On House Clearing

Blackwater Shoot House

Up-start gun blog “When the Balloon Goes Up” has an interesting example of how caution should be exercised in house clearing. Convention wisdom says this is a job best left to the police. I tend to agree, but I can’t tell you I’ve never been moving around my house with a drawn gun. I think it depends on circumstances. If I know someone is in my home, or there’s pretty strong evidence, I’ll call the police and let them deal with it. But much of the time, the evidence is going to be less than that. I’ll use a few examples from my experiences.

Back when I first put in my lighting system, I had no idea the rings that hold the bulb in untwisted and fell off over time due to expansion and contraction from heating up and cooling. When I hear that sound now, I don’t think anything of it. But let me tell you, the first time you hear a piece of metal fall on a tile floor when you’re upstairs in bed, your first instinct is not that the ring worked its way off your lighting fixture. Gun comes out. I don’t hear any other noises downstairs, so I go to check it out. If I had called the police thinking someone was in my house, I would have been sheepish.

Another situation, I came home to the house door being wide open. I was out with someone else, so my thought was “OK, did we just forget to close the door, or is someone in the house?” I don’t see any evidence of forced entry, but the person I’m with swears they closed the door behind them. Entrance way looks clear, so I go in gun in hand. I hear nothing, so I checked the rooms and closets, not hearing any sounds of someone moving. “OK,” I think, “she probably just forgot the close the door behind her, or didn’t pull it hard enough for the latch to catch, and the wind got it.” Again, another scenario where I didn’t have enough evidence that there was someone in the house to warrant calling the cops.

So I think house clearing is probably something gun owners should think about, because there’s plenty of situations that rank below calling the cops. Absolutely, if you come home, the door is wide open, and the window pane is broken, call the cops and let them do the clearing. But I think everyone has been in situations where something is amiss, but you’re not sure enough to waste public resources, and look like an ass to boot.

13 thoughts on “On House Clearing”

  1. I agree. There are times when you’re not certain enough to call the cops, but you want to make sure there’s no one in the house who shouldn’t be. I’ve had that happen several times. I do an armed search of the house.

    I’ve also had the burglar alarm go off. Once a bat had gotten into the house and triggered the motion detector. Another time the cat managed to open a door that wasn’t latched properly. The cops came, but of course found that the house was secure.

    House clearing is a tricky operation, but every homeowner should know how to do it.

  2. A quick answer to entering your house during the day and seeing someone else in there is to ask them if they are you. “Hello, I’m sorry are you Mr. Dannytheman?” It might give you the time you need to assess the situation if you don’t want to be sweeping a gun through the house,. When you have 4 sons, people and noises are very commonplace. Now after midnight to 1 AM, I am creeping through the dark looking for trouble.

  3. I have a friend in Virginia. When he found the back door to his small business open in the wee hours, he called the cops. Turned out the night manager had just forgotten to lock up. He got letters inviting him to donate to the local police boosters, then phone calls, then personal visits by uniformed officers soliciting donations. He felt intimidated enough to donate, and they made sure the donations came regular. He asked around about filing a complaint, and was essentially told, “if somebody breaks your door down and burns your business down, who are you going to call if you think it was the cops?”

    Calling the cops is like calling a pack of hungry werewolves to check your house for vampires.

  4. Way back when I shared a house with someone who was a bit casual about making sure everything was locked up; more than once I pulled up to see the garage door up or the front door open. I started keeping a small unused pizza box in the car and walking into the house with it; pretending to be a pizza delivery guy if I encountered someone might buy me a few seconds of confusion. Always thought about fastening a holster to the bottom of the box, never did.

    Since then I’ve practiced clearing my house, both day and night. One thing I’ve discovered is Pass and Seymour LED night lights – they replace a receptacle with the LED on top and a single outlet on the bottom (plug in night lights can be removed). They’re plenty bright enough to cast shadows if they’re in the right receptacles. Mirrors and glass on pictures in the right places help, but remember shiny surfaces work both ways. A friend keeps a motion sensing Halloween decoration on a bookshelf which he turns on at night and when he leaves; anyone walking near it, day or night, gets the witch cackling. Seemed pretty clever until his folks spent a weekend with him……

  5. The big reason you need to know how to move through your house is when you don’t have time to wait for the cops. If I hear my girlfriend screaming at the other end of the house, I can’t wait for the cops to show up. Southnarc’s Armed Movement in Structures class is on my short list for this very reason.

  6. On some rare occasions, my cats will cause an un-cat-like noise in the middle of the night, enough to wake me up but not be certain what it was. Sometimes, I’ve been able to hear them moving around normally afterwards, which they wouldn’t do if there was someone else in the house. Other times, I ended up clearing the house because they stayed quiet.

    At those times, I am reluctant to call the police, because it really could be just the cats, and because I don’t have a landline, just a cell phone. This means that calling the cops means either a) having one hand full when I might suddenly need both of them, or b) wearing a bluetooth headset with a nice, bright, blinking blue LED that is capable of completely lighting the room to dark-adjusted eyesight – a wonderful “here I am” sign for the whole world to see.

    If I know I have an intruder, I have a planned place to secure myself with decent concealment, and the ability to distract or confuse the intruder by using my home automation setup to turn on lights in rooms on the other side of the house while I call the cops – after securing myself.

      1. Oh, crap! That means the recklessness inducers on my guns are defective! I need to get them replaced, right away!

        Those things are expensive, too, dang it!

  7. Absolutely, if you come home, the door is wide open, and the window pane is broken, call the cops and let them do the clearing.

    Cops, as a rule, are incompetent and corrupt. They will be likely to use this as a way of finding a way of fining andor arresting/beating/tasing you or seizing your house car cash andor kids. They also will likely break things and more than a few will pocket anything of value they can – and if you have a dog you better have already said goodbye.

    Is it really a good idea to invite a group of known violent criminals into your house? If there is a criminal inside, you should be able to deal with the situation. If there isn’t, the cops aren’t going to do squat to recover any property.

    All that is gained is a superficial illusion of security – and all that it will cost you is as much as they decide to take. Why risk EVERYTHING you have or could have just because you are afraid you might have to scare off a burglar?

  8. Ah, the kittez.

    Once when I was younger and took greater chances with my life, I came home and saw that the bathroom door that should have been open was closed, but not latched.

    It fit my reality at the time that someone could be in there, so I drew my .38 (permit? ha!), slithered down the wall, and kicked open the door.

    Nothing. I could blame only the cat. My heart was thumping like a bass speaker.

    At other times, night artillery practice at Fort Carson used to rattle the window, like someone trying to slide it open. Another go-for-the-gun heart-stopper.

    I still have that “Victory model” K-frame .38. Wouldn’t part with it.

  9. Most cops shoot fewer than 200 rounds a year during the required annual qualification. I worked for the 5th largest city in PA. The PD did not have a “tac-house”, visiting trainers, or anything beyond the required static targets for qualification. Couple that inexperience with a total lack of knowledge of your house, the placement of its contents, and you end up with two guys with badges bumbling around your house on a wild goose chase.

  10. Yes, so many potential self-defense situations are in the gray zone and not simple black or white.

    That’s why the hypothetical straw-man suggested by anti-gunners are so extreme, such as the ‘bad guy gets the drop on you, what are you going to do? pull your gun?’.

    Whereas a much more common scenario is where you first spot something suspicious: such as a light on in a supposedly unoccupied house, or a scummy character who seems to be following you. These situations do not warrant an immediate call to the police, yet provide plenty of time to take defensive actions or combination of actions. Among which actions might include, readying a firearm for quick use.

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