Clearing the House

Ensuring there are No Intruders

So you have been out for a nice dinner and a movie with your spouse. You arrive home and note that the front door is open slightly. Did you shuthome defense planning it tightly? Or has someone forced it open? This is a very uneasy feeling.

There are a couple of ways to handle this. One is the call the police. Then withdraw a safe distance and wait. This is the smartest way. You might consider clearing the house yourself. Please understand you could find someone there, perhaps someone armed. If you are not trained, not armed, and there is no hurry, opt for the professionals.

Another scenario is you think you hear something in the house and want to check it out. Again, be wary here. If you can summon the professionals, go to the safe room, or lock yourself in a room and call for help.

Having a weapon for home defense in case things go from bad to worse is a good idea. If you live in the country, sometimes what you hear are marauding animals thumping around on the porch. Even living in the city, I once had a raccoon come into the house through the cat door. If you live in a crime free area and the odds are it is not a threat then clearing the house might be a first option. But just in case, there are specific techniques that make this safer.

First is how to carry a weapon while clearing. We carry the weapon at the high compressed ready. This position is defined by having two hands on the weapon at center chest. The muzzle is pointed down 45 degrees. Your finger is off the trigger and the thumb safety, if it has one, is on safe. Your elbows are straight out from your body at chest level. Forget what you saw on television. The elbows keep someone behind you from easily accessing the gun. If approached from the front, leveling the muzzle, flicking off the safety and squeezing the trigger brings the weapon into play. Sticking the muzzle straight up with elbows at 90 degrees or out in front of you with arms extended (the isosceles stance) like they do on TV allows someone to grab the gun from in front or from behind and control the muzzle.

So we start our tour of the premises. If others are sleeping then we might not want to wake the whole house and have family running around when we are carrying a weapon. Plus they could become hostages. So we use a flashlight. Many newer hand guns have a Picatinny rail under the muzzle where you can attach a flashlight.

I would suggest you do not do this. If the flashlight is attached to the gun, then you are waving the muzzle around the house with it. If the intruder is your teen age son home from his first encounter with alcohol, you do not want to be aiming the pistol at him. If you were startled by a small, scared, sleepless child running to you in the dark, would you want the muzzle pointed at him/her? The second reason is that the flashlight is an aim point for a bad guy. Keep it offset from your vital organs and the weapon.

Now, how do we proceed? As we approach an open door way, we stay back from the entry and slowly work ourselves in an angular method around to see as much of the room or area inside as we can before getting close to the door. This is called slicing the pie. Think of pie wedges centered on the entry way.

Once we have worked our way around then we slowly approach the doorway. If in a hallway, we hug the opposite wall. If the door is closed, and it opens away from you, reach for the handle, unlatch and push the door away while stepping back. Slice the pie before entering. If the door opens toward you, stay out of the arc of the door opening, unlatch, pulling the door briskly open while stepping back. Again, slice the pie.

The thought process here is look from a distance. Then ensure we cannot easily be surprised or overcome with someone pushing the door in our face or jumping out. The more distance we have the more time we have to react. We keep as much distance as the house allows until we have situational awareness.

Proceed from room to room until the area is cleared. Then secure the weapon, return to the bedroom and announce the “all clear.” I am sure your spouse will applaud.

Do you have any tips on house clearing?  Please let us know in the comments.



  1. If I come home to that, I’ll wait for them to exit. Since Im in a rural area where there are ranchers protecting livestock. Gun fire wont mean a damn thing. Law Enforcement has already told me it was too dangerous for them to come out back in 2003 when I thought 911 was worth a damn.

  2. JP Kirkpatrick says:

    From my time in the military and the Sheriff’s Department after retirement, I have some experience in clearing buildings; and the advice given here is good sound advice. I prefer to use the old FBI night stance, i.e., off-hand holding the flashlight out away from the body the pistol at high ready… It is fast to react from and safe for all concerned.

    • Agreed. I don’t like how the article doesn’t offer how to hold the light. with both hands on the weapon, how is one supposed to hold the light “offset and away from vital organs”? The only thing I could figure was to somehow strap the light to your head or shoulder, but then, it’s near vitals.

  3. I have cleared my house multiple times. Once I came home and the door wasn’t closed securely. Once I came home and the door was wide open. Someone had obviously been there for sure on that particular occasion. I suspect they had someone watching, who alerted them to my approach. A couple of times, I’ve heard something that sounded like someone was in the house with me. The advice I give is for people to practice clearing their house. I do it occasionally with a demo gun. The main thing I’m trying to accomplish with this, is being certain I search every place in the house where someone could be hiding. I search the rooms and closets in the same order every time to be certain I don’t miss anything. I alternate my starting point and use the same order of search from each point every time.

    • Man,that’s scary!You got some nice tips,but if you allow me to ask,how did your situations ended?Did you really confirm that there were someone in the house with you(” A couple of times, I’ve heard something that sounded like someone was in the house with me”)?

  4. You could also be sure to follow the walls and doors either clockwise or counter clockwise ti ensure you don’t miss anything

  5. We refer to doorways as death funnels. Pie from A distance before entering then remember ” slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Another words move deliberately. In this situation it is violence of action that will determine the out come.

  6. Here, the style of flashlight in the off-hand can be critical: a C-cell Maglight or similar can be a useful baton-style weapon in the event an intruder grabs your gun arm, attempting to wrest the gun from your grip. Training in baton or stick fighting techniques can be a Life Saver.

    • Home Defense Gun says:

      Yeah, I like the idea. I always preferred using a D cell maglight in my nonfiring hand and either resting my shooting hand on it or even holding it off to side if I didn’t want to make myself a target.

  7. Arrogant american veteran says:

    Well a Marine would back off and unload the ma deuce into the structure, raking left right up down and once they run out of ammo, then toss in a frag or two. USAF would call in a drone and drop a few hellfire missles onto the house. The USN, would send in a team, clear the building and nothing would be left standing. Army would start with flash bangs, maybe frags, then go in and spray the entire house.

    I approve of all situations, unless you live in an apartment complex or are renting.

    Humor. It gets us through the day.

  8. My wife and I have several small night lights in strategic locations so using a flashlight is unnecessary . All my several handguns have Crimson Laser Grips including my Kimber 45cal. to my wife`s 327 federal mag. I prefer holding the weapon fairly close to my body on the right side. One squeeze of the grips and the laser comes on and wherever the red dot is the bullet will impact. holding the gun out in a sight aiming position would allow the criminal to grab it if you are rounding a corner or entering a room.

  9. Better to have the light mounted on your gun. If it’s pointed towards the floor where it should be, it’s not covering a loved one, but there will be plenty of light to see by. Once you clear a room, close that door behind you.

  10. I’d really like some more tips on how to hold a flashlight away from vitals.

  11. This is the first mention I have seen in this series of articles which mentions flashlights being kept away from center mass. When you light up an intruder with a high-power flashlight in his face, the light is his only frame of reference, and therefore where he will shoot if in fact he is armed himself. HOLD A FLASHLIGHT OUT AND AWAY FROM YOUR BODY.

  12. I have been trained in many weapons. Using you flashlight against someone grabbing your weapon is vital.

  13. I’ve had to clear my house only once. Lucky I had one of my dogs with me to help clear.

  14. I suggest you first take an personal protection class….. you will most likely need hand to hand or hand to body skills in case you are disarmed or unarmed. If you do your math you will find that in most cases you are unarmed more than you are armed. Out of the 8760 hours in a year you will be asleep for 2920 hours. Unless you can or do carry for work that’s an additional 2080 hours you will be unarmed. That’s 5000 hours you could be a victim. Good luck!

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