How to Navigate A House In a Home Invasion

You’ve got an intruder in the house—maybe more than one.  It’s night, and you don’t know where they are.  You’re the only one in the house who can fight, meaning you can’t rely on a partner.  Outside of a few Jason Bourne movies, you’ve never seen how a fight unfolds in close quarters.  Now you have to clear your home and stop the bad guy before he hurts someone you love.

What do you do?

1)   Stay Defensive

If at all possible, let the bad guy come to you rather than vice versa.  This is possible if you and your family are all in the same room, or if you can set yourself up between them and the bad guy.

If he has to come to you, he’ll have to enter your line of fire.  You can pick a spot with a good vantage point—for instance, along the side wall of a room the bad guy has to enter—and wait for him.  When he enters, you’ll have a split-second advantage where you see him and he hasn’t yet seen you.

That said, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of staying in one place.  Maybe your kids are in another part of the house, and you need to reach them before the home invader does.  In that case, it’s important to go on offense the right way.

2)   Moving

You always want to move purposefully.  In a potential fight, that means moving—potentially under fire—with a purpose.  You need to get from X to Y safely, as quickly as you deem necessary.

When you’re moving, take shorter than normal steps and keep your knees slightly bent.  This keeps you well balanced and lets you move quietly.  Moving quietly can be crucial—the last thing you want to do is alert the bad guy to your location, especially since he’ll have no qualms shooting through walls to hit you.

Using a ‘heel-to-toe' step—lift your foot slightly higher than normal for your step, place your heel down, and then roll your foot forward until your entire foot is down and your weight is on your forward foot—can also help you to be quiet and balanced while you move.

3)   Clearing Hallways

The most dangerous circumstance in a fight is when someone can see you, but you haven’t seen them yet.  So when you enter a new area, you need to ‘clear’ it: do a quick visual search to identify any assailants or confirm that the area is (for now) clear.

This is easy in a corridor, when you’re confronted with two walls and can see what’s between them.  It becomes harder when you’re trying to enter a room or a T-shaped hallway (where the hallway branches off to either side), so let’s go through those scenarios:

Entering a hallway: When you’re entering a T-shaped hallway, you need to clear the area to either side.  But if you just go in guns blazing to one side, you’ll expose your back to an area where your assailant could easily be.  So instead, look past the near corner and move slowly forward, clearing progressively more area as you move.  This is called “slicing the pie”, because you slice the uncleared space into smaller and smaller pieces.

Do this to one side and then the other, clearing the same swathes of areas to both sides.

When you have only a small amount of area uncleared to either side, resist the urge to do a “quick peek”—sticking your head around the corner to check.  This costs you the element of surprise.  Instead, move fast and loudly, forcing the intruder to react to you.  Clear the area as fast as you can, and if you see the bad guy, don’t hesitate.

If your adversary is waiting behind a corner, he's hoping to ambush you.  Being loud and fast can stun him, making him react to you instead of vice-versa; and give you a split-second advantage.

If you see your adversary, shoot.  If the area’s clear, pivot smoothly to face the other side of the hallway.

Note: It is crucial here to not shoot instinctively.  You could enter a room and see someone against a wall—and realize it’s your daughter not the invader.  You need to learn to shoot fast against a confirmed enemy, but to never be reckless.  The best way to get good at this is consistent training.

4)   Doors

Entering a room, you use the same tactics you would to clear a hallway: you “slice the pie” to either side, and then move fast to stun your adversary.  But this is complicated by the presence of doors.

How do you handle a door that opens outward, versus one that opens inward?  What about a door that’s locked?

Most doors in homes open inward.  Approach the door from the handle side so you can cover it if someone comes out.  If it’s locked, you can kick it in—or not, depending on the situation.  Open the door, and then step back out of the way.  If there’s an adversary on the other side, he’ll probably start shooting at the entryway, so that’s not where you want to be.

5)   Cover

Two misconceptions need to be covered here.  First, most people assume that if they’re behind an object, they’re protected.  Unfortunately that’s not true.  Modern firearms have enough penetrating power to blast through your average wall.  If you’re standing behind a solid bannister, your enemy can still shoot through it and hit your legs.  Just as importantly, you need to realize the shots you will be firing can easily do the same if your rounds either miss or over-penetrate your adversarythis is important to know, especially if you have friends/family in other rooms.

So when you’re finding a position, be aware of what offers real protection—and what doesn’t.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe because you have an object between you and the bad guy.  Instead, make your tactical decisions with the understanding that most objects in your home won’t stop a bullet.

The second misconception is that it’s better to hug cover.  This is generally a bad idea.  When a bullet hits something botht the bullet and the struck matrix will break, creating slivers and chunks of both that ricochet off.  If you’re hugging a brick wall and the wall get shot, brick and metal will ricochet and can injure you.

For this reason, it’s better to stay at least one large step away from cover if possible and tactically sound.


All of these are basic techniques, and they’re not universally applicable.  You have to respond to the situation you’re in with the appropriate technique for that place and time. For instance, it’s better to clear each side of a T-shaped hallway gradually—unless you hear a sound from one side.  And it’s better to move quietly—unless there’s a lot of ambient noise to cover you.

The controlling element of any battlefield is chaos.  You cannot predict what will happen when you inject armed, opposing forces into a situation.  You need to be flexible, and adapt your tactics to the situation you’re in, rather than the situation you’ve read about.

That’s why practice is so important.  Reading an article can give you ideas, but what will really make the difference is steady, consistent practice.  Role-play with your family.  Enroll in a good training program. If you train consistently, and practice these techniques, your odds will be markedly better in a real crisis.