You hear a long crashing sound. There is another one, and this one is loud and your house shakes. Now someone is knocking on windows outside. It is almost five in the morning and you and your wife get out of bed. You pull on clothes and go see what happened. You also grab your firearm.
A stranger standing next to your neighbor’s house sees you. He runs onto your porch. He knocks your wife down as he forces his way into your home. You follow both of them and tell him to get out. He charges you and you shoot him until he lets go of you. You and your wife step away and call 911. Fortunately, your wife isn’t hurt. Emergency medical services enter your home and declare your attacker dead at the scene.
It is 5am when you give a brief statement to the police. Your attacker crashed through the building of a nearby fast food restaurant, drove through another front yard, and backed into your house before he started beating on your neighbor’s windows.
You are not charged with a crime.
These news stories are always incomplete. Despite that, we can see that the armed homeowners did several things that may have saved their life that night. We know they had a firearm for personal protection. They recognized an unusual problem when they heard crashing sounds in the night. They got dressed enough to carry their gun with them. The armed defender recognized an immediate threat after the stranger first pushed his wife inside their home, knocked her down, and then the stranger grabbed the armed defender.
Our good guys defended themselves until the threat stopped. They then called for help. They also gave a brief statement to the police.
If we were in their situation, there are also a number of things we’d like to do that were not mentioned in the news articles. It sounds obvious, but if we knew we were going to be attacked then we’d both want to be armed.
I’m not a big fan of one person being the single-armed defender. If you’re really going to fill that role then you have to act like a personal bodyguard and stay within arms reach of the person you’re defending at all times. You can’t wander away and they can’t wander away. That is hard to do.
To be more realistic about the situation, we all want to get a cup of coffee at some time, and we all need to go to the bathroom eventually. Who will defend our loved ones if we’re the only defender and we step away?
If we knew we were going to be attacked then we would never have left the bedroom. That is both fantasy in pretending we can know what will happen in the future and very realistic in that we usually don’t know what is waiting for us in the dark. We know that drug use and violence have increased in the last few years. We know that there are usually several criminals working together during a robbery. All that argues for proceeding cautiously. We want to learn all we can before we advance.
We know something really unusual happened, so why not call 911 and get help on the way from inside our bedroom. Maybe the dispatcher can tell us about the security system at the nearby fast-food restaurant. Maybe the dispatcher knows about the neighbors next door who called 911 with a report about a stranger at their window.
Before we open the door and go outside, let’s go to each window and look outside first. Give yourself a few moments so you can understand what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing from outside your home. With cameras being so affordable, this would be a good time to use your electronic eyes to see what happened outside your house a minute ago. If the scene looks safe, then why do you have to go outside? If the scene doesn’t look safe, then you certainly shouldn’t go outside.
The reasons I imagine for going outside would be if we’ve determined that the situation is safe yet someone outside needs our help. If that is true, then we should get help headed our way before we go outside. If that isn’t the situation we see outside, then we are putting our family at risk by opening the door.
While you are reading this article is a great time to think about this because it is impossible to make great decisions when we are suddenly woken up at 5 in the morning.
Maybe you’re a midnight genius, but I know I’m not. Few of us are.
If we have to go outside, then both of us should be armed. You also want to be a few steps away from your partner. Unless you recently rehearsed team tactics, then you probably do not want your gun in your hands until you see a threat, but you already knew that holsters are wonderful places to carry your gun.
This incident happened at night so we probably want a phone and a flashlight in our hands. Turn on any outside lights so you can see what is going on.
Team and Close Quarters Tactics
You want a few steps between us and our partner so it is harder to attack both of us at the same time. Ideally that means one of our attackers has to turn his side to us as he attacks the other. Be careful if you shoot toward your partner!
If there are two assailants, then we want to move so they are one behind the other and we can deal with them one at a time. The geometry of two versus two gets complicated in a hurry.
It may have been only a coincidence in this case, but there is an increased danger if an attacker moves us indoors. The concern is that the assailant wants to do things inside that he wouldn’t do outside where he might have witnesses.
This conflict unfolded quickly. Even if we were there watching, it still might be hard to tell if the attacker hit our partner, or if our partner tripped and fell as they were pushed backwards. In both cases our partner is at greater risk of further injury now that they are down on the ground. It is harder for them to move and defend themselves when they are off their feet.
The attacker closed the distance to the armed defender when they were both inside the home. If you have not tried armed defense at hand-to-hand distances then believe me that it isn’t like shooting at a target on the indoor range. Unlike the static range, everything is in motion. You are trying to push the attacker away with one hand and control your gun with the other. You are also trying to see where your partner is.
The good news about being close to your attacker is that your bullets will be traveling at full velocity and be quite effective. The bad news is that you may not be able to fully raise your firearm and aim for the high center chest of your attacker. All that comes into play because we don’t want to shoot our partner as our bullet passes through the attacker.
Yes, that fourth rule of firearms safety, identifying your target and what is in front and beyond it, that rule applies even in the middle of a close-quarters gun fight. I hope you’ve practiced them so much that the safety rules are unconscious habits. Those factors and more are usually covered in a class on close quarters combat.
What do we tell the police?
I know that I would be an emotional mess when the police arrive. Be polite, but everything we say is admissible in court. Give the police the known facts. Tell them you will cooperate fully and that you will testify against your attacker. Then ask to talk to your lawyer and close your mouth. Expect that you and other witnesses in your home will be moved apart and interviewed separately. If you’ve thought this through ahead of time. then say little to the police.
If you have not thought about what to say then say less and ask for your lawyer. Remember that the police can’t ask questions after you ask for legal representation, but they can record everything you say.
What you do after your physical defense is as serious as what you did during your defense. You are defending yourself from both criminal charges, and from civil charges brought by your attacker or his next of kin. Have a lawyer who will answer your call at odd hours. If you’re not independently wealthy then you want self-defense insurance.
-Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.