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You hear a noise on your front porch or you are warned by a camera alert. Through the peephole, you see two masked persons approaching the door. One is armed and the other gets ready to break down the door. You withdraw back down the hallway, take cover around a corner, and aim your shotgun at the door. The door is violently kicked open and the first intruder turns around and steps over the threshold.
In just about every state you can legally shoot that intruder. Let’s say you do. He falls down dead or incapacitated. As you rack the slide to eject the empty shell and chamber another, the second intruder turns and runs off. What do you do? We can even say that both of them ran off.
A Close Quarters Battle (CWB) tactics instructor would tell you how and why to “slice the pie” around the door as you pursue the suspects. It is better ask why you would pursue them in the first place. You are behind cover, between the bad guys and your stuff/family, and they have to maneuver to get you. You have all the advantages. Why give that up?
The corner of the wall or the piece of furniture you’re using probably won’t outright stop bullets, but it will probably deflect them or slow them down. Only a part of your body being exposed makes for a small target and most criminals are poor shots, often when fire is being returned. Don’t give them a better target. A miss or a very slow bullet beats being shot totally exposed in your front yard.
It is you who have the advantage of the field of fire, not they. A doorway or hallway makes a very small target area for an intruder to pass through, simplifying your aim. It’s literally like an arcade style shooting game. The bad guy, probably armed with a pistol, will have to approach an opening he can’t clearly see into that is probably dark and move directly into the opening to get a proper sight for his shots. Sure, he could stick the pistol around the corner and shoot in, but then he isn’t shooting accurately (and you can shoot through the wall where he is).
If you get al tactical ninja-like and slice the pie out the door, then what? What if they are waiting for you just around the corner, waiting to ambush you when you peek your head around or out the door? Or you exposure yourself totally in the yard or street where they can easily hit you. Why not stay where you are and let them come to you?
Your first goal is to defend yourself, then your family, then your home. If you die, you cannot fight and protect your loved ones or stuff. Staying safe between you and what the suspects want to steal or kill is how you prevent a flank attack. If you go chasing after the bad guys, they can circle back or have an accomplice sneak in behind you.
Legally, if you pursue the bad guys you can’t shoot them in the back as they run away. Self-defense is allowed almost without question for anyone forcing their way into a home but it is very difficult to justify shooting someone as they run away. A person who is running away because you shot them or shot at them are not necessarily a threat. Unless they are shooting back at you as they run, homicide is justifiable at that point.
So what are you going to do by charging out the door after them? Assuming they aren’t waiting just around the corner and grab your gun or kill you. Maybe in a world totally devoid of law and order you can shoot them in the back to make sure they never try to hurt you or anyone else again, but even so it is bad form. Shooting someone in the back will get you in trouble with the law or potentially complicate even a righteous defense. At the end of the world, neighbors might think you are a bloodthirsty killer and shun you. Friends or relatives of the deceased burglars may retaliate against you.
Such needless complications can be avoided by staying inside. You have the high ground; keep it. For most break-in defensive shooting situations the average person will be involved in, chasing the suspects down will be unnecessary and unwise.
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.