Home defense tips to keep you safe when the worst happens

This guest post is by Scott G and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

Best home defense

If you are truly serious about issues of self-defense then you might be interested to know that the police are not required by law to protect you. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police have no constitutional requirement to provide anyone protection even if that person has a protection order from a court. Going one step further, the police cannot protect you. I should know since I’m a former police officer.

Quite simply, the police are not much more than the clean-up crew. They clean up the mess after the crime, do an investigation and hopefully get lucky. Eventually they even may catch the perpetrator. In nearly fifteen years of experience, I can count the number of times I happened upon a serious crime in progress on one hand. As for arriving in time in response to an emergency call, I can count them on both hands. The overwhelmingly vast majority of the time I caught the perp after the crime was committed.

In other words, you are on your own until the police get there. To make matters worse, in 2011, every single state in the Union cut back funding for emergency services an average of 48%. One state cut its funding a whopping 93%! So, where does this leave you? Basically, you’re caught between a rock and a hard spot. Since you cannot rely on the police for protection, you’ve got to take matters into your own hands.

Self-defense is defined as the right to prevent the suffering of force or violence through the use of a sufficient level of counteracting force or violence. To start off, you need to know the laws in your state regarding self-defense. Knowing what you can and cannot do lets you know your limits. No two states have the same laws regarding self-defense and some require you to try to retreat from your attacker ifpossible, even if you are in your own home. However, this comes with some caveats:

1. The threat of violence must be immediate.

You’ve gotto be in immediate danger to use force against another person. Since you aren’t the government, you can’t doa pre-emptive strike on someone.

2. The fear of harm must be reasonable.

The courts use the “reasonable man” test. What would a reasonable man do in the exact same circumstances? The interpretation of this test varies from state to state.

3. The force you use must in proportion to the force used against you.

This is really subject to interpretation and according to the laws of your state. What you can do in Texas, you can’t do in Rhode Island.

So, you know the laws of your state and now you’ve decided that no way, no how you are going to be a victim. Good. This is the right attitude. What’s next? Plan out what you will do in different situations. Your mental preparedness is vital. Let me repeat that, “Your mental preparedness is vital.” Can you actually shoot a person? It really is a big deal, but being mentally prepared ahead of time will help you through the ordeal. When the time comes to pull the trigger and you hesitate, you might as well give the perp your gun.

As a cop, I played the “What If” game. Whenever I had some mental free time, I made up a scenario and then decided what I would do in a given situation. How would I react if a person pulled a gun on me during a traffic stop? What would I do if confronted by a man with a knife? I would go through several specific responses to a situation several times until it became ingrained.

What will you do if a perp breaks into your home? Where do you draw the line as to how far he comes before you shoot? What will you do if he decides to turn tail and run, but he’s got your laptop? Do you have family members in your home and can they protect themselves? You’ve got to think up as many questions as possible then come up with a reasonable answer to each of them.

Let me say something about burglars. Believe it or not, if committed during the day time, as a general rule burglary is not a crime of violence. It becomes a crime of violence when the perp knows you are home. Many daytime burglars don’t carry weapons and don’t want to confront the homeowner. They want to get in and out without being seen.

The night-time burglar is a whole different story. He knows that someone probably is home and he does it for the thrill. He wants the confrontation and to instill fear. The power trip from this is what the home invader is after. You can rest assured that this type of criminal will hurt or kill you if you give him half a chance. In this situation, I would be more willing to shoot sooner than later.

Preparing your home is the next step. The questionisn’t if you are being paranoid. What you should ask is, “Are you being paranoid enough?” If you’ve got shrubs or bushes that block a clear view of your windows, cut them to about six inches below the windowsill. You need to see in or out of your home. Don’t leave ladders near your home. This gives the burglar a convenient tool. The same thing goes for objects he can use to toss through your window. Don’t give a burglar a tool to use against you.

Don’tforget the inside of your home. Place objects to defend yourself that you can use in a pinch in convenient and not-so-convenient spots throughout your house. Your utility draw is a great spot to stick a big screwdriver or a box cutter. Your kitchen is a wealth of weapons. Bottles and cast iron pans will do a number on a burglar’s head. I won’teven go into knives. If you can afford it, have a couple of handguns stashed in strategic places.

Speaking of guns, handguns are all well and good, but a shotgun is best. The psychological impact of a shotgun is priceless. The muzzle of a shotgun looks like a train tunnel when pointed at you. No one in their right mind wants to face an angry homeowner armed with this type of weapon. I’ve known suspects to defecate in their shorts when a shotgun was pointed in their direction.

If you can legally possess it, I strongly recommend the Mossberg Blackwater Series 930™Special Purpose shotgun. Hands down,this is your best bet for home defense. It has an eight round magazine plus one in the pipe for a total of nine rounds. It is semi-automatic, has a pistol grip with rifle sights. These features are important. You can hold and fire it with one hand while you use the other to hold your phone while calling 911. Plus, you can use it for hunting.

Let me also say something about ammunition for the shotgun. To begin with, I’d start out practicing with skeet loads. You can get used to the idea of the big monster in your hands without becoming gun-shy. For your down-and-dirty loads, I would load it with alternating rifled slug and double-aught buckshot. Although an express magnum round kicks worse than a mule, you won’t feel it if you need to shoot. Your adrenalin will be pumping and you won’t notice to recoil.

Many people think that you can just point a shotgun and shoot from the hip. Sorry folks, but if you think this, you’vebeen watching too much TV. A shotgun needs to be aimed just like a rifle. Buckshot disperses in a shot pattern radially about 1½ inches per lineary ard of travel from an 18” barrel. That means that at three yards, the buckshot pattern is only 4½ inches in diameter. Considering that your average gunfight is from a distance of only seven feet, this means you’ve got a real chance of your first shot missing if you shoot from the hip.

Sinceyou’ve got to aim the shotgun anyway, alternating first with rifled slug then buckshot gives you a guaranteed knock down with your first shot. A rifled slug is ¾” in diameter and weighs a whopping one ounce. That’s huge! Plus, some companies load them up hot and the slug travels at more than 1600 fps! That’s like a Mack truck hitting you at 200 mph. When the slug hits your attacker center mass,it’s all over but the crying.

The aftermath is the worst part of what you’ve got to deal with, mentally, physically and legally. If you’ve prepared mentally ahead of time, this won’t be too much of a problem. If you do shoot someone, don’t try and rearrange the crime scene to make it look better. I guarantee you that the police will figure it out. I won’t go into the science of blood spatter and powder burn patterns; just trust me, you won’t get away with it. If you are justified in shooting an intruder, the truth will set you free.

You never,never, ever shoot to kill. You shoot to STOP the threat of death or serious bodily injury. It may sound like legal mumbo jumbo, which it is, but it is important legal mumbo jumbo. The whole purpose of you shooting in the first place is to stop an attack involving serious bodily injury or death against you or another person.So, when the police ask why you fired, explain the situation and tell them you were in fear of your life. Make sure you express regret and look remorseful, even if shooting the perp felt more like stepping on a cockroach.

Self-defense is a deadly serious business with deadly serious consequences. I once shot a person and while I didn’t feelany remorse, I did have nightmares for years to follow.

This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:

  • First Place : $100 Cash.
  • Second Place : $50 Cash.
  • Third Place : $25 Cash.

Contest ends on October 10 2012.

Comments

  1. Scott G:

    Good article with many important points. Thanks.

  2. Great article! Thanks!

  3. axelsteve says:

    Good article. I looked into the mossberg 930 or whatever it is and it seems like a nice gun. I am not into lasers and rails and toothpick dispensers on my guns,(more junk to snag on and add weight in wrong places but the guns basic idea sounds good.I agree that it is not a cops job to defend us but you forgot there other job. To produce revenue .

    • I knew I forgot something. Thanks for the reminder, off to get the toothpick dispenser tomorrow.

      On a serious note, I countered my attacker with a Remington 870. The load was an aguila mini shell buckshot and the distance was around ten feet with them facing me and lunging. My first shot was to the neck and the second was to the leg. Even at that distance the mini shell was enough.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      In some cities, you are right aout revenue. In one city I worked in, fines were 10% of the city budget. There was no quota, since they are illegal, but we were “encouraged” to write more tickets.

  4. Great post. I really like your comments on mental preparation, as well as prepping your house for an invasion. It helps that you have experience as a LEO, so your expertise is a little stronger.

    One thing I might mention is that I would be concerned with overpenetration on the slug round. In an apartment situation, I would almost lean towards something even less powerful, but I’m no expert.
    Recoil, as you mentioned, is big on a 12 gauge slug. I shot one once with a buddy in his lightweight 12 gauge and you have to get accustomed to the recoil of it, so shoot that from time to time to know what to expect.

    Overall, it’s a dead-on article.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      Remember what I said about adrenalin. In a SHTF scenario, you won’t feel the recoil. I once got in a fight with a short, fat little dude who weighed 320 pounds. I didn’t know it, but I picked him up off the ground and threw him three feet over to a wall. I didn’t know why he stopped fighting at the time, but later on he asked my corporal if I was a body builder. I’m not.

  5. This is very good information to know. Thank you.
    I am using the premise that I do not know 99.9% of the population in or out of this town I live in. So therefore they are stranger-danger and up to no good and with intentions of doing me GREAT harm.
    Also because I do not know them and even if it is broad daylight they intend to do something, and as I cannot read minds, I have to assume (and I hate this word as it is over abused) they mean me harm.
    If it is at night they are dead no questions asked if I am able to get the upper hand.
    I may be old and seem to be getting older, but I am not going to LET those with their personal deviant desires get away with it.
    I have bushes in front of all the windows for the coolness that they provide durint the summer. If I cut them back I would bake alive in this place. It also makes it a little more difficult for someone to get to the many windows I have in this place. I need to plant some thorny bushes next to them. So believe that this situation is a 50-50 situation on my part.
    I had an incident one night (probably a bunch of teenagers) where there was this horrible banging on my door and yelling “Open up it’s the Police”. I made one mistake that could have cost me my life. I had a false sense of security and turned on the porch light and opened up the door. Thank God no one was there. I called the police and they said they had no one out on such a matter and would patrol.
    That caused me to put up a flimsy chain latch and put a new door knob on the back door (need a new back door they could kick it in in about half a second). It also caused me to listen to every noise there is around the house.
    Ever since I moved into this place I have kept a light on in the living room high on the mantel. Mainly so if I woke up in the night I could see to get around in the place and so my son could see when he got off work. The way my bed is placed in the bedroom I can plainly see the front door and will be able to see who comes in.
    And now I am armed with several devises that can wound or kill which ever comes first. Need another ice pick for use at the front door use.
    I am still an easy target. Working on it. But not as bad as being out in public.
    I have told my kids to watch their backs for years, I tell them this all the time. Now it is probably where they ignore me and all that is out there, but then again I have pretty savvy kids but danger comes when you least expect it or where.
    As far as the police go I do not trust them. Not for the reasons a lot don’t trust them, but because of the police-mentality-gold shield-blue boys club that cannot be penitrated as most only have this mentality and no COMMON SENSE. The lawful-legal system starts with them and they are not at their best when it counts for the ordinary citizen. Now don’t take this wrong. There are good ones out there but you could probably count them on one hand per.
    When the SHTF I will not give them very much credit at all.
    As yet I have not been in a situation where it would call for taking a life. As it stands in today’s world what is in the back of your head is those in charge of seeing if you were at fault instead of seeing if those that were on the attack were, kinda keeps you in check. And then there is the fact you also realize that you don’t ever want to take a life. I don’t. But I feel I am just as important as they are, so I will go for keeping the odds in my favor.

  6. Great Article…spot on. However, I will stick with my Remington 870.

  7. village idiot says:

    Scott, nice article and very informative. There is really not much to disagree with here, but I wouldn’t use a slug in my shotgun for self-defense. I use #4 buckshot myself, and I know people who use BBs and other smaller shot. The slug is great, don’t get me wrong, but most people other than experts should stick to the smaller shot. It’s difficult enough to hit a target under the stress of a home invasion, and I think the advantage of the shotgun is a shot pattern that makes a hit more likely. Not to mention the problem of over-penetration that might be a factor in urban settings. Just my 2 cents. Again, great article.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      As a former police officer Scott has great familiarity and qualified yearly with buck and slug. I too carry my personal 870 loaded with buck and slug. but I agree with VI’s assessment that relative amateurs should use some king of shot load. Half power buckshot loads for LE work can be useful as the felt recoil is so slight that the more elderly and infirm can comfortably get off a few good rounds. Even ‘little bitty’ bird shot like #7 can be a terrific self-defense round. Working my first homicide case, I saw the horrific tunneling wounds that even bird shot has at close range.

      • riverrider says:

        sd/vi, and er doctors HATE birdshot wounds. but, i have to strongly disagree with the use of a shotgun for IN home defense. home defense from the outside attacker, none better, but indoors the shotgun sticks out, telegraphs your movement, and provides excellent grip for an attacker to take it from you, or at least divert the barrel away, and requires manual manipulation to fire again(pumps). i can’t tell you how many pushups i’ve done because it took me a while to figure out how to retain my shotgun in a close-in environment. a trained or just wily adversary can counter the shotgun easily unless you maintain standoff distance, hard to do in a house. a smart one will actually creep toward you, begging for his life until he gets close enough to grab it. the inmates give classes on it. what are gonna do, shoot an unarmed man? i’ll send you cigarettes, maybe your cell mate bubba won’t violate you but once tonight :) instead grab a handgun. i prefer my revolver,no controls. short barrel, no place for bubba to grab. you’ll be across the room at the furthest, how much accuracy do you need? more likely he’ll hear you coming and hug the corner wall and jump you. you’ll be eye to eye, you better have a gun you can use at eye to eye distance. yeah, it’ll penetrate the wall, so will almost every shotgun round made(check theboxotruth), but my wife knows to hit the floor with her snubby if i bail out of bed at night. pistol rounds won’t reach my neighbors. if its a bigger threat, the revolver will allow me to fight to my rifle at least. good luck out there.

        • village idiot says:

          Well, my shotgun is in my gun safe if that tells you anything, river. And right beside my bed in a little holster is my wife’s Taurus M-85 in .38 special +P. She has a S&W Model 17 .22 on her side of the bed. I have my Kimber in a drawer in the night stand. But my best weapon is my little girl(a mini-Schnauzer) who sleeps right beside me on the floor. She hears everything and lets me know when something unusual is going on.

  8. Scott, good article. I agree with almost everything you said. Only thing is no one should even consider shooting a OO buck or slug without holding on for the ride with both hands. Like you said, the spread is less than believed and none with a slug, so you should be paying attention and aiming. Not to mention you’d be lucky to hold on to the gun and not drop it. If a second shot is needed, your going to need both hands controlling the gun to get a shell chambered and back on target. Not trying to nit-pic, just trying to help people be realistic. God bless brother, thanks for your service.

  9. Great article – thanks for posting and sharing this with us. All good points you make, however, if I may, I’d like to take issue with one point you made. You said “never, never, ever shoot to kill” – I dont mean to come off or sound cold hearted, but here is why I disagree with your position on this. First off, as the old saying goes, dead men tell no tales. I’ve heard (and I would think that as a police officer you would’ve too) of cases where an perp – who was clearly in the wrong – is injured by a homeowner defending his turf & family, and through the work of some sleazebag laywer and/or overzealous prosecutor and the HOMEOWNER then is either brought up on charges or is sued by the injured perp. Our criminal justice system has lost its moral compass – too often the violent felon is looked upon with pity & seen as the victim. Courtrooms are full of weasely lawyers who can try to suggest that you should have proceeded differently, and now this poor perp is suffering injury & needs to be compensated for the homeowners ‘over-reacting’. There are countless horror stories from all over the country of this kind of thing happening. I say take no chances, the hell with them, first off, the perp should NOT be there in the first place, second, are you supposed to know what he/she ‘might’ do next ? No way, too bad – if they are fatally wounded in the process of committing a burglary or some violent home invasion, then they have brought the fight to you, and in my book, they got what was coming to them. Again, just my opinion.

    • Cosmolined says:

      Dave:
      You missed the point. NEVER, EVER say you were shooting to kill. You were only shooting to stop the threat….. Lawyer speak but it will save you from prison time. Cos

      • Dave,
        I agree with Cos 100%. In our concealed carry classes we have an attorney discuss the laws for self defense in Ohio, but most states are similar. I may not shoot to kill unless I want to be charged with homicide. If you are in serious threat of great bodily harm or death, then you may employ deadly force to stop the threat, whether this takes 1 shot or 10; but in any case you must stop shooting when the threat has been neutralized. OTOH, IF my shot(s) to center mass cause the death of the attacker, then as sad as that may be, it’s just the facts and sometimes happens when self defense is employed. Telling “anyone” that you “shot to kill” shows a mindset that could mean prison time.

      • You are correct, but the OP doesn’t stress the *say* part, only that “You never,never, ever shoot to kill”. I cocked my eyebrow at that statement, and neophytes might walk away with the understading that you shouldn’t shoot an intruder for fear of killing him/her. Engage until you feel the threat is neutralized even if that means killing them, but don’t be an executioner.

        Two more suggestions if I may: If a person is shot by you call 911 but ask for an ambulance first and foremost for the shooting victim; LE will also send personnel by default even if you never specifically say to send them. This helps to SHOW the ‘regret and remorsefulness’ for what transpired wether you FEEL it or not.
        Good: “I shot an intruder in my home; please send an abulance.”
        Bad: “I iced some punk who invaded my home; send a hearse and a clean up crew.”

        Also, do not go in to a full and detailed account to the LE of the incident at that time (basic details yes); you’re either high on adrenaline or crashing from the after effects – say that you’re not in a great frame of mind at the moment and need to rest, and ask to give a full statement later in the day or next morning, maybe even lawyer up if you’re having a hard time ‘coming down’ from the incident. It is not just the LE, but vengeful family members or associates of the deceased could make it nasty for you in civil court, and anything you say (911 call, statements to LEs, etc.) can be used against you. LEs are not trying to screw you but you might do damage to yourself if you’re babling in an altered state of mind; if you’ve never been in a high stress situation like that, you don’t really know how you’re going to be afterwards.

        • Lawyer up is always the prudent choice. Give just enough information to allow the scenario to be understood, although the scene will most likely speak for itself.
          Asking for a Squad is BTW a great idea. Stack the scenario in your direction.
          Also, if you shoot and the perp flees, you should still call 911 immediately. Generally the first caller to 911 is the victim, and the perp will sometimes call to report that some crazy person with a gun fired at him without giving any more details.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      I guess I should have clarified the “never shoot to kill” remark. It is a legal mumbo jumbo issue. If you shoot center mass you are shooting to stop, because that is the biggest, best target available. If the perp dies in the process, well….

  10. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Nicely put. I keep target shot in my shotgun for inside the house. I am told it wont penetrate sheetrock walls.

    • Tactical G-Ma,
      What do you call target shot? Some years ago along with a group of fellow instructors we purchased a 2 3/4 inch solid for door and constructed a 2×4 wall with drywall (sheetrock) and standard fiberglass insulation. From a distance of 5 feet, nearly everything we shot at the door and the wall passed straight through. This included shotgun from 00 buck through #6 & #8 shot, as well as most handgun calibers. The only “failure” was when we shot the door with a .25 ACP. It did not come out the back of the door, but left a keyhole (side ways image of the bullet) straining to get out the back side of the door. Under the right conditions, nearly any projectile (especially shotgun) will pass through most modern walls. The only things that may not are the specific “frangible” types of ammunition, designed and priced for that purpose.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        OP: I am not a pro so I don’t have your experience. I am writing an article about how I came to choose what I bought. I definately want everyones input…that’s why I joined the pack. Please give me a few days because I want to get my references and data together. If my thinking is flawed I need to know cause my grandkids sleepover and their safety is very important. Thanks for your question.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      A charge of birdshot will blow right through sheetrock because at the range you will be shooting at, it is almost one solid mass of lead.

  11. SurvivorDan says:

    Nicely done Scott. I’m glad you mentioned the what-if scenario exercise. Goes hand and hand with situational awareness.

    I thought I’d mention to the untrained that,as Scott so aptly explained, you shoot to stop and not to kill……or wound. At least here in Arizona shooting to wound can land you in jail.
    Sounds crazy but the argument of the DA is that you were not really in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm if you had time to aim for an appendage. Huh? But that’s the case. So we always shoot to stop.

    Also as Scott could attest, make a short statement to the responding officers about the incident and your need to use deadly force and offer to come to the station the next day (w/your attorney) to make a full statement and answer any other questions. In the heat of the aftermath of that terrible moment you will make misstatements. So say very little. Some argue that no statement should be made and just call your lawyer. If the police get no statement from you at all, you will doubtless find yourself ensconced in the local lock-up, at least for a few days. I would give a very brief statement and feign chest pains so I can go rest in the hospital…..until my lawyer gets there.

    “Self-defense is a deadly serious business with deadly serious consequences.” Scott G Great emphasis.

    • GeorgiaBoy says:

      Scott,
      Great article, and SD, that is excellent clarification about how to respond to the police

    • Best to have a conversation with your lawyer now, today regarding what if you have to discharge a firearm into a burglar etc…and what are the repercussions for you in your state/county.

      And, should have your lawyer’s phone number memorized, and on speed dial on your phone, his/her card in your wallet, and another card on your fridge…after a firearm discharge, and if safe to do so…phone your lawyer immediately…also 911…cheers.

  12. Great article. I can apply some of it to where I am in Canada – if you use a gun for self defense up here it’s much harder to come away clean no matter how much in fear of your life you are. But the other weapons for up here are less problematic.

  13. James Nelson says:

    A generally good article, but I have a couple of different opinions about shotgun ammunition. Unless you live in the absolute boonies, shotgun slugs should not be a load used in home defense, way too much penetration.
    Number 4buck, number 1 buck ,and 00 buck are far better choices in that order. If you are going to use 00 buck, I prefer the low recoil loads that were developed for law enforcement. At house ranges, the lethality is the same and the reduced recoil leads to faster follow up shots. Less recoil means that the shotgun can be used by smaller and more recoil sensitive people, like women and teenagers.
    The best solution for a family self defense shotgun is a youth model 20 gauge pump with number 3 buckshot. They are sized for smaller people and the recoil is low enough so that most everyone in the family can use it . If you have a gun that only an adult male can use, what good is it when no adult male is around or the adult male is injured or dead?

    • GeorgiaBoy says:

      James,
      One question-why a pump instead of a semi-auto?

      • GeoriaBoy,

        I do not speak for Mr. Nelson, but my reasons for going pump as the primary home defense was a) proven reliability of pump over semi-auto b) the ‘k-shck’ sound of pumping a shotgun is a universal language translation for Sh!t Just Got Real A-hole and c) price of pump vs semi-auto shotguns is significant.

        • GeorgiaBoy says:

          Thanks, blogRot,
          I already have a semi-20 gauge that has never jammed with the ammo I fire. I completely agree about the sound of a shell being chambered in a pump. I think I’ll stick with the guns I have, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

  14. While I agree with almost everything in your article I do take issue with your choice of ammo. For a trained LEO magnum rounds might be okay but for a civilian without professional training or persons of smaller stature I would recommend standard loads of 12 gauge loaded with #1 buckshot or #4 buckshot.

    I would load the shotgun differently utilizing slugs as the last 2 rounds to be fired, if needed, to prevent over penetration by the slugs.

    Most civilians do not practice or get training.With civilians we need to adhere strictly to the KISS principle.

    I have 38 years experience in Law Enforcement and contract security.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      I’m hoping that those who read this will get motivated and either get some training or at least practice on their own. I know that there is no substitute for OJT experience, but the vast majority of cops never fire their weapon on the job. Practice, practice, practice.

  15. already half deaf says:

    Having been in an enclosed space when a 12ga went off, I have to disagree on one point. I would never, ever suggest firing a 12ga shotgun in an enclosed space like in your house. Especially at night.

    Three things will happen when you set off that big stick:
    1. You will be blinded by the muzzle flash
    2. the overpressure will make you deaf, maybe permanently
    3. much of glass in the room will shatter. light bulbs, mirrors, picture frames.

    Now you’re blind, deaf, standing barefoot in a pile of glass in your underwear. I hope your first shot hit the intruder. You may not get a 2nd.

    If you want a shotgun for INSIDE the house defense, consider a .410 with buckshot. Same muzzle velocity, power and penetration per shot as a 12ga, just a smaller payload (4 shot vs 9 or 10). Without the big boom.

    • Backwoods Prepper says:

      I have mentioned this story several times. one fall/winter many years ago there was a bored no immature no make that hungry guy who had a single shot bolt action .410 with alot of triple aught buck. and some peer pressure we decided to go hunting most everynight. and we would bring home one, two or three deer. That little .410 was a fine gun. But i grew up real quick when i met the game warden and he ask where we where gonna poach tonight. gameover. Fairystone state park in virginia was awsome!!! Sorry got carried away I took my meds time for bed..

    • Already half deaf,
      Firing a shotgun in an enclosed space can cause the problems you stated; however, there are many stories of folks who used a shotgun in an enclosed space and suffered no ill effects. It’s the difference between target shooting and self defense. In the self defense situation you have adrenalin pulsing through your body, and adrenalin is a very potent drug.
      Also, if you have a shotgun at the ready, then having a set of ear protection with it is not unheard of.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      Muzzle flash happens with any weapon you fire. A 9mm creates enough flash to blind you, which is why you need to make sure your first shot is on target. I highly recommend learning to point shoot.

      • village idiot says:

        Scott, you would be surprised at the number of people who have never fired a weapon at night. And I totally agree, point shooting is something that should be practiced as often as possible. One of my heros, Jeff Cooper, always advised concentration on the front sight as a way to hit what you intended in a gunfight.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Not a bad suggestion AHD. Or maybe a 20 gauge.
      Some of us nutz keep electronic ears by the bedstead. Controls the sharpness of the report and gives you amplified hearing. If you take them out of your gun bag and put them on your nitestand….practice with them first or you will be very disoriented about where and how far away noises actually are.

  16. GeorgeisLearning says:

    Great article and Thank you for your service.
    I went out of town a while back and asked my wife did she want me to leave my pistol, she said heck no I got the shotgun (mossberg 500 pump). She goes the sound of that thing being loaded will scare the crap outta most folks all in itself.
    I figured she would be ok lol
    I use buckshot the recoil is less and shes 4’11″ I dont want her knocked to the ground.

    The Pit would be tearing at the intruders legs while shes hitting the pump action on the 500.

  17. great advice! i have a mossberg 390A. i put some 3 1/2 inch magnums in it and im still looking for my shoulder.

  18. Scott,
    Good article and inadvertently a great follow-up to Dan’s earlier article.

    On the tactical shotgun side of things, I’m personally fond of the Winchester 1200 & 1300 series, although I’m seriously looking at the new Kel-Tec KSG (http://www.keltecweapons.com/our-guns/shotguns/ksg/) and would like feedback from anyone who has played with one of these.

    As well trained and well meaning as most police officers may be, their job is mostly that of historian. They arrive after the fact, collect evidence, and try to figure out “Who done it?” In most cases, in the short term, we are each on our own.

    For those who may not be considering some type of home protection and rely on calling 911. Keep in mind: “911, when seconds count, help is only minutes away”.

  19. ALWAYS lawyer up, no matter what. “I was in fear for my life so I protected my self. I will be able to give you more information after I speak to my attorney” x 1000 until you get your attorney.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      As for lawyering up, that is a two edged sword. I’ll address that in another post I’m writing.

      • Scott Gillespie,

        Personally, I would never give any kind of statement without a lawyer present. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you. The police will do whatever they can to get you to confess to a crime even if you have not done anything wrong.

  20. teufelhunden says:

    Shotguns are the number one home defense weapon. I lean toward pump actions though. They won’t jam, and will always fire, and in a life and death situation, that is the most important thing, that the weapon fires. That is why I have revolvers as well for home defense, they don’t jam like semi autos. Plus, the sound of a shotgun shell being racked is enough to make someone think twice about advancing on you. If wall penetration is a concern, like in an apartment situation or with people in other rooms, I recommend loading bird shot. It has less penetrating force through walls, but at gunfighting distances, will still tear through an assailants body. Like the article states, being mentally prepared is very crucial. Remember, this is your life and the lives of your family, if it takes me going to jail, so my kids can live, so be it. Don’t hesitate at the moment of action.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      As for a semi-auto, training can overcome the problems with jams. However, if you properly care for your weapon and magazines, jams shouldn’t be a problem. As for revolvers, I take it you haven’t fired a Ruger Security Six. The stainless steel can be fouled and cause a jam. I knw, it happened to me.

      • teufelhunden says:

        Yes, training can overcome jams. 99% of people aren’t trained to overcome jams, and will panic in the moment. In a life and death situation, I want a little peace of mind. We aren’t talking range shooting here, we are talking kill or be killed situations. I don’t need the latest and greatest Benelli semi auto. Give me a good old Mossberg 590, and I will take care of the rest. As far as revolvers, yes revolvers can foul, but my weapons are cleaned after they are fired, and hopefully this takes care of the fouling. Semi autos require a lot more care, that once again 99% of people aren’t going to give. They are more apt to jam at the moment of action, once again give me peace of mind. The only advantage to a semi auto pistol is round capacity, but for home defense, you are rarely going to be a full blown gunfight. 6 to 7 shots will usually be more than enough. If you need more than 1 or 2, there is a problem. As an added bonus, revolvers usually are more accurate than semi autos. Just my thoughts.

  21. A question for the LEs or former LEs: Is the weapon ever returned to the owner if used in a homicide?

    I ran across a post a while back about a guy who used a Hi Point for his home defense weapon rather than his 1911 because he said that even if he killed an intruder in self defense that he’d never see his beloved .45 again. But I’ve also read that in Texas for a home defense situation that you could get your weapon back in as soon as 24 hours. Any helpful clarification from the Pack?

    • riverrider says:

      b, completely at the whim of the local “authorities”. i know a guy that the deputy never took his gun from, and another that had his whole collection confiscated and had to sue to get them back.cost him more than the guns. i wouldn’t let that stand between me and death tho, use the best you got.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      If (and when) the authorities decide there is no case against you …. you can petition to get your weapon back. And yes, it is very discretionary in most jurisdictions. You could still be without that weapon for a long, long time.
      That said, I would use the very best tool for the job.

      Wise LEOs and grunts don’t carry the cheapest tactical light, handcuffs, knives and handgun for fear they will lose them.
      They carry the finest equipment they can afford so they won’t lose their lives.

      I’m not carrying that 80 yr old, rusty, 25 cal Browning at the bottom of my safe because it might get confiscated.

      Carry/have-at-hand the best weapons you possess.

      • Thanks for the replies.

        fwiw, I carry a CZ75b in .40s&w because it is the best and most reliable of my handguns (though definitely not the lightest). My HD is a Bingham Squires M5 riot pump shotgun (with no import markings, woot!); I know with great sadness that if either were to be utilized that I may lose them for good, but you are correct: extreme situations would necessitate the best you’ve got.

    • In one case where I used a handgun I didn’t get it back for the better part of a year. It was in a midwest state and I didn’t have to actually use it. In my above referenced home defense action I got my shotgun back rather quickly. This was in a Nothwest state. No reason was given either time. Just had to go to the police property department and pick it up.

    • teufelhunden says:

      I had a .44 magnum stolen a 5 years ago from a break in at my house. They stole my whole gun case! Only had the .44 in there though. The gun was used in a homicide a year ago in San Bernardino, CA. I was notified by the sheriff’s dept. that I could have the gun back after the trial was over. Just got it back 2 weeks ago. My grandpa had a 9mm stolen 12 years ago, in Long Beach CA. 6 months ago he got it back from the police dept. It wasn’t used in any crime, just was found concealed on some guy in an arrest. Whoever had it for the past 12 years took care of it. It was still clean, and recently lubed up. Strange.

  22. Was it in an earlier article here someone (SD?) suggested telling the responding LEOs that you want to go to the hospital to be checked out if you ever had to shoot in self-defense? That stops the questioning, and gives you time to lawyer up. Good advice I think.

    Mossberg 500 here, pistol grip, wood forend, 2-3″ 4X6 duplex (turkey) loads then 3-2.75″ 00 buck in the magazine, empty chamber. No side mount ammo holder, tactical or laser sights, heat shields, or other accesories. Plain vanilla, except for the rear pistol grip and a sling. YMMV, I just considered how a tacticool accessorized shotgun might look to an investigating LEO or jury if charges were ever brought against me for shooting in self defense.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      Red: A good experienced defense attorney will compare your selection of the Mossberg 500 (with accessories) to the pick of many law enforcement agencies. It is also a good idea to use the same ammo that your local agencies use. Clearly you are no more a ‘mad dog killer’ than your local LEOs. Defensible and logical choices on the civilian’s part.
      Though I am retired from them and I might prefer other loads in my own weapons, I still use Gold Dot HP ammo in both of my regular daily carry guns as the local Sheriff’s department uses that approved ammunition. Good enough for them…….

    • teufelhunden says:

      That is exactly my thinking. Plain vanilla weapons is all I need. I don’t need exotic tactical weapons, just so I can show them off and brag. My weapons serve a possible purpose, to protect me and my family. You are absolutely right in having nothing but plain jane weapons for self defense. A LEO is going to look at you as a good guy just trying to protect his family and give you the benefit of the doubt, rather than looking at you as a gun nut looking, waiting for someone to shoot. As one poster said, find out what your local police load and use that same ammo, it will look better, like you are doing your homework to stay safe. Gold Dot is pretty standard for a safe choice.

      • Right teufelhunden. No offense Dan, but I don’t think we’d get the same treatment from an active duty LEO or in the courts as a retired-LEO would.

        To a juror, was I looking for the chance to shoot somebody with my assault shotgun that isn’t good for anything except killing people? Or defending my home with a turkey gun? Perception forms the basis of a person’s reality. Not going to help your case if they look at the weapon and think, “was he expecting trouble, or looking for it?”

  23. SurvivorDan says:

    DA – ” Why did you use those EVIL hollow points Mr. MadSurvivorDog!!!! ”

    SD – “I chose that efficient and humane ammunition because the local Sheriff’s department uses them………..you jackass! ”

    {Okay,……maybe I’d mumble that last part}

  24. Biff Brannon says:

    Good article. I would like to stress to anybody thinking about buying a gun for home defense to seek out skills training in the use of whatever gun you have. If you already have a gun but no training, get some training.

    Local gun clubs will more than likely offer courses or have people willing to instruct you one on one, sometimes for a fee, in the basics of gun operations for rifle, shotgun or pistol. After getting some basic training it is will worth the time to take it another step further and get some specialized self defense training. There is a big difference between learning gun basics, self defense training, and advanced gun tactics.

    Take the time to train, and like Scott G wrote in his article find out the laws regarding self defense for your state.

  25. Regarding my first post, my point was NOT to tell LOE’s that you were shooting to kill, but rather that you just do it- and keep it to yourself. Again, not to sound cold, but the intruder/perp has NO business being in your home – especially if its 2am. How on earth are you to know what this person intends or is capable of doing ? This could easily be a crazy person wacked out on God knows what and hell bent on causing you & your family serious harm. For all you know he has a straight razor in his boot and will have no qualms about intentionally disfiguring you or a family member. Or what if he is quite strong physically, and if he wrestles your gun away while you attempt to foolishly try to broker a peaceful non-violent settlement – and then turns it on you or your family ?? Or what if you wound him as he lunges toward you, and then, when police arrive, he convincingly claims he was begging for his life, while you, the wack job right wing gun nut, went & shot him in cold blood anyway ? Now the police – who in situations like these really are NOT your friend (no offense to the many fine LOE’s out there) – and as someone earlier pointed out are looking to arrest someone, will be eyeing you just as suspiciously, if not more so, than the intruder. Now you’re potentially at risk for ALL kinds of criminal & civil lawsuits, & possibly even jail time. Just for defending you family and home! No. I say take no chances. Dead men tell NO tales. I don’t mean to downplay how serious killing someone is. It is a traumatic & gut wrenching event to have to take someone else’s life, and should NEVER be taken lightly. But again, in a case like this, you HAVE a moral right to defend yourself, both DURING & AFTER the shooting. And the intruder had NO business being there to begin with, so sadly, he’s got himself to blame. I fully agree with the suggestion made by others to lawyer-up immeadiately, its just the way our society & corrupt criminal justice system works these days. If you must say anything to LOE’s, politely tell them that you had heard the intruder say (after you requested that he exit your home) “I’m gonna kill you…”, “I’m gonna kill you…” over & over. Explain to the LOE’s that now you’re exhausted and need time to recover emotionally from what just occurred and want to speak with your attorney, after which, you’ll be happy to give a statement. That’s just my opinion. I respect everyone else’s.

  26. teufelhunden says:

    A LEO friend of mine , says he has coached people who have shot people in self defense. Any officer worth his salt will know you are in the right. He asks the homeowner repeatedly if they feared for their life. If they dont give the correct answer, he repeats the question, until they give the right answer, then he writes the report. Unfortunately, you have LEOs out there that dont have good people’s interests at heart and will sniff around until they find a reason to take a good person from their family. Then you have DA’s that are looking for nothing but to pad their conviction rate. DA’s only prosecute cases they are pretty sure they can win, so if you go to trial, you better start praying. The justice in criminal justice system is an oxymoron.

  27. JJ Swiontek says:

    The Best Home Defense is Deterrence.

    When I bought my house, I didn’t really look into what kind of neighborhood I was buying into. (What can I say… I was young and … less wise.) My block was ‘disputed territory’ between to rival gangs. One block to the North was the 38 Specials and one block to the South was the Crips. There was a chop-shop one block West and a drug-house 3/4 of a block North. The first week I moved in, on a Sunday morning, there was a big shoot-out/drug bust across the street with 50+ rounds fired.

    I decided to ‘claim’ the disputed territory. I set up a rocking chair on my front porch. Put a bright spotlight facing the chair. And I sat there in the rocker and under the spotlight cleaning a double-barrel shotgun all evening long.

    One car full of ‘youths’ pulled by real slow. I smiled and waved (with shotgun in hand) and they peeled out. Then another car slowly pulled by. Same smile and wave. They left in a hurry too. Then the local LEOs drove by slowly. Same smile and wave. They actually waved back. :)

    Word was spread about the crazy couple in the middle of the block with the big-ass shotgun who seemed more than willing to use it. (Surprisingly, nothing was said about me and my wife’s home-carry).

    It has been 25 years, and deterrence has seemed to work for this neighbor hood. Oh, there was one time in the heat of summer many years ago, a woman screamed just up the block. I was out the front door in seconds with the shotgun in the right hand and a bastard sword in the other. Whoever had assalted the young woman ran away. Word spread.

    The neighbor hood has changed. The gangs have moved on. The chop-shop closed. The drug house was renovated into a nice home. And a school has been built across the street. I don’t need to advertise anymore that I am more than willing to defend my family and my neighborhood.

  28. James Nelson says:

    I believe in the pump over the semi-auto shotgun because the reliability question. Yes a modern QUALITY semi=auto is perfectly fine in the hands of a trained person who is nit-picky about details, like frequent cleaning. The focus of the original post seemed to be toward the beginner, who may or not maintain the weapon properly. Under those circumstances a pump is far more reliable. Certainly if cost is an issue, the pump is the way to go. I have seen, and occasionally bought, Remington 870 Express shotguns with short smoothbore barrels for $200. Rifled shotgun barrels are for slugs only, and give terrible patterns with shot, which explains the Judge’s reputation among trained shooters. A local big box store has the H&R Partner for $189 in home defense form. I have several and they are Chinese 870 knockoffs and are perfectly acceptable for the purpose. Any good semi-auto runs 5 to 6 hundred new at a minimum and I would not buy a semi-auto used. Spend the saved money on ammo and practice. Not to say you can’t jam a pump if you try. I have seen short stroke jams that were amazing.
    The cure is practice, both live fire and not. You can get snap caps and cycle them through the gun for in hoe practice, all reasonable safety precautions should apply. Like check gun 3 times to make sure there are no live shells in it. Make sure there are no live shells in the room. Aim at things that would be cheap to replace, and so on. The way to prevent short stroking is to practice running shells through the gun and racking it hard to ensure full travel. Don’t baby the gun.

  29. Great article! The mental preparedness is key for acting quickly and confidently. If you have the action ingrained in your head, you’re much more likely to react correctly to an emergency situation.

  30. Marguerite says:

    I came across this article while doing research. My neighbors home was broken into yesterday in broad daylight. I wwas home alone and quite freaked out when my husband came home with my small children to ask me if I had heard anything. Last year my other neighbor was broken into and robbed at night. We live in a nice area but have a guy who is rumored to sell drugs from his parents home around the corner and this brings the bad element in. I am wondering what is your opinion on non lethal shotgun loads (bean bags, rubber bullets) at least for the first shot. I have been told if you have this it shows you did not intend to kill ( we live in LI NY). I am at the point where I feel its only going to be a matter of time before we may be targeted( I came home last year to find my fence gate ina aweird position like someone tried to yank it open(its padlocked). We have a dog but I dont want to leave my 4&5 yr old lives in the paws of a CHesapeake.