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 decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (28)

  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.

  3. Great article! Although I’m skeptical about your plug for tech devices, although it seems great to have your doors lock automatically when you leave and send you updates when it opens, that’s leaving a lot of room for an easy break in, as a tradesman I’ve seen and installed a lot of this stuff and let me be the first to say DONT TRUST YOUR LIFE ON AN ELECTRONIC DOOR STRIKE the elecrtical mechanism weakens the lock strength and make them twice as easy to pop open! Not to mention anything connected to wifi can be hacked by a ten year old you tuber and the bad guy shutting your electrical panel main off takes away your wifi your cameras so my opinion is it’s ok to have that stuff but you really need to weigh the pros and cons. You may think bad guys don’t hack but the world is changing and we bet most of our safety on the illusion of security.

  4. With the advancement of technology and all these new gadgets to keep us safe. Also the high cost for these products. I have learned how people are giving up on simple technology….. Lan Line phones….. An old school home phone. Pick the phone up and dial 9-1-1 and your location address pops up right on the screen..

  5. If you can run out of your house get out… I went to a job where 3 bad guys knocked on a 20 ish female door she squeezed right out the front door as they were coming in. She ran into the middle of the street started yelling. The 3 perps were just as scared and ran off….. The perps never expected her to run out of the house…..

  6. I have never had a dog like this – ” your dog not only being smart enough to go to the safe room, but to lock the door behind him”.

  7. CALL 911 … GET OUT…

    The first concealed weapons permit I got 35 years ago, stressed, have an exit plan for you and your family. Your life, your family’s life is not worth any personal property….
    That said, if you are trapped… have a plan for that..

  8. The ‘let the operator know you are armed’ is a debatable topic at best. He or she will invariably tell you to secure your weapon, and although you are not required to follow the operators orders it could come back to bite you later if you went against the ‘suggestion’. My suggestion would be to follow the CCW response and tell the police you are armed when they arrive, and of course put down your weapon.Once the police have taken over the situation being now unarmed in fine, but not before.

  9. I used to be a 911 operator and handled several calls from people who thought someone was breaking in. We were trained to always ask if there are any weapons in the house. Often they would tell me they had a gun. I would tell them to keep it with them, and maybe a quick instrucfion to keep their finger off the trigger until they saw an intruder in the house and actually had the gun pointed at him. I passed on to the responding officers they were armed and they were never upset about that. They’d just ask me to tell the caller, when they got there, not to answer the door with the gun in their hands.

    My recommendation is to inform 911 you are armed with a gun. Remember, though 911 operators are not police officers, themselves. They aren’t trained in the law, and don’t have the authority of a LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) to give you orders. Their own biases may affect what they say. I have heard my coworkers give a home owner an “order” to “put the gun away now.” You are under no obligation to obey that, if you truly believe you are in danger … and you must, or you wouldn’t have called 911. You are your OWN 1st line of defense. Politely tell the operator you are going to keep the gun on you until the police get there.

    When the police arrive, DO obey all of THEIR orders.

  10. Good article, let the 911 operator know you are armed, and when the police arrive, loudly announce yourself, and when prompted to move into visual make sure your hands are in the air, and you don’t make any sudden moves. The police will be responding to a potentially hazardous situation, so you must do your utmost to show you are not the threat they are responding to.

    Additionally for the majority of people, have a plan, prioritize defensive measures, and escape if possible. Only attempt to detain the criminal if you know what you are doing. Otherwise it’s best to evade, hide, or kill the criminal in self defense. Don’t become a statistic of having a struggle and having your own gun used against you.

    Lastly, be aware of the weapon you are using, and it’s penetration characteristics. Defending your home with an AR-15 is a bad idea if you live in a densely populated area. The penetration on those rounds is enough to go through drywall very easily, so if you have squishies in any direction you are aiming, if you miss your target, you may have collateral. A shotgun is surprisingly the better choice in this scenario, though typically in close quarters a pistol works best.

    1. I know you probably typed the word “kill” casually, but we should be very careful to avoid its use in discussions of armed self-defense, and especially in the investigation that follows a self-defense shooting. We shoot a bad guy only when other options are exhausted, and only to stop the threat; we do not “shoot to kill.”

    2. Not sure I agree with that statement at all. Someone breaks into my home and threatens me I shoot to kill. Someone comes at me with a gun, I shoot to kill. Someone assaults me with fists or another type of weapon I shoot to kill.
      Not sure most folks want to take the chance of a wounded person killing them with a gun or club or knife or even their bare hands which is right up there with weapons used to kill people. I think your statement needs a great deal of clarification as to how you intend to “stop the threat”.

  11. Good, level headed article, but please review before publishing. Remain “quite”? Quite what?
    Beyond that little word spur I think it’s great to reinforce to gun owners to always call 911. We tend to think we can handle the situation, but handling and legality may not line up at the end. There’s reward in wisdom.

  12. I think it’s impressive that anyone has a dog that’s smart enough to get into their safe room and lock the door behind them in the event of a break in.
    In my book it would be a little cowardly of the dog especially if he locked me outside the safe room but I’d still he impressed.


    “CALVARY” is the place where Jesus died. “CAVALRY” is the troops you want riding to your rescue.

    People can’t be “QUITE,” but they can be ‘QUIET.”

    Otherwise this was a well thought out article with some excellent suggestions.

  14. Having four dogs, it is highly unlikely that my home will be burglerized. But I am prepared, just in case.

    1. 5 dogs here and gf and I both carry have hideawepaons in home 5 rooms and passages from room to room without mail hallways and custom doors deadbolt bedroom steel.

  15. I’ve learned that you should maintain a clean house. A few times I’ve heard loud noise at night and find myself stumbling over pairs of shoes and junk laying around compromising my pathway and extremely inhibiting my tactical advantage. And #2 having full time flash light permanently located right near you or on your gun. So many times I’ve hopped out of bed stumbled over a messy floor and neglected to have a flashlight , having to turn on wall light giving up my position. # 3 in my experience even when extremely describing my appearance to the dispatcher the cops always act like they are in Vietnam . Once you take out the bad guy I’d just unload my weapon leave it on the counter and just wait sitting on your tailgate in the driveway in a non threatening manner until they show up. In my experience from multiple youth police academies cop training consists of assuming everyone is out to get you, it’s what is used still these days but in my opinion a monolithic training style like this probably should be looked into for updating.

  16. I’ve learned that you should maintain a clean house. A few times I’ve heard loud noise at night and find myself stumbling over pairs of shoes and junk laying around compromising my pathway and extremely inhibiting my tactical advantage. And #2 having full time flash light permanently located right near you or on your gun. So many times I’ve hopped out of bed stumbled over a messy floor and neglected to have a flashlight , having to turn on wall light giving up my position. # in my experience even when extremely describing my appearance to the dispatcher the cops always act like they are in Vietnam . Once you take out the bad guy I’d just unload my weapon leave it on the counter and just wait sitting on your tailgate in the driveway in a non threatening manner until they show up. In my experience from multiple youth police academies cop training consists of assuming everyone is out to get you, it’s what is used still these days but in my opinion a monolithic training style like this probably should be looked into for updating.

  17. Whatever you do and wherever you are, if you are holding someone at gunpoint who is not a cop or a child, and they are coming at you, don’t become that statistic that says most Americans get their guns taken away and used against them through indecision. The time to vacilate about this was over when you decided to point your weapon at a potential assailant. You are fully justified to fear for your life in this situation. If he’s not stopping when a gun is pointed at him, he is ready and willing to disarm you. When the authorities arrive, do all you can do to express how fearful you were of dieing anf leaving your loved ones as prey. Even if you have to show your soiled underwear. A prosecutor, judge and jury will try you based on how a reasonable person would have acted in those circumstances and reasonable people get afraid for their lives.

  18. Good article. Two things to add.

    You should also give a description of yourself to the 911 dispatcher, and what your wearing. That way you don’t get handcuffed or shot by mistake.

    In addition, just because someone breaks a window and enters your house, this does not constitute a deadly threat. E.g. it could be a drunk teenager from next door thinking it’s his or her house. Use a bright LED light to blind the person and identify your target, only shoot to stop if its a threat.

    NRA Instructor Pistol & Rifle


  20. I think there are a number of key points in this article and preparation and having a defensive plan while calling 911 are among the most important.
    You can purchase rather inexpensively battery powered door stop alarms, motion sensors, and door knob alarms that cannot be disabled as well as security bars that brace against the door knobs to reinforce your door locks.
    Having a variety of firearms available particularly in your bedroom such as a pistol/revolver, shotgun and rifle also provide you with a variety of options to deal with almost any threat from an intruder or intruders. If you have family members in the house in different rooms you need to have a plan of action that is suitable for your own home and either rally points or escape routes from different sites and cell phones handy for inter family and police communication.. This article is helpful particularly for the currently unprepared.

    1. I applaud your contemplated article, and thank you. Just a little advice, if you use a word that passes spell check but is used in the wrong context, spell check will not flag it, Quite versus quiet, etc.

    2. Not sure what your comment has to do with either anything I wrote or the article itself. I would think that most people who write comments to articles at one time or another make a spelling or grammatical error. Not sure why you felt the need for the English lesson or reminder. Stuff happens and that is life.
      Get used to it.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.