Firearms are one key to home defense, but there's more to effectively protecting your castle than just a reliable heater.
The idea is to keep bad guys out of your home and that doesn’t start with a sign on the door that says, “This home protected by Smith & Wesson,” and end with a .44 Magnum under your pillow. Too often, when home defense is considered, guns are the first priority. Having a firearm for home defense is a great idea, and while it should be an integral part of the plan, it’s your last resort option. Home defense is a comprehensive strategy that should be well layered and ultimately prevent you from going to your gun.
Understandably, there are so many different types of dwellings, in so many different types of locations, that all of the factors related to home defense cannot be addressed here. However, we can establish some general concepts and discuss some useful tools that can contribute to—for lack of a better word—prepping your home. And the best place to start … is outside. Since moats and breastworks aren’t an option, we have to look elsewhere for barriers.
Securing The Outdoors
A home with a dark exterior is inviting to criminals because it gives them concealment. If you’re looking for an apartment, choose one that’s well-lit outside and at all access points. For your home, build in the lighting by using dusk to dawn or motion-sensing lights, not just at the front door but all-around your house.
Fences provide protection, too. Unscalable barriers are best but look ominous and prevent vision beyond their perimeter. A waist-high chain-link or decorative fence provides a barrier a bad guy must negotiate and can also contain a dog. Believe it or not, any dog is better than no dog: They’re all reliable alert mechanisms.
It should go without saying that solid doors with good locks and windows that must be broken to be breached are your next barriers. Alarm systems and constant camera monitoring are good ideas too. If you don’t have an outside dog, consider an inside dog. You don’t need a Rottweiler or Belgium Malinois that’ll turn an invader into a midnight snack; you just need something that’ll bark.
These are all pretty standard and common-sense considerations for protecting your home, but this is a gun pub and you’re probably not reading it to figure out the best alarm system or door locks to install.
When it comes to firearms that can effectively be used for home defense, the list is endless, so here are some guidelines to consider:
- A home-defense gun should be relatively compact, so you can move through your home with it.
- It should be loaded with lethal ammunition but not ammunition that’ll excessively penetrate interior or exterior walls.
- A home-defense firearm should be manageable by all able-bodied residents of the home.
- A weapon light is a good accessory for a home-defense firearm because it frees up your support hand to deal with doors, family members and to call 911.
- A home-defense firearm should be capable of being stored in a secure but easy-to-access location.
Given these guidelines, select the firearm(s) you feel best fit these and any additional requirements you might have. But there are more tools to consider.
Home Defense Know How:
- The Home Defense Vs Concealed Carry Gun
- Why A Home Defense AR-15 Is The Best Choice
- Why The Home Defense Shotgun Rules The Roost
- Home Defense: AR vs. Shotgun
- Birdshot For Home Defense: Too Much, Too Little Or Just Right?
If you’re a gun guy, you probably have a big gun safe to keep all your firearms in. It’s also unlikely your safe is located close to your bed where you might need it for late-night access. There are many compact handgun vaults with varying levels of access, but an unusual one I’m particularly fond of is the LockDown In Plain Sight shelf. It has magnetic opening system and can hide a handgun from children in your home, while still permitting fast access.
Of course, your home-defense firearm might not be a handgun. If you rely on a long gun, such as an AR-15 or shotgun, you’re going to need a larger storage solution. Hornady offers a full line of storage vaults that aren’t designed for a firearm collection; they’re designed for the gun or guns you might need to access in a hurry. The Hornady RAPiD Safe Ready Vault can be installed in your closest, will house several home-defense firearms, and it can be accessed by RF tough-free identification.
Home Denfense Lighting
Vampires and werewolves come at night. It’s not a coincidence that these mythical creatures prowl and attack in the darkness; it’s a continuation of the standard operating procedure bad guys have been using forever. The lack of light provides security and anonymity for nefarious acts. You short circuit that element of their attack with light. Ideally, your home should have a comprehensive exterior lighting system, and you should keep a high-intensity, lithium-powered, LED flashlight in every bedroom, if not in every room of your home.
Another light I’ve found I really appreciate has nothing to do with bad guys. It’s the Automatic Cordless 25 LED Vault Light from LockDown. This nifty little light can be installed in your gun vault, gun safe or closet and responds with a glowing low-intensity light when it senses movement. Reaching into a dark gun safe at night could be problematic, but with this light, you’ll get enough illumination to help you quickly and easily secure the defensive tools you need. It’s also just a great light to put inside any gun safe.
Less Than Lethal Home Defense Options
We could put together an encyclopedia of threatening situations that a homeowner might have to deal with and not all of them will justify lethal force. Without justification of lethal force, you’re left to deal with problems with harsh language or hand to hand. Neither are optimal. There are also a number of less-than-lethal options, but the best ones allow you to remain at distance from the problem. A baseball bat or a nine iron might deter a threat, but you have to get close to use them, and if either is taken from you, you’ve essentially armed your assailant.
PepperBall has several less-than-lethal tools that are capable of launching PAVA pepper balls as far as 60 feet. Now, I’m not suggesting you fight off an armed attacker with a less-than-lethal device, but situations can arise in your home, on your porch or around your yard that won’t justify deadly force, but at the same time they’ll need to be dealt with in a serious manner. The PepperBall LifeLite has an integral light and laser that’ll let you illuminate a potential threat and aim effectively.
Even if you’re successful in stopping an attacker, you or another family member could still be seriously injured. The EMS community is highly trained and save thousands of lives every year. However, with a serious injury, seconds matter and the ambulance might arrive just seconds too late. This means you need to be prepared to deal with life-threatening injuries.
If you’re going to only have one item for safety at home, it should be a well-stocked first aid and trauma kit. We’re not talking about Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment; what you need is a bleeding control kit that contains tourniquets. Sure, those other first aid items are important to have, but you’ve got to stop the bleeding! DTL Gear has a full selection of first aid and bleeding control kits to choose from as well as AEDs.
This might seem a bit tactardish or excessive, but if you’re seriously concerned about a home invasion, then you should also be seriously concerned about bullets directed your way. Body armor is much less expensive than it used to be. For just a couple hundred bucks, you can buy a quick to put on, threat level IIIA, soft body armor vest capable of stopping rounds fired from a .44 Magnum. You can keep one under your bed for fast access. Hell, you could keep one under every bed in your home.
BulletSafe offers a full line of soft body armor and ballistic plates, with vest prices starting at less than $300. They even offer tactical shields. I’ve tested BulletSafe vests in the past and found that they do indeed stop the bullets they’re advertised to stop. Depending on where you live and the level of crime surrounding you, soft body armor may not be a ridiculous idea.
Your Home Defense Toolbox
When implementing a home-defense plan, it’s best to look at your home as a tactical toolbox, and then fill it with the tools that’ll keep the bad guys out and stop them if they get in. Those tools shouldn’t just be firearms. Relying on only a firearm limits your ability to respond in a manner that’ll always be viewed as justified.
You should approach home defense comprehensively by establishing a perimeter, securing that perimeter, installing early warning devices and then preparing for different types of assaults. Select the tools that’ll help you do all of those things. And remember, it may not be you who is there to deal with the problem. Layer the defense and provide implements to your family that delivers peace of mind and calculated and effective response to a threat, whatever it may be whether it’s a rabid animal or a murderous fiend.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.