How US Special Forces Handle Home Perimeter Security When SHTF

Dennis jumped on his mountain bike and pedaled as fast as possible through the brush and onto the short trail that would take him directly to the back door of his house in the growing evening darkness. Either his radio or batteries apparently had just chosen this inopportune moment to give out. Traversing the trail quickly on the bike was something he could do even in complete darkness however, as he had traveled it at least twice daily even before the collapse. Less than two minutes earlier he had spotted a truckload of armed men using his binoculars. Dennis knew they were raiders . They had running lights on and he doubted they had night vision equipment. The truck was turning into the entrance of his small, otherwise empty neighborhood and starting up the first hill.

Since the collapse and ensuing pandemic, everyone else in his neighborhood had left, died or been killed. Dennis, his brother’s family and two other small families from the neighborhood were now the sole residents, and even they were making plans to leave within the next week. Things were just becoming way too dangerous now that word had apparently gotten out that there might be a house in this neighborhood worth looting, women worth raping and food, ammo and medicine to the raiders who took it.

Man shooting a shotgunDennis and the other three families had consolidated into the largest house in the neighborhood that had an easy area to clear, was located at one of the highest elevation points of the neighborhood and had a crawl space underneath that they were able to dig out and expand. They had done their best to make it appear as though the house was not lived in, but it was impossible – especially when there were children involved – for there to be complete noise and light discipline all of the time. They were going to be ready to bug out as a group in just a few more days, but based on this truckload of raiders, they were going to have at least one fight between the immediate present and that departure date.  They had at least given some thought to home perimeter security before the collapse which is a lot more than others could say.

SHTF HouseHe wheeled up to the house, giving the code word for a full alert to Josh about 500 meters away from the house. Josh was in the closest LP/OP to the trail he rode up on. “Prairie Fire, ETA 2 minutes” He said loudly enough for Josh to hear. For the moment, until they arrived at their final bugout location, they were down to three working FRS radios due to shortages on batteries and limited recharge possibilities. His own radio crackled as he heard Josh pass the word on to the nearside LP/OP that also served as the command center. Dennis noted that apparently his own radio at least received transmissions or maybe the battery was just no longer holding much of a charge.

Dennis dumped the mountain bike into what looked like a pile of trash in the back yard and quickly ran around front, stopping at the house to yell only loudly enough for everyone inside, the same code phrase for “attack imminent,” then ran to the front to help check on tripwires and defensive positions. He could hear the sound of the truck now as it turned onto their street less than 6 blocks away. From his combat and military experience, he knew that no unit or team was ever fully ready for battle no matter how much they trained, but he hoped they had trained enough as a group of family and friends over the previous several months to at least get through this  onslaught without any injuries or deaths…

Home Perimeter Defense in a SHTF situation

There are two very important concepts to realize when you are faced with the prospect of defending your home – whether it is in a post-SHTF scenario or someone breaking in: 1) A typical residential home is not a defensible structure unless it is either built that way or has been heavily modified and 2) Once the fight has reached the inside of your home, you have lost a good deal of advantage that you will have if you can keep them outside. 2

Because of this, there are a number of important priorities to consider in a SHTF situation when defending your own home, and this article will be divided into two parts. The first part will discuss defending your home while the attackers are outside of it while the second part will discuss the defense of your home once your attackers have entered the same structure that you are defending. It is important to be able to deal with this kind of a tactical situation during low-light conditions. As an additional primer on some of the most important low-light tactics you can incorporate into your training and preparation, I highly recommend the “Own the Night” DVD produced by the Womach brothers, that is available online.

Creating Targets

Small house on the hillTo defend your home correctly, you must take away cover (or lure them to false cover) from your attackers and turn them into targets. This can be done a variety of ways: You can clear all possible cover within a certain radius around your home (100 meters or more would be ideal). It may be that you already have this kind of yard, and are at the top of a hill looking down on all terrain 360 degrees around you, but chances are good that this is not your situation. I personally would have a hard time living in a home where I had no trees, rocks, logs and other
such potential cover in my yard.

So in the case that you have natural cover (and a pretty yard), you need to consider two major things. How can you easily (with less than 10 minutes of warning) create a barrier for high-speed vehicle approach straight up to your house? And how can you direct foot traffic from that point, to areas that you want foot traffic to go to? In other words, what can you do to force attackers into the positions that you want them to be in? Barriers such as fences, logs, rock walls, ditches, ponds, pools, heavy brush, etc., can all be used to keep people from getting to
cover easily (or at all), expose them even more during their journey to cover (such as having to climb up and over a wall that profiles them). This is the type of “fortress-scaping” that you can undertake now if you have already decided that your home will be a bug-in location (which it generally should be) in all but the worst situations.

Attractive walls, paths and heavy brush (for example greenbrier and other thorny plants that are very difficult to negotiate through with any speed) are very easy ways to direct foot traffic to the locations you want it in. At the same time, give yourself vantage points over all potential cover, as well as placing or at least having locations for future strategic light structures (yes, they can be shot out, but if they can be operated remotely, offer a good spotlight situation when you are ready to shoot the target once lit and have at least several seconds to do so while also ruining their night vision temporarily), motion detectors, trip wires (flares, noise makers, booby traps, etc.).

So what kind of cover do you need for yourself from inside your home? In part 2 of this article I will talk about ways to fortify (and defend) your home – both in ways that are not apparent to the casual observer and will give you the advantage during an armed break-in, as well as full fortification in a SHTF scenario – but for the SHTF scenario you can much more easily convert a crawl space, basement or other type of ground-level shelter under your house (e.g. pier and beam construction) that will allow you to create very effective defensive positions. Think “foxhole” fighting positions whenever possible, as this makes you a much more difficult target giving you a huge defensive advantage over any approaching attackers if you have cleared your fields of fire.

Fighting At Night

Fighting At NightIf you are not prepared to fight at night or in low-light environments, you are not prepared to fight at all. There are many considerations in regard to preparing and training for low-light conditions that include the most basic and primitive (flares, tritium/night sights, tracer rounds) up to the solutions that require power in order to work (IR lighting and night vision devices, flashlights, spotlights). IR and night vision is great, but make sure that you have the ability to sustain your power sources for the long run if you are truly interested in prepping wisely. In a complete collapse, batteries and sustainability of power will start to be at a premium in the first few weeks if not days. Target identification when fighting at night is one of the first and most important issues to deal with. Friendly fire is a very real probability in any night engagement involving teamwork. Another issue is keeping track of your equipment, loading magazines, dealing with being hit (both from the standpoint of first aid as well as loading and firing with an injured limb), dealing with equipment malfunctions, remembering where you keep gear, ammo, first aid, tools, etc. , team communication and signals and more. These are all things that can be practiced in the dark in your own home or back yard at night without having to use ammo. In fact, I highly recommend you get the basics of movement, gear and weapon management and weapon handling to a place that you feel very comfortable with before you even load a single round in your weapon and start practicing live fire. As a part of this type of preparation, there are some great resources out there to read, watch and learn from.

Part 2: Inside your Home

In part two of this article, I will cover two primary topics: 1) Field-expedient methods of reinforcing your home in order to make it more defensible and 2) Tactics inside your home if attackers make it that far.


SHTF Home Defense: Part 2 – Defending the Home

Dennis and Jake looked at each other from across what used to be a living room. “If they saw us come into this house, I’m guessing we have about 10 minutes tops before they come through one
of these doors,” Dennis said. A little over a week into their bugout, they had left the rest of their group and families in a much safer location outside of this small town, and had come in as a team of two to scout out supplies, and bring back what they could. Despite their best attempts, someone had seen them come into town and had fired a shot, missing both of them by several feet, but forcing them into the best cover they could find: A small, ranch style home at the end of a small cul-de-sac. They both wanted to get out of town, but their exits were blocked by a small gang that looked to have taken up residence in this town. Their best bet was to hole up in an abandoned home and wait for nightfall.

None of the houses on the block were inhabited – and for that matter none of the houses in the town had appeared to be occupied, which made Dennis wonder where this gang actually resided.
They hopped the fence first as though they were heading into the yard behind this house. Once they saw the back yard was fairly secluded from vegetation, they circled around and came in the back door of the house as quietly as possible. A quick security check revealed the house was void of everything except furniture. An 4 attached, half-finished garage contained some building supplies and tools that apparently had not been scavenged by anyone yet.

Dennis and Jake set to work while both keeping a watchful eye and ear on the street in front and the back yard…

Criminal in mask aiming at youInside the Home

In part 1 of this series we covered some of the important points in defending the perimeter around a house. In part 2 we will discuss a couple of very important points relating to home defense from inside of your home – both while attackers are outside as well as once they have gained entry into your home. One of those concepts is very similar to the perimeter around the home (which we talked about in part 1):

Namely directing the flow of traffic in a manner that creates targets out of our attackers without allowing them the chance to shoot at us first. Secondly – and as an overlapping part of this first concept – we want to fortify our house on the inside in ways that allow us to identify and shoot attackers before they make it into the house (ideally) or force them to slow down and take certain routes in if they do get that far.

Both of these concepts require the use of barriers such as furniture and construction materials (cinder blocks, plywood and other lumber, sand or cement bags, etc.). Additionally – if there is time – the common entry points such as doors and windows – can be fortified. Starting with the most common entry point for any house – the door – let’s look at how we can fortify this. The
door is held onto the frame with hinges, a deadbolt and a doorknob. However, what’s holding the frame onto the house? Most doorframes are 1” wood (1 x 4) and have very little strength. The key to proper reinforcement of a door is to use steel (angle iron or mending plates) support that attaches the door frame to the studs that frame the doorway. Additionally, longer screws and a longer deadbolt (not necessary, but helps) sink the frame and the deadbolt itself into the framing of the house. In a post collapse situation where it is not necessary to keep the door looking pretty, 2 x 4’s can be screwed or nailed across the door (if you want to keep it permanently closed), or slid through an angle-iron bracket attached on either side of the door, like a barn.

Barricade Door SHTFIf there’s time, windows need to be boarded up using plywood, cinder blocks and/or sandbags. If you’re short on materials, decide which parts of the house are indefensible and pull back into the most structurally sound portion of the house. However, don’t leave yourself blind. Whether you have to knock holes in the wall or remove doors, make sure you are able to cover as many angles as possible of any room in the house based on how you set up barriers. Home-made, bullet-resistant windows can be made relatively cheaply using glass sandwiched between polycarbonate or acrylic sheets, glued together with liquid nails.

Fake barriers will also afford you the ability to force people behind “cover” that you can easily shoot through. Even though the attackers are in your home, you can still set yourself up for success by having good cover in a defensible location that narrows your attackers through forcing choke points (requiring them to move in single file) and fake cover. For example, you heavily barricade all but one door entry or window entry that you are most sure the attacker(s) will try first. Upon entry, perhaps a light couch in front of the door that slows them down but offers them no real cover and makes it look as though you didn’t want them to enter through this door.

Now let’s say there is a breakfast bar that overlooks all entries into the front of the house. You fortify this with sand or concrete bags (be aware that shooting into concrete bags will create a lot of dust that will interfere with visibility and be caustic to breathe), steel or even lumber if that’s all you have, but give yourself the ability to fire 5 through several different “murder holes” (to borrow from the medieval defense concept) in your breakfast bar barrier.

If you have more than one person defending a room, make the door into a choke point (narrowing it if possible using scrap lumber and furniture) and create wide angles for each person to have to cover when they enter. In other words, force your attackers to walk directly, one at a time, into a room where they are immediately flanked widely. Don’t wait until the first attacker is down before turning your attention to the next one. Have one defender always focusing on the next attacker coming through the door so that they do not have a chance to create their own fields of fire and return fire as a team. Force fire superiority on the attackers from the very start when they have entered the room, and do not allow them to regroup or gain momentum.

Some of the supplies I would recommend having on hand to make your own home more defensible in a bug-in situation would be: Lumber (1/2”or 5/8” plywood, 2 x 4’s, 4 x 4’s, 2 x 6’s), 1”, 2” & 3” nails and/or sheetrock (or deck if you can afford it) screws, power drill (with sustainable source of power), crowbars, gas masks (assume an attacking force would try to gas you out if possible using propane or insecticide, etc.), duct tape, plastic sheeting, sandbags, sand, ready-mix concrete and/or mortar, angle-iron (pre-drilled holes), mending plates, sledge hammer, heavy axe, fire extinguishers.

There is a lot more to be discussed on this topic, but remember that thinking through the concepts I’ve outlined in this article and asking yourself how you would break into your own home are good starting points. It costs nothing but time to practice low-light reaction drills and think through as many possible scenarios as you can in your planning for a defensible bug-in situation.

About Sam Coffman

Sam Coffman has over 10 years of military experience as a U.S. Special Forces Medic, an interrogator and a linguist. He studied botany and bioregional medicine both privately and at several outdoor schools in Colorado, and during his military service as a Green Beret Medic he logged thousands of hours in the field as a team medic, military emergency rooms and troop medical clinics. Sam founded and directs The Human Path – a survival school in central Texas – where students learn hundreds of skills based on four basic core specialties (combat medic, hunter gatherer, primitive engineer, scout) both in urban and primitive settings, and then apply those skills as a team in both scenarios and real-world settings in support of the non-profit organization Herbal Medics.

View all posts by Sam Coffman

9 Responses to “How US Special Forces Handle Home Perimeter Security When SHTF”

  1. Keith Says:

    An inside delay tactic is to have each room with an outside window , install a doublesided key dead bolt on the door. the inside of the room , the key can be in the lock for storage and room security and removed and locked from the outer side to delay entrance to the living quarters.


  2. Smiddywesson Says:

    Great article. I have always thought having a pile of sand on hand and sandbags was critical to defending a home that is chiefly concealment, not cover. We also appear to agree on forcing the enemies movements by offering them what they want. Some ideas:

    -Buckets of sand used to be used to put out fires. They are cheap and unobtrusive, so place them about the home.
    -Sandbags are great for laying out raised beds in a hurry. Dump top soil in their midst, and the crop is planted in a day.
    -Sandbags and buckets are great for creating dead falls.
    -Provide the enemy “safe cover” by placing semicircles of sandbags that look like firing point. Fill all but the top bags with styrofoam and let them take up those positions.
    -Add some chain link and a gate to your preps. Many entryways have walls on each side after you come in the front door, which them open up after six to eight feet into the living room/family room. You can gate this with chain link, and harden it with sandbags. Forced entry into this area reveals a kill zone. You can also cut firing ports through the walls of the adjoining rooms into the kill box (just don’t forget the sand bags).
    -Washing machines aren’t much use when the grid is down but they could effectively block a door when filled with sand.
    -Hardening doors and windows should be done from the inside. Leave the outside looking normal. Surprise will delay a forced entry and give you time to respond if the bars are bolted to the inside of the windows.
    -50 gallon drums filled with sand will stop a car. In a SHTF scenario they can block your driveway. You can partially bury them and plant a bush in them to disquise them as a planter.
    – When things get desperate, you can get medievel and take some 8′ chain link and sandwich it between 4″x4″s and bolt it to the house. It’s a little hard to sneak in a door or window when the whole back side of the house is shrink wrapped in chain link.


  3. Smiddywesson Says:

    Well, that was the nice guy, now the bad guy. Once they are inside, the gloves are off, and they don’t know the floor plan.

    -In a real desperate situation you could take out the stairs to the second floor. I would just board it up at the ceiling level and install a dummy door with a padlock in the ceiling (let them waste time trying to open a door to nowhere.
    -Access to the top floor can be added with a ladder in the back of a closet and a hole in the ceiling.
    -A bucket of marbles on the stairs is a nice welcome wagon.
    -wires at throat and ankle level at key doorways will slow them down.
    -Harden the door to the basement, but put a hinge and a self latching lock with no knob on the inside. If they forget to block the door open, anyone lured down there by your diversions would be out of the fight.
    -Fishing hooks hung from the ceiling are another nasty surprise.
    -Block the main hallway and put access to the other side of the barricade through a hole in the wall behind a bureau or something.
    -Tactical teams have to communicate, you don’t. Blast the stereo as loud as you can.
    – Tactical teams like to throw flash bangs, or worse. Some sheer netting hung ceiling to floor just inside the doors might pop those missiles right back into the face of your attackers.
    -Tactical teams need to be certain of their target, you do not. You can create a confusing floor plan with netting and fabric, taking away their ability to shoot without hitting their buddies. Present them with the unpredictable and the unknown. Hallways and rooms can be made into warrens which will confuse and frighten people who are used to always knowing what to do.

    A lot of these things are nonlethal ways to regain the upper hand when the house in breached. Obviously, there’s a lot of lethal things too.


  4. Catman Says:

    Outstanding article, as well as the comments posted before mine.

    I never thought of fish hooks. Absolutely Diabolical. I love it!

    On choke points: Incapacitate if possible. You want the ops team to start worrying about extraction. One or two guys down bleeding out will destroy unit cohesion. Especially if family is involved. Unless you are dealing with a real military unit, everyone on that team is going to be questioning their leadership and wondering when they’re going to get sacrificed. Especially if everyone bolts at a sign of a real fight.

    My home has a very narrow interior hallway that links the front and rear of the house. We plan on deploying a pump powered by a solar charged car battery. That pump will be pressurizing a misting / fogging setup like the ones used to moderate air temps using water at outdoor venues.

    We’ll be spraying ammonia. I don’t think raiders will be thinking NBC. Once everyone in the house is sealed up in safe rooms and friendly combatants have their gas masks on, we’ll turn on the pump for the bleach.

    If you haven’t already, consider replacing your floors with all hard surfaces. My first floor is all polished concrete. Second floor is tile or hardwood depending on room. This makes it a little more difficult for things like bottles with rags and gasoline to be a problem. And messes caused by things like my little surprise package easier to clean up.

    Remember to deploy buckets of sand. With a broom and dustpan, it is a inexhaustible fire extinguisher.


  5. Mama Says:

    Smiddywesson- Thank you for the excellent ideas!!! Would love to hear more. Especially for a house with children.


  6. Bob Says:

    Very interesting and useful as usual, thank you very much :-)


  7. S/HeWhoShallNotBeNamed Says:

    Would hate to play D&D with any of you as the DM!

    At some point you have to have a ‘real’ house where you live, sleep, and keep stocks of goods, etc., and all these ideas would be great for defending it, but if you had the scenario outlined in the intro of a deserted neighborhood/town, setting up a false center of operations, with a well concealed path to the house next door, or even a trench/tunnel with a covering (if you were going to be in the area for long enough to justify such), you could then make the fake household serve as a decoy and killing field (or area to so frustrate and/or injure attackers as to drive them away, depending on how far gone things have gotten). I don’t want to go too far in the direction of ‘home alone’ movie scenarios with tarantula traps, but having people step on a fake section of floor that gives way and leave them ankle deep in raw sewage might get the message across without you having to cart away their 200 lb. corpse). I like the idea of a warning in case you have dumb teenagers on the loose, rather than a fully armed, take-no-prisoners assault coming your way.
    But in case of the assault, I’d be glad to have a home I could fully rig out according to the ideas given here, without having to also be IN that home with loved ones and kids.


  8. Synnabar Says:

    If your kill Zone is to be the entryway/living room, take 1×6 inch boards, drive 16 common nails through them til they remind you of a porcupine then screw them down with a few deck screw or nails, leaving you a narrow zigzag pattern that you will know how to navigate but they will not. Its not humane but oh well! place the same setup outside the windows and cover with leaves, etc. bear traps work well also. Now take barbed wire (rusty) and fencing staples, nailing it loosely in a zigzag pattern on the inside of your windows, if you stretch it too tightly it will not cause as much damage if someone does a John Wayne dive through the window. lol good ole Missouri innovation.


  9. Rob Says:

    If you have hardwood floors, or tile, you can use petroleum jelly or motor oil, to send them busting their asses, and you’ll hear them either yell, or hit the floor, then light em up! Use fishing line if you have stairs, and put trip wires over as much of your perimeter as possible. Invest in surveillance equipment, dig holes with sharp sticks in the bottom, cover with black plastic, and leaves! You can also drill holes around outside with an auger bit, just deep enough to cover a shotgun shell, put roofing nail in hole, then a turkey load shotgun shell,?when they step on it, boom! Just be sure you know exactly where your mine field is. You can use razor wire atop deck railing, or steps leading to doors, and any where else it can be used! Treble hooks hanging from tree limbs, and just anything you can come up with to slow them down!


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