When Is It Okay to Open Fire on Intruders?

Tom Ginevra
By Tom Ginevra October 13, 2017 06:56

When Is It Okay to Open Fire on Intruders?

Can you imagine the moment when you discover an intruder in your home and pull a gun out of your gun safe? When your life and the lives of your family are at risk, you may be tempted to shoot first and ask questions later. But will you live to regret the decision to open fire?

This is a potentially life-changing moment for everyone involved. Clearly you are blameless at this point as you are at home when someone has decided to break into your property.

Related: How To Tell When People Are Lying to You (in a crisis)

Yet the last thing you want is to kill someone and then end up on the wrong side of the law for your actions. So what should you do?

Don’t Risk Your Family’s Safety

Most of us who have a gun at home bought it because we want to protect our families in any way that we can. Yet indiscriminate shooting can lead to exactly the opposite effect. If it is dark and you have family members around, could they get caught up in the crossfire?

There have even been tragic cases in which a homeowner has accidentally shot a family member thinking that it was an intruder they were aiming at. It can be very difficult to understand exactly what is going on in a confusing, stressful situation like this, and the last thing that you want to do is to take any chances with your family’s safety. So, ensure you don’t do these 10 deadly mistakes that new gun owners make.

Make sure that your family is safe and sound and well out of harm’s way before you think about opening fire.

Avoid Warning Shots

The first piece of good advice in this case is to avoid firing off warning shots. If you are simply trying to warn off the intruder, then this could go terribly wrong as a stray bullet could hit someone and kill or badly injure them. If you aren’t sure whether it is an intruder or not, then a warning shot isn’t the best move.

This will also give away your position to the criminals, meaning that they may shoot back at you. The time spent firing off warning shots is usually better spent getting your family to safety and calling the police.

If you plan to shoot, then you should always do it with a clear target in mind. However, there are still some points to bear in mind before you open your gun safe, get out your gun, and then pull the trigger.

Related: Spider Hole Tactics to Defend Against Looters

Consider Whether Self-Defense Is Really Necessary

Self-defense is considered a valid approach in most parts of the world. However, this isn’t a straightforward issue, as each case needs to be taken on its own merits with all of the individual factors taken into account.

Perhaps the most important point to bear in mind here is that this justification requires you to use “reasonable force” to protect yourself and your family from harm. For example, if an unarmed robber gives himself up when he sees you, then you can’t reasonably plead self-defense if you shoot him.

The use of a plea of self-defense in court results in a full acquittal when successful. Yet it can lead to a harrowing few weeks or months as you wait for justice to be done.

Add in the psychological after-effect of having killed someone and it is clear that shooting an intruder in self-defense is not an action to be taken lightly.

Related: 11 Survival Tricks Learned from Homeless People

Check Your Local Lawsgun laws state

The laws regarding a person protecting their property vary from one place to another. Therefore, if you are going to have a gun at home for your protection, then you need to understand where you stand in terms of the local laws.

For example, in some states of the U.S., there is a requirement to retreat to safety where possible as the first resort. In other states, you can stand your ground and still be within the law.

Known alternatively as castle doctrine or castle law, this is a controversial legal issue that allows some homeowners to use deadly force at home to defend themselves. Basically, if you live somewhere where this doctrine applies, then you can protect yourself without first having to consider the possibility of retreating to safety.

This isn’t a single, clear law but rather a set of principles that vary from one state to another. Again, the responsibility to learn the exact approach taken in the place where you live comes down to you.

The moment when you have to decide whether or not to pull the trigger is likely to be one of the most stressful and difficult moments in your life. Of course, we all hope to live a peaceful life and that this sort of frightening, nerve-racking situation will never arise, but we can’t be sure whether it ever will or not.

Related: The 6 Golden Rules of Surviving Martial Law

With this in mind, it makes sense to look into the matter in advance. This way, you can be fully prepared to make the right decision if that moment ever comes.

Thank you to Tom Ginevra over at GunSafeGuru.com for the article. Should you want any more information on gun safety, please check out Tom’s site.

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Tom Ginevra
By Tom Ginevra October 13, 2017 06:56
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  1. hgernhardt October 13, 15:01

    Why was WV left off the map? West Virginia has long been a “stand your ground” state and if under attack we don’t have a duty to retreat before using physical or deadly force, especially in our own homes or where we have a legal right to be. Reference: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=55&art=7&section=22

    Reply to this comment
  2. OLD FOLKS October 13, 15:15

    ANY ONE who breaks into my home, will be in violation of my rights. Trespassing, B&E. Illegal entry, and will be shot on sight. If not by me, then my wife. In our mind, our lives are on the line at this point. Any one who hesitates to fire either suffers or dies. We are to old to run or get into a physical confrontation.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Izzy October 13, 15:20

    So is Missouri.

    Reply to this comment
  4. A.C. October 13, 17:07

    Sheesh…. that article was not very informative!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Doc October 13, 20:19

      Check out USCCA for info on your state… They got Oregon wrong on this map. We have a type of stand your ground and no obligation to retreat.

      Reply to this comment
    • Johnctee September 12, 15:48

      Maybe they are trying to get you to do your own research instead of handing it to you on a Silver Platter?

      Reply to this comment
  5. Wannabe October 13, 17:13

    Just be sure pulling the trigger is the last resort. Sometimes that may come pretty quick, so have it resolved in your mind before being faced with the situation that you will shoot if necessary. Mentally prepare yourself now to be willing and able to kill another person when your family or self is in danger of being seriously hurt or even killed yourself. Self defense is always in order.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Wannabe October 13, 17:15

    I never would have guessed Colorado was the most lax in this arena. Guess it came about before many liberal leaders took the helm.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Doc October 13, 20:40

    Don’t “avoid” firing a warning shot NEVER fire a warning shot. Also, we don’t need more “gun control” we need more gun education (I know this is not about gun control). With so many people exorcizing their RIGHT to own and or carry a gun everyone should know the laws of their own state and any other they may travel to. It is not enough to be able to hit a target when there is a world of possibilities involving guns and shooting (both positive and negative) whether for fun, food, or self-defense. Home invasion? SHOOT!! .. B&E, a good authoritative “I have a gun and I AM going to shoot you” or something like that may be more than enough to send them fleeing. If not shoot.

    Reply to this comment
  8. left coast chuck October 13, 20:44

    Be very careful what you express on line. Nothing on line ever goes away. Unless you are very clever about using forwarding e-mail addresses, something you posted in haste on line some day may come back to haunt you in a courtroom. It’s like having a “Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot twice” sign on your property. That may make you feel good, but all the authorities I have read advise against such signs in the strongest possible terms. These are folks who have actually gone into court to testify in a self-defense shooting and have qualified as court experts. While I agree that almost anyone can qualify as an “expert” these days, it does give them some bonafides regarding their opinion. They have seen how such signs are used against someone who has righteously defended their family against felonious intruders. Even if you walk away from a jury trial with a not guilty verdict, you will have lost. You will have had to put up every bit of cash you have plus encumber any piece of real or personal property you own. Your guns will have been stored in some damp, dark hole in the local law enforcement’s property room and if they are damaged while being stored it’s tough luck. You will probably have to bring a separate action to get your guns back thus incurring extra attorney fees. I’m not saying don’t defend yourself and your family against felons who mean you harm, I am just saying be careful what you post so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you some day.

    Reply to this comment
    • Doc October 13, 21:01

      You are so very right. I reread AFTER I hit send and cringed at something I said. But it does go back to my point of being gun/law/self-defense educated, (some of which you just reminded ME of (that whole last part) (and thank you). And not just signs but types of ammunition and writing or artwork on your firearm. When the Prosecutor is standing in front of the jury pointing to a grossly enlarged poster of YOUR firearm with “Wait for the flash and smile” painted or engraved in huge letters on it and telling them you were waiting for an opportunity to KILL someone, you may NOT walk away. Just some thoughts.

      Reply to this comment
    • JB February 5, 22:45

      Good advice. A police officer told me if you have a dog do not put a sign on your property saying beware of dog. Instead put up no trespassing signs. If you use a beware of dog sign the law takes it that you know your dog will bite and a trespasser that is bitten can sue you. Wit no trespassing signs you can sue that person for criminal trespassing.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Farmer October 13, 22:45

    Firing a warning shot tells the DA …. you were not in fear for your life. End of story, end of freedom!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Dave from San Antonio October 14, 00:32

    If things go badly…never ever say you shot to kill…regardless of the three holes you can cover with a quarter. You shot to ‘stop’ the individual…not kill them. Also…never use hand loads as defensive ammo…even a rookie prosecutor will say you loaded them to be more lethal. When the police arrive…only tell them you shot in self defense and then get a lawyer cause you, in most cases, will need one.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck October 14, 02:05

      Not most cases, all cases. Even if you get prosecuted criminally, there is always the possibility either the perp or his grieving relatives will file a lawsuit to try to shake some money out of you. I’m not shilling for the legal professions, but if you have the misfortune to be involved in a shooting, the very next call you make after 911 should be to a criminal defense lawyer. Preferably one who has defended a self-defense shooting.

      As an example, a perp walks in and tries to hold up a business with a knife. Our hero whacks the perp in the head with a chair and then manages to wrest the knife away from the perp who has stabbed our hero at least once during the scuffle. Our hero then proceeds to stab the perp several times, reportedly 7, in the ensuing scuffle to re-obtain or retain the knife. Eventually the perp decides to give it up as a lost cause and somehow is apprehended and transported. The perp’s grieving mother is threatening to sue our hero because he shouldn’t have stabbed him so many times and it was none of his business anyway.

      Laugh if you will, but if she finds a slime ball attorney who will file suit to shake some settlement dollars out of our hero or his insurance company if he has coverage for acting as a hero (and I doubt that he does have such insurance) he will have to appear in court and answer the complaint. Unless he is ready to take the bar exam, he will need a lawyer, otherwise he will lose in what is called a default judgment if he fails to contest the case. Even if he attempts to defend himself because the case is so ludicrous, he could well find himself losing just because he is on unfamiliar ground.

      So, if you should find yourself in some kind of situation, refer to the last sentence in paragraph one. Even if the cops are saying, “Good job. He really was a nasty guy and it was only a matter of time.” And even if the rescued damsel is saying, “You’re my hero.” when the lawsuit is filed she will be out of the country and your attorney will be saying, “A check is okay if you don’t have that much cash with you.”

      Reply to this comment
      • Farmer October 14, 21:16

        I highly recommend insurance. There are several good ones out there and they are a lot more affordable than a night in jail. The ones I’ve seen also cover civil damages to a point.

        Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck October 15, 03:04

        Failure to proofread carefully: The second sentence should read, “Even if you DON’T get prosecuted . . .”
        Now the rest of the monograph makes more sense. Sheesh! One of these days I will learn not to hit the send button too quickly. (You would be amazed how Predictive changed the last sentence. I know I was.)

        Reply to this comment
        • left coast chuck October 15, 03:15

          I would join in that recommendation. Even if insurance only provides attorney fees for criminal and civil actions, that is the biggest cost. Be aware that all cases, criminal and civil require investigation and experts, so try to get a policy will also cover the cost of those very helpful experts. You would be amazed how a private investigator who goes out very quickly and gets stories nailed down before the various participants have had a chance to get their stucco (that’s not a typo) together can make or break a case when it gets down to the trial phase or even forestall the trial phase altogether. Don’t think you can be Magnum P.I. and try to do the investigation yourself. I did that once and very nearly blew a civil suit against a landlord that flooded my business. I should have known better. Learned my lesson. Saw a quote that is so accurate. What is the difference between school and life? School teaches you a lesson and then gives you a test. Life gives you a test that teaches you a lesson. Experience in life is lessons learned through a long series of mistakes. I can’t claim to have made all the mistakes that are possible but I am right up there with the leaders.

          Reply to this comment
  11. DMONIC October 17, 22:28

    Regardless of “laws”, which I believe most are unconstitutional, I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.
    What if you decide NOT to fire, and they kill you, rape your wife and children then kill them???

    Would our Founding Fathers be having this “moral” dilemma? Would they be having this discussion? Absolutely NOT. Unfortunately we have too many people that are mentally unfit to vote, voting in retarded progressives that continue to pervert our rule of law and quality of life. Just the other day Gov. Moonbeam of Commiefornia signed a bill into law that says you can be JAILED for not using the right gender pronoun. W.T.F?!?!?! THAT is what is wrong with this country, NOT law abiding gun owners!

    Reply to this comment
  12. Enigma October 27, 21:48

    Never discharge a firearm at something you can’t clearly identify, and certainly never through a door or wall. So many stupid hunting ‘accidents’ prevented.

    Fortune favors the prepared. NRA sells insurance, and has lists of experienced lawyers.

    Millions of illegal aliens, Jerry Brown (governs a state of Sodomy), the likes of Harvey ‘Other Molester’ Weinstein and so many other like socialists have turned SoCal into a no-go zone for genuine Americans. Trump very likely correct about massive voting fraud.

    Never again vote Demonic Party if you value your liberties. When its members aren’t subverting national security, or cooking up ways to tax-and-fund wrong ideas, they’re sneaking around looking to stab each other in the back.

    Best to boycott anything made or grown in CA – probably over-priced anyway. (I drink Chilean and Australian wines, not CA ones.)

    Reply to this comment
  13. KnifeArmory November 25, 04:10

    If someone has invaded your home, and you fear great bodily harm or death, then yes — the law will generally protect you if you shoot an intruder. Outside of those very specific circumstances, however, the question is a bit too complicated to provide a black and white answer, especially when you consider the different laws relating to self-defense among the states.


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  14. TheSouthernNationalist November 25, 13:47

    Something this article failed to address was a flashlight.

    When I was a security officer then later a police officer, we would do night weapons training using our flashlight.
    I’m sure civilian firearms instructors teach the same, so if you have not been trained to shoot at night then you need to practice that now!

    If you can’t afford gun safety classes, you can still practice night firing at your local range or at home if you have the space.
    Just remember to keep your finger off the trigger until you “light up” your target and make a 100% identification of what you are shooting at.

    Also, if you are in your home you can always turn on the light switch since an intruder may not be able to find it and also tell your family members and guests if they need to get up in the middle of the night to turn on some lights, this would help in identifying who is in the house.

    Stay safe.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Enigma November 27, 01:51

    It’s now relatively-cheap to have motion-sensor lights on the exteriors of structures. Install them, and periodically ensure they work.

    The same is true of ‘public’ spaces inside abodes. Such may tend to decrease accidental shootings of family members and pets. (In fact, a family cat or two may provide the illusion of an occupied home when everyone else is away.)

    Reply to this comment
  16. Sid January 9, 21:24

    A lot of good advice here. Be careful and stay safe. Trials are very expensive. It cost me almost a quarter of million when my adult son was shot by an aggressor and then shot the aggressor and charged with first degree murder.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Enigma January 10, 16:49

    Circumstances matter. Many hinterland (and Florida) states have stand-your-ground rules when you’re on/in your own property. Firefights in corner-store and Walmart parking lots – not so much cover (legal or actual) there. (Yet slightly better to be adjudged by 12 rather than carried by 6…)

    Best for preppers to depart urban locales. And most coastal shores too. When/if larger matters go wrongly, whether human- or climate-induced, those will be the first and most grossly affected.

    Reply to this comment
  18. CROW January 29, 15:14


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  19. Enigma January 30, 01:11

    Frankly, keeping swine is a burden. Goats and lamas pose fewer problems. Swine liable to escape and go fully feral, as folk in Texas have discovered.

    Teeth: More efficient to use a hammer and pliers to remove such first. Dig out any bullets too, and soak all in bleach.

    Drop teeth in separate distant places. Immediately melt bullets down to mold new ones.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Vic February 13, 23:13

    Because liberals have spent many years filling prosecutors offices with SJW…It has become apparent some prosecutors will simply prosecute because they can and the political class in the area demands it..
    This can get costly like in 100s of thousands of dollars..so…

    It is reasonable to purchase “Shooters Insurance” Should you need to engage in armed self defense this is a policy that would pay your bail, Much if not all your legal fees etc.. defend against civil suit. $300 or so will get very solid coverage..

    They also provide education related to use of force, self defense and the proper procedures to follow in the aftermath of any incident. I will not mention any particular policy here.. You can find them if you look up Concealed Carry Insurance.. I will say I think it is best to purchase a policy that covers costs upfront rather than reimburse you after legal proceedings which would mean you may have to come up with 100s of thousands of dollars up front.. and you would not be reimbursed if found innocent or the charges are dropped/.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Yosemite November 12, 18:32





    Get and READ a cop of YOUR local Use of LETHAL/DEADLY FORCE POLICY!

    It will tell you WHEN you can AND CANNOT use Deadly/Lethal Force.

    This Policy is used by everyone …Law Enforcement Security Guards ,The Military, EVERYONE…has their own Form that mus be signed hen qualifying with Any Weapon including Less Than Lethal Force Weapons, Batons, Pepper Spray, Tazers/Stun Guns, Working Dogs, whatever the weapon is Handgun Shotgun, Rifle…….


    This means Start with using Voice Commands and INCREASE with the LESS THAN LETHAL amount NECESSARY TO STOP THE THREAT UP TO DEADLY FORCE IF that was the MINIMUM AMOUNT OF FORE NEEDED TO STOP THE THREAT then so be it!


    PLEASE READ and become familiar with the LOCAL USE OF LETHAL/DEADLY FORCE !!

    That is the BEST INFORMATION One can ever have to KNOW about DEFENDING AND PROTECTING oneself their property and others.


    Reply to this comment
  22. EddieW November 13, 02:24

    Once I heard someone in our empty apartment next door, grabbed my gun to investigate, had gone out the front door of my home, went through the hose, out it’s back door into my back door…soon someone came into my front door, saw they were tall, and coming toward me, I said Stop there,! and backed up, they kept coming I yelled stop there, I drew a line in the floor, and yelled Stop again, and prepared to shoot, she said, ” Put that gun away!! I recognized the voice it was my mom!!! I learned what “Blind with fear is!!”

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  23. Potatohead January 1, 16:14

    Idaho is a stand your ground state. The map is wrong.

    Reply to this comment
  24. Craig Swenson January 1, 18:12

    What is some opinions on a short pistol grip 20-ga shotgun with ammo that usually won’t go thru walls? It may not kill unless in the face or neck at close range, but will certainly hurt if within 21-feet.

    Reply to this comment
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