Need the skinny on how to best protect your castle? Three trained experts give their takes on how to perfect your home defense strategy.
After traveling overseas, when I land back in the United States I feel at ease and much more relaxed. When I get home—back to my house—that level of ease and relaxation is even further heightened. A man should feel safe in his own country and especially in his own home, and not just because you’re around friends and can wear your Batman pajamas. At home, you should be safe from ridicule—some folks think grown men shouldn’t wear pajamas—and violence.
Many turn to a firearm as their frontline of a home-defense strategy, but, in reality, it should be their last. In fact, from a tactical perspective, there are a lot of things you can do to increase the security level of your home that don’t involve a firearm. I reached out to three individuals, who I consider to be experts on personal protection and self-defense, and asked them, “What, in addition to firearms, can be done to increase safety at home?”
Dave Hartman, Gunsite Academy
Currently serving as the training director for Gunsite Academy, which is the oldest and largest civilian firearms training school in the world, Dave Hartman has a résumé that cannot be ignored when it comes to topics surrounding personal protection. Hartman is a solid fellow who is possibly better in tune with topics related to self-defense than anyone I know. He’s also a friend who I’ve hunted with in Africa.
One of the first things Hartman suggested was to make sure your cell phones are charged at all times, because hard lines can be cut. If you have to make that 911 call, “Give a brief description of the situation and keep the line open; 911 calls are all recorded and can serve as evidence at a later date.” He also suggested that when you speak with the dispatcher and possibly the perpetrators, “… do so in a clear and concise voice.”
Hartman was also adamant that you understand the difference in cover and concealment. “There are very few things in a house or an apartment that constitute cover,” he says. This is important when you’re planning or choosing things to hide behind. Block or brick walls, full refrigerators and freezers, and gun safes are some things that’ll stop most handgun bullets.
Some commonsense suggestions that Hartman made were to check doors and windows before retiring for the night, and to make sure if you have an alarm, you set it. Hartman also mentioned the importance of external lighting and surveillance cameras. “Fake cameras can serve as a deterrent.” Like alarms, dogs are an early warning system too. He said, “When I go to bed at night, my door is locked with my dogs in the room.”
Hartman also suggested that ideally you want your attacker or intruder to come to you and to not, “… go looking for a gunfight; gather the family and shelter in place if possible.” But he also added that, “If you have to go on the offensive due to circumstances beyond your control, act decisively and without hesitation.”
Finally, Hartman strongly suggested that you find training and practice your skill at arms, because you may have to shoot to stop an attack. But, at the same time he felt it was imperative to take an emergency medical course so that you have the basic skills necessary to treat a gunshot or stab wound.
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Bill Wilson, Wilson Combat
Wilson Combat is the largest and most successful custom firearms manufacturer in the world. The company was founded by Bill Wilson, who is without question one of the most experienced trigger-pullers I know. Wilson lives on a very secluded and safe ranch in Texas, and it’s the last place I’d want to attempt to infiltrate. As a founding member of IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), Wilson intimately understands self-protection with a firearm.
One of the best suggestions I’ve heard with regard to home-defense preparation came from Wilson. He suggested keeping a good set of electronic ear protection with your home-defense weapon/weapons. “Not only will they protect your hearing if your weapon of choice has a lot of muzzle blast, but if you crank the volume up, they will enhance your ability to hear the threat and family members.”
Similarly, not only do you need to hear your threat, but you also need to see it, and Wilson said to, “Make sure you have a quality handheld flashlight and weapon light mounted on your weapon for threat location and identification.” One thing I learned as a police officer is how much bad guys hate light. In many cases, a bright light is all that is needed to make them change their mind and on top of that, a bright light in their eyes makes it almost impossible for them to affect a precision attack.
Similar to Hartman’s comment about cover, Wilson also said to, “Locate and put to memory areas of your home/property that are good defensive positions that will stop an incoming bullet.” Survival is the goal, and keeping bullets out of your body makes surviving easier. Additionally, you can even stage tools or weapons where you plan to shelter.
Dave “Boon” Benton, Threat Management Solutions
I’m convinced that Gunsite Academy is the best location for self-defense training with a firearm. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great instructors providing great training in other locations. One of those I can recommend without hesitation is Benghazi survivor, Dave “Boon” Benton. I worked with Benton training some local patrol and SWAT officers and his ability to convey practical, tactical and lifesaving information in an understandable and layered manner is top tier.
For the most part, Boon echoed the suggestions of Hartman and Wilson with regard to keeping your cell phone charged and close. Similarly, he stressed the need for a flashlight, expressing the 3L rule when selecting one. L1: Get a flashlight with lithium batteries because of their better shelf life. L2: Get a flashlight with LED bulbs, because they last longer and are more impact resistant. L3: And understand that lumens matter; for a defensive light, you want at least 100 lumens.
Also, like Hartman, Boon strongly suggested being prepared to deal with emergency medical situations. When everything is said and done, yeah, you can call the EMTs. But, with a serious injury, time is of the essence. Have a good emergency medial kit handy and bring all the family/household members up to speed on how to use it.
Another thing that Boon stressed, and all these experts agreed upon, was that first and foremost, you should have a plan. A primary, secondary and third plan isn’t a bad idea either. Different situations warrant different responses. If you or another family member aren’t at home, the plan will be different. If the threat remains outside that should alter the plan as well. Don’t over complicate it, but have a standard operating procedure in place for different situations that may arise.
The plan(s) should also be practiced until there’s surety everyone in the home is playing from the same sheet of music. Are you going to shelter in place or evacuate? If you are sheltering, where? If you are evacuating, where? Assign different responsibilities to responsible persons, who gathers the children, calls 911, etc.
Having a layered defense that includes lights, cameras, dogs, alarms and good locks is one thing. However, being prepared to deal with a threat that may breach these obstacles is another. Your door lock or surveillance camera won’t panic, but you might, especially if you’ve not made any preparations for the assault.
Having a gun isn’t enough; the occupants of your home need a planned response. If a situation you didn’t prepare for arises, yeah, you’ll have to alter the plan. What’s key here is having a plan that you can alter as opposed to making it up as you go.
Richard Mann's Plan
As an example, we have a fenced yard with an electric gate that contains two dogs. They’re not eat-you-up dogs, but they’re barking dogs that spend fair-weather months outside. Their favorite pastime is barking at anything that doesn’t normally occur around our house. We also have surveillance cameras that provide a day-and-night view all around the home and exterior lighting to eliminate dark spots.
Inside, we have the dog that’ll bite, and we have a plan to centralize in the kitchen where the medical kit is stored and where we can secure behind things capable of stopping bullets. Guns are secured in our bedroom and at each end of our home. In the event of an attempted breach, it’s my job to collect the kids, and my wife’s job to call 911. Once gathered in the kitchen, we can view all entry points and shelter as needed.
Everyone’s situation will vary, just spend some time applying some logic and you can put together a similar and practical approach to dealing with a potentially life-threatening problem. Run through the plan just like you would a fire drill a couple times each year and take the time to discuss concerns that might arise or changes that have occurred. There’s no place like home for comfort and security, and while the cops might laugh at your Batman pajamas, at least you’ll be alive to show them off when they finally get there.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.