Be Sure Of Your Target – America’s Triple S Disease

This is a picture of the house where I learned this valuable lesson in Home Defense Tactics

The year was 2002. I was making a long drive in the middle of the night and I was starting to doze off. I realized I was going to fall asleep at the wheel if I didn’t get some sleep. I got off the freeway and headed to my brother’s home which was only a few miles from my current location.

When I arrived I let myself in through the garage (I knew the code) and started to fluff the couch pillows to get ready to crash, when I heard a few creaking steps behind me in the hallway. That is when it hit me. I KNEW my brother had a gun and, having mistaken me for an intruder, was going to shoot me. I cried out, “It's me, It's me, Jacob.” I heard the sigh of relief as he emerged holding a revolver.

home defensePerhaps it is due to the TV and movies we watch but there seems to be a sick and sad tendency for American gun owners to shoot at Shapes, Shadows, and Sounds. This is also what I like to call, America's Triple S Disease.

I’ve even heard other instructors tell their students to “Shoot first and ask questions later.” When we imagine a “bad guy/gal” in our homes we almost seem to see ourselves sneaking through the house with our weapon checking rooms and clearing the space like we are Jason Bourne. If, we were Jason Bourne, and professional assassins had been sent to kill us, then I could see us taking on some tactics like that.

However, because most home intruders are nothing more than common thieves we probably need to up our game a bit, and consider a more tactical and practical home-defense strategy. Turn the lights on and call out to let the intruder(s) know that you are armed and ready to defend yourself, if necessary. Most intruders will let themselves out and look for a home that doesn’t have a prepared homeowner.

Shooting out of panic is usually never a good idea. When we panic and start shooting we can face sad consequences. Every year I get a dozen or so news stories I can share with my students about homeowners shooting their loved ones or friends having mistook them for someone willing to do harm.

Don’t forget that even outside of your own family, we don’t WANT to kill people. We would rather they just leave than having to face the emotional, financial, and potential legal consequences of having to fire a shot.

Finally, remember one of the cardinal rules of firearms safety: Know your target and what is around it. You can't know your target if you can't see it, whether it's dark or there is a barrier in between you. Always be sure of your target.

Have you ever heard of, or experienced first hand, anything like this before? If so, please share it with us in the comment section below. And then, when you get done with that, make sure you head on over to our Twitter feed so you can stay up to date on all we've got going on.

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Brian Black on August 16, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Excellent article. Very Informative.

  2. Dillon on August 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I saw an article on how to grip the gun and how not to grab the gun and now I can’t find it again but I thought it was part of the series

  3. Susan Nix on April 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    It’s ver true all of us that carry or protect our homes really need the lessons of shoot don’t shoot until you are sure if what the threat is or whom. To loose a loved will scar you for life. As a retired LEO I can tell you the heartbeat those that have shot first and regretted is the emotional situation you have to handle.
    Please everyone listen to these stories be prepared but don’t shoot unless you or your family is in imminent danger of life!!!!

  4. George on April 4, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I have a decal at the front door and one at the rear. It shows a pistol pointing right at you and reads: Nothing in this house is worth dying for. Enough said.

  5. Noah on April 4, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    When you read something that puts the fear into you, you know that it was a good learning experience.

  6. gerbwa on April 4, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I don’t know if I’d go so far to say Americans have a disease of shooting a shapes and such. Certainly there are incidents and in the heat of the moment some armed citizens, out of fear, may shoot before identifying the threat. I call it a learning opportunity, not a disease to be “cured”. The people who do shoot a loved one or their dog or their neighbor were rightfully scared out of their minds, so let’s emphasize A.) Gun safety rule #4, B.) calming techniques like breathing to regain control, C.) learning that unless you’re searching for loved ones, clearing your house is a bad idea and blah blah blah this is what you should do instead. Near misses like your brother had can be just as life altering, if he correctly debriefs the situation and learns how to handle it better the next time.

  7. Roger on April 4, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    There are only 4 keys to my house,anybody else comes in when it’s locked means they don’t belong and stand a good chance of being shot especially when us four are home and lights are out.

  8. TW on April 4, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Back in 1965 when I was 16 years old I experienced a similar situation. It was after midnight on a Saturday night and everyone was in bed with the house dark – except my older brother who was out partying. Sometime around one o’clock I was laying in bed when I heard car come down our country road but didn’t pass the house. There were no headlights shining in the windows and no engine noise (we didn’t have A/C back then and slept with open windows). I could here a car rolling to a stop, with the engine off. So I got up to investigate. I grabbed my 20 gauge SxS from my closet and dropped two shells in the chambers and walked into the living room. I could here somebody messing with the door knob hearing a “click-click-click” . Sounded like someone was picking the lock. So I waited and finally the door slowly opened.

    Yep, you guessed it. It was my brother who was trying to sneak in since he was past his curfew. I broke open the shotgun, removed the two shells, and proceeded to wake up the whole household by yelling at my brother for his stupidity. He had been warned before about creeping around the house after dark by Dad. Dad had told him not to “creep” around the house – he should walk and make sounds like he lived there. Needless to say, Dad had some more words for him that night.

    Oh, and that “click-click-click” sound? My brother was putting his key into the door lock very slowly one tooth at a time. I still remember that incident 50 years later.

  9. Bill on April 7, 2017 at 5:14 am

    several years ago, we (wife, new baby daughter and myself) were out of town. Staying at a motel and at 2 a.m. a knock at the door with people saying let us in. I went to the door to see ( no peep hole in the door) and the door exploded in my face. There were about 5 people wanting to get in, so I shouldered the door with my wife flying over my back to help. Propped a chair against the door knob with a person’s arm sticking thru the opening. I had nothing to protect us, I just wanted to amputate the arm in any manner I could so I could get the door closed. Needless to say, we have a very bad night and to this day cannot figure out why they wanted into our room. We had nothing of value except our baby. There is nothing like being a victim that makes your life change forever. And until you have experienced something like your life being violated, DON’T tell people how to live.

  10. Wolf on April 11, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I’m a LTC instructor in Texas, and I always discuss this during the “use of force” portion of the class that: “Target Identification” is key. Too many people are under the impression that “if they’re in your home, you can shoot them”. This is a horrible interpretation of the stand your ground rule. Even if they’re in your home, you have to prove that you were in fear for your life or the lives of those around you. A tactical light fitted to your home defense firearm, or carried in the support hand, can help identify your target and keep you from shooting your possessions (shadows) or someone who is legitimately in your home.

  11. Steve on May 1, 2017 at 12:12 am

    A different POV: nobody elese has a key to our place. If nobody is visiting overnight, and I do not feel my wife in bed next to me when I hear noises indicating an intrusion, I’ll bet it is her. If I reach over and she is next to me, I’ve got a whole other set of rules to go by, depending on whether or not we have guests overnight. Ready availability of firearms is highly dependent on existence of visitors or lack thereof. No exceptions allowed. My rules, and I am not free to break them.

  12. Chris La Porte on April 25, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Back in the ‘80s one night , I awoke after midnight, feeling something was amiss. A light was on in my mother in law’s house next door. She was gone on vacation. I dressed, grabbed my Colt .357, went back for my glasses. I hurried to the side of her house so my shadow would not be reflected on the lawn. I was carrying at low ready and started around the corner when I heard something coming. I extended the revolver and cocked it, as my teenage son came around the house staring directly down the 4 inch barrel a foot away. A half second was about all that saved a catastrophe. He had been raiding his grandma’s liquor cabinet.

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