View Full Version : Look then shoot, or shoot then look

January 7, 2009, 10:05 PM
I will be keeping a shotgun for home defense in the near future (and will be taking a course on home defense), but I have been thinking about what I would do in the event somebody breaks in. I'm sure this would be covered in the course, but I'd like to hear what everybody thinks about this situation.

Say you are in your bedroom and you hear glass breaking downstairs. I'd assume the best thing to do would be to get your wife to grab the phone, and both of you go hide in a corner, with the shotgun pumped & loaded, aiming at the entry way to the bedroom while the police are being called.

My main question is this: do you wait to get a glimpse of the person who comes through the door first, or do you simply pull the trigger at any movement behind/coming through the door? Do you turn on bedroom lights if you hear someone breaking in, or hide in the dark in the corner (which would prevent you from seeing who is coming in)?

January 7, 2009, 10:10 PM
I can't possibly see any situation where you would shoot, then look. I kind of like to know what I'm shooting at.

January 7, 2009, 10:35 PM
Since I have a split plan single level home, I have to leave the relative securuty of the master bedroom to eliminate the threat to the safety of my children. But once I have determined the person is not welcome I will give a couple of teasers to see if they wish to continue standing. But under no circumstances can I fire on an unidentified being. It could be either my kids or someone they invited... As much as I like to say would kill a boy for prematurely snugglin' up to lil' ms.hogdogs I know I really couldn't or shouldn't do so....:rolleyes:

January 7, 2009, 10:42 PM
-Identify the target-determine friend /family or foe threat and not friend or family.
-Take appropriate action
-Get a dog

Lee Lapin
January 7, 2009, 11:32 PM
DEFINITELY get training. Try for the NRA Personal Protection In The Home class if there's one close enough to you- see http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp for a class locator tool and basic information on the class.

You should always identify a target before firing at it ( http://www.thefiringline.com/Misc/safetyrules.html - Rule 4)- to do otherwise is courting tragedy. Getting your wife to handle the phone and call the cavalry is a good idea, taking cover in the bedroom/safe room and waiting is definitely adviseable, if you don't have children elsewhere in the home to secure.

You want the room you are in to stay dark, and to have lights on in other parts of the house- night lights, remote control lighting (X10 modules or the like will do fine), motion detector lights in the hallway outside the safe room, etc. Darkness is an advantage for you, light is a disadvantage to any intruder. You want to have a clear view of the entry door into the room you set up as a safe room from your cover, and you only want to have one entry door to have to cover- and a 'friendly wall' (no doors or windows) behind you if possible.

Keep in mind, the 911 tape is running. It will pick up most every sound in your safe room. One of the sounds it should pick up is your loud and clear verbal warning that the police are on the way, that you have a gun and will fire if necessary, that the intruder should leave immediately.

You need to have a home defense plan, to go along with other family emergency plans (for fires, weather emergencies, etc). Family emergency plans should each incorporate as many of the same elements as possible for simplicity's sake.

Your home should incorporate layers of defense- home defense should not start at your bedroom door. From the perimeter of your property on in, look at your home with the eyes of a criminal, find vulnerabilities, and harden them. There is a lot of material available on this subject- make use of it. It's a lot better for your home to fail a criminal's target selection process than for you to have to successfully defend it.

Stay Safe,


January 7, 2009, 11:50 PM
-Get a dogI know this is popular advice, but...I think that in many cases getting a dog is useless, if not worse. Owning a dog capable of protecting you involves assuming a fair amount of liability for its behavior toward others, as guard/protection dogs are trained to execute aggressive/hostile behaviors. True, the conditions under which these behaviors are to be seen are supposed to be controlled, but the potential ALWAYS exists where a guard/protection dog can inappropriately attack an innocent person, such as a guest or even someone in your household.

Further, a home intruder who knows what he's about can fairly easily disable/destroy pretty much ANY dog - I don't care how vicious the dog is. Personally, I see a dog as just another thing in the house I have to protect.

January 7, 2009, 11:51 PM
One of the cardinal rules of defense is to always know your target.

January 7, 2009, 11:56 PM
Glass breaking, be sure of target. Door getting kicked in, all's fair.

January 8, 2009, 12:08 AM
I think that in many cases getting a dog is useless, if not worse.

Pretty much any dog from Chihuahua to Irish Wolf Hound is going to know someone is there before you do. My dog is part of my early warning system he’s not suppose to eat anyone.

January 8, 2009, 12:35 AM
"or do you simply pull the trigger at any movement behind/coming through the door? "


Are you seriously asking if you should shoot blindly at unknown noise in the dark, and THEN check to see if it is an intruder?

January 8, 2009, 01:18 AM
The fact that one would even ask such a question signifies to me that an abundance of training is needed.

No, not self defense trainging per se, but general gun safety and legal.

You need to always identify your target. Just because there is the sound of breaking glass does not signify that a crime is being committed. When you use a firearm for self defense you are not given "second chances" so to speak. Therefore it is most important that you be right 100% of the time.

If you can't identify your target, how do you know it's a threat?


January 8, 2009, 01:24 AM
I live in The Sunshine State and we can now defend ourselves beyond the front door.

January 8, 2009, 09:01 AM
would u back your car up, then look? or look, then back up?


January 8, 2009, 09:39 AM
Points definitely taken. I guess my question did read as 'shooting at some noise in the dark', but I wasn't really meaning it in that sense (edit: and the title I chose for this thread probably isn't the best, either).

My bedroom is almost pitch black at night, and if I were to hear footsteps coming up to the bedroom door (after hearing glass breaking downstairs), and the door open, I'm not sure I would honestly be able to see the face of the person. The points about having lights makes good sense, that would resolve this issue.

If you already issued a verbal warning, and a person still walks through your bedroom door, but you can't identify them because of the lighting issue, would you fire? Is the fact that they walk to your bedroom door despite a warning enough to show that the person is not a loved one?

Brian Pfleuger
January 8, 2009, 09:45 AM
Don't worry Bill, if you had said you would try not to shoot an intruder there would have been an outcry of "He's in my house he's dead! I'll ask questions later! I'm not giving up the element of surprise! His very presence implies violent intent!"

You'll find plenty of "contrarians" on this forum.

(This is not a direct reference to ANYONE in this thread, simply a word of caution for the new guy.)

Lee Lapin
January 8, 2009, 10:38 AM
If you already issued a verbal warning, and a person still walks through your bedroom door, but you can't identify them because of the lighting issue, would you fire?


No one here (by here I mean in my house) is likely to shoot anything they can't clearly ID as a threat. That's my answer, not one intended to apply to you or anyone else. In our particular circumstances here, anyone who had no business in the house would have a couple of hundred pounds of very unhappy dogs to contend with before they ever made it through the front door/back door/window/whatever to get to the bedroom. The dogs do the IFF (identification friend or foe) here and are the primary alarm system.

Every shotgun here that does HD duties has a weaponlight mounted on it, for that precise reason. It's hard to manage a long gun and a separate light at the same time, having a light on the gun helps with that problem. And there is a wide enough peripheral beam from the light that it isn't necessary to point the gun directly at a person to ID them (that would be Rule 2 from http://www.thefiringline.com/Misc/safetyrules.html ). Although at that point, it would be pretty clear that someone was getting awfully awfully close to getting shot, and the "willing to destroy" thing would be close to coming into play.

There are people out there who get drunk, get stoned, and get lost. Is that who is in your house? Do you have teenage kids or older? Do they have friends without a lot of common sense or weird senses of humor? Do your kids get drunk or stoned (there's always a first time, remember)? There's lots to think about in this decision process (and the shoot/no shoot decision process is- or shoud be- just that).

I can't tell you how to do it, but you need to know what your own parameters are for making the decision to fire, and you need to be able to clearly enunciate what those parameters were at the time you decided to pull the trigger. The decision needs to be in accord with your local laws and practices, but it needs moreover to be in accord with your own moral codes as well. I like how Skip Gochenour puts it: http://www.teddytactical.com/archive/MonthlyStudy/2007/02_StudyDay.htm



As a person who carries weapons about in society you have decided that you are a moral arbiter.

You are obliged to prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and morally for the role as a moral arbiter.
You are obliged to train your body, mind and spirit for your role as moral arbiter.
Failure to accept and exercise these obligations is an exercise in immorality. It is a failure of discipline and self-control.


Afterward, lots of people with the luxury of a lot of time, and safety, and comfort, will be reviewing the decision you had to make in a split second under less than ideal conditions. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is. The burden is on you to make that decision correctly. The biggest thing is, YOU have to live with what you have done. You have to be right. "I'm sorry" won't cover mistakes of this magnitude.

My state (NC) imposes two standards of judgement in self defense cases. There is a "reasonable person" standard, which assumes the defender to be someone of full adult mental capacity. And there is a "person of reasonable firmness" standard, which means a person with a normal amount of courage. Now neither one of these is crystal clear, black or white standards- but most folks have an idea what they mean when they are applied in court. Problem is, some folks don't find out about them until they get into court. Know the law in your jurisdiction, and how it is applied in case law. Know your own moral compass.

Sorry I can't offer any more help,


January 8, 2009, 10:43 AM
Don't forget to use your verbal skills to their fullest...
Simply warning you are about to shoot is a last chance statement. It also could mentally weaken an innocent person. If you live alone and no one will ever be inside but you, then you have a little less to worry about. But for me, YMMV, I prefer a couple identifier remarks. I have to leave my room since I am also charged with protecting 2 kids so I am already in the muck so I quickly can/do say in a firm voice... "MAY I HELP YOU" if the figure is fairly distant. If I am real close to the yet unidentified figure I will just do a faked throat clearing while I watch the darkened figure respond to that to try to match motion to known individuals that may be inside with permission. The clincher tho is the statement we see on movies... "IDENTIFY YOURSELF, FRIEND OR FOE!!!" My kids know to say "It's me daddy, put the gun away and go back to sleep." A little girl visiting my daughter will not sound the same as a boogie man and junior's buddies are gonna no my name but a bad guy is going to have already made a move or vocalized and they dang well better move/vocalize "I GIVE, I AM GOING TO MY KNEES"

Brian Pfleuger
January 8, 2009, 10:53 AM
A little girl visiting my daughter will not sound the same as a boogie man and junior's buddies are gonna no my name but a bad guy is going to have already made a move or vocalized and they dang well better move/vocalize "I GIVE, I AM GOING TO MY KNEES"

Good plan Brent. Same here, I'd have little choice but to go at least a little ways to investigate. Fortunately, my kids friends won't be stopping by unexpectedly (the oldest is 2) but I still have to get between them and the noise.

Actually I am one of those "contrarians"!

No you're not! Oh, wait, maybe I am....:confused::eek:;)

January 8, 2009, 12:01 PM
My main question is this: do you wait to get a glimpse of the person who comes through the door first, or do you simply pull the trigger at any movement behind/coming through the door?

As peetza said - a cardinal rule: Be SURE of your target before shooting. Although no one except me and my wife is supposed to be in our house, I'd still look first, along with shouting, "STOP OR I'LL SHOOT!" Any further movement (except running backwards out of the house) gets the trigger pulled.

Remember, the only good gunfight is where no shots are fired.

As for lighting... I'd be in the dark with the top of the stairs lit up. Kneeling, one eye and both barrels around the door frame.

January 8, 2009, 12:47 PM
Let's say I retreated to the safety of my bedroom with my wife and daughter. I hear unknown noises in our home; then I hear the sound of a sledgehammer or similar implement being used to batter down our bedroom door. Me? I'm not waiting until he actually batters the door completely down before I start dumping buckshot through the door.

January 8, 2009, 12:51 PM
csmss, In that situation I still wait the door to open! Just so Mr.sledgehammer can look me in the eye so he knows exactly who punched his train ticket to ride to the ultimate court and face the Big Judge!

George PT-111
January 8, 2009, 01:15 PM
Lee Lapin provided some very very good starter info. impressed.

Capt. Charlie
January 8, 2009, 01:23 PM
I think it's necessary to close this one guys.

Why? Because it's utterly inconceivable that any responsible firearm owner would shoot at someone without being completely sure. To even consider this goes against the very mission statement of TFL, i.e.,

Welcome to The Firing Line, a virtual community dedicated to the discussion and advancement of responsible firearms ownership.

That may sound harsh, Bill, but from your post, I gather you're new to defensive tactics, and it has to be said. Everyone's got to start somewhere, and you've taken a good first step by asking questions here.

But, I strongly urge.... hell no, I'm begging you to take that course, before you experience tragedy so horrible it can't be described.

To the rest of you folks, thanks for the sound and civil advice. Replies like that are what makes TFL special :cool:.