Core Stories

Home Defense Tactics

Defending Your Ground

Courtesy of Drew Estell - Army Special Forces veteran & Firearms Trainer

No one wants to be the victim of a crime, but the truth is, crime is everywhere. And the best way to keep yourself from being victimized is to be prepared.

Let’s start with some statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • One property crime happens every 4 seconds
  • One burglary occurs every 20 seconds
  • 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions
  • Over 2 million homes will experience a break-in or burglary this year
  • There are 4,500 home burglaries per day in the U.S.

Those facts are sobering, to say the least. But with a little bit of training, you can avoid falling victim to one of these crimes.

When it comes to home-defense tactics, there are plenty of opinions out there, but one expert worth listening to is Drew Estell. As the owner and operator of BAER Solutions, one of the foremost training companies in America, Drew uses his past military and special operations experience to help train and educate shooters from around the world. He’s an Army Special Forces veteran who specialized in military free-fall operations, and he has completed numerous deployments to the Middle East where he led direct action missions, trained foreign special operation forces, and gathered human intelligence.

You don’t have to be a Special Forces, SWAT, or a SEAL to defend your home. Understanding some simple concepts can help you prepare for the worst. Read on for what Drew has to say about home-defense and his preferred tactics to help keep him and his family safe.

Home Defense Tactics


Before an incident ever happens, you can prepare for almost anything through visualization.

Pro athletes visualize success all of the time, and I can’t think of a better scenario where your performance will matter more. Heading to your kid's room to put them to bed? Count how many steps it takes to get there and commit it memory. This will help if you ever need to sweep your house in the dark. Going through a doorway? Practice slicing the pie, which means peeking around the corners from a safe distance methodically without exposing too much of yourself at one time.

Late at night, I’ll visualize what I would do if I saw someone on the back patio. How long would it take me to recognize if it was a break-in? How much time it would take to get to my kid’s room?

It takes discipline to visualize and practice without becoming a liability to the situation. Ultimately, you have to live with the outcome of any situation, so consider things like bullet path if a shooting is to occur, your confidence in a “low percentage” shot if you have to take it, understanding your home layout, always having muzzle and trigger discipline, your ability to identify targets, and knowing your state laws on the use of force. Keeping these things in mind as you prepare will help them become instinctual if you’re ever faced with an incident.


There are two ways to respond to a home invasion. Deliberate and directed threat. Deliberate means that you’re not sure exactly what’s going on, so you need to take deliberate actions and check everything to better understand the situation and know if and when it’s okay. Directed threat means you have information to process like the sound of gunfire, screaming as if someone’s life is in danger, or anything else that tells you that the loss of life or serious bodily harm is imminent. In this instance, the number one priority is getting to that source in order to stop the killing.

When time is of the essence, don’t be distracted by unnecessary inputs. You shouldn’t be as worried about the living room if there is a directed threat down the hallway toward a loved one’s room. You need to get to that room and start solving problems. Time + space = opportunity.


As with any discussion on clearing rooms, we must first understand our audience. While a 4-person SWAT team might prefer to not get bottle-necked in a hallway, it might be the safest place for a single person in a home invasion - you only have two directions where a threat can approach you from as opposed to a large room with more space.

As for angles, work on clearing as much of the room as you can from the doorway. Like I mentioned earlier, when working your angles, think in straight lines when you’re slicing the pie. Instead of getting sucked into the corner of the door frame where you’re forced to arc your way around it to see inside, stand back from the entryway. Slowly move to the side while peeking into the room from a safe distance. Try to be at least an arm’s length away to make sure you’re not getting sucked in too tightly.


You can only shoot as fast as you can see, and, of course, you can’t shoot what you can’t see. Shadows, lighting, and sounds all give you information about what the intruder is doing and where they are. For obvious reasons, I recommend mounting a light onto your weapon. This illuminates your target so you can be sure it’s a threat or not. But always remember that if the light is on your weapon, your muzzle will always be pointed where the light is pointed. This means that trigger discipline is paramount.

Many people don’t take into consideration how lighting can telegraph your movements. Your light will give away your location. Also, if you’re backlit and start to pie off a doorway, your entire silhouette will be visible to those in a dark room. Pay attention to your environment and know how you should use that information during an incident. Remember what your kid’s steps sound like coming down the hall compared to your dog’s or an adult’s. Know where the light switches are and how much silhouetting any nightlights might be creating.

Taking the extra time to learn your environment now will pay off when you need it most.

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