Tips to Avoid Harming Family/Friends and When to Shoot?

Pretty self-explanatory title. I’m buying a gun soon, a 9mm Smith and Wesson, and I’d really love some advice on how to avoid ever accidentally shooting a family member or friend in an act of confusion. I was giving my wife some tips on what we should do, like, if we get home late, announce that it’s us. If we walk in and we don’t say anything, nor do we respond to being asked if it’s us, that’s cause for alarm. Obviously I taught her the basics: never aim unless you intend to fire at the subject, never have your finger on trigger unless you intend to fire. Those basics should keep us pretty safe from each other. Is that all you’d need to know to be well off, or are there more tips you guys have for me (and anyone reading) that will keep us only ever harming the bad guys and never each other.

Another question, as mentioned in the title: when do I shoot?

If someone is clearly making noise out in my house in the middle of the night, and I’m able to accurately check off my wife as not being the culprit, and I determine it is someone we don’t know, when should I shoot? Would you recommend following the “shoot first ask questions later” doctrine, or would you recommend giving the intruder a chance to escape with their life? I currently believe that, if ever in the situation where I am face-to-face with an intruder, I would aim the weapon at the intruder, finger on the trigger, ready to fire if I need to, and demand that they leave. If they don’t, and they come towards me, that’s when I would shoot. I wouldn’t find it necessary to blitz attack the guy if I don’t need to. If I can get him to leave and then call the cops to ensure we’re safe, I’d rather do that.

What are your guys’ tips/opinions on the two questions?

One of you 2 need to dial 911 first. You do not fire unless you are in imminent danger. You can’t protect property, only you or others in the household. You tell them the police have been notified, and they need to leave.


Everything is situational right?

  1. Have you secured your family in a safe location? If no, move to do so…check next…

  2. Is someone from that group calling 911? (make sure the answer is yes) check next…

  3. Are you and your family safe in the location you’re in without trying to clear the house using CQB techniques? If so, stay hunkered down there and defend that position. check next…….

  4. If the answer to 1 was no and you’re moving to secure them and you come upon the intruder (confirming the target is an unknown)…what’s you’re distance?
    a) all the way across the room? Issue verbal commands, allow intruder to comply and/or escape as long as you’re not between intruder and the exit.
    b) within 7 yards (21 feet) and/or the intruder is advancing on your position despite commands not to and/or in an aggressive manner? Stop the threat with the means you have at your disposal (e.g. your weapon)

That would be my approach based on various trainings I’ve taken.

The big thing is don’t go looking for trouble, so despite the fact that someone has broken into your house, if you can secure yourself and loved ones in a safe spot, it’s tactically more advantageous to defend it then to try and go on the offense and clear your house. As @John150 posted it’s about defense of life not property.

However…you may need to clear your house (in order to secure family members) and that’s something you should be prepared to do and you should walk through/practice (not with a loaded weapon however).


I definitely agree someone needs to be calling 911. You should also know what the laws are where you live even before something like this happens. Do you live in a duty to retreat or a stand your ground state? What else does your state’s law say about when and how you can defend yourself? Never forget that you cannot use deadly force unless your life or someone else’s life is in imminent threat. Meaning without the use of deadly force you are in fear of your or someone else’s life in the house. As it has been mentioned on other threads here it’s self defense not property defense.

If someone has broken into your home where you and your lived ones are safe in the same location you shouldn’t leave looking for whoever it is in my opinion. If you can get out of your home without being seen do so. If not stay put and defend yourself. Everything in your home can be replaced with the exception of someone’s life. Why put yourself or anyone else’s life at risk not knowing what you’re going to walk into? It’s my opinion that the only time you should do so is the secure a loved one who cannot protect themselves properly (i.e. child, elderly parent, etc).


I’ll fix that for you! (You can always edit your post as well. Hit the three dots and select the pencil.)

Clicking the dots will give you those additional options.

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Everything above sounds correct and will guide you in your early days. That this is the information you are building upon means you’ll be reviewing it and planning your situational awareness response going forward with these principle considerations and actions. That said, you and yours are young. Knowledge is exceptionally important as it is the base from which you build, but I would recommend looking for a USCCA, or NRA instructor and take some hands-on classes. You and your significant other both want to reinforce your safety skills with an introduction and or refresher course.

Then you’ll want to see what people are offering in scenario training and the coordination of working with others to keep each other out of lines of fire. You want to find hands-on experiences (non-lethal and live fire) which will show you things you haven’t conceived of yet, but they may be things that you’ll immediately recognize as oh, duh! realizations. Of course, you want range time to become familiar with your weapon(s) and train to get past the bang, learn not to flinch, improving your confidence of sending rounds where you intend rather than looking to see where they’ve gone. Any training now, teaching safe and sane handling, familiarity, accuracy, and confidence will serve you well in the years to come.

Realize there are a heck of a lot of people out there who are like you, want to learn, have learned, and are happy to teach what they know. Remember, if you don’t feel safe, stop and figure out what’s not right and how to correct it. If that means you don’t feel safe because of something happening around you, stop, and leave. If on a range or at a managed club report what is bothering you to a Range Safety Officer or the Owner/Operator. Yes, you need to learn to, and will trust your “Spidey Sense.”

oh, and as @Jerzy & @JamesR sez, I’m really serious at 7yds/21feet.

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@Dawn, can you remove my comment then? Right now it looks I’ve been correcting correct information :joy::zipper_mouth_face::face_with_raised_eyebrow::roll_eyes:


Thanks Dawn :slight_smile:

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Thank you @Dawn :+1: