Four Letters Re: Use of Force in Retreat Security–Planning for Rules of Engagement

First, thank-you for posting my question on SurvivalBlog. Second, thank-you for posting your thoughts. They are well thought out and very well presented.
Your response sparked an additional couple of thoughts:

Dogs have been man’s early warning and engagement system since the dawn of history. A barking dog tells the potential visitor that he lost any advantage of stealth and that he is facing a team. Two barking dogs are even better. Dogs over 50 pounds also represent a physical threat.

The second thought is to split the axis (axes?) of confrontation.
Killing flies by clapping one’s hands over them is a great parlor trick. Flies, and other vermin, have very highly developed strategies for dealing with threats that come from one direction. That is why they are almost impossible to slap with one hand. However, it is comical how they lock-up when confronted with a threat from two directions. You actually have to slow down your “clap” so they can become airborne. They are almost paralyzed.

Confronting men with evil intent from a single direction does not present them with much of a dilemma. They would level their arms and start shooting. Good-bye lights, good-bye dogs, good-bye people who are down range, good-bye to people and objects in unhardened buildings.

I think the ideal situation would be to have a couple sets of flood or spot lights pointing inward from different corners of the garden/stock corral/asset to be protected. Then release the dogs from one point (another family member would very helpful here) and post-up with a shotgun at a good strategic point that is in a different position than where the dogs were released from. Lights, dog, shotgun should push the bad-guys down a reasonable line of retreat. That is, it should push them toward the road or where their vehicles are. Most opportunist will gladly bail out if they are not cornered.

A couple of key points:
-I don’t want to paralyze the intruders, just like I don’t want the flies to freeze.
-I want them to leave if they are opportunist.
-If they do not leave, then they reveal evil intent or extreme stupidity
-The overload of stimuli gives me strategic advantage

Thanks, – Joe and Ellen

JWR Replies: If you want to throw attackers off balance, there is nothing quite like the flash and sound of explosions on multiple flanks. Some Tannerite might prove useful.

Spotlights and floodlights are very vulnerable to rifle fire. If you are using them to distract, then only turn them on for about five seconds each. If you mount any floodlights on your occupied structures, then use only the IR variety, which only give off a very faint glow to the unaided eye.

There are a variety of fireworks that can be used to create distractions or diversions. Keep in mind that many fireworks can be set up to be ignited electrically, using model rocket igniters (such as Estes “Solar Igniters”), which are available from most hobby shops. The flash and sound of M-80 firecrackers (aka “cherry bombs”) is not too much unlike the sound of rifle fire.

For the full psyops effect, don’t discount the effectiveness of voices or music on amplified loudspeakers to un-nerve your opponents. At the risk of sounding trite, might I suggest a little Johnny Cash or some Credence?

I just read the letter regarding use of force. Since I’m a cop, in Colorado, and a trainer of lethal and non-lethal force – it might help to know that the use of force model is moving away from the escalation principle and towards the ‘toolbox’ principle. You pull the appropriate tool out of the box for the job at hand. For instance, in many many areas of the country an officer need no longer justify his actions concerning use of force by explaining the escalation from the typical ‘command voice’ to use of potentially lethal force.

Accompanying this is a simplified assessment of the threat at hand. With alarming results, police officers are trained to expect the worse case, take action to neutralize it and de-escalate their use of force, rather than use the stair step approach to using greater and greater force. It revolves around the Saucier v. Katz supreme court decision. Wherein “The Court plainly stated that while uses of force by police occur that are clearly excessive or clearly appropriate, a gray area remains in between. The Court went on to say that when an officer’s use of force falls within this gray area, deference must be paid to the officer and qualified immunity granted.” There are essentially three other court cases that apply in determining whether an officer used excessive force – but Katz is the most applicable to the question of how we train police officers in deciding what force to use, it was a precursor to the ‘toolbox’ approach.

One of the pivotal elements of determining in what constitutes excessive force for anybody is what they perceived at the time of the threat, and what training they had in recognizing a threat. Pre 9/11 a box cutter was just a simple slicing weapon, now it’s considered a ‘terrorist threat’ to possess one under the right circumstances. [JWR Adds: In the aftermath of any use of force, do not hesitate to admit that you were frightened. If you can honestly say “I was very scared!”, and “I was afraid that he was trying to kill me!”, then do so, repeatedly, for the record. This may carry considerable weight at a later date, if you ever have to go to trial–either criminal, or civil.]

Rather than concentrate on the use of force of any kind, I would recommend people seek training that helps them recognize threats of all kinds and more importantly how to articulate their perception of the threat. It’s true that most people who misuse force, in my experience, could probably have avoided criminal prosecution if they had just known/learned how to articulate their assessment of the threat. The examples are endless really, I won’t go into illustration here.

While a multi-generational SHTF situation is in your opinion unlikely, I must point out that our mere technological advancements do not preclude this, I think it simply makes us more complacent because of our perception of the layers of social and technological protection we believe insulate us from it. Rome probably believed itself the pinnacle of modern civilization, I would imagine that the fall that preceded the Dark Ages had it’s own ‘it will never get that bad’ detractors also.

I have a different view of things. I’m pretty certain that the three people running through my orchard armed with knives were shouting, “Kill them!” and not there to cut fruit. In Colorado, for instance, our ‘Make My Day Law’ from which the Castle Doctrine seems to have sprung, states that deadly force may be used when a person believes that the person about to commit the illegal entry is there to commit any level of harm to the occupants of a dwelling – and most importantly, it takes away the burden of proof from the citizen to substantiate why they believed it.

Less-lethal (no such thing as non-lethal (pepper spray has [on rare occasions] killed, Tasers too, beanbag rounds improperly used are ‘deadly’, etc.) force being available the most important thing to remember about their deployment is that no police force ever deploys less-lethal force unless another officer is ready to use lethal force if the less-lethal does not stop the threat. If you’re in a tussle and the taser is what you use, then it’s what you use – but if two officers (or more) are confronting someone and a Taser is deployed – one officer is designated [as] the backup in case lethal force is needed. – Jim H

JWR Replies: The Castle Doctrine actually got its start in Florida. Since then, many states including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas have adopted similar laws. It is not surprising that the majority of the states are in the South or the West, where individualism and respect for property rights are part of the culture.


About 15 years ago, I bought a house on 70 acres that was rural, but not remote. As I worked on the place, painting and getting it ready for me to move in, I was distressed that every time I went to the house, the door had been kicked in. Replacing the trim got to be an irritation so on Halloween, 1993, I drove down to my house and found the lights on. As I gunned the truck and drove over the front lawn, I saw two people run from my house. I got out with my Winchester Model 12 and yelled, “You get the hell out of here and don’t come back or I will kill you” and blew off a round of 12 gauge in the ground.
I searched my house and found a six pack of beer, some wine coolers and a blanket. Apparently, some kids were using my house for their love nest. I slept at the house that night in case someone were to come back and burn down the house. At about 11:30 pm, there was a knock at the door. Two County Sheriff’s deputies were there with the lights flashing. I invited them in and said, “There is the wine and beer, there is the blanket.” Things then took a turn.
“So you fired a warning shot,” he asked?
“Yes”, I said.
“So you shot at them?” he probed
“That isn’t what I said.” And then they jumped me, threw me on the floor and handcuffed me. I was dragged to the cruiser where I was strapped into the back seat. “We got him,” the County Mountie crowed to the neighbors assembled at the end of my 250 yard driveway. I was taken to the county jail where I was booked for reckless conduct with a firearm, a felony here in Maine.

For the next two years, I was in legal hassles with the County. The District Attorney didn’t want to press charges. The Sheriff’s Department didn’t want to back down. And I was wondering what country did I live in where the victim could become the criminal so fast. It all worked out in the end. But I would counsel your readers to think twice about firing shots. I know this about myself, I will pull the trigger. I just know better when to do it. The thing about it was that for the next 12 years that I lived there. No one came down my driveway uninvited, and nothing was ever disturbed in my house, garden or barn. – Gary B., in Maine

My sincere thanks for your response to Joe and Ellen’s letter on “Rules of Engagement.” Most of the so-called preparedness experts out there talk only about “guns, guns, guns.” (Well, ‘cept for the “I’d never own a gun” uber-naive liberal-granola crowd.) Your are absolutely right about using less-than-lethal means, when [it is] safe and practicable. It sure beats getting your *ss sued off. by some ambulance-chasing lawyer. You truly are the survivalist voice of reason, following in the footsteps of Mel Tappan.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge in SurvivalBlog, Jim. I often feel like I’m getting free consulting. Oh, BTW, I’m re-upping my 10 Cent Challenge subscription for another two years! – C.T.M.