Home Defense Considerations: Answering the Door

Armed citizens tend to prepare for home invasions, but often fail to consider how to deal with strangers who simply knock on the door. Here are some suggestions for safely dealing with unknown visitors.

Home Defense Considerations: Answering the Door

We should prepare for the worst-case scenario in home defense; namely, a violent breach of the home by multiple armed adversaries. However, we should also consider handling the more common possible safety issues we will encounter while in the home. A combination of hardened portals, early warning systems, and adequate and quickly accessible weaponry in the house should work together in keeping you and your family safe from violent home invasions. However, not all potential danger will bash down the door. In fact, a very common tactic among those who invade homes is to get you to simply open the door for them. Therefore, one of the most important considerations in the overall plan for home defense is how to deal with strangers who arrive on your door-step.

Answering the Door for Unexpected Strangers

A trend that has emerged among home invasion crews is to feign an innocent knock on your door. Often, a non-threatening person will knock on the door or ring the doorbell and, once the homeowner opens the door, will launch into a rehearsed line that sounds completely mundane. A contractor in your neighborhood cleaning gutters, a fund drive for the local school, etc…, The reason for this distraction is to get you to open the door so that the other members of the invasion crew can then rush through the open portal. This, unfortunately, is the world we live in. It is for this reason that my first advice pertaining to answering the door for unknown strangers is not to open the door. Speak to the stranger through the door, but don’t open it.

A lot of people have a problem with the idea of not opening the door for strangers. However, opening the door puts you in a vulnerable position, so why open the door for someone unexpected? Simply speak through the door or install an intercom system to speak with. Not opening the door makes it that much easier to excuse yourself from the conversation. A simple “sorry, I can’t talk right now, I have guests” works well. This allows you to end the conversation quickly, but it also will put the idea that there are more people than expected in the house. This alone may be all that is needed to dissuade a possible home invasion.

Some may argue that simply not answering the stranger on your doorstep is the best policy. I disagree. Many home invasions begin as a simple burglary in which a single criminal, or multiple criminals, invade a home under the presumption that nobody is home. By letting it be known that the house is indeed occupied you immediately reduce the likelihood of the breach. Most illegal home entrances each year are simply burglaries, and most transpire during the workday when it is presumed that the home is empty. If you end up facing the worst kind of criminal actors, those who wish to invade the home specifically to victimize the residents, then letting them know you are home without opening the door to them is best policy. Now, should they breach the door, you will have at least a few moments to prepare. Hardened doors are important here, and investing in the structural changes to make your doors secure is an important first step in preparing for home defense.

Home Carry and Locked Doors

I am an advocate of home carry. Having a small handgun on your person, even while at home, is the best way to ensure your quick access to a firearm. Another reason that I advise not opening the door when addressing strangers is to ensure their safety as well as your own. What do I mean by that? I will explain. There have been a number of incidents in which people have wandered into the wrong house and have been killed by the homeowner. Most of these incidents have been deemed justifiable; homeowners have every right to defend themselves and their loved ones. However, some of these incidents could have been avoided through the use of more secure doors and locks, or simply by having the doors locked in the first place.

I am astounded by the number of people who leave their doors unlocked and open to the world throughout their waking hours, only locking the doors at night. Such a practice puts you and your family in danger and also puts other people in danger. Should a drunk neighborhood teenager wander into your home by accident, do you want to be put in that position? It is far better that the door be a strong barrier against such a mishap. If you carry a handgun while at home, there is all the more reason to not open the door to strangers and to keep your doors locked at all times.

Seeing and Hearing Beyond the Door

While most North American construction makes it possible to speak loud enough to be heard through the door, there are other alternatives available for this. Intercom systems are much more affordable than they used to be, which allow you to speak through the electronic system. Some of these systems even provide a camera, allowing you to see who is outside as well. I suggest that, if installing such a system, you do so at a point not right next to the door. If dealing with a potentially hostile criminal element being close to the door, even when it is closed and locked, puts you at greater danger and reduces your reaction time. If you don’t home carry, then I would submit that an intercom system placed somewhere away from the door, perhaps in an entirely different room, makes sense. Along with the intercom system, I would also suggest a quick-access hand safe with a home defense handgun right near it. This way, you can respond to strangers at the door while being a distance from it, and you will have quick access to your gun, should you need it.

If you don’t use an intercom system, I recommend approaching the door cautiously if you must look through the peephole. I suggest placing your arm against the door in front of your face before looking through the peephole, thus providing some protection for your head should the door get kicked in while you have your face against it. A better option is to use an adjacent window to the door to identify who is on the front step, if possible. Regardless of how you view what is beyond the door, an important element is to have an outside light that you can flip on, or that is motion activated, to allow you to identify people in front of the door at night.

Take some time to consider how you secure your doors, and how you answer them. Your home is your castle, but part of self-defense is being able to deal with a potential enemy at the gate.

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Salvatore is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, and life-long practitioner of the concealed carry lifestyle. He strives to serve as a conduit of reliable information for the ever-growing community of armed citizens and concealed carriers. You can contact him at his website Reflex Handgun.
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