Preparing to defend home and family is a normal part of disaster preparedness. Whether you're preparing for the zombie apocalypse, a financial collapse, some TEOTWAWKI event or just a natural disaster, you probably recognize the risks that these events can bring to your family.
There's just something about disasters that brings out the worst in some people. Whether it is from desperation because they are unprepared or simply from people seeing the disaster as an opportunity to do what the law stops them from doing at other times, crime rates tend to increase in the wake of a disaster. Two-legged predators prowl our streets, taking what they can and hurting those who get in their way.
So it only makes sense to prepare to defend your home, even without taking into account a possible food shortage. But if there is a food shortage following a disaster, you could say that all bets are off. People who normally wouldn't think of doing anything wrong will suddenly be prowling the streets and breaking into homes, when their children are hungry. Even worse, these people might form into gangs, attacking innocent people, simply because they think those people have food.
In such a case, these attacks could evolve into full-scale battles, as the desperate attackers seek to gain entrance and loot the home. The combination of their numbers and their desperation will cause them to believe that they have the advantage and press the attack, while you and your family are stuck inside.
The question I need to ask here is, how safe are you inside your home? Granted, you'll be fighting back, that's at least part of the reason why you're stockpiling guns and ammo, along with everything else. But there are two sides to every gunfight and they'll be trying to shoot you, just as much as you are trying to shoot them. Will they be able to?
How Safe is Your Home?
It doesn't make sense to me, for preppers to prepare to defend their homes, yet not prepare their homes for defense. Both parts are necessary. I've talked in other articles about hardening your home, but I haven't really talked about armoring your home. That's what I want to talk about here.
What I'm talking about is what kind of cover the home itself offers you. Granted, all homes offer concealment, unless you walk past an open window. But if you're standing beside a window, shooting through it, how well does the wall of your home protect you from any shots that the bad guys might take at the wall, hoping to get through it and hit you?
It was supposedly said in the Old West, that a .44 caliber bullet (which was the most common revolver caliber and also used in many carbine rifles) could go through six inches of pine, I don't know how true that is, but I know for a fact that a 9mm bullet, the most common handgun round today, will go through about five inches of plywood. I know this, because I've tested it myself.
The truth of the matter is, the average home isn't very bullet-proof at all, especially the inside of it. But we really can't depend on the outside walls for a whole lot of protection against flying bullets. A wood home only has a 1/2" outer sheathing at the most, wit 1/4" thick siding over it. The inside of the wall is covered with drywall, which is just a little more effective in stopping bullets than cardboard. So, a wood home offers no actual protection against flying bullets, unless they are shooting .22 LR bullets at you. Those might be caught in the layers of the wall, but I wouldn't count on it.
In my testing, a .22 LR bullet went through two layers of 7/16" thick plywood, before getting embedded in the third. So the construction of the average wall doesn't give me a whole lot of hope.
But what about a brick home? Surely that's got to offer some better protection. To which I have to say yes... and no. Yes, brick is better than wood siding, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good enough. A lot depends on the kind of brick that was used in building the home and on where they hit the brick.
If a pistol round hits the brick right where the hole is, there's less than two inches of clay to stop it. That means that any of the more powerful handgun rounds will penetrate through. It might stop lower power rounds, like the .22, the .380 and even the .45. But a 9mm or any magnum round will definitely go through, with enough energy left over to do considerable damage.
Granted, the brick wall will suffer for that. Any bullet, hitting a brick, will at an absolute minimum crack the brick. Even the lowly .22 LR will break through the outer side of the brick, as far as the hole through it. What this means is that if the same spot is hit a second time, then that second bullet will go though. So, even against lower caliber rounds, a brick wall isn't much protection, and against higher velocity handgun rounds, such as the 9mm or any magnum rounds, you can forget any real protection.
Then there's the whole issue of rifles. Any rifle, even some .22 LR rounds, is a high velocity round. The higher velocity versions of the lowly .22 can top out at over 1400 FPS; surprising for such a small round. The main reason it doesn't do more damage, is the small size and low weight of the bullet, not for a lack of muzzle velocity or energy to transfer to the target.
While I haven't actually done testing on cinder block walls, I'll have to say that from my experience working with them, they wouldn't be much more effective in stopping bullets, than brick is. The only part of the wall which would be truly effective, would be the concrete pillars that are used in corners and as extra support in the wall.
Don't expect a shipping container to do much better either, even though it is made of metal. The only part of a shipping container which is strong is the corners; because that's the part which has to support the weight. The sides are made out of rather thin corrugated steel, which won't stop anything more than a .22 LR bullet. It takes much more steel than the shipping container has to stop bullets, especially when you consider that this isn't hardened ballistic steel, but rather cold-rolled steel, which is much softer.
So, this leaves us with only two common building materials that will actually effectively stop bullets. Those are stone and cement. But not too many homes are built out of either of these materials. So, unless your home is, you can't count on it, as it stands, providing much in the way of cover, even though it does provide concealment.
About the only way that your home offers cover is in the minds of your attackers. Few will actually realize that they can shoot right through your walls, especially if you have a brick home. The common mythology is that brick will stop bullets, even though it won't. Nevertheless, that mythology might work in your favor; I just wouldn't count on it.
The Fighting Position
When I was in the Army, going through basic training, they spent a considerable amount of time training us on how to select and create firing positions. While I feel that the instruction I received really wasn't adequate, I did learn some key things. More than anything, I learned that if I fought from a properly prepared firing position, it increased my chances of survival.
So, what is a firing position? Quite simply, it's a planned place to fight from. The foxhole is probably the most common example of this. But if we didn't have time to dig a foxhole, anyplace that offered us cover, such as a large tree, fallen log, rock or even a pile of dirt which we could hide behind, would stop most bullets, increasing our chances of survival.
If you are likely to have to fight from your home, protecting your family, then you need prepared fighting positions as well. We've already determined that your home, as built, probably doesn't provide these. So, you'll want to create firing positions in your home, where you and the other shooters can fire from in relative safety. At the same time, those firing positions must offer you the ability to see any attackers and aim effectively at them.
This pretty much limits you to the windows of your home, unless you decide to turn castle on us and build in firing slits, as they did in the castles of the Middle Ages. They actually used something similar in the pioneering days of our country, so you'd only be a couple of hundred years out of style if you did.
It would be nice to have bulletproof walls to go with your fighting positions. Since brick alone isn't enough, you would need something added on the inside of the brick, either inside the wall or mounted to the inner side of the wall.
There are companies who make fiberglass panels for this purpose. They are mostly used for safe rooms or panic rooms, but if you had enough money, you could use them all the way around the inside of your house. I don't have that much money, and I seriously doubt you do either. So, we need something simpler that we can put in place, in the case of an emergency, to make ourselves bulletproof fighting positions.
The Easiest Way to Build Firing Positions
Now that we've established that your home won't stop bullets as it stands and that you need fighting positions that you can use, the next question is - what can you do about it? Obviously, replacing all your exterior walls with stone or concrete is a bit impractical; although you might want to consider adding stone in a few choice places.
Actually, while it wouldn't be easy or cheap, replacing the brick under your windows with stone would make for some excellent protection, giving you some great firing positions. The stone would provide much better protection than the brick does, giving you someplace that you could fire from in relative safety.
The key there is the placement of the stone. For most of us, the area we need the greatest protection is below our windows. While you might think that you want to stand beside the window and peek around the edge to shoot, sitting or kneeling in front of the window gives you a much better firing position. Your entire body would be protected, with only the head visible. The head really isn't all that good a target, due to its size, and if you needed to, you could crouch down, hiding the head as well. Of course, you can't shoot with your head down, but that's another issue.
But, I digress. While stone is a great material and would look good on your home, cost alone might make it impractical for you to put it on your home. I'm assuming that you don't have unlimited money to spend, just like I don't. We need something that's both effective and relatively cheap.
Fortunately the Army found a solution to this problem long ago. That is the venerable sandbag. Filled with packed sand, sandbags will stop pretty much any caliber rifle fire you can imagine, even a .50 caliber under the right circumstances. During wars, where the Army has used sandbags for fighting positions, the sandbags withheld extremely well against sustained .50 caliber machine gun fire.
Those sandbags are actually bigger than you need. You can make smaller sandbags, making a wall that is 8" to 12" thick. This is enough to stop all pistol and rifle bullets that you are likely to confront. The trick is proper placement and making the sandbag wall strong enough that it won't fall over.
That means placing it under your windows, which coincidentally is the ideal position to use for a fighting position. You don't want to stick your head around the side of the window to shoot, because that exposes too much of your body. But if you sit or kneel in front of the window, you can fire with just your head and arms exposed. That makes you a much smaller, hence worst target for the bad guys to shoot at.
The average home's floors, built to meet the requirements of the building code, will support a 12" thick, 36" high sandbag wall, without any problem, even on the upper stories of the home. Since the sandbag wall will actually be set up against the outside wall of the home, where the floor joists have support, it could probably support a lot more, but the 12" thick wall I'm referring to having to support, is based upon the specifications and requirements of the building code, which means that the floor should support that weight, even in the middle of the room, where there is little support.
While you probably wouldn't want to keep sandbagged firing positions in your home all the time, you could make the necessary preparations, so that you could easily put them in place if you need to. This would mean buying and stocking the sandbags and having a stock of sand or sandy soil that you could use to fill them.
You can buy empty sandbags from a number of sources, such as building materials centers. However, they will be the larger sandbags. You can also make them out of pants legs, cutting off the legs of pants that you are going to throw away and stitching the cut ends together. Once filled, they can be tied off at the top (hemmed end) with cord.
For sand, you can use the same kind of sand that you would use to fill your kids' sandbox, available from any building materials center. You'll need quite a bit of it, so you need a good way to hide it. Perhaps the best way would be to hide it in plain sight, building a large sandbox for your kids. Besides, that way, if you never need to use your sand for defensive positions, at least your children will be able to make good use of it.
Armoring windows is much harder than armoring walls, because the end result needs to remain transparent; what is known as "optically clear." Yet, that is accomplished for banks and other places which are highly susceptible to armed robbery, by providing bulletproof glass.
Most bulletproof glass isn't really glass at all, but rather Lexan, an optically clear polycarbonate plastic. This is extremely expensive, especially in the thicknesses needed to make it bullet resistant. Replacing all your windows with something like this would most likely be outside your budget, no matter how big your budget it.
But I want to mention that it is possible to make your own bulletproof glass, if you have someplace where you absolutely have to have it. Usually, the Lexan is layered, as a layered window will provide better protection than a single sheet. So, if you can stick a number of layers of thinner Lexan together, you'd have a piece of bulletproof glass.
Let me warn you though, this won't be easy. The biggest problem is keeping it optically clear while you are doing it. That means using an optically clear adhesive, of which there aren't that many. But one that is fairly common is superglue. You can actually glue layers of Lexan together with superglue to make a bulletproof glass window.
In order to do this, you'll need lots of superglue. This isn't the time to put a couple of drops of it in place, to hold the layers together. You'll actually need enough superglue to make an entire layer of it, across each piece of Lexan that you are going to stick together. Once the superglue is spread, the Lexan can be put in place, trying to avoid capturing any air between the layers. What air ends up being caught will need to be pressed out, by pressing on the top layer of the Lexan, pushing the air pocket to the edge.
Obviously, this work would have to be done quickly, as superglue is known for drying fast. So, this is by no means a simple process. But it is doable, especially for smaller window panes, such as one to put in a door.
Safe Rooms and Escape Routes
Wealthy people sometimes have a safe room or panic room built into their home. This is an armored room, where they can gather and hide in the case of a home invasion. While this is a great idea for protecting your family while you're waiting for the police to arrive, if there is no likelihood of the police arriving quickly, that safe room can easily turn into a coffin.
So, while a safe room is a good tool in normal times, it is essentially useless during a time of crisis or disaster. In such a time, you'd need a different type of safe room, one more akin to the ones they built into Medieval times.
In those times, the castle was the ultimate war machine. Built with a layered defense, it forced attackers to fight many battles, one to defeat each defensive layer. The final layer was a safe room, which the royal family would retreat into, with their most trusted retainers, when the keep of the castle fell to the enemy forces.
But this wasn't just a place to run and hide. It was a place to fight from. Those defending the castle would continue fighting outside the safe room and those inside would shoot arrows through narrow openings in the walls. If only a few of the enemy had managed to make it to this point, it would be possible for the defenders to protect themselves and maybe even win the battle.
The other important feature of this type of safe room was an escape route. There would always be a secret tunnel from the room, leading to a hidden place well outside the walls. Whether this was hidden inside the walls of the keep or tunneled through the ground, the designer of the castle would always make this provision. That way, even if the castle was lost, the royal family would have a means of escape. As the saying goes, "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day."
Your safe room needs these two features as well. Ideally, it should be a place where the whole family can gather, before abandoning the home. That means making it centrally located. At the same time, you want it to be hard for any bad guys to approach. Ideally, that means they have to come down a long hallway to get there. This gives you a chance to shoot at them, while they are trying to get to you.
You'll also need to do something to give yourself some cover, protecting yourself from bullet wounds while you're making your last stand before escape. The interior walls in a home and the furniture within that home offer absolutely nothing in the way of actual cover. You'll have to add something.
One way to do this is to add steel ballistic plate inside the walls. This is both expensive and difficult to do. Then there are the fiberglass panels we discussed earlier, another expensive option. But there is one cheap option you can do; that is to fill the walls with packed sand.
Just as we used sandbags to make fighting positions, we can use sand to provide cover in the safe room. But this time, we're going to put it in the walls. In my personal tests, pistol bullets won't pass through 3-1/2" of sand, the same amount of empty space that is inside most home's walls. So, if you fill your walls with packed sand, you'll have a pretty good defensive position for that last stand.
The drywall which your walls are covered with isn't strong enough to hold the weight of that much sand in place. So you'll need to replace the drywall with 1/2" plywood. While this will be harder to finish than drywall, it can be done so that it matches your home. Install the plywood with screws, not nails, as the weight of the sand pushing against the inside of the plywood will tend to loosen the nails.
With the sand in the walls, bang on both sides to cause the wall to vibrate and the sand to pack down. Packed sand is much more bullet resistant than loose sand, so this is important. Then, once the sand is packed down. Nail a board in place to hold it down. That way, if a bullet passes into the wall, it won't be able to loosen the sand.Don't forget the escape route. Make a secret passageway from your safe room, so that you can escape. Mine is a small door, hiding behind a bookcase, which leads into the garage. Once out of the home and into the relative safety of the garage, we can grab out bug out bags and exit the home either through the main garage door or through the back door and over the fence.