Gun Care

Preparing for the Unexpected — Self-Defense and Home Invasion

Corkboard with a fail to prepare, prepare to fail note pinned on it

Most of us reading this think about being prepared for a home invasion, but we really don’t think it will happen to us. When I was teaching concealed carry classes, I was amazed at how many people from high-end gated communities were taking my class because they or someone close to them had experienced a break-in. More than one was at gunpoint.

Being Prepared

Three people live in my house, and all have received formal handgun training. All of us have a license to carry a gun, even though Texas no longer requires such a license. We have no children in our household, but we are still conscious of gun security.

books by state that explain gun laws
Knowing the law regarding self-defense of your home and person is critical. Take advantage of the many resources available — such as these from U.S. Law Shield — to become aware of what you can or can’t legally do.

There are loaded handguns in strategic locations near each entrance to the house. We have a dog who serves as an early warning system to alert us when something is up. We hope this dog might also deter a home invasion when we’re away.

When we are out and about, we’re armed, and we stay alert and careful. I highly recommend three very eye-opening courses offered by the NRA:

  • Refuse To Be a Victim
  • Personal Protection Inside the Home
  • Personal Protection Outside the Home

A web search could help you determine who is teaching these classes in your location. There is no substitute for training when preparing for the unexpected.

Defensive Firearms

When it comes to protecting our personal property and lives during a home invasion, most of us would turn to firearms as the primary tool for accomplishing that task. While some small portion of our overall population can depend upon their physical attributes and skills in various martial arts or other hand-to-hand fighting skills, most of us would need to depend upon a firearm as a force equalizer. This brings up the need for firearms, ammunition, safe storage, shooting skills, knowledge of firearms laws, and legal protection in the event you have to use your firearm.

A large part of choosing a firearm for home defense is personal preference. You can do it with a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. Each has its advantages. Each also has its own set of possibilities for things to go wrong. Whichever firearm you choose must be one you are able to operate under stress. That gun must not be so powerful that it over-penetrates, but it must be powerful enough to stop an aggressor.

Shooting through walls when you don’t know who or what may be on the other side of the wall is ill-advised. The firearm you use for personal or home defense must be one that’s legal for you to own. Personally, I’m more comfortable with a pistol, but many feel a shotgun is the ideal home defense weapon, and I wouldn’t argue with them. A rifle, not so much inside because of the over-penetration issue.

A little, pudgy wirehair dog sitting in her bed
A good watch dog makes a great partner for security. This little one, who doesn’t know she’s little, can go from sound asleep to a full warning bark in a third of a second. And her bark is so fierce it could scare off a rhinoceros.

Ammo Storage

I am not an ammo hoarder, and I don’t recommend hoarding ammo. But I do keep at least 500 rounds of ammo on hand for calibers I use frequently. For me, that’s 9mm, .45 ACP, and .30-30. And I’ve somehow accumulated a lot of .22, which is okay by me. I still remember how to make squirrel stew.

For other calibers I shoot, I keep at least 100–200 rounds. If I shoot some ammo, I replace it. You may or may not find the ammo you need in a local gun store. For years I’ve ordered ammo online. Experience has taught me where to find it. During the most recent round of shortages in which people were complaining about not finding 9mm ammo anywhere, FedEx was routinely delivering boxes of 9mm and other calibers of ammo to my door.

Norma, who has been a traditional rifle ammo manufacturer, added handgun ammo to its line in the past couple of years. Pilgrim is a new manufacturer of handgun ammo. Federal has added new product lines. Subscribing to blogs such as this one will help you stay informed about what’s out there and how to find it.

Several men receiving firearms training at an indoor shooting range to prepare for home invasion
Check with your local gun range about training classes they may offer. If no classes are available locally, it is worth a little travel to find a location that provides good firearm and defense training.

Ammo will last for years if it’s kept in a climate that is warm and dry. Store your ammunition in its original containers and keep calibers and gauges separated. That way, there is no danger of loading the wrong type of ammo in one of your guns.

Upkeep and Maintenance

Ensure you have plenty of gun cleaning supplies on hand, and if there are guns you own but don’t know how to disassemble for cleaning, learn now. There may not be a YouTube when you need it. Also, if you reload or have always wanted to reload, buy primers, powder, and bullets when you can get them.

A basic, single-stage reloading press is not that expensive, but it may not be available if times are hard. Perhaps, that’s something that should be on your list to get now. Reloading is something best learned through working with a mentor. Get a copy of the Lyman Reloading Handbook, so you will have the reloading data you need in hard copy.

The Reloading Handbook is currently in its 51st edition. Older editions will have data for most of the common cartridges. If all you can find is an older edition, don’t fret. The data for common cartridge/projectile/powder combinations is not going to change year-to-year.

Study Up

Knowing the laws related to gun ownership and gun usage, in the area where you live, is imperative. That’s one of the best reasons for taking the required training for the license, even if you don’t ever apply for the license. Pulling the trigger, or in some instances just pointing a gun at someone, can put you at odds with the legal system.

There are certain conditions that define a self-defense situation. If there is any kind of doubt, you may find yourself being arrested and charged criminally or sued in civil court. That’s why it’s almost a necessity to have a prepaid legal program with a firm that really knows gun laws.

A typical program has attorneys standing by to represent you all the way through trial — in criminal and civil courts — if you find yourself in legal trouble after using your gun.

Lock It Up

We keep guns secured for two major reasons. The first reason is to keep the guns from children or other unauthorized users. The second reason is to keep them from being stolen. It’s not unusual to turn to some type of safe for this purpose.

lever-action rifle, pistol with weapons light, and side-by-side shotgun great for home invasion
The choice between a pistol, rifle, or shotgun for home defense is often just a personal preference. Whichever one you choose, you need to be proficient with it.

Whether it is a one or two-gun safe or a safe that holds multiple firearms, it’s going to have a lock. Chances are that the lock will be electrically operated and powered by batteries. In the event of an EMP attack, we may not be able to get to our secured guns. That’s why I keep several guns in locations other than my safe.

Information about dealing with safe locks during or after an EMP event vary. Some say the electronics in most safe locks is simple enough that they may not be affected — although the batteries will surely be zapped. That’s okay, you can replace the batteries with ones you keep in your Faraday cage.

If the lock is zapped, getting your guns out is not going to be a quick and simple process. Some experts recommend buying safes with mechanical locks and replacing the electronic locks on your existing safes with mechanical locks. Consult a safe expert, if that’s something you’re thinking of doing.

Inset shelves loaded with multiple boxes of ammunition
Having a good supply of ammo on hand is smart. Hoarding is not, as it creates shortages which raise prices and results in ammo not being available for others. Keep your ammo warm and dry, separate from your guns, and secure.


My goal in these last two articles has not been to make you an expert. There’s so much to think about and much to do if we want to be truly prepared for anything that might come our way. It behooves us to do what we can. My father lived in southern Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina hit. Just by chance, my middle son’s wife’s grandfather lived in that same area.

As soon as the authorities would let us in, my son and I loaded up a truck full of supplies and headed out from Texas to see what we could do to help those two elderly gentlemen. We didn’t know what to expect because cell phone coverage was down in the area.

We took food, water, gasoline, toilet paper, and other odds and ends we thought might be of help. When we arrived, both men were desperately in need of gasoline for their generators. None of the local stations were able to pump gas because power was unavailable to run the pumps. Both men had generators. However, they didn’t have enough gasoline on hand to keep them going for days.

Two large gun safes with electronic locks great for home invasion
Firearms in your safe may not be accessible in the event of an EMP attack, which is likely to destroy the electronic locks. Options include replacing electronic locks with mechanical alternatives, or at least store some of your critical defensive firearms somewhere other than in a safe.

The food they had was in freezers and refrigerators which they were trying to keep going through the electrical circuits on the generators. We learned a lot from that hurricane. I just hope we don’t have to go through another one like it to open people’s eyes to the need to be prepared for disasters.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, EMP attack, or even a pandemic, being prepared will get you and your family through without fear and stress. Decide what you need to survive for a week, two weeks, or longer. Start preparing now. Even something as simple as a manual can opener (or a P38) could be a life saver.

Home invasion is more common than you might think. Just like you should have a plan for getting out of your house in the event of a fire, you should have a plan for what to do if someone is trying to break into your house. When it’s happening is not the time to come up with a plan.

Have you prepared for the unexpected? Do you have a tip for self-defense or defense against a home invasion? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Corkboard with a fail to prepare, prepare to fail note pinned on it
  • Two large gun safes with electronic locks great for home invasion
  • books by state that explain gun laws
  • Several men receiving firearms training at an indoor shooting range to prepare for home invasion
  • Inset shelves loaded with multiple boxes of ammunition
  • A little, pudgy wirehair dog sitting in her bed
  • lever-action rifle, pistol with weapons light, and side-by-side shotgun great for home invasion

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
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 (11)

  1. Having a license and not carrying has always been a mystery to me, except it does take effort. Take the effort one time to figure out a good carry rig, then use that rig every time you go out.

  2. FYI – While batteries may not be directly affected by an EMP, electronic circuits will. Batteries may end up being “zapped” or “drained” by a malfunctioning electronic circuit. Too bad there is no way to do an EMP test on gun safes. Aircraft are tested for lighting strikes, but the expense is very high. Mechanical locks may be a viable option, but I also like misdirection and/or concealment so that firearms are readily available. And Yes, I don’t have children to worry about.

  3. Where on earth did you get the idea that batteries would be affected by an EMP?! That’s ridiculous.

  4. My electronic safe lock came with an “emergency” key. I keep that key in a safe with a conventional dial lock. I also have a dog to wake me if someone tries to enter the locked doors. Then, it’s up to me. Alarms, motion sensor lights and cameras are getting really cheap and come in wireless kits now. I need to get one. I don’t believe in hoarding either. Is my 10,000 rounds hoarding??? lol Great article! These are things we need to consider often. BTW What happened to the disaster advice to always keep a portable AM radio for such. When everything else is down, emergency info is supposed to be sent out via AM radio, right? God bless and stay safe.

  5. Some important reading and reflection for everyone. The same thing applies to “situational awareness” when you’re out and about. I remind my wife of this frequently, but I try not to be a menace so it ends up being meaningless. It can be a fine line between being prepared and being paranoid if you don’t pay attention to your thought process. I believe one of the most important investments one can make is with a quality “Legal Representation” company, God forbid you have to actually shoot someone, but everyone needs to know their state’s laws regarding self-defense. I have had discussions with people that say they will just “shoot through the door” ! What a brilliant act that would be !
    I agree wholeheartedly about electronic locks on safes and when we bought ours we went with a combination dial. The time to learn whether an EMP will render your lock inoperable, or no,t isn’t after we have an EMP attack.

  6. Hope you’re not in New York State or other marxist[aka democrat]states.The only ones benefiting there are the lawyers,judges, and their media whores.If possible?? find/retain a pro 2nd Amendment attorney.Sadly the NRA has not helped upstate New Yorkers.Perhaps if the NRA fired LaPierre,they would have funds to help us.Also keep your gear locked up unless you’re wearing it..

  7. Great article for sure. I am one of those that is probably not that prepared for a home invasion. Yes, I have a revolver in the bathroom, semi auto in the kitchen, revolver by the bed and a pump 12 gauge in the living room. So the firearms are there but am I prepared. I have a carry permit but rarely carry. Waking up to someone breaking in, seeing someone trying to steal my car, hmmmmm. Am I prepared ? This article has given me some good food for thought about just how prepared I am to defend myself and my property. And I need to get re-acquainted with the laws in my state. Once a round leaves the barrel, you can’t bring it back.

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