Modern Home Defense Strategy: How to Defend Your Castle Like a King

A year ago I wrote about my selection of home defense gear. My goal was to avoid the boring formula of showing off gear and listing parts with flashy images to get attention. Instead, I sought to marry gear selection with a coherent and intelligently formed home defense strategy. One that utilized principles of defense in depth and focused on dominating the situation with your mind before engaging with your weapon. I want to expand on that and break down some of the more nuanced concepts behind my strategy.

First, let’s consider a defense in depth. I’m a history lover, and there’s no better example to illustrate a defense in depth than the Battle of Kursk. In the biggest tank engagement in history, Hitler pitted the venerable Wehrmacht against the prepared defenses of Soviet Russia during the fateful summer of 1943. Little did the Germans know, the Allies had broken German codes and shared knowledge of the pending offensive with the Russians. This gave General Georgy Zhukov valuable time to prepare the Russian defense. 

And so he did with layer after layer of tank pits and mine fields, canalized terrain, interlocking fields of fire for his anti-tank guns, and primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency (PACE) positions. When the Germans advanced in a pincer movement from the North and South around Kursk, the attack was blunted by the fierce resistance and intelligent strategy of the Russians. When the Germans broke through the first lines, they were met with fire from multiple directions by the second line. As the second line was reached, the Russians could safely retreat to even more deadly interlocking fields of fire at the third line. By the time the Germans reached the third line, they were committed, and the Russians had time to route reinforcements and counterattacks that ultimately turned back the invaders. 

A map of the southern salient at Kursk – The Battle of Prokhorovka. Note the layered Russian defensive positions.

The beautiful thing about a defense in depth is that it works both as a strategy for grand armies doing battle as well as individuals preparing their homes for defense. Let’s start with the first line of defense, a well lit exterior. This doesn’t have to be a series of big annoying lights. In fact, you’d be better served having a strategically placed lighting system that includes a balance of both accent lights on the ground and corner lights in elevated positions that together cover 360 degrees around your home. Motion sensors are your friend. A setup like this will be both a first line of deterrence to would-be intruders and attractive enough to keep your wife from being concerned about the bill. 

The gates to your castle should be reinforced. Ensure you have a solid core door, and then look at how it is attached to the frame. A quick trip to the hardware store and $10 will get you a dozen 3” screws that you can use to reinforce both the jam and hinge side of the door. Even better, reinforce the entrance to your dwelling with door armor by Armor Concepts. Finally, you can use a door security bar to provide a final layer of protection. 

Keep in mind, even using all of these items in conjunction doesn’t mean your front door is unbeatable. But it does buy you time and stall the initiative of a barbarian attempting to invade your kingdom. It may even cause them to leave, realizing your dwelling is an unsuspected hard target. In either case, your preparation works to degrade your attacker’s OODA loop, causing them to think twice and buying you time to recover and respond. 

I’ve been a big fan of Travis Haley for years and he professes a mantra of wanting to build, “thinkers before shooters.” But in order to think, we need to have information and the time to process it. Looking at the home invasion example, we know that intelligent preparation uses the concept of defense in depth, or what Haley calls, “concentric rings of security,” to jumpstart our OODA loop and slow that of our opponent. 

What is an OODA loop? In the 1950s during the earliest stages of jet warfare over the Korean peninsula, American forces did battle largely using F86 Saber fighter jets against North Korean Mig-15s and Mig-17s. The F86 wasn’t a bad aircraft, but it was outmatched by the enemy Migs, particularly the agility and maneuverability of the Mig-17. A US Air Force Colonel named John Boyd had the solution. He devised a thought process that utilized knowledge (of both friendly and enemy capabilities) and preparation to create a skill advantage against an otherwise technologically superior opponent. In short, while the communists possessed better aircraft, Boyd found a way to nullify that advantage by building better pilots. 

I first learned about the OODA loop as a young Marine in the late-2000s. I took this image a few years ago at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA.

The OODA loop is an iterative decision making process designed to help pilots deal with uncertainty. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. You begin by observing your surroundings and the situation. Then you orient yourself to your observations and understand how you fit into the situation. Based on your observation and orientation, you make a decision on how to act, and then take action. The results of your actions inform your next observation and the loop begins again. 

This is powerful because it puts to paper a process we all use a thousand times a day. Whether you’re getting gas or getting in a gunfight, the OODA loop is omnipresent. By understanding how the human brain makes decisions, we can learn something about ourselves and something about the thought process our opponent might have in a combat scenario. In the context of home defense, we can use concepts like a defense in depth to slow down the momentum of an attacker and speed up our loop when we’re operating from a deficit, thus buying us time and weighing the situation in our favor.

Just like the Zhukov’s T-34s battling German Tigers at Kursk, we’re armed with a strategy and the awareness of the mental landscape of our home defense scenario. We’ve set the battlefield according to our terms and bought time to react and adapt to the situation. Now we can begin to look at personal gear selection. When I considered the layout of my home, I chose gear that was effective, pragmatic, and scalable. And while some things may be pricey, you can always do what I did and put things together one piece at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

I’ll start with my bedside weapon of choice, a suppressed Smith and Wesson M&P45. Yes, I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth already, “Why would I want to use a 45AARP pistol?” Modern self defense ammunition renders the 45 obsolescent compared to 9mm, perhaps; except in situations where you don’t care about bulky extended magazines and actually prefer the natural subsonic speed of a standard 45 load. My wife actually prefers this pistol; the increased weight of a suppressor, light, and extended magazine combo actually lends itself to a very mild recoil impulse. The fact is, when it comes to a home defense pistol, the suppressed 45 reigns supreme.

Any home defense pistol should have a light on it, but just as critical is an off body light source. We can use this light to create fields of fire or render avenues of approach less appealing to an attacker. In a hypothetical situation, a persistent intruder comes crashing through your door. In your wisdom and preparedness, you use a 1000 lumen 5.11 Station flashlight to simultaneously establish a field of fire and obscure your actual position. 1000 lumens is powerful, and actually quite painful when viewed directly. Any attempt by an intruder to advance upon this retina searing sun beam would place him across your prepared field of fire and nullify yet another barrier to escalation of force.

What’s in your nightstand?

But we’re not done setting the battlefield to our advantage. If we want to be thinkers before shooters, we’re going to need as much information as possible to help speed up our OODA loop. One piece of gear that should be a part of anyone’s intelligent home defense is a pair of active ear protection. I use the Sordin Supreme Pro-X. This ear protection works by not only shielding your ears from gunfire, which can be particularly damaging inside the tight confines of a CQB environment, but amplifying ambient sound below the decibel of a gunshot. This translates to what is essentially bionic hearing. Maybe this means you can hear intruders talking, or you can hear their footsteps as they walk around on the floor below you. The improved situational awareness gained from using active ear protection can definitely give you a further advantage in a home defense scenario.

Just to reiterate, all of this personal gear is only a supplement to your overall plan. Travis Haley discusses options for hardening your home here, and you can learn more about home invaders by reading articles like this. You can also browse Reddit communities such as r/homedefense and r/homesecurity; just be careful. While you’ll see a plethora of smart cameras advertised as security, they’ll do nothing to stop a determined attacker and may merely be evidence at trial. 

My focus when constructing a home defense strategy is to set yourself up for success in an ambiguous and chaotic situation. If the worst case happens and you end up having to defend yourself in court, you’ll be able to safely say you planned for and exhausted all other options. 

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