Sunday, April 26, 2009

He's in My Home, How do I Safely Disarm Him?

Q: I now have a handgun for home protection.  (Been burglarized twice).


What I would like to know is if I come upon someone in my home, I have my gun on him/her, announce myself and for them to freeze, how then do I disarm and detain them SAFELY while my heart is racing a mile a minute?

A: To make sure I get your scenario, you say "come upon someone in my home".  That could be because you've come home from being gone or you either intentionally or unintentionally encountered them while you were in your home.

Here's your main principle to follow: You should seek to gain and maintain a position of tactical dominance.

I don't see my immediate objective as "disarming" or "detaining" anyone.  You and I are not going to act as a cop here.  I'm more interested in controlling my space and my environment to keep the bad guy from hurting or killing me or my family.

If I'm coming home, I might feel that backing out of the house while covering him is my best choice.  If I'm already home, I'm going to cover the area that has my family or move to get my family into an area behind me while I cover the approach.

It's important to note here that in most -- if not all -- states you cannot use deadly force (shoot someone) to protect property (with the exception of someone preparing to burn an occupied building).  You can threaten to use deadly force, but you cannot actually use it.  "But, Brad, he's in my house! Can't I legally shoot him?"  That's a complicated question and the answer is "it depends".  Most of the time the answer is actually no (you can see some additional thoughts here at

Figure out where your safest and tactically sound areas of your house are.  In the story linked to above, I intend to control a hallway or staircase for my position of tactical dominance.

You are right, your heart will be RACING!  As your heart rate increases, your fine motor skills diminish, you get tunnel vision and audio exclusion.  Force yourself to take deep breaths, get oxygen to your brain and calm down.  Breathe. Keep your finger off the trigger and straight along the frame until you need to come up on target and engage. Breathe some more.

Now that you and your family are in a controlled area call for backup.  Just like a cop would, you want the good guys coming to help you.  Call 911 and tell them your situation.  Tell the dispatcher you are the homeowner and you are armed and describe what you are wearing.  

Now you can announce your presence and make your demands on the intruder. Take a deep breath and announce with command authority, "STOP!  DO NOT MOVE!  IF YOU MOVE YOU WILL BE SHOT!  I'VE CALLED 911 AND THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY.  SLOWLY TURN AROUND AWAY FROM ME AND GET ON THE FLOOR!  

Do not try and impersonate a police officer by saying "FREEZE! POLICE!"  Or try and be cute and say what you really said was, "FREEZE, PUL-EEZE!" (Don't laugh, I've seen an instructor advocate this).  Resist the strong temptation to yell, "SHOW ME YOUR HANDS".  I've seen countless students doing in role playing.  You are at a disadvantage in reaction time if he produces a firearm.  You've commanded him to move his hands, you are expecting him to move his hands and when he does, you will be behind the curve to react if he has a gun in his hands.

After you've verbally challenged the intruder a million variables can happen.  The bad guy can turn and run out the door.  He can yell back at you, "I've got a gun too". He can knock himself out trying to run out a closed sliding glass door.  He can fire a shot in your direction.  He can ignore you. Or he could actually comply with your commands.  All of these things have happened in real situations. 

That's why you want to already have a position that you can control, because you really don't have any control over him at all.  Best case, he turns and runs out of the house.  Worst case, he charges you or challenges you by walking your way.  It seems reasonable to assume that someone who has invaded your house and knows you are armed most likely wishes ill intent on you if they confront or charge you.  You need to make the decision now if you can or cannot actually use deadly force against someone like that.

In either case, do not voluntarily give up your superior position unless you are forced to.  Defending is easier than attacking.  Use your cover to protect you.  Whether the bad guy leaves or forces you to defend yourself, do not come out from your cover until the cops arrive.  Do not feel that you need to rush out and somehow detain the bad guy. What are you going to do?  Tie him up with your belt?  Wrestle him in your jammies? Keep the distance that the handgun provides you as you wait for the cops. 

Wait for the responding officers to announce their presence.  Yell back where you are and lay down your handgun. Don't be surprised if you are taken to the floor by the cops, frisked and handcuffed.  Hey, they are as jacked up as you are with the prospect of gunplay in an unfamiliar house and they don't know if you really are the good guy.  Don't take it personally.

If you are serious about this scenario then I need to advise you to get a flashlight.  Either a handheld light or a weapon-mounted light.  One of the four basic rules of firearms safety relates to being able to identify your target and it will certainly be one of the things you'll be asked about at your trial if you have to shoot the guy.  I'm talking about a white light, not a laser sight.  You must be able to SEE your target so you can identify that it is truly a bad guy and not your teenaged son or knuckleheaded brother-in-law.  While a laser sight might be able to help you shoot more accurately in the dark, it does nothing to help you see what you are shooting.  You might change your mind about shooting the intruder if you see that it's really the 13-year old kid that lives down the street and he's trying to steal your XBox 360. Or, as noted in the item above, if the "intruder" actually is a confused old-man who wandered into your house through the open garage door that you forgot to close.

You don't mention what type of handgun you have, but it needs to be in good working order and maintained for reliability.  Also, use factory ammo, not some sort of reload or handload.  Also, keep your magazines full, minus one round.

As you can tell, this scenario holds countless variables, is extremely complicated and has no simple answer.  Best advice, get firearms training related to this topic and also contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about the use of force in your state.

Keep training and stay safe.

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