Should You Search Your House For The Bad Guy?

Develop a tactically sound plan before the unexpected happens.

Our homes provide us and our families with a security that we otherwise would not have. But even the best home security measures are not effective 100% of the time.

There are lots of talks about which guns are best for home defense. And not diminishing the importance of those topics, how you respond is arguably more important than what gun you choose.

My opinion on the topic rubs some people the wrong way. That is fine. I would find it strange if everyone agreed with everything I thought, did, or said. However, I feel obligated to explain my point of view after studying the topic from many different angles.

Home Defense Tactics:

For many, their firearm training focuses primarily on marksmanship. Rightfully so. We need to learn how to make bullets hit what we want them to hit. However, using a firearm while responding in self-defense (in or outside your home) requires training, skills, and considerations not taught in your introductory handgun class.

Taking a home defense class is ideal. But, hopefully, you went home and applied those tactics in your own home? With your furniture, your family members, and with all the blind corners, open areas, hiding spots, and fatal funnels? Only you know the answer.

If you have been training inside your home, kudos. If not, you should.

searching your home


Because home burglaries happen a lot, in fact, according to the FBI, in 2019, criminals committed 1.1 million burglaries. Roughly 55.7% of these involved forced entry. In around 25-28% of the burglaries, someone is home, referred to as home invasions. That works out to roughly 275,000 to 308,000 home invasions a year.

So you have a greater than 1 in 4 chance of having a family member home when someone breaks in.

But, here is the thing, it may not be you who is home when it happens.

Are your loved ones also equipped mentally and physically to defend against an intruder?

How to Search Your House for The Bad Guy:

The simple answer is – don't.

Don't misconstrue my statement that you do not search your home for bad guys, as recommending you do nothing.

Do we call the police every time we hear a noise inside our home?

Of course not.

We all check and investigate certain noises we hear in our homes. But why didn't we call the police? Likely because we don't associate the noise with the movement of an intruder.

Maybe we have heard that noise before or exactly know what the noise is, and that dictates our response. But, by and large, we typically discover something innocuous, like a picture that fell off the wall or a pet that knocked something over.

We still need to respond to these noises cautiously.

Defending the home from a tactically sound location is preferable.Now suppose you hear breaking glass, followed by more sounds.

These noises could indicate someone is trying to or has entered your home—a much different situation.

Likewise, your response to this situation should be much different.

Maybe it's a situation like this story where the neighbor wants you to check out their home because they think someone may be inside.

Or how about this story we recently covered on the podcast. The homeowner hears screaming and pounding on the door of their attached garage. So he goes out to investigate.

If your first course of action is to locate and engage the intruder, please rethink your response plan.

Reasons You Shouldn't Go Searching:

It is rare to find a situation where it is wise tactically to grab your gun and search your house for the bad guy(s). Here are just a few reasons why it's not a great idea:

  • there may be more than one bad guy
  • the bad guy(s) may be stronger and disarm you
  • someone hiding has a huge tactical advantage over the person searching
  • many burglars have weapons or arm themselves with something in the home if they realize someone is home
  • you leave your family unattended
  • you may not be fully awake or aware
  • reduced visibility because of darkness, and eyes adjusting to different lighting conditions
  • the concern for a cross-fire situation or rounds penetrating through walls and injuring family members
  • it is more difficult for law enforcement to distinguish who the bad guy is when they arrive on the scene

One painfully obvious reason not to search out the bad guy is that you drastically decrease the probability of being involved in a deadly force encounter.

A fantastic way to reduce the odds of being shot is to avoid being in a shootout.

If you can avoid it, don't search for trouble, this includes inside your home. Studying home invasions has shown me that often people who seek confrontation find it. Further, what they find is not always what they expected.

For these reasons, in most cases –NOT ALL- searching the house or a garage for bad guys exposes you to unnecessary risk.

Learn from the guy who had a maniac enter his home, then shoot and kill his roommate with an AR. Then, wisely, he retreated to an upstairs bathroom with his firearm and was able to kill the attacker with a handgun.

Okay, What Should You Do Instead?

The basic premise in a situation where you are home and believe someone is attempting to or has gained entry to your home is to:

  • arm yourself
  • isolate your family in a predesignated part of the home
  • call police
  • defend your family from that area

Ideally, you and your family already have a plan.

Your plan can be as simple as having one ‘safe room' or secondary and tertiary locations based on the complexity of your home's layout. But, just like a fire escape plan, establish the plan on best practices.

If you know someone is inside your home, you may have to cross through the house to reach the rally point or a child. In these cases, we need to move to that locations quickly and with awareness. This response is much different from seeking to contact the bad guy(s) and the topic of another post.

Our Complete Home Defense Course that we put together is thorough and filled with strategies to benefit your entire family. The course helps you develop strategies for establishing a plan of action and responses to home invasions.

It may seem like a shameless plug for the DVD, but it is a product that covers how your family should respond to an incident like this.

Clearing a house alone exposes you to unnecessary risks. There are too many places someone could ambush you from.

Arriving Home to Forced Entry:

Similarly, if you arrive home and know someone who shouldn't be there is inside; or find any indication of forced entry, you shouldn't enter to locate the bad guy(s). An exception to entering the home would be if there is a family member inside. However, if the family member inside the home is armed, ensure you communicate with them. They need to know you are entering so you are not mistaken as an intruder and shot.

Instead, get to a safe location, observe the home and call the police. Scan the street and watch for anything out of place, such as strange or occupied vehicles, strangers hanging out on the corner, broken windows or removed window screens, etc.

Give police as much information as possible as to who should be home and any pets. If you know, give the dispatcher potential areas the subjects may run to if they see police arriving. Also, let the dispatcher know of unsecured firearms inside the home. The burglars may now have them in their possession.

These actions will go much further in catching the criminals without injury than searching the house on your own.

And, once again, you place yourself in a near-zero percent chance of being involved in a deadly force incident.

Security of your home is everyone's responsibility. Similarly, they should know the family's response plan.


We can't plan for every possible situation that comes our way. But what we can do is apply some basic principles.

Try and eliminate variables that make it more difficult to defend ourselves. We can also give ourselves a tactical advantage by staging firearms in strategic locations and setting up rally points in our homes that are easily defendable.

You will always survive the gunfight you never get into.

Don't let the bad guy dictate what will happen. Instead, stack the deck and defend your family from a place with a tactical advantage.

Here is our Home Defense Course, again, in case you want to check it out. It's worth every penny of the $39.45 price tag.

*This article is updated and was originally pblished in 2018.

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. T. J. Gesinski on December 20, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Excellent article. Too many people are willing to put their families at risk in these situations, Very wise words! I am sharing this for my students on Facebook @TrueNorthTacticalTraining

    • Matthew Maruster on December 21, 2018 at 12:03 am

      Very humbled and appreciative of the kind words. Thank you!

  2. Bud Fry on December 21, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    I like the info you share,but I am a Christian school teacher and can’t afford to buy the awesome info you guys organize, so I read what I can find,including active shooter info.We ARE a USMC family group.Semper Fi and keep up your important work.

    • Bud Fry on December 21, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Much needed common sense tactical info thanks,Bud Fry.wish I could afford to purchase all your defense/active shooter info,thanks

  3. Frank McGinnis on December 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    SO true. When I was young I made the mistake of leaving my family to look for the bad guy. Lucky for me it was nothing either time. But I did learn from my mistakes. I installed hidden traps in my yard to set off early alarms and they have worked several times.
    Thanks for the reminder because we do get comfortable.

  4. Wm John Skelton IV on December 21, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Good article. Should such a similar situation happen at my home I have a few early warning things to help out. HOME DEFENSE is just that, the bad individual is encroaching onto MY turf, he is the aggressor. IF the intruder gets past my second line of security my neighborhood will probably be awake and if the police have NOT arrived I and my wife have over 20 rounds avail in each pistol. My first personal defense weapon “TASER” no worry of thru shots and you can use it at will. Less blood too.

  5. Skip K. on December 21, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Great article! Same for armed civilians and active shooter events. Find, set up, and defend a small, tactically sound place. I’m too old to “go hunting” like I used to be able!

  6. DP on December 22, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I carry 24/7. I will shoot to kill if approached by a criminal.

  7. James Powell on December 22, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I here alot.of feral cats and wind whipping around. Occasionally I walk thru and look out side with a .45 acp or 9 mm. Or 357. Carbine. A lot of things that go on no was days in in Broad day lite at around 2 to 4 PM. When school let’s out.

  8. Rick B. on June 11, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I’d like to add, when you search the house, you become the aggressor and lose any claim to self defense.

    • Tony on October 7, 2021 at 10:14 am

      Rick, that doesn’t sound right in any state. Pretty sure every state has some version of the Castle Doctrine that does NOT require retreating from one’s own home.

  9. Tom Daniels on October 6, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Rick B. You hit it out of the park! In many states looking for the intruder is called ‘hunting’ and you’re right- you lose self defense and might end up in jail.

    Tom D.

    • Tony on October 7, 2021 at 10:15 am

      Which states?? I don’t think so.

  10. Grunt.45 on October 7, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Great points. I give my student this on the subject of house clearing.
    The U.S. Army spent lots of money and time instructing me on how to clear rooms, hoses, buildings etc… I wont clear my home alone. In the Army there were at least 6 of us. 12 eyes, 12 ears and 6 noses. Yes, noses. And clearing then wasn’t easy. By yourself it is impossible to see and hear everything. You are now the disadvantaged poor soul trying to survive his or her own home. And thats that. Lol Just one instructors point of view.

  11. Tony on October 7, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Here’s an idea no one talks about: have cameras inside your home! I don’t have to leave my locked master bedroom to investigate any sound/noise and see if an intruder is in my house. My cameras see very well at night/in the dark too. If there’s an intruder I will know exactly where he is, if he had buddies, and likely if he’s armed. Armed with all that information, I can make the best decision of whether, when, and how to engage. Your welcome!

    • Sam J Newberry on November 19, 2021 at 11:04 am

      Tony, you are 100% correct. I have both interior and exterior cameras that I can access from my cell phone . Being able to see what is going on or who is around or God forbid in my house without permission is a huge advantage. The knowledge they provide allows me to stay safe and unless it is an immediate emergency, call the authorities and have them clear the area.

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