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Someone’s Breaking In — Should You Issue A Warning?


We’ve covered multiple stories where either unarmed intruders or armed intruders got access to someone’s home before the homeowner was able to respond with deadly force.  The real question is – do you issue a warning prior to shooting the suspects?

This is a hard question to answer as many concealed carriers and gun owners are moral, law-abiding citizens not looking to hurt anyone.  And that’s encouraging, in a way.  It’d be crazy to think that we lived in a society where everyone takes the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach.

There’s a simple truth about firearms and bullets – you can’t take back what exits the barrel.  In a recent story we covered, there was a man and a boy breaking into a home when the homeowner decided to press the advantage and open fire.  As it turned out, one of those intruders happened to be a teenager who came along for the ride – and it ended very poorly for him.

Should that homeowner have issued a warning first?  No.

We also covered a very recent story where a boy was home alone when an armed intruder broke in through the back door.  The boy got his father’s pistol and put four rounds into the intruder before police arrived.

Should the boy have given the intruder advanced notice?  No.

Let’s flip the tables.  Rewind to a scene a few months ago where a homeowner is broken in by three armed intruders and decides to take an unloaded shotgun to “scare” them off.  They shot him and left the premises.

Should that homeowner have assumed his attackers would be scared by the sight of a firearm?  No.


Avoid Giving Away Your Position

Giving a home intruder advanced warning of your presence and the fact that you are armed only serve to do two things: alert the intruder (who may be armed) of your location and allow him to defend against you.

Successful self-defense occurs quite easily when the attacker is unaware of your presence, your armament, and your ability.  When you surrender the only thing you have working in your favor – the element of surprise – you are effectively evening the playing field.

When someone breaks in, assume nothing.  Don’t assume he’s some innocent person who’s come upon bad times and just needs your television to pay the rent.  Could that be the case?  Sure.  That intruder picked the wrong home.

Does that happen?  Yes.

The problem is – you only know that after the fact.  If you’re wrong, your life is in grave jeopardy immediately.  If you’re right, you may have just saved some idiot’s life.  That’s a hard call to make on those moral/ethical grounds.

This isn’t getting mugged on the street or watching a convenience store getting robbed – this is your home.  You live here and you have to be comfortable here.  If you let someone make a successful entrance of your home, you can bet if they live to talk about it they’ll be telling anyone who’s interested.

Avoid Warning Shots

Don’t do warning shots.  There’s no reason for them.  If you’re outnumbered and you want to let your intruders know that you mean business, apply judicious aiming to the first one that presents himself as a target.  That’s warning enough.  The rest will either form up their attack or beat feet.  And if they decide to press their attack, at least there’s one fewer of them doing so.

Your main priorities in thwarting a home invasion is to secure your family, secure your firearms, and mount a reasonable defense of your property.  Warning shots, giving advice to strangers wandering around your home, or anything in between is more likely to land you, your family, and your property in serious danger.

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About James England | View all posts by James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry…

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 36 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his CZ-75D PCR in an Alien Gear MOD holster.

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  • greywulf1064

    Concur, when someone is breaking into your house why give them any warning?

  • Dan Leeder

    Let’s be fair. Give him a warning ONLY if he gives YOU a warning that he is going to break in. Muzzle flash is a good warning.

  • Wotan

    In a public place, definitely a warning first; once they pass the threshold into the house, BANG only.

  • Shawn Primus

    The barrel pointed at your face is the only warning you’ll get. That said, I think you should also consider how that person ended up in your home. Once or twice in my young life I ended up walking into someone’s living room through an unlocked front door before I realized I was at the wrong address. I politely stated that I must have the wrong address, apologized and went right back out the way I came. If broken glass is involved, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet they know they don’t belong. For me personally, my safety and the safety of my family comes first, and I won’t spend time second guessing where it might put them in danger. But in the end, you have to decide what you can and can’t live with. If you’re like me you hope you never have to make that decision, but you’re ready to make it if that day comes.

  • Ron Didgier

    A simple sign on the property stating “No Trespassing” with a skull and crossbones underneath would sure give me something to think about and I am not a thug. But then again I have a clue and morons will be morons.

  • Massolo

    I think the majority of us want to play fair, and we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when someone has broken into your home all doubt should be gone. The last thing I want to get into with an intruder in my home if a fair gunfight. I am going to shoot first and ask questions later. Why? Because anything else allows him time to draw and fire at me. If afterwards we find out that he was unarmed, oh well, lucky for me, as I couldn’t have gotten shot. I won’t feel bad for defending my home. Keep in mind when someone decides to break into your home they have made the choice to break the law, and assume responsibility for all that entails. Most of the time they are repeat offenders who have no caring for you or your property. They’ll kill you for a nickel, and they’ll joke about it to their friends afterwards.

    • Jim Screws

      The only “unfair’ gunfight is the one you lose……. No quarter, no mercy. If someone breaks into your house, shoot to kill. They aren’t selling Girl Scout cookies!

  • Donald Swanz

    Lake county California CCW class recommends, when judicious, of warning the perp inside your home that he will be shot forthwith if he does not exit. Of course that may go out the window if a gun is near or actually pointed at you. The intent is to give a kid wanting your old vcr time to leave without a deadly force encounter that really isn’t needed.

  • Moss500

    They only warning shot they should get should be aimed directly at their chest.

    • CosmoKramerTheAssMan


  • Chris Lee

    This article and the bulk of the replies are based on states with Castle Doctrine. Where I’m from, we don’t get that benefit. If someone were to break into my house, unarmed and only want to steal my TV, there is nothing I can do about that other than keep my barrel pointed at them and wait for them to leave. Once they do, I can call police, give a detailed description and find a new place of residence in a safer area.

    I can’t encourage this enough, know your local laws! It’s great to be Rambo and shoot first and ask questions later. I think that’s the way it should be, but for some of us who live in states where freedom isn’t respected and criminals are treated better than the law abiding, we have to understand our laws, communities and then decided when and when not to use deadly force.

    For me, that means if you break in you will see the barrel of my AR-15 aimed at you if you’re lucky, most likely I’ll flash you once with some white light to determine that you are not family. After that I’ll take cover and give you orders to state your business and that leaving would be a prudent idea. If you come towards me or my kin, you are now showing deadly aggression at which point I am within my rights to fire.

    I don’t care if a thug wants my TV, Computer or other electronics, they are all replaceable. Being out of my families life in jail is not something that they or myself can replace. KNOW YOUR LAWS! Something this website doesn’t advocate enough in these scenarios.

    • Brandon Pearson

      I think I would be finding another state to live in not just a “safer” area of that state. Lets face it there really isn’t any “safe” place when you get down to it.

    • Andrew M

      I do wish this article clarified what you said that in some states, you can’t shoot intruders unless they show signs of aggression, similar to what you described.

      • Ryan

        “cant shoot intruders unless they show signs of aggression” Dead men tell no tales.

    • I understand your frustration, and I once thought the way you do here. But for me it just comes down to my priorities. If I’m aiming my gun at an intruder and I hesitate, that could not only cost me my life, but that could also cost my wife and son their lives as well. That is not a gamble I am willing to take.

      I don’t even know what the local law says where I live (just moved here), but my course of action has already been decided. I will defend my family at all costs. So even if it lands me in jail, so be it.

      I’d rather be on trial for defending my family…than my murderer be the one on trial instead.

    • Daniel Martinovich

      An AR15 is a whole differant factor in this mix rather than say a 9mm or smaller caliber revolver which most people would have in hand. 30 rounds of ammo that those on the receiving end will most likely not survive one round to the mid section verses 9 or 6 low powered rounds that most do survive and can actually do quite a bit of moving after being shot, including advancing on you.

  • David M Dalton

    If you are going to have a gun for protection make sure you have 1 in the chamber at all times and under no circumstances have it to where kids can get to it

  • rlewis581

    If you broke into a cops house…..What would they do?…..No matter what state you are in….Guess what… too…..Shoot the idiot. It’s your right. Don’t become a victim. Or if your that worried about the laws where you live ……..MOVE…..this is your life and the lives of your loved ones….what’s really important here!!!

  • CosmoKramerTheAssMan

    If someone gets into my house at night, they had to get past the locked and chained doors. They had damn well better go back the way they came, and fast, because I don’t notify. I don’t talk. I don’t goddamn ask you to leave if you break into my house through my locked and chained doors. My kids know this rule. I do know my state’s laws. You should too.

  • Fatjon Zace

    no one is more pecious than my family and if someone enters my house to harm them he as good as dead or touterd as he might wish