Home During a Break In — How Will You React?

Breaking and Entering caught on film

We have all watched a movie, and most likely felt at least a touch of anxiety for the innocent victim, as the bad guy breaks into an occupied home. It is not hard to put yourself in the victim’s shoes. While the comment section on an article like this is often filled with bravado, in reality, your shorts might end up filled with something not as sweet smelling or quite as likely to impress or intimidate the would-be burglar.

removing a handgun from a bedside safe.
If you keep the handgun at home in a safe, some time should be spent practicing rapidly accessing the firearm.

The idea of someone breaking into your home, while you are there, should be nightmarish. The upside is that most people who would break into your home are looking for material possessions, not you. While I would gladly trade any material possession to protect my loved ones, I also believe the locks on the doors and windows are a red line not to be crossed or your life may be forfeit. Once the wolf quits huffing and puffing from the outside… protecting my people—not the possessions—is my only priority. I am not a mind reader, so I’ll assume the worst and act accordingly.


The time to figure out what you can, should, or would do during a break in, is before it ever happens. That means having a plan. Of course, having a plan means everyone in the house needs to know about it. Not necessarily all of the details. Your 7-year old daughter does not have to understand the intricacies of a fatal funnel. However, she does need to know to stay in place if she’s told, or to go to the safe room or rally point without question when ordered.

You’ll need to plan for multiple situations and needs. What if your otherwise health teenage son broke his leg playing football? Are you prepared? Is he? If they can safely egress should they? Where should they go?

What if you are not home or in the basement and the family is upstairs? Who else in your house will take the helm? Do they know their roles? Are they familiar with the security value or features of different rooms of the house? Do they know to escape or shelter in place?

Bob Campbell holding an AR-15 with green laser


Once you have the makings of a plan, you’ll need to unsure you have the preventative measures to increase your odds of success. What about early warning systems such as a security system, cameras, or internet-connected lights? There is a virtual cornucopia of devices that can be obtained for minimal expense these days. Best of all, they are easy to set up, so you do not have to rely on a company to install them—a company that knows your strategy, setup, and potential vulnerabilities.

For example, I recently installed Bluetooth connected door locks that are synched to my cell phone. When I leave a particular zone, or after a specified amount of time, the deadbolt will automatically lock. When it is unlocked or relocked, I also receive a notice on my phone. That means no more worrying about who locked the door at night or whether your teenager remembered to lock the door when returning home after a date.

Other, less obvious, things to consider: Does everyone’s bedroom lock from the inside? It won’t keep a bad guy out for long, but it is a barrier that could provide precious seconds in an emergency or a bit of early warning. How about under-the-bed ladders for second story rooms? They are handy for more than just escaping a fire. How about locks on the inside of closet doors? Get creative in your plans and make them custom so only you and yours know all of the details.

GunVault Home diagram
The NanoVault can be employed in many other places and ways. Your imagination is the only limitation.

Where are your car keys? Is the bad guy between your keys and the car? Do you keep your keys next to your cell phone on your bedside table at night? Why have keys if you can’t easily get to your car? The answer is simple. Most car keys these days have a panic button. At a minimum, the car alarm will create a distraction in an area where you are not such as a parking lot or garage. Likewise, internet or Wi-Fi controlled lighting in your home can be controlled by your cell phone or tablet and may confuse or intimidate an intruder when lights around them start turning on and off.

Once the Red Line Has Been Crossed

Maybe it was the sound of an alarm, glass breaking, or your dog not only being smart enough to go to the safe room, but to lock the door behind him, but something has alerted you that an intruder is in your house. The intruder or intruders are most likely looking for property and not interested in tangling with a homeowner. I have attended seminars where they recommended yelling to chase the bad guys away. The news is filled with stories where this strategy has worked. However, it is also filled with stories where the things ended tragically for the homeowner.

This is a situation where no blog can properly tell you how to react. However, given The Shooter’s Log’s core readership, I would say the majority of readers would share a recipe for cooking the big bad wolf, before they would recommend yelling and hoping it would scare an intruder away.

That being said, stay quiet. Whether or not the intruder knows you are in the house is immaterial. Giving up the advantage of surprise in a high stakes game of hide-and-seek is rather poor tactics. As quietly as possible, put your defensive plan into action and alert 911.

A dark haired young woman in a black t-shirt shoots a 1911 with a rail light
The 1911 is a great choice for home defense, particularly with a rail light.

If that last sentence did not strike you as wrong, rethink your plan. You should call 911, and then put your plan into action. Get the cavalry rolling to your position. Remember, this is not a movie. Your plan should be defensive not offensive.

Stay quite; try to determine how many people are in your home and their locations. I am not sure how vocal you should be to the 911 operator about being armed. They are going to rightly inform you to let the police handle it—yada-yada—and they are right. Your plan is defensive; you ARE calling for the police. Therefore, discussing your possession of a firearm with the operator serves no purpose that I can figure—other than to potentially be used against you in a court case later, but I am no expert. Perhaps some of the LEOs reading this will share some advice in the comment section.

The 911 operator is going to keep you on the phone. Was this accounted for in your plan? Don’t underestimate the operator’s advice. If the situation does sour, they may have sound advice that you have not thought of, as well as being best able to be the go between or last witness to inform law enforcement of the situation/threat inside the home. The last thing you want is the police holding back, afraid of being shot by you, as they are the burglars.

Escape is always the best plan. Even a trained professional will tell you that. I once attended a self-defense course that included a few guys with Special Forces background. They had the hardest time passing the scenarios. When the threat presented itself, their instinct was to charge the threat.

That works fine with a coordinated team of trained operators. However, few Special Forces training scenarios include your 4-year-old in a mall? Are you still going to charge the threat? What will the youngster do? Will they follow you into danger or be left behind. Think like a wolf. Injury could mean death to a wolf. Escape and live another day.

Your best defense is to wait it out if possible. The police will announce themselves, verbally as well as with lights and sirens. The 911 operator will also be in contact and relaying information. Remember, cops so not know you what you look like. Don’t be roaming the house with a gun when they arrive.

No two houses, families, or preparations are exactly alike. Therefore, your plan will be your own. There are self-defense programs with experts that will walk your home—inside and out—with you and help you formulate a plan. However, in the end, the responsibility is yours. You will be the one up the proverbial creek. Your planning and training will be key to increasing your odds of surviving the encounter.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog. "The Shooter's Log", is to provide information - not opinions - to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (27)

  1. I have been reading more and more articles suggesting wearing a holstered gun in and around the house. A holstered gun on the hip can be deployed in 2 seconds, a gun in the safe…however long it takes to (a) get to the safe and (b) open the safe. Longer, if the gun is not cocked and locked.
    Nightlock has a terrific door stop with a removable piece for egress. All doors need to have 3 inch long screws to replace the old inch and a half standard. Bushes near windows and doors provide bad guy concealment, trim or remove. Place motion detector bright lamps near access areas, doors and windows. CCTV will also help by showing who’s ringing the doorbell, or banging on the door. Windows and all doors, to include garage doors and side doors, need alarms easily installed wireless. Glass breakage alarms should be part of the house alarm system.
    Dogs are a great deterrent. I rely on mine to notify me of strangers accessing my driveway, way before the doorbell rings.
    Cell phones should be charged at bedside for easy access in a shtf event. Multiple loaded guns preclude delays in reloading. A generator that automatically takes over prevents a darkened house when you need lghting the most.
    Of course, locked windows and doors should be the norm.
    Lots of ideas for home security. The biggest deal is a mindset to be secure, and to use your gun, if it comes to it.

  2. I will neutralize the intruder. Call ServePro like it never even happened. Then call my local PD to fill out the paperwork.

    If you break in, my natural response is to think you are here to do grievous bodily harm to me. As a woman, I know I am inherently physically weaker than most men. However, strong and fast that man is, he cannot outrun a 9 mm JHP.

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