Whether we want to think about it or not, defending our home or survival retreat has to be a major part of our survival strategy. Experience has shown that there are many people who are willing to take advantage of any situation they can, in order to use it as a cover and an excuse for crime.

Part of what makes this so common is that law enforcement and other officials are overburdened by dealing with disaster and all the special needs that people have in regard to it. That keeps police from patrolling and chasing criminals, giving criminals a free reign to do whatever they want to do with impunity. There just isn't enough manpower for police to deal with all the things they need to in an emergency, as well as maintaining normal patrolling and crime-fighting activities.

Of course, it's not just criminals who cause problems in these times, but others as well. There are a lot of people around who only obey the law because the price for breaking it is too high. Remove the risk, and many of these people are more than willing to come out of hiding and take advantage of the situation.

That's part of why looting is so common in times of trouble. People who would otherwise be law-abiding see an opportunity to "get ahead" and take advantage of it. But that getting ahead usually has something to do with getting something they want and otherwise can't afford, rather than having anything to do with the necessities of life.

But that's only the first wave of looting and crime in a disaster. Then there are the longer-term problems that arise. Any long-term disaster or disaster recovery is going to bring with it the need for food, water and other supplies. Since most people don't have much of that in their home and the supply chains could very well be severed, they will be doing whatever they can to get what they need.

It is said that desperate people do desperate things. Nowhere is this more true than when their children are crying because they are hungry. A parent faced with that situation is likely to do anything they can, in order to get food. "Anything," often involves some sort of crime.

Probably the worst scenario any of us will encounter is a bunch of these desperate people ganging together to obtain the food and other supplies they need. These people won't be knocking on doors and begging for food; but rather, kicking down doors and trying to take what they want. Some will be armed and all will be desperate enough to use those arms.

This is the defensive situation we need to prepare ourselves for; a gang of hungry people, who will stop at nothing to get what you and I have in our homes. It doesn't matter how much we have, they will think we have more. Quite possibly, they will see whatever you or I have in our homes as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and all they've got to do to get it is get through our door. If we happen to be in the way, that's inconsequential, as they will simply eliminate us as an obstacle.

The big questions, from a defensive point of view, are:

  • How many people will be in the gang?
  • How well will they be armed?
  • How well will they be trained?

Of course, there's no way to know the answers to those questions beforehand. Therefore, we must prepare for a worst case situation. What's that? Probably a group of 30 or 40 people, who are armed with semi-automatic weapons, know how to use them, and have some rudimentary infantry training. There might even be one or two veterans amongst them, but that is unlikely.

This is a much worse situation than a family showing up at our door, with the idea of begging for some food. But if a major disaster goes on long enough, this is exactly what we can expect. Maybe the first such attack won't be 30 people, but rather only two or three. But if we succeed in fending off that attack, then we can expect other, larger attacks to follow. Our success will merely confirm in the gang's minds, that we have something worth defending.

Defeating a group that size will be a challenge for your family or survival team. But that doesn't mean it's an impossibility. With the right strategy and tactics, you can defend yourself.

The First Move

Your biggest disadvantage in any armed confrontation is that you have to act defensively, not offensively. Regardless of the situation, you have to assume that the world will get back to some semblance of normal. When that happens, you can be sure that the authorities will begin prosecuting anyone who has found themselves forced to defend themselves. If your actions weren't truly defensive in nature, but can be shown to be offensive, you could very well end up in jail.

This means that you need to allow the attackers to make the first move. They have to use violence or threaten to use violence before you can. The way laws about self-defense are written, the key is that there has to be what is known as "imminent danger of life and limb." In other words, your life or that of a family member has to be directly threatened by someone who has the capability of following through on their threat.

It doesn't have to be a verbal threat though. 20 people walking up your driveway with weapons in their hands is a threat, regardless of whether they open their mouths or not. But in reality, you want to be able to take action before they start up your driveway. In fact, you want to be able to take action the farthest away from your home as you can.

There's another key term that has to be considered as well. That is, your actions have to "pass the test of reasonableness." What that means is that a reasonable person, operating in reasonable circumstances, would do just what you did. Of course, the circumstances won't be reasonable, but I'm sure you get the idea.

So, what you need, is for the bad guys to take some sort of violent action or threaten that action, while they are far enough away from your home to not be a danger, while still being close enough to qualify as imminent danger. That might be a bit tricky to arrange; but it's not impossible.

Infantry on the Defense

What we're actually talking about here is small unit warfare; the type of stuff that infantry platoons train for all the time. Thirty or 40 attackers definitely qualifies as a platoon, and even if you don't have as many defenders, you're going to have to act as if you do.

There are several infantry tactics which you need to be aware of, as they will help you to create your defensive strategy and properly defend your home.

Cover and Concealment

One key concept to any infantry engagement is that you can't shoot at what you can't see. Artillery might be able to shoot over the horizon or over the next hill, but the infantry soldier can only shoot line of sight. Since you don't have a howitzer or mortar hiding behind your home, you're going to be limited by the same rules as any other infantry solder.

But while you want to see the enemy, you don't want them to see you. So, you need to make use of cover and concealment, while doing all that you can to deny it to them. What do I mean by these terms?

Cover is anything that can protect you from a bullet. That would include large rocks, fallen trees, sandbags and even a pile of dirt.

Concealment is anything that keeps the bad guys from seeing you and knowing where you are. But it won't stop a bullet. This could include foliage, your car, a wood fence or even tall grass.

Ideally, you want to do all your fighting from behind cover, as much as possible. That will probably mean that you need to create some cover, as your home's walls won't work on their own. Unless you live in a stone, cement of log home, the walls probably won't stop a pistol bullet, let alone one from a rifle.

If you can't find any cover, then at least get behind something that offers you concealment. But remember, once you fire a shot, your concealment is blown. You'll need to move, so that you aren't in the same place your shot emanated from. If you don't move, all they'll have to do to get you is shoot at the spot where the muzzle flash came from.

At the same time, you want to do all that you can to deny them cover and concealment. If you are under cover and they are in the open, you've got a huge tactical advantage. You can shoot at them, taking out members of their gang and they can't retaliate. Oh, they'll try, but it will be nothing more than a waste of ammunition. They won't be able to hit you.

This may mean keeping your lawn mowed, as well as removing brush, trees and broken-down cars. All of that can be used by them, just as it can be used by you. You're looking for advantage, so take the time to do it right. Get rid of that stuff.

Defense in Depth

Not everyone will be able to create a defense in depth. Most of us just don't have enough land to do so. If you live in suburbia, all you have is your front and back yard. That's not enough space to create a defense in depth. But if you live out in the country, you can create one very easily. Simply start with your property line.

The concept here is to be willing to trade space for time. If it's 100 yards from your property line to your front door, they should have to fight every step of the way. That way, they suffer casualties before getting close enough to be a danger. If they suffer enough, they might become discouraged and turn away. Even if they come back later, for that day, you've won.

The hard part with this is that they have to be an imminent threat, before you can open fire. If this group has attacked you before, that's easy. You can say that they are a threat because of previous attacks. But that argument won't wash on the first attack, or if there's nobody in the group who you recognize from a previous attack.

One thing you can do, which will help, is to post your property line clearly, stating that anyone who crosses the line will be seen as a threat and treated that way. Then, even though warning shots are illegal in most states, fire a warning shot into the ground before them. That should cause a reaction.

If you live in suburbia, you can create a defense in depth by working together with neighbors. Erect road blocks at the ends of your street and place guards there in defensive positions. That becomes your first line of defense. Anyone who comes to your neighborhood with nefarious intent will have to start their attack with those guards. This will give the rest of you time to prepare to repel boarders.


Speaking of guards, you'll need to establish a 24 hour a day guard schedule, preferably rotating guards. Even if this is just one person who is keeping an eye on the likely approaches to your survival retreat, the advance warning they can give you could mean the difference between an effective defense and a desperate fight for your lives.

Your guard or guards must be able to see the borders of your property, especially the entrances, clearly. About the only place they would not have to be able to see is terrain that is impassible. But make sure it is truly impassable before you decide not to guard it. Some people are smart enough or well trained enough to try and use areas that you are less likely to guard.

Your guard or guards also need to be protected by good cover. They would become the first targets in any concerted attack, quite possibly taken out from long range. If that happens, not only do you lose a shooter, but you lose any early warning they could give you.

Finally, your guards need a means of communicating instantaneously with the rest of your survival team. Whether this is a bell that they ring, warning everyone to get to their defensive positions, or a radio to call everyone, they have to have the authority and means to warn everyone that an attack is imminent. Better to have a guard who gets spooked and calls people to their guns too easily, than not being warned until the attackers are on your doorstep. Remember, it's going to take some time for your team to react and get into their defensive positions.

Layered Defense

Layered defenses work hand in hand with a defense in depth. Ancient forts and castles all used a layered defense, forcing the attackers to breach each successive layer in during their attack. In doing so, it allowed the defenders to rally for each successive layer, while forcing the attackers to win each layer as basically a separate battle.

Normally, a fair amount of space is left between each layer. This space gives the defenders the opportunity to reorganize and regroup. In a castle, for example, the castle wall is clearly one layer. But there were often outer battlements that the defenders could fight from, before retreating to the castle wall. Once the castle wall was breached, they could retreat to the keep. Then, within the keep, there would be a strong room, as a last line of defense.

While that strong room was the last line of defense, it might not have been the end. Castle architects would design in highly secret passageways, allowing the royal family a means of escape from the strong room. Thus, while the castle might be lost, their lives were not.

As you can see, making a good defense in depth takes space. However, you can still have a layered defense, even if you don't have enough space to utilize a defense in depth. The average suburban home can have several layers, especially if you are working together with your neighbors. Those layers would typically be:

  • A fortified roadblock at the end of the street
  • The property line, which has a fence or hedge that the attackers have to make their way through
  • The outer wall of the home, usually breaking through a door or window
  • A safe room
  • An escape route from the safe room

Setting up your home with a layered defense like this is a lot more work, but it pays dividends. Your chances of survival increase dramatically, as each layer gives you a new opportunity to fight off the attackers and forces them to lose personnel in the attack.

Using Natural Obstacles

A fence or hedge makes a great obstacle on your property line, forcing the attackers to breach that obstacle in some way or other. But you aren't limited to things like that. Pretty much anything can become an obstacle, especially things that nature provides.

Military forces have used nature to their advantage for centuries, especially on the defense. Those forts and castles I mentioned a moment ago were all carefully situated, not only to control waterways and roads, but also to use terrain features as part of their defense. When nature provides us with natural barriers to vehicle, horseback or foot travel, that's a bonus in our defensive planning.

What sorts of obstacles am I referring to?

  • Being on the edge of a cliff; the enemy can't approach from that direction
  • Dense vegetation which is hard to make your way through. If it has thorns, so much the better
  • Rivers, lakes and oceans; any body of water you can find, even if you have to make it yourself
  • Ditches, gulches and arroyos which are difficult to cross. This is something else you can make
  • Open ground, which isn't an obstacle, but makes it impossible to approach unseen and to fight from behind cover

Look around the land you have, to see what possible obstacles are already there. Is there some way that you can improve those obstacles? A patch of woods might make a hiding place for an enemy, but planting thorny bushes in it could deny that cover. It could also mean that even if they hide in those woods, they have to leave it by a circuitous route to attack you.

The name of the game here is to delay the enemy and make their job harder. Everything you can do, which helps fulfill those goals, is worthwhile, even if it is a lot of work.

Using Passive Defenses to Your Benefit

The natural obstacles mentioned above can all considered part of your perimeter defense. As such, they help to control the enemy and force them to go where you want them to. More than anything, they do so by denying the enemy certain avenues of attack. That reduces the workload for your guards and makes it easier for you to develop your defensive strategy.

No perimeter defense is perfect and attempting to develop one that is, makes your home stand out like a sore thumb. Just like a government facility with guard towers and spotlights, your perimeter defenses can raise the curiosity level of potential attackers. They'll naturally wonder what you have in your home, which necessitates such elaborate defenses.

Of course, they will answer that question themselves, putting in whatever answer appeals to them the most. During a time of peace, they'll be convinced that you have boxes filled with money. But during a time of crisis, they'll convince themselves that you're sitting on the mother lode of food and supplies.

So, since you can't create a perfect perimeter, you may as well make use of it in other ways. Specifically, you can use it to direct the attackers to approach your home from the direction you want them to. Most people have a lazy streak in them, and you can pretty much count on that lazy streak being rather strong in anyone who thinks stealing your food is better than working for it.

What this means it that they will take the easiest way through your perimeter, rather than going the hard way. Trained soldiers, especially elite troops, will take the hard way; but the average person won't. they'll see any weakness in your defense as being a mistake on your part and something that is to their benefit. That will cause them to most likely approach through that weakness.

So, all you need to do is arrange the weakness to align with the rest of your defenses. If they are going to come through that opening, then they should find some unpleasant surprises waiting for them on the other side. Whether that means your survival team, ready to fight, or some traps you have prepared, you want them to have to pay for "breaching" your defenses (even if you let them).

Infantry Fighting the Defense

Everything we've talked about so far, has been passive defenses; basically, how you set up your defenses to make it hard for your enemy to get to you. All of that is valid, but it will only work when backed up by you and your survival team, ready to fight. Any passive defense, left alone, will eventually be breached. But when backed up by firepower, that passive defense becomes very effective.

There are two critical strategies I want to mention in this regard. Obviously, you're going to have to develop good defensive fighting positions for your team members. Those should all provide good cover, so that they can fight with minimal risk of being wounded themselves.

Each team member also needs alternate fighting positions, that they can retreat to if it looks like their position is about to be overwhelmed. Alternate positions also allow them to move, if their current position is drawing too much fire. Movement between multiple positions makes it harder for any enemy to target a particular member of your team.

The Element of Surprise

You never want to advertise your intent to the enemy. Everything you do, from a trap on your front lawn to the moment you start shooting should come as a surprise to them. Hiding that information from them means that they won't have time to prepare for it.

The human mind can work amazingly quickly at times. But then, there are other times when it is slow. These slow times come when it is necessary to switch from one thought stream to another. That's why it takes a few seconds to understand what your spouse is saying, when they interrupt you watching a really good television program.

As the bad guys are approaching your home, their minds are on attack. If you can wrench that thought from their mind and force them to suddenly think about having to defend themselves to survive, you gain a few priceless seconds. That's how long it will take them to make that transition, and unless they are highly trained, they'll probably freeze while they are making it.

Those few seconds can win you the battle. All you have to do, is to pour massed firepower into the area where they are located and you can take out a number of them in those seconds.

Massed Firepower

Do you remember how they fought back in the days of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War? Units of men would line up and march onto the battlefield. The first rank would fire en mass, then drop to their knees to reload, allowing the next rank to fire. Each succeeding rank of soldiers would fire, sending volley after volley into the enemy ranks.

I always thought that looked like suicide, until I understood the theory behind it. First of all, muskets were notoriously inaccurate weapons. Not having a rifled barrel, they were accurate out to about 30 feet. After that, it was anyone's guess. So, standing out in the open, in a brightly colored uniform, really wasn't a complex way of committing suicide.

Secondly, the key to this type of warfare was massing the available firepower. This is actually a form of psychological warfare. When those volleys went off, each man in the opposing line saw it as 40 rifles pointed right at them. That would have the effect of causing them to want to bolt and run.

That's the idea behind massed firepower. If you can overwhelm the enemy with enough firepower at once, you can instill fear in them, causing them to quit the battlefield. A win is a win, and it's not necessary to kill the enemy, if you can get them to run.

So what you want to do is to have the shooters in your survival team work together to pour as much possible lead into the kill zone as possible. That will both increase your chances of hitting your targets and cause fear to rise in the hearts of the attackers. With a little luck, poor leadership on their part (almost a given) and a well executed attack, you can chase them away with your bullets.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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