Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

Family Home Defense Plan: 5 Must-Haves for Success

We walk you through the essential parts of a family home defense plan to ensure you and your family are prepared should trouble come knocking.

How many Americans rely on a firearm for self-defense purposes?

Well, according to the Pew Research Center, 48% of gun owners say the primary purpose of their gun ownership is for defensive purposes.

Handgun Grip Women Shadow Systems MR920
A large portion of gun owners own guns for defense.

It’s fair to say that most consider home defense a big reason to own a gun.

The most effective tool for home defense is a trained honey badger, and the second most effective tool is a firearm.

It’s just science.

Having a gun (or honey badger) is only part of the process.

In reality, home defense is a nuanced subject. So, today we will talk about the role a plan plays in home defense, especially if you have a family to protect.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick 2
Before you go all John Wick on intruders…you need a plan!

We’re going to cover things like why you need a plan and how to build one of your very own.

So, keep reading…

Table of Contents


Why You Need a Home Defense Plan

Let’s answer the first question you might have. Why do I need a plan when I have a gun (or attack badger)?

Sorry to say, having a gun isn’t a plan in and of itself.

Benelli M2, CZ75, AR-15 (3)
Don’t get us wrong, these are all great but they shouldn’t be your only option.

If your only plan is to shoot the baddies, then frankly, you haven’t planned this thing out.

Let me ask you some follow-up questions.

Where is your family during this home invasion? Is your spouse shooting too? Who is calling 911? How do you get to your gun and to the point where you can engage? What do you do when the events are over? What do you do if you or a family member is hurt?

And that’s just a few off the top of my head.

A family defense plan accounts for these scenarios and situations, allowing you to approach home defense with your most valuable weapon — the six or so inches between your ears.

emergency plan big brain meme

Equipping yourself with a home defense plan will help ensure the safety of you and your family.

A plan ensures you know what to do next — critical when only seconds count to make decisions.

Planning helps you make those decisions beforehand, so you don’t rely on your adrenaline-jacked brain to make up a plan on the fly.

Your brain on adrenaline.

Military, police, firefighters, pilots, construction foreman, MMA fighters…they all utilize plans to be more successful.

Why wouldn’t you want to help increase your ability to succeed?

What To Consider When Building a Home Defense Plan

Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance.

Having a general home defense plan helps, but wielding a proper plan helps a good bit more.

Full Size Mid Size Compact Handguns
Guns will probably be a part of the prepared plan.

So, what’s involved in a proper plan? Well, a proper plan must account for a wide variety of factors.

And here is where we got to the disclaimer…

I can’t make your plan for you. I wish it was that easy, but it’s now because I couldn’t possibly know all the factors that would influence it.

Home defense plans are unique and must incorporate your home’s occupants, including significant others, as well as children, roommates, and even older family members who live with you.

Ruger Mark IV
Kids are something to consider in the plan.

I know that doesn’t sound super helpful. But what I can do is provide a skeletal structure for you to add the meat to later.

By that, I mean you must account for your home’s occupants’ strengths and weaknesses — age and ability matter.

You’ll also need to factor in your home’s layout — entrances, exits, bedrooms, and the like play a crucial role.

Home Defense, Mesa Tactical
Consider your layout.

Also, understand that your home defense plan should change and adapt as your life changes and adapts.

Having kids changes the plan, getting married changes the plan, taking in a roommate changes the plan, a new house changes the plan…so keep your plan up to date.

With that out of the way, let’s build our home defense skeleton…

5 Essential Parts of a Home Defense Plan

1. Choose Your Gear

A proper response to a home invasion likely involves your gun and phone.

Depending on your at-home situation, you might have to grab and respond with both. So, your plan should account for their location and how to access them.

Glock G17 and G19 Gen 4
Glock G17 and G19 Gen 4

Choose your firearm wisely. Wielding a pump shotgun is tough to do when trying to call 911.

With a second adult in the home, that person can call 911 and also wield a weapon. If that’s the case, ensure that the second person can access a second gun.

Home Defense Phone 911

Next, I recommend a light mounted to your weapon and a red dot if possible.

If the home invasion occurs at night, you’ll be able to properly identify your threat with a white light. Not to mention, bright white light can also stun an attacker.

I dare anyone to take a blast from a Cloud Defensive OWL and not be disoriented for a second or two.

Cloud Defensive OWL, light on
This light hurts…trust me.

A red dot simplifies aiming and makes it very simple and easy when jacked on adrenaline. It also works in the dark and in bright conditions.

If you need some recommendations on lights and red dots, check out our articles on the Best Pistol Lights and Best Pistol Red Dots.

Staccato XC Red Dot
Red dots are pretty handy on home defense guns.

2. Creating Tasks & Completing Them

Every able-bodied person needs a task or job they can accomplish in the home defense plan.

Who does what when stuff goes down?

These can be simple as “go here” or “do this task.” Alternatively, they can be as difficult as engaging potential threats.

You Had One Job

Small children and elderly folks may create a task, whereas able body adults can complete tasks. So, focus tasks based on priority and ability.

Safety is always the number one priority. Therefore, getting between attackers and loved ones with a firearm should be the first task assigned.

But who is the primary defender?

In my plan, that’s me. I have the most experience with firearms and combat, so I get a long gun to engage threats, if necessary.

Holosun 509T Scorpion
In my house, I’m the defender.

The primary defender keeps their attention to the entryway the threat is approaching or the threat itself.

Once your primary defender has been chosen, you need to form a plan for calling the police.

In my plan, it’s my wife.

She’s armed with her Sig Sauer P320, but she’s also calling the police on her cell phone.

at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

For unmarried defenders, the designated caller could be a roommate, another family member, or an older child.

If you’re riding solo, this might mean you pull double duty defending the home and alerting the police.

For homes with children or disabled adults, group individuals together in a single room with a capable adult or teenager.

As my wife calls the police, she’s also grabbing kids and bringing them to one location.

Even younger children can be assigned tasks – so long as you establish a signal, so younger children know this is serious.

In our home, we’ve established a code word that means be quiet and listen. When that code word is said, everyone shuts up and does exactly what they are told.

3. Designate a Rally Point

Where is everyone going when the fecal matter hits the air stirrer?

Everyone needs to know where to go, and I mean everyone.

In a home defense scenario, the faster you get everyone to one room, the safer you’ll be.

Take that Jared Leto.

Make sure your safe room is predesignated, and everyone knows which room to go to.

In my home, we have two saferooms — A and B.

Multiple safe rooms take into account where people gather at specific times of day and where the entry and exits are in our home.

When choosing a safe room, look for one that allows for an escape, even if it’s a window. I also prefer a room with some furniture opposite the door for the family to hide behind.

Couch bunker
I mean, this is even better.

And if the time comes, the secondary person ushers others to the safe room while the primary defender covers the direction of the threat. Once others in your home are safe, the primary defender joins the safe room.

Once inside, the primary defender covers the door, and the secondary adult or teenager continues to update the 911 dispatcher on the situation.

Home Defense Glock G19 at Door
One person covers the door.

What if you’re a single parent with multiple children?

If so, time to put on the business voice and get those kids moving.

I would suggest gathering in the room of the youngest simply because they are least likely to understand and most likely to throw an inopportune tantrum.

Being a parent means planning of all sorts of eventualities.

Remember, home defense isn’t about clearing rooms.

Once my family and I are in our safe room, I’m pointing the gun at the door and waiting until I hear sirens and police to lower it.

If you’ve kicked my external door in, you can have whatever you want in the house, take it.

What’s important to me is the people in that room with me, not my flat-screen TV and PS4.

4. Establish Communications

I mentioned a code word earlier, but the importance can’t be understated.

Having a code word that can be whispered or even shouted lets everyone in the house know it’s time to move. It gets attention, lets people know the situation, and makes people move.

Code Word

Home invasion scenarios move quickly, and when they do, you might not have the time to communicate in detail what’s happening.

A rapid scenario requires its own plan that hinges on concise, clear communication.

Additionally, a code word also allows you to approach a potentially armed family member safely.

Home Defense Glock G19 and Light
You best be giving me that code word.

Adrenaline will be high in a home invasion. The last thing you want is friendly-fire in the heat of the moment.

But remember, keep the code words simple and easy for everyone to remember.

5. Have a Medical Plan

Lord forbid someone gets hurt, but it’s a possibility you have to consider.

You’ll want to have medical gear on hand in each safe room to ensure you can treat a potential traumatic injury.

CPR Masks First Aid Kit
First aid kit — it’s a must!

A tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, chest seals, bandages, and beyond should make up an at-home trauma kit.

On top of that, you’ll need the skills and training to use it. Seek out CPR and first aid classes, Stop the Bleed courses, and medical training when possible.

CPR Face Shield Breathing
CPR is a skill set everyone should have.

If you need some help locating some solid options, check out our round-up of the Best First Aid Classes: Beginner to Intermediate.

I’d encourage every adult in the home to learn how to use medical gear — even older kids and teenagers. Knowing how to render first aid is a valuable skill outside of violent encounters.

Wilderness First Aid Interior

Practice Makes Perfect

Finally, a plan means nothing if you don’t practice it.

Why is practice so important?

For one, it helps locate inadequacies in the plain or potential factors you failed to account for.

Secondly, practicing the plan helps ensure its success.

You can talk about it until you’re blue in the face, but until you execute it, you’ll never be truly prepared.

If you’re a parent, the trick to practice is executing the plan without turning it into an anxiety-inducing nightmare.

Home Defense Ominous Shadow
If I told my kids about ominous bad guys (and their shadows) my kids would never sleep.

For example, if I told my oldest son that we were practicing for bad guys breaking in, he would never stop worrying or asking about it. Don’t drown your kids in fear.

The key is to make it a part of a variety of plans that you practice all on the same day.

In my home, we have a fire plan, a 911 plan, a hurt parent plan, etc. (Some of our other writers and editors also even have a Family Emergency Plan for disasters — create one of your own here.)

Family Emergency Plan

Practicing them all in a day for short periods kind of takes the fear of an intruder plan.

Also, we don’t call it the intruder plan – it’s the Uh-Oh Plan.

When my wife or I say a specific word, the kids know they need to get to the safe room ASAP and follow instructions given by the adults.

As we practice, I’m not wielding my Benelli M4, and my wife isn’t gun slinging with her P320 – that creates loads of fear and anxiety that’s not needed.

Benelli M4 (9)
Definitely not walking through my house with shells flying during practice.

That said, kids aren’t stupid. So, we’ve told them that a real-life Uh-Oh Plan would have us carrying firearms and that they shouldn’t be scared if they see them. The guns are there for “just in case.”

We also answer questions openly and honestly without fear-based answers. When my kids ask about bad guys breaking in, I answer honestly that we use the Uh-Oh Plan.

I also assure them we have strong doors and good locks, and it’s very unlikely to ever happen. (If you need tips on strengthening your home, check out the 12 Easy Ways to Secure Your Home Against Bad Guys.)

Secure Home Rekey Lock
Invest in good door locks.

Also, very important to note that there is no yelling or impatience when someone messes up during practice. We also don’t drill them like counter-terrorist forces prepping for a raid. They’re kids, so keep that in mind.

For fun, we might even time it. We have kids obsessed with speed runs and high scores, making it a fun family activity.


Though your home defense plan will always reflect your specific family and home, there are a few key factors for success.  

Having gear that fits the plan, assigning tasks, designating rally point(s), establishing communications, having a medical plan (and gear), and practicing should all be pieces in your plan.

Home Defense AR-15
A gun is only one step in the process.

If you can do the above and make it fit the skeletal framework, you’ll be better off. But remember, the plan doesn’t have to be perfect because things change on the fly.

At the end of the day, create a plan, practice the plan, but be ready to adapt as the situation calls.  

For more tips on how to prep for home defense situations, check out the Brownells Daily Defense video below.

Do you have a home defense plan? If so, let us know below! Any tips? Share those too! Looking to figure what’s the best gun for home defense? Check out what we think is the Best Home Defense Gun.

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

17 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Chris Manzo

    Very helpful and concise. I've updated our plan accordingly! I forgot to highlight medical, so now the main med kit sits on top of our gun safe in our safe room. Now it is time to practice! Thanks - C

    January 7, 2022 7:01 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Douglas L Dicketts

    Maybe I'm off target but, if sh*ts going down the best bet is for me and mine to be elsewhere. Guns are plan B or C. If I'm in a high crime area getting hurt is not an if but a when. All this other stuff is good but not as good as situational awareness.

    January 5, 2022 7:00 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Monte Walsh

    Excellent article Travis! I’ll be attaching a link to this article for every client ( giving credit of course!)
    You nailed this one.

    January 4, 2022 4:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Colin Bruce

    Very insightful article, thank you. Also, how would you fit guard dogs into a family home defense plan. In your opinion which dogs would be best suited for a family home defense plan and personal protection? Thank s again.

    Colin Bruce.

    January 4, 2022 2:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Douglas L Dicketts

      Most any family dog that would make noise and buy time.

      January 5, 2022 7:06 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dave Murphy

      Dogs are family for one and not used as bait. Second Travis says he uses his shotgun ( Bennelli) . Other articles he says never use a shotgun for home defense. He’s trained as a marine and I’m grateful he’s on our side but let others know that. I’d rather my Glock 17 with a 27 mag over a 5 shot Bennelli. Moving close quarters in your home with a pistol is much easier and beneficial than an 18-20 inch shotgun that has a few shots under distress and more difficult to reload if necessary.

      January 6, 2022 10:55 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Colin Bruce

        Thanks Dave, I agree that dogs are family. I have a corso and two amstaffs whom I cherish dearly. I would never use them as bait. I do understand as Douglas pointed out that they may be used as an early warning signal in conjunction with a security alarm system. In terms of using a shotgun, the kel Tec ks7 was suggested for close quarters combat and home defense as it is much shorter. Thank you guys for your response and suggestions.

        January 7, 2022 1:55 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Excellent article. My plan has changed several times over the last 3-decades with my wife. From apartments, to our first home to our dream home.

    Of course as my boys aged duties changed and now we’re empty nesters and grandparents.

    Like you, I’ve served in combat and have given my wife the same duties. I believe having a dog is extremely beneficial. They usually here things before we do, especially if we’re sleeping.

    January 4, 2022 2:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Our first line of defense is an alarm system. Since I live in a small city with a functional police force, it will probably take two minutes for them to arrive. Of course I have a gun and a plan as well, just in case!

    January 4, 2022 3:35 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Great article brother! couldn't have said it better myself.

    January 3, 2022 9:49 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    One of the best articles on the subject I have read. Clear and common sense.

    All too many gun owners, even those who have served, consider the gun their plan, when in reality, it's the last desperate resort. You touched on the real part of home defense - you fix what is wrong in the home with the less that durable construction and low bidder hardware securing it. Good picture of a door lock - that brand is likely the worst on the market. Funny how nobody (on the internet) asks what is the cheapest gun on the market but walk down a hardware aisle and cheap is the biggest seller. Not to forget - that plan? Who's answering the door bell after dark, are you expecting someone, and did you know that the larger number of home intruders are allowed to walk in? "Can I use your phone?"

    Which forces the end game of relying on your last desperate course of action.

    We need to focus on 1) don't be a target 2) don't let your home make you a target. It screens and deflects those who would even consider an attack at all. But - it doesn't sell guns, and we all know thats where the money is. Its hard to sell someone on a door lock or window film when they are predisposed to thinking owning a gun makes them skilled to use it. Nobody wants to hear owning a Lamborghini doesn't really make them a good driver.

    January 3, 2022 5:08 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Dave Murphy

      Who lets someone walk in and use their phone. You must live in a place where nothing happens. Just odd.

      January 6, 2022 10:42 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    6. Although there are stand-your-ground types of things and no duty legally to retreat (expect maybe in some states) - just because you have those does not mean you have to stand your ground. Choose evacuation of your family (or yourself if you are alone) safely as the very first step you should consider if at all possible. It will not do well for you to loose the gun fight with your family still in that room you put them in if they could have gone out the back door or a window to safety. If you do lose the fight the bad guys are only an eye blink away from them. On the other hand you can't be of much help to your family if you don't keep your self from getting killed first. In either case, evacuation first should be your plan first step to consider.

    If the bad guy is trying to knock down the front door, while that is going on in that precious maybe up to several seconds go out the back door or a window if you can. Don't just sit there waiting for them with your hand gun or shot gun or AR-15 if you could have gotten out first.

    Years ago I investigated a home invasion where the husband/father was the defender. The bad guys were coming through the front door but were having problems getting through it. It took the about 30 seconds. The defender rounded up his family into a bedroom, called 911, and decided to wait for the guys to finish breaking in so took up a defensive position outside the bedroom. He had a good 30 seconds to get his family out the back door, it was a five second effort at most. He lost the gun fight, not killed but severely wounded and unable to continue - with him out of the fight they attacked his wife and 14 year old daughter, then killed mom. Had he taken them out the back door, there was plenty of time to do that, they would have been safe even if he was wounded trying to cover their retreat if he did not get out with them.

    So the argument is sometimes "hey, I do not have a duty to retreat" - there are those times when you really should and you need to factor that into your home defense plan.

    July 8, 2021 12:45 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Stand and fight. If a bad guy come in my house I should not be the one running away.

      July 9, 2021 10:41 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Stand and fight only if you must, get out before it comes to that if you can get out safely. I'm in a stand-your-ground/no-duty-to-retreat state/castle-law state. Of all the home invasions I've investigated over the years, hundreds of them, almost every one where the defender could have gotten out safely before engagement but chose to stay and "lay in wait" for them to enter with a "Stand and fight. If a bad guy come in my house I should not be the one running away" mentality then shot a bad guy once they did enter resulted in an arrest of the home defender because "laying in wait" is not "imminent threat" defense. "laying in wait" points to pre-meditation and its the same in all 50 states (even though in some states it may be called something different). Stand-your-ground/no-duty-to-retreat state/castle-law does not mean you can "lay in wait" for them. So although you might not have a duty to retreat, it does not mean you should never retreat.

        If you pull that trigger and claim "defense"; Every second of your time and every action you took and every hair splitting detail of the entire incident from before the incident happened to after the incident was over is going to be investigated in excruciating detail. If there is any hint that you were "laying in wait" its going to poke holes in the "imminent threat" defense you are claiming for home defense and a prosecutor is going to be weighing the term "imminent" very carefully.

        July 11, 2021 5:59 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          John Trabeaux

          I have one problem with that "retreat scenario". If there are more than one 'bad guys' and the other ones are covering the 'exits',then you might be jumping into another fire.

          July 22, 2021 6:34 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          Dave Murphy

          You said it perfectly. Even if it’s your house. You will be on trial and spend thousands like a 100k to defend yourself. That’s it. You don’t get that back. Maybe that’s why there’s tons of adds for insurance

          January 6, 2022 10:47 pm
Join the community! Log in
Please provide a valid email address.
Password is required.
Please provide a valid display name.
Please provide a valid email address.
The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
Please accept in order to continue.
Trouble logging in?
Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
Please provide a valid email.
Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

Account in Pew Pew Meter means more

Check what do you get by creating an account
Check and save your reviews!
Bookmark and compare your favorite firearms
Manage your newsletter subscription
pew pew tactical logo

new here?

Personalize your experience.
Select what level shooter you are!

pew pew tactical logo

level up your gun knowledge

Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

pew pew tactical logo


You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

$47 value

yours free!

targets targets

practice targets

printer icon printable

our 9 favorite targets and drills


practice targets

printer icon printable

enter your email to download

We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

success icon

Ready to Download

Click below to begin your download

download pdf