Five Fundamentals of Home Defense Training

image of a secure home safe that contains defensive equipment - Home Defense Training

As a law enforcement officer, I have a front-row seat for watching crime trends grow or decline. I use that experience to my advantage as a firearms trainer for both law enforcement and the private citizen.


An area of increasing concern is the occupied home invasion, which can be defined as an incident where the house is occupied by the family or owner and they are confronted with an imminent and potentially lethal threat by an intruder(s). In recent years, the occurrence of these violent encounters inside the home has been increasing, as has media coverage of their outcomes.

This growing concern has prompted a surge of new gun owners who intend to keep that newly purchased firearm for the primary purpose of home defense. There is a void in the training industry regarding this type of incident, at least in the proper context.


As with any of the training courses we attend (unless attending for fun), we want to ensure it fits our context of use. Though there are many “tactical” training courses out there that proclaim to train students in the art of safe rooms, room clearing and building searches, these are concepts that take many more hours and teammates to execute properly than can be taught in a course that lasts just a few days.

As a certified Defensive Firearms Coach, I teach I.C.E. Training Company’s Introduction to Defensive Handguns. That course includes what we refer to as the Five Fundamentals of Home Defense. These fundamentals provide a solid foundation for the new firearm owner and keep the context realistic to the perceived threat we are there to train for.

The five fundamentals of home defense are Evade, Arm, Barricade, Contact and Counter. Let’s break those down.

Fundamental Home Self Defense Skills:

Girl looking down from the top of her stairs - Home Self Defense

Ashley evades to safe room, taking a quick look to see if she can get a description of the intruder.


Avoid the potential impending threat

Though this is a common-sense approach to anything that can cause us harm, we define it early. If we can avoid the threat, avoid it. This includes ensuring our alarm systems are working, windows and doors are always secure, and the dog makes noise when strange people come around.

If we can escape, escape and get out. We all know the common sounds of our house and all the ways to get out if we need to. Should we believe there is the potential of a home invasion and we have the opportunity to leave the house, do it and deal with the potential threat from an external location by whatever means necessary. I fully recognize there may be other variables that prevent us from leaving the house during an incident like this. Kids or elderly parents could be in other parts of the home, and as the caregiver we would not want to leave them behind. This is where the second fundamental comes in.

image of a secure home safe that contains defensive equipment - Home Defense Training

Contents of our quick-access safe. Safe is secured to a nightstand and has all the essentials.


Arm yourself with a defensive firearm.

In the event we are unable to escape, it may be time to arm ourselves with the firearm we keep in the house for defensive purposes. This brings up many questions for the new gun owner. Two of the most-asked questions are: How do I store my firearm? Where do I store it?

I caution giving standard answers, because it all depends on the individual’s living arrangements. The answers for a family with children may be different than for a single person living alone. But I do recommend a quick-access safe. It should be placed in an area accessible from where most of the time in the house is spent. The contents of the safe should be a quality defensive firearm with an extra magazine or speed loader, and a quality light source. I recommend a stand-alone light, not a weapon-mounted light. We may want to illuminate things we prefer not to point a firearm at. The light should be equipped with a lanyard so it is not dropped should we need to use our support hand for other tasks. The key item often missed by many is a phone. This can be our cell phone grabbed from the nightstand or even an old cell phone. We’ll talk more about that later. Once we arm ourselves, we move to the next concept.

Girl removes essential items from her quick access safe in her room - Home Defense Training

Ashley removes essential items from quick-access safe in preparation to barricade.


Barricade 90 degrees from the direction of movement or attack.

When you consider your barricade location, you may choose to keep your firearm there. I do not advocate moving with a firearm exposed. When we position ourselves, it is imperative we remain 90 degrees from the direction of attack. That gives us the greatest opportunity to act before being observed by the threat. The barricade location should be the farthest point that allows us to engage the threat with our firearm beyond two arms’ reach and at full extension. The only caveat to the above would be if there were a strong piece of cover located in the room.

Once in our barricade position, we move to the next phase.

Image of her calling 911 for help - Home Defense Training

90 degrees to the threat, firearm at high ready and on the phone with police.


Contact the authorities.

Contact armed professionals as quickly as possible. They are far better equipped to deal with a home invader than we are alone. By offering them the appropriate information, we can make their response that much more efficient. Remember that if we call from a cell phone, the location may not be immediately available to the 911 operator. I advocate conveying these five pieces of information when possible:

  • Where – Where are you? The physical address and your location within the house are essential. You can convey the intruder’s location if you know it. If able, it’s also helpful to provide first responders with a way into the house or route information to your location inside.
  • What – What is happening? E.g., you have a home invader and they are in or trying to get into the house.
  • Armed – The fact that you are armed is important information to tell the operator.
  • Your Description – What you look like and are wearing, as well as descriptions of anyone else who may be in the home and did not make it to the barricade location.
  • Intruder Description – If you have any identifying information about the intruder, it can be very valuable to responding professionals. You may have gotten a good look at the intruder and can provide a full description. You may only be able to say the intruder was male and short. Any information will be helpful, but under no circumstances should you wait around to get a description before trying to evade.


Counter the threat when presented.

This step has an unlimited number of possibilities. You might need to engage the threat with your firearm. Or the threat may see you with your firearm and flee. Every situation is going to be different. I do not advocate announcing yourself blindly and telling the intruder you are armed. To a motivated intruder, this only gives away your location. The exception here is if they are entering the room where you are located, it may be an option. The best-case scenario is that armed professionals arrive on the scene prior to the Counter phase, but we cannot count on that outcome and must be prepared to act accordingly.


These five fundamentals of home defense are the foundation for creating your home defense plan in the event an intruder attempts or actually makes entry into your home. Of course we could spend much more time breaking down each category and the included information. If you think this information is valuable to your home defense plan or a topic you would like to learn more about as a new firearm owner, check out one of the Introduction to Handguns or firearm training courses being offered by a certified Defensive Firearms Coach in your area.

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48 Responses to “Five Fundamentals of Home Defense Training”

  1. David

    I think one thing that is overlooked is that if you shoot a gun in a building, it will ruin your hearing and getting off a second shot may be very hard I would think. Those conversation amplifying loud noise canceling earbuds or ear muffs would be worthwhile having near your gun. Having the time to put them on is the trick. I cannot imagine a 12 gauge going off in a house and the ear drum damaging noise. The same goes for shooting from a vehicle. Your hearing would be shot for good it would seem?

  2. Domingos Oliveira

    Good information, The more we read And learn about tactics the better we can prepare.

    Thank you.

  3. WarPony

    Weapon at the ready, and not retreating. Why would I put myself outside not knowing what threat awaits? I wouldn’t. I would deal with the known threat. And remember, when seconds count, Johnny Law is only minutes away. Plus, they usually are only around to make reports, not to defend you in your home. That’s your job. If you don’t have an alarm, dogs are excellent and better than people at first detection – get one if you are worried about armed home invasion.

  4. Doni Juarez

    I would argue that you should be armed at all times. Getting to your firearm may not be possible. If your firearm is not on you, why would you exit the building without the firearm, leaving it for the criminals? Get your firearm, before escaping, so that if you encounter other criminals outside, you have protection.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Jim. The PDN contributor and Training Talk Co-host Deryck Poole of Echo-5 Training lives in the Sarasota area and does courses up and down the west coast. He can be contacted through his website
      Personal Defense Network

  5. Fredrick Rehders

    I’m sorry, but Flee your home, if intruders break in is the worst advice that I have ever heard. You are never so vulnerable as when your back is turned. Defensive firearm in a safe? the young lady in the photo will be having her jammies yanked down before she can access a a weapon in a safe. How about a deadbold with inside thumb bolt on the bedroom door, to slow an intruder down, until you can get to a safe room or access a weapon. Your advice will get folks hurt!

  6. Dave

    I am a certified NRA instruck or with over 25 years of firearms experience and various training.
    I don’t know if I agree with the part of nor anouncing yourself that you are armed and willing to defend yourself if necessary? It let’s the intruder also have a chance to disengage without being surprised by the armed homeowner and starring a close quarters fire fight. This also helps you legally in cases where it is necessary to retreat in that you have given the intruder the opportunity to just leave. The NRA teaches thus methodology in their PPIH CPL course.
    I can see your viewpoint, but whatever method is chosen you train it the same way every time.

    • Lisa

      That’s what I was wondering. I live in Minnesota and we have a ‘duty to retreat’. That being the case, we were taught to announce it a few times. Not sure what to do.

  7. Jose Rafael Cruzpagan

    I´m a 30 years ARMY and AIR FORCE veteran, did honorable retire on 2005. My first tour of duty was with the BID RED ONE, FIRST INFANTRY DIVISION, intelligence and combat support, so “I have been around the blocck…

    • JOHN

      Nobody has “been around the block”, not even from the jungles of Viet Nam when it comes to home invasion nor home defense. You’ve got some pretty brazen young kids with new ideas and shock and awe. Got to think that many of them are on drugs and hard to put down as well. If you think you have it all figured out, then you’re complacent, AND an easy target. Just my opinion. Reality sucks sometimes. My ideas are to make it suck less as in being prepared. Not prepared to brag about my military service.

  8. Jeff

    It’s also VERY important to have a secure place to put your weapons that you can access quickly. A biometric safe allows very quiet, quick access without having to fumble for keys. Something to keep in mind – most of the time there isn’t a lot of time.

    • JOHN

      Secure place? IMO, the best place for defensive firearm is with you or on you. Consider having one in hand when things go bad. Any “secure” place is a remote place. Not cool in my book.

  9. Phil in VA

    I don’t think any of these responses are meant to be “by the number” or “static” as laid out in the article. For instance, you may not be able to evade and may jump right to contact or counter in the event a home invader surprises you and it all happens so quickly that you don’t have time to react and arm yourself. Many times home invaders do surprise their victims, that’s why you need to think about alternate weapons, and I don’t mean firearms in every room. For instance, the top of a toilet tank has a great weapon on it, the lid. It’s heavy and could do a lot of damage in a fight. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box to defend yourself. Fire extinguishers and household chemicals can also be deployed if your firearm is not readily accessible and you’re attacked or about to be attacked. It’s not a pillow-fight, its a street-fight and you may have to use whatever means necessary, fair and unfair, to be the victor as opposed to the victim. I know people who’ve “armed the house” with multiple firearms in several rooms. While that’s great if you can afford it, but that’s not a guarantee you’ll get to it if you’re surprised. If you’re that concerned that you’re arming the house, then just wear the weapon. I generally have a handgun out during the day when at home and usually on my belt. I’ll secure it at nighttime when I retire, resorting to a weapon in my quick-access safe. I know that if I’m surprised by a bump in the night, I need to be able to access it, but if I can’t I know that there are plenty of other weapons I can grab.

  10. Klint Macro

    Jamie, great article. When seconds count, Police are minutes away, this is why we take on the responsibility to defend out selves and our loved ones, but if our plan can buy Police those minutes that they need to do their jobs then so much the better. We MUST use our tools of self defense only as a last resort. Evade, Arm, Barricade, Contact and Counter, help us to perhaps win the physical encounter by avoiding it, and if the physical encounter is un-avoidable, we place ourselves on a better “tactical” footing during the confrontation, and in a better place as the defendant during the potential legal aftermath. Great article!

  11. Jeff

    Good content here. From the photos, I note a biometric safe that I want to focus on. Under stress how fast can it be opened? Either hand? For training try the following: hold a stopwatch in your strong hand (the whole time), start in the kitchen, time yourself obtaining the firearm and holding it at the read in your weak hand.

  12. Baron

    I would suggest carrying a firearm on your person at all times within the house, for immediate defense, especially if your doors are easily kicked in, or you don’t have shatter protection on your windows and/or sliding glass doors. Alternatively, if you have only trained adults in the house, you can stage your firearms around the house, so that you’re never cut off from at least one firearm wherever you may be located, and wherever someone may potentially break in. Even if you always carry at home, this will also allow you to stage more-powerful, higher-capacity weapons, such as semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, to give you a backup to your less-capable carry firearm.

    • JOHN

      your dogs are a week point. How many movies have you seen where the perps slip some burger meat in with anti-freeze or just shoot the dogs. You’ve gotta sleep sometime. Some folks just don’t get it right? They make headlines before they have a chance to defend. Just sayin’

      • Dennis Faye

        Yes, dogs get shot, and poisoned. However, dogs can be a good alert. But you need to train them. Either professionally, or minimally some basics on your own. If you want them to sound an alarm when someone strange comes around, or even someone you know. Don’t yell at them to be quite when they do so. I have several pound rescues. several times they have alerted me to someone on property in the middle of the night. They have different barks, get use to them, my dogs bark different at the UPS, FedEx, and Amazon drivers then total strangers. And, they don’t take treats from them either, the drivers have often tried to do so to quite them. So, i wouldn’t downplay a dog. And if nothing else, they will be a distraction, even if for a millisecond, Giving you a target. And if they shoot my dog, well they would have been better if they let the dog bite them.

    • Customer Service

      Hi, Steve. In CA CCW licensing is handled by the county Sheriff or local area Police Chief. I would recommend checking with a local gun club or the forum for the specifics on your area of California.

  13. Anibal J Matias


  14. Kenneth

    i agree you should get out or avoida gun fight if possible if bullits fly a family member could get hit. those 5 things are great stuff thanks.

  15. Chra

    This is a fantastic article. As a married father of 2 young kids, my first concern in a home invasion would protecting my family. I am a licensed firearms owner and have played this scenario out hundreds of times in my head hoping to be more prepared. The info presented here is outstanding. Thank you very much

  16. Dave

    At what point do you determine that there is a threat? I’m barracaded in my cubby hole with my wife and kids with my model 19 aimed at the door. Someone’s clomping around in the living room and now they are just outside the door. I hear a hand on the door knob and it starts to turn…..

    Announce myself?
    Let ’em have it?

    • Chandler

      Dave that all depends on what state you are in. If you live in a state like Indiana that has a pure Castle Doctrine you are justified in using deadly force as soon as someone illegally enters your home no matter what their intentions may be.

      • Phil in VA

        If you can have 911 on the line, remember those lines are recorded. If your hear someone coming, letting them know your armed and will shoot them if they threaten you is a good thing to have memorialized on a police tape. Then the bad guy, or his estate, can never argue he didn’t know he was in imminent danger of being shot.
        But it’s a judgment call you have to make giving up your position to make the announcement.

  17. Ron

    Great article!

    I wish there was another way out from my apartment. There is only one way in and one way out through the same front door (apartment).

    So, I can only arm myself hope I am more deadly than the intruder! A phone call during would be impossible. I am experienced and armed, hopefully it will never happen!

  18. Matlock

    The article is a perfect way (depending on the situation) to learn to protect oneself from invasion.

    I live with five other people; a senior, two adults and two, under seven-year old children. Myself being the only one with any firearm experience, and possession of a firearm in the house; I find this article an invaluable tool for home security and self defense.

    Since it will be nearly an impossibility to get anyone but myself out to a Gunrange or formal training in home/self-defense, this information will be very useful in ‘arming’ my family with the best weapon available, knowledge.

    Thanks for writing this.

  19. SicSemper

    Well if an imminent and potentially lethal threat comes to your door wouldn’t arming yourself be number 1?

  20. Jamie Onion

    Bob, Thank you for the good comments and suggestions. I have “tried it” and I agree it is not as easy as some may think. This is why it is important to train in context frequently and realistically. In regard to the racking of the shotgun…..the noise of the racking is a myth….Outside the context of seeing the gun the average intruder may hear a noise but most likely won’t recognize it as a shotgun racking.

  21. Tommy

    Practice, Practice, Practice. Everyone in the home on the same page… a code word to initiate activity. Where to meet, what to bring, how to avoid friendly fire in the process. In cold weather, a coat, etc. where to go/meet once outside. Involve trustworthy neighbors – again a code word helps identify urgency.
    Great article… keep ’em coming!

  22. oldbaldguy47

    Great article. As an elder shooter I appreciate the well thought out “order of battle”. We can spin off scenarios all day to support or contradict the details but the bottom line is that a simple rehearsed plan of action organiized around the principles you provide puts one on a level playing field with the intruder which is all we can expect when a suprise attack occurs.


      Very well put old bald guy. Each scenario is different. If you are able to evade without getting into a shootout situation, why wouldn’t you? The bottom line is to have a plan and practice scenarios before the SHTF.

  23. Bob

    Good article, although the order of evade and arm may be backwards (depending on the situation and where you keep your defense weapon). In NY we have a “modified” Castle law that mandates us to TRY to evade the threat first, and only if evading isn’t feasible or possible to engage / neutralize the threat. Unfortunately in many nighttime break-ins, you have about 5-10 seconds to go from “deep sleep” to “evade, arm, barricade, contact, counter” … try it sometime … (when the threat is NOT real.) I’m still looking for my glasses at that point!!! For me, that is why a pump shotgun becomes the ideal home defense weapon! Easy to grab from the corner, and the racking of a round is one of the most recognizable sounds to anyone familiar with firearms (outside of the bang). And no need to aim, just point in the direction of the threat and pull if necessary. If someone is still coming thru the door after hearing the racking sound, well, good luck!

    • John

      While a pump shotgun is a good home defense weapon it is a fallacy to say you don’t have to aim it. The average spread of 00 buckshot at room distances is 4 to 6 inches. You need to pattern your home defense shotgun at different distances and learn what your guns spread is. Use a light to make sure you know your target and ALWAYS use aimed fire at center mass to stop the threat. Stay safe and train often.

  24. John

    This type information along with other topics is what makes PDN worth ever dime it cost to become a member. Excellent article.

  25. john in wheeling

    on evading: leaving the house is debatable. getting out of the danger zone is optimal but do you really know there is a clear path for escape? you could leave a familiar, relatively safer place only to find yourself exposed in the open to an unknown number of assailants. on contact: excellent suggestions and progression. only qualification is to quickly and briefly hit each item then go back and repeat in more detail. you don’t know how much time you have to report the incident. if you at least give the address, responders know where the trouble is and have a place to start. on counter: if you contacted law enforcement and they have had time to respond you may need to identify yourself as the good guy and armed to prevent friendly fire. but give the 911 operator a code word for LE to use to verify the person coming around the corner isn’t pretending to be your friendly cop come to save you.

    • Matt

      I don’t necessarily agree with evading. This is my house, my castle no one is chasing me out of it. However, if I believe that the purpose of the invasion is to harm me or my wife then I would leave if able, but not unarmed. Arm should be first if you have a firearm.