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 @Jerzees & @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:

One thing, I will add. My wife calls me if she is going to be earlier or later than expected. I do the same.

If my dogs alert, I am going to alert. So knowing it’s my wife makes life less stressful.

My routines may sound extreme to some BUT I have a medical issue that directly relates to stress and adrenaline and can kill me.

So my wife and I do things to keep stress under control.

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My family has an SOP for unlawful entry by a stranger. First I have an alarm. If the door opens or a window breaks the alarm sounds. My kids know that they are to get up and go to our secured location quickly. During that moment I move to a defensive position further in the house until I know they have made it to our secure location (we have code words that mean different things - nothing complicated). At that point I will move tactically back to our secured location where I will hold a solid defense. During this time my wife will have called 911. I will call out to the intruder that I am armed and any attempt to move further in the house will be viewed as aggressive (while my wife is on the phone with 911! I want them to hear this and it be recorded). Hopefully, they’ll understand that means I am going to defend us. My defense includes a very bright flashlight. I will not shoot until I have made a positive identification of anyone I see. The sad truth is that the bad guy always has the advantage. So, I also will not shoot unless I see a weapon or if after a stern warning (using my NCO voice) they continue to advance.

In my opinion, the best way to avoid unwanted causalities is to have a detailed plan and practice it. We practice different scenarios twice a week at my house. My kids think it’s fun. My wife finds it a little annoying but she’s married to a military man… So she gets it.


I really like the plan information listed above. My short answer is set up layered security, have a plan, use a quick access gun safe, and have a light.

When you can use lethal force within your house can vary depending on local laws. You never want to fire on an intruder and find out he was unarmed. Armed doesn’t always mean a gun though. Knives, clubs, bats, the footage I’ve seen has always been guns or machetes :sweat_smile:.

You want a layered security plan. I have an alarm system (they make some affordable ones you can set up yourself for under $300). I have a doorbell camera, I have a beware of dog sign (don’t have to have a dog to have the sign), I have a dog, I have locked doors that I check at night (obviously, but it is part of the security). The very last form of protection is my fire arm.

Addressing confusion. Some will disagree with me here, but I always keep my gun locked on my nightstand in a quick access safe. I do this mainly to keep my gun out of unwanted hands, BUT also the confusion. My logic for this is, I need to be awake enough to put that code in if I need my gun. I have woken up before really out of it/ delirious. I have never woken up out of it so much that I’d shoot someone… but I am on the safe side and I make sure I am awake enough to use a gun. I take drowsy allergy medication or cold flu medication when needed and that does effect how aware I when I wake up.

You want a light. You don’t want to shoot someone you cannot see. There’s a good chance it’s someone you know and a possible misunderstanding. Using a gun is always to protect your life or someone else’s life. If the guy snatched an expensive item and runs away you can’t send some lead along the way for him to take home. But if he is armed with any potentially lethal weapon in his hand, and you feel threatened for your life than pulling that trigger “should” be okay. Key word their is Should. It’s not always the case, that’s why I joined USCCA to help with the aftermath.

I think most intruders, will be deterred by a layered safety net. Of course we don’t want to assume, that’s why we have a self defense tool for that final option Let’s hope we never need to use it :+1:, but be glad we have that final life saving option.

Affordable alarm systems with many different options.

Right now my daughter is on Spring Break (yes I tried to talk her out of it, no it didn’t work, girl is as stubborn as a mule, no idea where she gets it, as my wife :roll_eyes: at me) so I have my usual layered security. Both K-9 and Tech.

I’m actually going to take a low.light shooting course, in the near future if this isn’t the EOTWAWKI. So with 5 cameras and my 4 dogs again. I’m feeling ok.

I’m starting to get a bit worried, not about the Corvid 19, but people’s reaction to it.

Some really weird crap being said in our neighborhoods app. Someone pointed out I must be ok if I have enough to keep 3, 85 pound+ dogs going. I’m also on my own water, and sewer and have half the roof in solar. I just forwarded the comment to our local Police Department.
No comment or threat in return just a SS.

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