House Clearing Feb. 21, 2011


Heard a bump in the night?  Did the dog bark for no apparent reason?  Why did that motion detector light in the back yard come on?

Twice this weekend, I had to arm myself and investigate something out of the ordinary.  Lest you think I'm paranoid, I haven't had to do that in several years.  Before I tell of my experiences, please think about a few things.

Have you practiced getting around your house in the dark?  How about any outbuildings?  That Glock looks cool with the light kit.  How much practice have you had with it?  If you don't have a light kit, have you done low-light flashlight drills with your pistol?  What about your shotgun, baseball bat, 3 iron, or any other home defense weapon?  Do your family members know what to do if you are clearing the house?  When should you hunker down in a defensive posture versus actively seeking out an intruder?

Let me tell you what I did and why...

Saturday night, the dog nosed aside the curtains at a low window on the back side of the house and barked in an unusually sharp manner.  I looked out and saw that the light was on inside my workshop.  I picked up my Sig Sauer P220 and a flashlight, and went out at the low ready.  There are several ways to hold a flashlight and a pistol.  As a cop, I trained extensively holding my hands back to back, so that is what I reverted to without even thinking about it. (In the police academy, we were taught one method of holding the flashlight in the off hand as high up as we could and as far away from the body as we could - the thought was that a bad guy would think he was being approached by a giant?!?!?!?!)  There is no cover between the back door and the shop, so I was very alert as I approached.  I could see through a window that an interior door was open, which was very unusual.  I moved to the door, using the jamb as limited cover, and entered, quickly scanning the room and removing myself from the fatal funnel of the doorway.  I then repeated as I moved through the interior door into the other room.  The exterior door from that room was slightly ajar.  Nothing was amiss, and our back yard is surrounded by a 6 foot chain link fence with closed gates with carabiners on the latches (I have keyed alike padlocks, but they only come out when we are out of town or if there is an emergency).  I'm confident that no one had been in the shop, I more than likely forgot to turn off the light and close the door when I left it earlier.  But it was good practice.

Sunday night was not nearly as dramatic.  The dog was going crazy barking, and my wife smelled a skunk.  I went out front with my .45 and flashlight, and searched the yard and the neighboring wood lines, but to no avail.  The stinker got away.

So, the long and short of it is, if you get put in the position of doing something similar, I have a few suggestions for you.
1.   Know your local laws about self-defense, property defense, and having a gun or other weapon outside of your home.
2.   Be familiar and confident with your weapon and a light.
3.   Be familiar with your home and property in the dark or low light conditions.
4.   Have a plan for you and your family, and periodically practice the plan.
5.   Check your flashlight batteries and keep them fresh.


  1. my understanding of the old fbi light technique as you stated is not that they are being approached by a giant (was that serious?) but that return fire is often directed at the source of light (where the eye will naturally focus) so this gets any potential fire up and away from your core as possible.

    do not ever underestimate the effect of "natural gaze" and point of aim/fire as with research you will see that many officers are shot in their hand(s) during gunfights as the opponent instinctively focus' their gaze on the officers weapon.

    the best use of a light is to turn it on very briefly and then off with a quick move to your next point to not give anyone a clear focal point of aim. also to be very careful with light backsplash off walls etc that may accidentally reverse illuminate you - this is one thing that i think flashlight technology is misunderstanding with the rapid advancement of these tiny 200+ lumen flashlights - use one of those in a standard house clearing event and any illumination is so bright it washes out near walls, creates blinding hot spots and the light reflections/backwash is so bright you are a very clear and visible target. IMHO 60- 120 lumens tops is sufficient for indoor clearing to keep the light focused on where you intentionally want it. just my opinion but i thought i'd share.

    p.s. very happy to have found your blog via a mention at modern survival

  2. Ive done those drills more times than i could count. most of the time i find its a just a limb that fell out of a tree or some critter. Only once did i actually find a person messing around. i got a call from my neighbor that he seen someone dart behind a tree in my yard. I grabbed my shot gun loaded with rock salt and went out the door. as i searched the yard i saw a dark figure start to come from behind my front porch, i yelled out, I have a gun! and racked a shell. thats all it took for what i found to be a teenager to throw his hands up and start to cry.

    his story was he was waiting for a ride, and i couldnt get a clear answer out of what he was doing in my yard but i bet he will never step foot on it again. I gave him the option to hit the road or wait for the sheriff. he sprinted down the road and i sat out for a good 20 min to make sure all was clear.

    i remember all to well the pain of rock salt in the thigh as i once got nailed as a teenager by an old farmer down the road after riding my dirt bike one too many times through his UNPLOWED field. never did that agian.

  3. I can only think of one time I grabbed a firearm (pistol in this case) to check a noise at night (drunks walking home that time). Many, many times I've taken a light to check on a noise. The light is to illuminate the area to be checked not for me to see where I'm going.

    I've used a Surefire 6P LED (with the older 80 lumen head) as my bedside light. It should be enough power to temporarily mess with someone's night vision. The light is also built tough enough to use as an impact tool if need be. Previously I used a D cell Maglite I think.

    I do live in a fairly quiet small town but stuff does happen everywhere.


  4. Anonymous - You are right about the theory of the high and outside light. Our instructors way back then (1992 - 2/3 of the agencies in my academy still used revolvers, and the mini-maglite was state of the art in flashlights) made the giant joke. I guess 20 year old inside jokes don't translate well.

    James - I can't imagine the lawsuit of using rocksalt in this day and age.

    Steelheart - I sill use a 3 D-cell Maglite for my bedside flashlight. I've got a couple of the first generation Surefires, but haven't yet tried one in LED.


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