How Many Rounds To Stop a Home Intruder?

How Many Rounds To Stop a Home Intruder?

How Many Rounds To Stop a Home Intruder?

It’s 3:00am and you hear your window break and footsteps on your main floor. Since your child lives in the basement you don’t have the option of locking your bedroom door and getting behind cover with your gun until the police arrive.

Instead you have to go and confront the intruder to protect your family. As you get to the bottom of the stairs you see the intruder in another room about 20 feet away. You yell “Don’t move,” and instead of obeying your command or turning around and fleeing the house, the intruder runs right at you.

At this point you know you’re allowed to shoot because the guy’s in your home and he’s coming at you, but how many rounds can you shoot without getting in trouble or having some prosecutor trying to paint you as an evil gun nut?

Well… thankfully, the answer is very simple.

The number of rounds doesn’t matter when you’re shooting in a self-defense situation, because we shoot to stop our threat. If you shoot seven rounds at the guy running at you, and you see him keel over and lay there incapacitated, then it took seven rounds to stop him.

However, if it takes 15 rounds to stop the guy then by all means shoot 15 rounds. If you shoot all 15 rounds and he’s still coming up the stairs after you then reload and continue shooting until he’s not trying to take your life anymore.

There are so many variables in the number of rounds it takes to bring a person down. How big are they? Where is your shot placement? Are they on any type of drugs? When I was in the police academy years ago, we went over a home invasion case where it took the homeowner more than 20 rounds to kill the person because they were on PCP.

Please remember though, once you’ve stopped the threat you need to stop shooting.

If you kill a home invader and walk up to him and put one in the head for good measure it’s not going to look very good for you in our court system. Also, let’s say you shot the person seven times and he’s down on the ground not moving, however he’s alive and breathing. At this point he’s no longer a threat to you so you can stand there with your gun on him until the police arrive but please don’t follow the often joked about advice, “the best witness is a dead witness.”

In a self-defense shooting it makes no difference whether the guy lives or dies. What matters is that you shot as many rounds as you needed to stop that person from killing you. One final thing. When it comes to the number of rounds, you’ll have no idea how many you shot anyway. When you’ve had the adrenaline dump you won’t know if you’ve shot five rounds or nine. Oftentimes I hear people say that you need to count the number of rounds you shot so that you know when to reload, especially if you’re carrying a 5-shot snubby. That advice is nonsense. Nobody is going to count their rounds in a life and death situation, so just make sure you shoot until you’ve stopped the bad guy from coming after you and your family.

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  • Anonymous

    good advice!!!!!

  • Drake Tilman

    If it takes 3 pistols and 2 shotguns then by all means use 3 pistols and 2 shotguns! This made me laugh cause I already knew the answer even before I clicked on the link to get here lol 

  • ldm

    Totaling agree Jason.  Above all dealing with the threat is paramount.  Nothing else matters.  Counting shots or shooting so as to wound are useless and could get you and/or your family killed.  Fire center mass until the threat has been eliminated no matter what.

  • Correct ammo choice plays into this; RDBC, for example.

  • Rosie1niko

    If the perp decides to defeat my locked bedroom door, he is definitely a personal threat and using double 0 buckshot within 15 ft will do the trick in one shot–certainly two shots. In my house all is insured, in my bedroom my wife and I (no kids in other area) are not replaceable. He enters my home, I call 911, activate car alarm, and wait in aforementioned bedroom. 

  • thinblueline82

    The courts have ruled many times on this: as long as the first shot is justified than the following shots are also justified as long as a threat exist.  Good article.

  • What a world we live in where a home intruder has any rights at all. Is it really better to leave them alive? I feel like they could sue you in this ridiculous system. I keep a box of Hornady .40 Critical Defense rounds in the bedroom just in case.

  • Hersfelder

    Yes.  Keep shooting until the threat is stopped.  Good article!

  • thinblueline82

    Its not the mind set of “leaving them alive” but the mind set of not committing murder.  Simple solution is to make a kill shot.  If the intruder is just wounded or in critical condition and the threat no longer exist, then by law shooting, after the fact, to kill is murder not self defense.  Thats not the intruder having rights, its the difference between good and evil.

  • Azguy76

    Bs careful not to cut your thumb on the slide.

  • Dougie16967

    That’s why I carry a 45, if I have to shoot more than 8 rounds, I need to shoot more.

  • Detectivegriffin

    How many rounds to stop a home intruder? One! At least in the case I have been working as a defense investigator in a CIDS. yes one round 25 cal two feet distance – 300lb attacker. The trial ended last week … the verdict – guilty! 2nd degree murder… yup it’s true

    • Quincy

      I would like to know what state that case was in?  It sounds like NJ where I live, the bad guys have rights but we citizens don’t.

    • ldm

      I would like to know more of the details.  I would like to research the case.  Where and when did this take place?

  • Mike

    I agree entirely. You keep shooting until your attacker stops attacking, and then you stop. If you administer a coup de grace to a person who is no longer a threat you go from justifiable use of deadly force to manslaughter. And don’t answer the door for the police with a gun in your hand. That’s a great way to get shot.

  • S Izzors

    Like the man said .. Its better to be judged by twelve then to be carried be six. If it ever came to that moment which I HOPE IT NEVER DOES I’ll take the jury thing rather then face the cold box..

  • Anonymous

    I agree with all.  A coup de gras is at least Manslaughter if not Murder 1!  With that in mind, I train for the head shot at distances between 2 feet and twenty yards going for 1 shot, 1 kill.  I pray I never have to do it but, if forced, I won’t hesitate.  I carry a Colt Commander .45ACP or a Bond Arms Ranger chambered for .45 long Colt or .410 shotgun.  I practice with both long and often.

    BO STINKS…Wash it away in 2012!

    • Anonymous

      Ray: It is my understanding that fifteen feet is the minimum distance that is prudent, when confronting an intruder. If they are closer than that, they have a good chance of getting to you. Two feet means that you have milliseconds to get a shot off, and choosing a specific part of the perp’s anatomy as a place to put a shot becomes difficult, if not impossible. A target at fifteen feet isn’t a distance that is very far away. And even at that distance things can happen very quickly.
      In regards to BO… The man is a menace. A second term for this Marxist, would be a disaster for America.

  • If the intruder is unarmed, don’t take any chances with the court system.  Put a butcher knife in his hand.  No one will question you.  I would put up a wall of lead just to make sure he drops quickly and or doesn’t get a shot off.  No one will fault you for that.

  • If the intruder is unarmed, don’t take any chances with the court system.  Put a butcher knife in his hand.  No one will question you.  I would put up a wall of lead just to make sure he drops quickly and or doesn’t get a shot off.  No one will fault you for that.

    • Switch

      Wrong! To put a butcher knife in the perp’s hand to “make it look like…” is an outright lie which is called perjury in court and a sin when you stand before your Maker at the end of your life.

  • R.A. Namer

    Well done.  All true.  However, I didn’t read anyone addressing the point of “misses”.  Just because we fire 15 rounds, doesn’t mean we had 15 hits.  Get it?  Shooting your gun in self defense is 80% mind-set.  Are you more committed then the attacker?      Train Like You Mean It!!

    • Presticle13

      I was forced to endure “reflexive fire” training for 3 hours a day for the better part of a month prior to staging in Iraq. Once in combat, it is a proven winner. It isn’t that hard-the civilian world calls it “point shooting”- the basic premise is to rapid-draw and fire upon the enemy without using sights.It is very,very simple once you get the basic premise of it. It’s all about just looking down your slide and aligning your line-of-fire to the target.At 75 feet you can rapid-fire at 10 rounds and only miss maybe 3 times,and those will be CLOSE misses once you get the hang of it. And you will fast become better with just minimal practice.

    • Fenderpig

      I agree, although we never want to go thru anything like this, I am of the mind to stop whoever or whatever that is a threat to my family. We have , like so many towns, a bad drug issue and people are not in a good frame of mind when entering a home to begin with. Let’s face it , people are crazy anymore and the crimes seem to get worse as time goes by. It is our right to defend our homes.So, stop em anyway, with whatever you can.

  • One should continue to shoot until the intruder thinks he’s stopped,.  That is not necessarily when you think he’s stopped.

  • thinblueline82

    Self defense in your own home or for your personal safety should be covered under the law.  It helps your case if the state you reside in respects those rights and passes the  necessary laws to protect individual rights.  I live in Florida and the state has gone to great lengths to pass good gun laws for its citizens.

    • Sb5fury

      I used to live in Florida and now I live in Tennesee. There are times I wish Tennesee had the 3 step law like Florida does

  • Nvstorm

    The point of 15 rounds fired to get fewer hits is well made. Make sure you have a proper defense weapon loaded with defensive ammo, Glasers in a revolver. a shotgun with target or light loads is a devastatingly effective weapon, Neither of these will shoot through your dwelling and endanger the neighbors, or family members in other rooms.

  • Switch

    Refer my reply to “Ric”

  • Tmtmtl

    There’s 50 rds in a box, if he’s still standing then empty the box.

  • Spike_dawgg

    The answer, of course, was in the article: ” you shot as many rounds as you needed to stop that person from killing you.” 

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully; should the occasion ever arise; I’ll use my 12 gauge, with self defense ammunition. A one ounce slug with three 00 buck should be a one shot man-stopper, no matter how big the bad guy is, or what drug he’s on. Unless I miss the target, one shot should do the job.

    • In Box

      Compared to a handgun… well the difference is big enough they are hardly comparable. But, even with a shotgun, I’ve seen reports on cases where 15 pellet 00 Buck magnum rounds have been placed in the textbook heart and lung coverage pattern but failed to stop the person for a considerable amount of time. Fact is you can obliterate everything in the upper chest at once and the person can physically function for another 10 to 20 seconds if they have the will to. 

      • I’ve been handling and using firearms all my life (was raised on a ranch); and, while it’s true that buckshot pellets may not bring down an adult attacker instantly — distance is always the deciding factor with shotguns — I can’t imagine too many assailants who would or could continue advancing against 12 gauge SLUGS or the “home defense” rounds that incorporate BOTH slugs and pellets per shell.

        Couple a pump shotgun with a high-intensity fore-end flashlight and a magazine of 12 gauge slugs, and I pretty much DEFY any assailant to persist in his attack beyond the first round.

      • American Guy

        So (Mr.or Mrs). Home owner, why did you shoot the invader of your home 10 times? 

        I ran out of bullets!!

  • Steve

    So he is down. Are you certain he still does not have a hidden weapon? My father taught me to keep my distance in such an incident. How many soldiers were shot by enemy troops pretending to be dead? One is enough for me.
    I do not believe in emptying a clip into a lifeless body. In the situation described above or worse, I would consider that an Extreme emergency. Were I on the jury in which the State is going after the home owner there would be no conviction.

  • Have you been auditing my class?  You’re saying what I tell my students almost verbatim.  There are so many questions, and you don’t get to know the answers until it’s time.

  • Typically, the law defends the PERPETRATOR in home invasions.  Say you come downstairs and see a guy carrying your flatscreen TV toward the door.  Can you shoot?  No, not under the law.  You can’t even use a baseball bat on the guy unless you are IN FEAR FOR YOUR LIFE.  As long as the perp isn’t attacking you, you can’t do a damned thing legally except call the cops and wait 45 minutes for them to arrive…by which time the perp has escaped with your property.

    Interestingly, if you come downstairs and see a guy trying to break into your house, you can shoot him in the head, right through the window, and kill him instantly.  Why is that?  Because, when you see a guy trying to break in, you cannot determine his INTENT.  You can rightfully claim you were IN FEAR FOR YOUR LIFE.

    Just remember, if you DO kill a home invader, DON’T SAY ANYTHING TO THE POLICE.  Or, if you simply MUST say something, the ONLY thing you should say is “I was in fear for my life.”

    SAY NOTHING ELSE.

    • In Box

      All this depends 100% on the state you live in. For example, in many states you can use “as much force as reasonably necessary” to stop a theft. You can’t shoot a person running off, and neither can the police any more. But you generally can physically confront the person, and should they have a gun in one hand for example, then things are quite different than if they have both hand carrying something. In any case, your TV is probably not worth going to court over. 

      Also the say nothing else mantra is over simplified IMO. You don’t want to make any statements as to the details of the incident. But things like pointing out witnesses (neighbors, kids, etc.) and evidence (entry point, signs of conflict, etc.) has both the effect of making sure things that can help you aren’t overlooked, and it has a mental impact on the officers that you are the good guy. Look into how an officer is expected to interact with investigators after a shooting, and that is about right. 

      • I received my information about “saying nothing” from the LEO who was instructing my CCW class.  He emphasized that, since home invasion victims are under considerable stress after defending their homes with lethal force, they tend to TALK TOO MUCH, making hysterical statements that may SABOTAGE their self-defense plea before a Grand Jury or in a court of law.  

        For example, if a victim offers unsolicited information to the effect that he purchased his firearm specifically for shooting home invaders, this simple statement may be misconstrued as PREMEDITATION — that the victim ANTICIPATED and EXPECTED to use lethal force for a specific scenario against a specific subject.  

        Which is NOT a good impression to make on a Grand Jury or on the court.

        Better for the victim to repeatedly say “I was in fear for my life,” a statement of reasonable cause for lethal force, which a Grand Jury instantly recognizes as being entirely within the Law (in most states).  A Grand Jury may no-bill the case before it ever goes to court, providing the victim does not sabotage his own case with hysterical statements.

    • GrumpyinMass

      I like the idea of the shotgun with the light. It is important to identify the threat and a good tactical light with a strobe can confuse an intruder. Police are never without a tactical light and a homeowner shouldn’t be either.

  • Thanks for the article Jason, good stuff as usual

  • Jim

    I wanted to buy a 442…store that I go to had one, the Heller vs. DC….version. God forbid something happens while I carry this….attorney heaven….2nd amend decision? He was waiting for something like this….no, that’s okay…plain black revolver please…

  • In Box

    Especially with handguns, I’m of the opinion that shooting over and over generally is a bad idea (especially if the target is so clear and presented as the example above), and not because of what a DA might say about it later. That approach tends to send rounds all over the place, and waste opportunities to end the conflict. It can also result in an empty gun when there might be more than one concern. People should train to do controlled pairs and then track to the head for a follow up if needed. This might be oversimplified for a lot of situations since it is assuming a clear target and good shot placement, but if you make two clean hits to the chest and the person doesn’t go down, there is little reason to believe that 5 or 10 more rounds to the same place will help any more than just letting the clock run out. And if you have opportunity for 5 or 10 more hits, you probably have at least 1 opportunity for a head hit.

    That all said, the number of rounds you finally expend is absolutely irrelevant outside the motive and destination of each round fired. 

    • William Carnes

      Best answer IMO so far. It’s a matter of controlling hearts and minds. Two to the heart and one to mind eliminates the other side of the story. However, as was previously said this takes training and proper weapon handling skills. If you don’t practice with your sidearm then you may want to consider the shotgun recommendations for your home defense. Don’t want to put anyone down but training is key if you don’t train you are not doing yourself or family any favors.  just my .02

    • tmtmtl

      I agree, if the intruder is still on his feet, you keep shooting until he is no longer on his feet. However, if after shooting the perp he turns and takes off, make sure you open the door for him and let him go. The police can find his body later.

  • Paul

    As stated, continue to place rounds on the assailant until he stops being a threat. Achieve a safe position, reload, assess the situation, and take appropriate actions. Remember you were on your way to check on the children. You might want to cover the assailant whilst you spouse approaches the children from a safe direction. Passing nearby a downed assailant may not be safe.

  • Kirk Fleming

    This is consistent with what I’ve heard discussed in training, along with instruction to get the word ‘kill’ out of your vocabulary as a matter of habit. We ‘stop the threat’, is my understanding. I hope that, should the event ever occur, I’m able to stop the threat with well under one magazine’s worth of rounds. I’d like not to have to explain quite so much. But, with as many rounds as I’ve fired to take down a steel plate or two in my competitive career, I may be depending on hope a bit too much. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I know a guy who got upset that 4 police officers emptied one magazine each into a bad guy because that was “more than necessary to stop him.” All I know is that it only takes a second or two to empty a magazine, and it may take more than a second or two to be sure the guy is no longer a threat. I tell my wife and kids, made to make him dead than angry.

  • CoachDB18

    I carry a 7 shot .357 Magnum, using 158 grain jacketed hollow points. The book answer is, till the threat is stopped. My choice of weapon is obviously to make sure that book answer is reached quickly.

  • Anonymous

    One important variable should be added here: If the perp is holding a firearm and his back is to you….shoot him immediately – IN the BACK! NO WARNING!

    An armed confrontation with a criminal is not about a “fair fight”.

    The reference for this is Massad Ayoob “In the Gravest Extreme”

    • Holy crap, I never considered such a situation…  Thanx for the food for thought.

    • Presticle13

      And you’re cleared at the scene with “charges pending”. Then you arrive in court to hear a liberal Hispanic anti-gun judge declare that even though he was armed,he didn’t technically ENGAGE you while in your own home against your will. The burglar wins in criminal court by having you nailed to the cross with 20 years to life and then comes the civil suit from the illegal puke’s family.

      • Presticle13

        What I meant to say was that just by using a wooden rod,Forensics can determine the EXACT point of entry for a bullet wound and also determine the perp’s exact physical stance.If he was skulking around your basement with a gun,but you shot him from above into his back-good luck with that one.Really. Today’s political environment in complete favor of the illegal immigrant and more so against the middle-class wage earner, you’re going to go bankrupt in defense of your case.Massad Ayoob won’t be there to defend you in court. And any references from his book will be dismissed by the Prosecution as being “extremist terrorist propaganda.” I am a combat veteran and an Oathkeeper. I am on your side. I am only speaking from experience with friends and what I see everyday on the news.

      • Fenderpig

        Replace judges like this. lol… But you may also get one that was not so lucky, and has endured a home invaison. But if it meant my family or him, I would shoot first and ask questions later.. my opinion.

  • While I conceal-carry a compact 45 auto, I wouldn’t use it to defend against a home invasion, simply because it requires a certain degree of marksmanship that may be compromised in a home-invasion scenario — i.e., little or no light and difficulty in identifying your target.

    You don’t fire on a target that you can’t identify.

    Yes, I could easily attach a compact, high-intensity flashlight and/or laser to the 45 handgun, but that increases its profile and makes it more difficult to conceal-carry.

    For defending my home, for clearing rooms, et cetera, I prefer and would recommend an 18-inch pump shotgun with a built-in flashlight that responds to your grip on the fore-end.  Just the SOUND of a pump shotgun jacking a shell into the receiver is fairly intimidating; but, more than that, no great deal of marksmanship is required with a shotgun.

    Thus, you could illuminate an intruder, blind him, identify him as an intruder, and make your decision as to using lethal force without precision aiming — in fact, if you’re illuminating the intruder with a fore-end flashlight on a pump shotgun, there’s really no doubt about where your first and subsequent shots will go downrange.

    • danksme

      While I agree with you the pump shotgun is a awesome defense weapon and any intruder that remains in the area after hearing the action worked is not of sound mind.  You are fooling yourself if you think it doesn’t require aimed fire and skill to use.  The pattern from even a cyl bore defense shotgun at close range is very tight.  Therefore you cannot just simply point it in the general direction and shoot, if you want to hit anything.  The muzzle blast and sound indoors will be extreme and make follow up shots evven more difficult.

    • Stewart

      Agreed Charles. When I did research, I found the 8 shot Defender short barrel to be statistically the proper defense – first, to avoid the fight through sound. Statistics don’t show how many times intruders have left after hearing a shotguns action.. Federals Personal Defense round does make a good enough spread to cover a door across the bedroom. Less likely to kill/mame a family member in another room because the rounds stop in the intruder or the wall. That being said, with kids in the house – no gun makes you safer on average. 214 kids died from unintentional gunshots in the US.

  • Constmantx

    I’m glad I live in Texas, where we have the Castle Doctrine Law.  I keep my Taurus Judge on my nightstand, loaded with 410 shells.  If I hear him before he gets to me, he’s toast, legally.

  • Buffalofeathers27

    one round #2 shot from a 12ga shotgun.  ought to do the job !

  • David Black

    ” Nobody is going to count their rounds in a life and death situation…” BULL!
    As ye practice – so shall ye perform. Always count your shots and you will always count your shots.

    • Presticle13

      If you can actually do that while under direct fire, then you will be the very first person I have ever heard of to do so. When you are in actual combat and being shot at, there are are a thousand other things running through your mind-escape,cover,pain,breathe,move- just to name a few. And that is if you are not directly hit! I would seriously recommend that you stop counting your shots at the range because if you count your shots in a combat situation, you are DEAD. Period. You need to eliminate that kind of deep-focus,”tunnel-vision” mindset.That is an actual case study by the FBI, that actually required that all agents police their brass on the range during the late 1990’s in real time and to count their shots that resulted in a deathwave of dead FBI agents who automatically picked up their brass casings during a shootout instead of focusing on cover and concealment and returning fire.And God help you if you want to count your shots in Iraq. Keep counting,and counting and counting. The enemy doesn’t count. They just shoot. And so should you.

  • Spock

    Indeed, shoot until the attacker is stopped.  That’s why it is important to go to a range periodically to be sure you can hit center mass.  You don’t necessarily have to “double tap” but you do want to terminate the threat.

  • chubster

    Great advice Jason, thanks.

  • Thank you, Jason.  If it matters to anyone here, I agree with your assertions.

  • Presticle13

    My Squad Leader in Iraq put it very simply-
    “If someone reaches for your weapon,they are asking that you push them to the ground.If they get back up and reach for your weapon again-they are DEMANDING that you give them a controlled pair to the chest.”
    “If someone points a weapon at you, they are expressing their desire to commit suicide.By all means-It is your responsibility to fulfill that wish.”
    “If someone shoots at you-even just once- they are daring you to see how many times you can shoot them.”
    These words I have always remembered, as the choice to use force is NOT yours-it is THEIRS.
    Not even the greats in any civilian gun magazine have come close to that wisdom,but it’s true.
    The enemy decides his own fate.

    • Timiche

      Those are excellent words to live by.There are some who love to blame the one shooting. what about the one forcing our hand?

  • Anonymous

    Agree! Shoot till he drops and is unable to attack you and/or family!

  • Big E

    Well said!

  • Dave

    Thanks Jason.  Good advice from you and everyone else here.  It appears that the country is swinging back toward a self-defense mindset and away from being a deliberate victim–thank God.  As in, I’m going to defend myself and my family whether anyone likes it or not, no matter how many shots it takes. 

  • M3r71n

    Everyone now can get body armor pretty cheap. Also easy to improvise. Practicing with a weapon is how you’ll win in a gun fight. Not just shooting bullseyes. But really praticing controlled pairs, target assessment, and knowing how or where to adjust your aim. 2 to the chest and one to the head is popular for a reason…it works.

    Get the biggest gun you can controll and never let the intruder get the draw on you. No need to let the intruder know where your at my racking a shotgun. You know your house in the dark better than anyone else. Be sneaky, get a visual, quickly assess, and blow him away if you have too. In the head, or anywhere else including the back if you need to as long as you, and your family live to talk about it is all that counts. No such thing as a fair gun fight if someone threatens you and or family. Kill’em dead, then you’ll know the fight is over. But I can’t stress enough the importance of quickly assessing the fight before you endgage; there may be more than 1 intruder you have to deal with…

  • Xleo

    When I went to FBI school for LEO’s they teach us to shoot until the threat stops. You folks do the same and you will be OK. Just dont walk up to the robber and put a bullet in his head while he is laying alive there because then ur breaking the law and you can be charged for that. We were also taught to shoot center mass in our drills and field training. Center mass is just at the lower part of the chest and upper part of the stomach area. Why? Ok if the criminal has a gun he might still be shooting even if hes shot first. These center mass shots should bend the criminal over and throw off his aim. And center mass is best when in a gun fight since it is the largest target to hit and do the most damage with tunnel vision, stress, high heart rate in play. Ur in the fight mode and all sorts of things will kick in that will hamper your shooting ability. I do believe if you shoot excellent defense rounds and make those center mass hits you will not have to worry abt an alive criminal at all. Above all make sure that the criminal is in fact who he is and not a loved one who has gotten up or has come home early from work.

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