Retreat Security - Rules of Engagement

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Three Letters Re: Use of Force in Retreat Security--Planning for Rules of Engagement

Note from JWR: The discussion of use of force in retreat security (and "Less Than Lethal" means) has elicited large number of e-mails from readers. For the sake of brevity, and since so many letters covered the same ground, the following are just three of them. The first of these is from "FerFAL". He is SurvivalBlog's volunteer correspondent in Argentina.

Hi James,
I’m glad to see that you are advising people to have non lethal weapons [in addition to guns] and (when the situation allows it) deterrent approaches when dealing with trespassers.

Some situations require immediate lethal action, but that does not mean you’ll never require non lethal solutions on occasions. Life isn’t always black and white. On the contrary, most of the time it’s a plethora of shades of gray.

This is awful common in these parts, I’ve often seen people fire warning shots, fired a few myself on occasions when visiting my friend’s farm. On one occasion it was just kids stealing some fire wood. A few .22 LR shots sent them away.

Not long ago we saw some poachers well within my friend’s land, too close to the house. I shot a couple of .44 Magnum rounds and they got the message, changed direction immediately.

People, as James warns, this is a last resort, or almost last resort alterative. Be careful of the legal consequences! Over here it is common practice but it’s still serious business, be ready to explain the cause for such action.

I keep a couple of Less Than Lethal rubber pellet 12 ga shells in my Mossberg's 500 stock shell holder, ready in case I need a Less Than Lethal alternative. As you explain, it portrays you as a humane person that cared enough to at least have the non lethal alternative, even if lethal action was required afterwards.

Another word of caution, "Less Than Lethal" 12 ga ammo [such as rubber pellets and beanbag rounds] can be lethal. The one I have is military ammo designed for riots and clearly states that it can be lethal if shot directly at the target at less than 10 meters.

The knock down power of these rounds, even against healthy, robust adults is pretty impressive.

God bless you and your family during these special days, take care. - FerFAL

Dear Jim:
As a proud 10Cent Challenge subscriber, I know that the recent subject of Levels of Force could be argued back and forth for a long time. What may help all your subscribers and readers are articles on the defensive use of firearms by Massad Ayoob. I found them at, for example, and any internet search should come up with them. He gives excellent practical advice on gun situations, what to do, not do, as well as what to say and not say. The reader in Maine who fired a warning shot would know this is never done by law enforcement, too much liability. If one is involved in a shooting, tell law enforcement something like "...I was afraid for my life (or another's) and had to fire my weapon to save a life, I want to clear this up as much as you do but I need to speak to an attorney first..." and then SHUT UP, which is exactly what they would do in the same circumstance.

People need to know the use of a gun is serious, life is not a movie, and shooting people, even those that deserve it, is not glorious. Folks will come back and get revenge, either with a civil or criminal complaint or violent ambush at a later date.

Living here close to the Mexican border, being once mugged at knife point by three illegal aliens (for $1.30 in my pocket), working all hours in these mean streets, I have never had to pull a gun on anyone, thank goodness, and survived many altercations none the worse for wear. My job with the power company for the last 30 years has me on occasion cut electrical service for non-payment at the pole or junction box when the tech's cannot cut it at the meter because of access, dogs, etc. Having encountered angry biker gangs, meth labs, and all other sorts of bad people and bad situations, the use of a gun has always been kept as a last resort. My truck has reverse to get away from most problems and luckily I'm paid by the hour and not by how much work I do. (-:

The point is pulling a gun will get you in a lot of trouble, shooting a warning shot will get you arrested, shooting someone may very well cost you everything you have worked for up to now in your life. Your home, retreat, guns, food reserves, retirement account, everything. I would definitely shoot if my life or another's life were in danger, but that is indeed very rare and most situations can be avoided with a little education, forethought and by setting aside one's ego. Take Care and God Bless. - Cactus Jim

I'm assuming that many patrons of this blog who read and digested the two letters referred to in the subject line have never served on active duty in a combat arms branch and/or never served as a law enforcement officer. Because of those two letters, many are possibly over thinking self defense reactions to would be criminals/trespassers/thieves? The effect on law abiding citizens who choose to possess firearms for defense is that they subconsciously and automatically hesitate to defend themselves because of all the legal discussion and, 'it happened to me' type cautionary statements. Police officers are guilty of the same thing because of legal double talk (i.e: I don't want to get sued so I better wait as long as possible to ...a real disaster for us cops since it's either our lives or possible jail time). In order to clear the air, as I believe many readers are confused and probably have reached out to the closest friend or co-worker they trust for clarification. What and when to do something is not complicated. I hope to eliminate the ubiquitous 'what if' in so many people's minds (including cops, former military who have returned to civilian living).
OBTW: I have been serving as a law enforcement officer for 18 years, and I served five years active duty with the US Army. Most of my army experience was as an Airborne Ranger and served in the Middle East for 13 months. No, I don't know everything about the subject but have spent the majority of my working life considering all these issues pre 9-11 and post-9-11.

1. The cops are not your friends (see: letter by Gary B in Maine who shot off a warning shot with a 12 gauge). Cops are for one thing: to prosecute you. That's it. They are resources for the state's attorney, period. Sure, the other guy may be guilty, but until proven guilty, you are right there with bad guy facing charges involving firearms. Not good, especially with so many anti-Second Amendment types in office. So, in such scenarios, do you spill your guts to the first cop who shows up while other guy tells lies because as a criminal he knows what to say?
2. If you are threatened, you're threatened. What else is there to know? (a threat is a situation where you 'feared for your life or feared serious bodily injury'. Using lethal force because somebody stole/attempted to steal your XYZ isn't justification for lethal force. However, read on...). If threatened, then immediately go to the next level and take care of business at that level. Make sure you can articulate that you were threatened. If in doubt as to how to articulate that, just do an Internet search engine on lethal force. As an 18 year officer, I tell you that if someone refuses to obey a legal and clear command to do something, they are resisting (and they know it). Because a subject resists, I know that I am permitted to take it to the next level. Said bad guy will continue to resist until you do something about it. If you don't do something that gives you the upper hand, he's got the upper hand. Better to maintain the upper hand and act from that position versus from the other. Waiting spells potential disaster. As a citizen just trying to protect themselves and their retreat, if it comes to that, it isn't any different. In my mind the big difference is if you/me were in a survival times situation, are you really expecting some cops to respond? They'll probably be more concerned with their own property, family, neighborhood, garden plot, et cetera.
3. The more training you have, the more your confidence will rise.
4. Sending your dogs after an intruder(s) who have entered your property is stupid. If your dogs were trained for such things, the intruders wouldn't have intruded. Sending an aggressive untrained barking dog into the the field/yard where you feel intruders pose a threat (a real threat, after all, you have the guns, night vision, IR floodlights, ....) is an great way to get them killed. If the dogs barked while they were in the house, you were alerted. So why send them out? They did their job, [now] you do yours. If you have trained dogs in protection (and related skills), that's a different scenario. Most people don't have that kind of dog. If bad guy kills one or all of your dogs, now you have a less secure retreat than you did before. The only 'threat' to fear, is the one who poses a 'real threat'. He'll take those dogs out if they aren't trained to threaten him. - Flhspete