good, working locks on all of your outside-leading doors and windows? If you don’t, you are extending an invitation to any enterprising young meth head to check out your house, find a way in, and take what they can sell quickly to get more meth. And if you happen to be home at the time, well, a baseball bat (one of the preferred weapons of the average meth head), metal rod, a knife, or even a gun can be employed to make you less of a problem or take you out of the picture all together – except for the picture they use of you in the obituary section of the local newspaper.
If you don’t have good, working locks on ALL of your outside-leading doors and windows, then you need to get them in place now. These will stop a lot of less determined criminals.
Do you have a deadbolt on your front door? How about the door that goes from the interior of your home to your garage? I’d recommend a good dead bolt on both of these doors, preferrably keyed differently than the lock in the door knob. That will buy you some time even if someone decides to pick the locks – the same settings they find for one won’t help with the other.
Is your garage door locked? It should be. If not, you are allowing them to get in and take what they can. Heck, they can go in, close the garage door down behind them, and then take their time working on getting into your home – using the tools and other items you have provided in your garage. Make sure it’s secure too.
Use longer screws on the hinges and lock plates on your doors and the frame around them. This will make it much harder to kick it in. Keep in mind that there are outlets on the Internet that sell the same battering rams that police use in drug busts, and they don’t always make sure that they are selling them to real police. Criminals in various states have been known to use them, and to even impersonate the police during home invasions – even using cars with flashing red/blue lights, police uniforms, etc.
Don’t get involved in illegal activities, and you won’t be quite as worried about “Are these really the police?” If you don’t do things that might attract them, you won’t have much doubt that the guys breaking down your door aren’t the real thing.
Consider perimeter fencing as well. Having a fenced yard not only helps to keep the bad guys out, it also keeps out animals and other undesired visitors. If you have a fenced backyard you should keep good locks on any gates. This makes it harder for the bad guys to move around your home.
Another aspect of physical security is having good lighting around your home. If it’s easy to spot someone lurking around, the average criminal won’t want to stick around.
Keep in mind that many criminals are lazy. They are looking for an easy score. If your home isn’t easy for them, they will tend to pick on another.
Your ELECTRONIC SECURITY LAYER
I STRONGLY RECOMMEND A GOOD, HARDWIRED ALARM SYSTEM CONNECTED TO ALL OF YOUR OUTSIDE-LEADING DOORS AND WINDOWS. This will not only serve to help keep your home safe when you are not there, but it also gives you an immediate intruder warning when you are home if anyone breaches your physical security. Think of it as the intrusion detection system on a federation starship from the Star Trek series. If anyone attempts to come in unannounced, they are quickly detected and can be intercepted before they can do any harm.
We have a detailed article on our full recommendations for a home alarm system here. There are a lot of factors to consider, but this is one of the best things that you can do for your family. The Smart family had an alarm system – but they weren’t using it the night that Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. They weren’t using their central air conditioning that night, so they left some windows open – necessitating the alarm being turned off. If they had used the AC and left the windows closed and the alarm turned on, she never would have been abducted. Consider this carefully in your own home defense plans.
I also strongly recommend having at the very least a two-way intercom at your front door – ideally having one with a video camera so that you can see and talk to any visitors before opening your door. Social engineering is one way that crooks get you to open your door. If you can talk to them and see them, you can quickly dismiss them if you are not interested or you feel funny about the situation. This gives you a BIG advantage. We are finalizing our reviews and recommendations on these – stay tuned for more.
A complete set of cameras that will allow you to watch your entire property is a good thing, but are generally too expensive for the average homeowner. It is something to consider, however, if you do have the means to do so. They can even be setup so that you can watch them from a remote location with Internet access. Just make sure that you use a good firewall and other computer security practices so that the bad guys can’t watch your cameras too.
Your SECURITY PRACTICES
When you drive up your street, do you look for anything out of place?
When you come home, do you look at the outside of your home to see if anything is wrong?
Do you close your garage door immediately behind you before exiting your car?
If you park in your driveway, do you look around you before exiting your car?
Do you immediately lock the door behind you when you enter your home?
Do you arm your alarm system in the HOME mode when you come inside?
Do you always check your door phone/intercom camera before opening your front door? Do you deal with salesmen that way rather than opening the door?
Do you keep your concealed firearm (or openly carried firearm) on your person at all times when you are home – or no farther away than arms reach distance?
Do you keep your gates to your backyard locked?
Do you keep the outside of your home well lit at all times?
Do you have your primary home defense firearm close at hand at night?
Look at the security practices that you use and think about them. You should also practice “what if” scenarios in your head. If you have a plan to know what you will do if “x” happens, you will be money ahead if it ever does happen. Doing so helps to compensate for the fact that action is faster than reaction – and you would be reacting to the actions of another.
Your HOME DEFENSE FIREARM
Many people buy into the Internet hype/crap about using a shotgun with bird shot for home defense. “It won’t go through my walls and hurt my kids, but it will really mess up a burglar”. Think about that for a moment.
If it won’t go through walls (which it will in a very dangerous way), it most likely doesn’t have the ability to stop the bad guy (unless he is right in front of the barrel at nearly contact range). There are a whole series of bad elements to this equation…
- You are responsible for every projectile that leaves your firearm.
- With a shotgun you are firing multiple projectiles. You just bought whatever each of those hit.
- If the guy is a safe distance from you…
- You do not want to get close enough to him to allow him to potentially hurt you.
- Your bird shot to center mass will most likely cause him pain – but won’t stop him.
- If you go for the eyes, you may indeed blind him
- But you just bought whatever the pellets that miss his head do end up hitting.
- What do people do when they are scared?
- They tend to hide.
- They also tend to try to look at the source (the door for example) to see if it is coming after them.
- If you are confronting a bad guy, your kids may be doing just that.
- Your bird shot may not penetrate drywall and have enough force left over to penetrate clothing and skin…
- but it will have enough force to cause eye damage…
- It’s not worth that risk.
You need to be able to identify that it really is a bad guy and then place directed, stopping-capable shots into the center-mass of the bad guy. A shotgun with bird shot will not do that for you.
And when you move up to stopping-capable rounds (buckshot or slugs) in a shotgun, you are then brought back to the first principle – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY PROJECTILE THAT LEAVES YOUR FIREARM.
If you are awakened in the night by a home invasion…
- You will be tired.
- Your situational awareness will be limited
- This means that anything that will assist your targeting will be of great value
- Your motor skills won’t be up to par yet
- This means that a supported firearm (shouldered or bipod supported) will be of greater value than a handgun
- You will have a limited amount of time to engage and stop the aggressor(s)
- You should know your home and what’s in it very well.
- The aggressors will have limited knowlege, unless they have inside information.
- If you have practiced everything we have previously talked about in this article…
- You know that the aggressors were willing to take the time and risk to enter your home.
- They have specific intent on your home.
- If your alarm system has been triggered and the siren has not scared them away, they are demonstrating real aggression and serious intent.
- If they have gone to that degree, you can figure that they are most likely armed, know you are home, and decided to enter anyway.
- You can assume that they are not there for the mere purposes of a standard burglary.
- They are most likely not there to shine your shoes or deliver cookies – and they are most likely larger than keebler elves.
- They most likely do not care if you survive.
- If they are smart, there are more than one or two of them.
- You know that the aggressors were willing to take the time and risk to enter your home.
I’m a firearms instructor. People know that I have guns. I figure that I’m a potential target already, and I have taken care of the areas of Physical and Electronic security. My family uses good safety and security practices at all times. I don’t break the law. There is no reason the real police would ever come breaking down my door. If I’m ever faced with this situation, my family has a plan and will put that plan into practice to the best of their ability.
To put it simply, the aggressors will be terminally stopped, as they will have demonstrated lethal intent in getting past everything else.
Traditionally, I leaned towards the AR15 platform (16″ M4gery/Mega lower with a Bushmaster Patrolmans Carbine upper) with a hollowpoint or frangible round for home defense. A 30-round magazine (plus one in the chamber), tactical light, Laser Devices AR-1A targeting assist laser, and some good electronic hearing protection rounded out the package. I was still a bit worried about over penetration, but I went to the trouble of figuring out safe firing zones to do my best to mitigate that. I still felt that it was not ideal, and have been on the lookout for something better.