Home Security for the Gun-Deprived, by R.J.

When your temporary or semi-permanent home has to be away from true-home, you want to be secure there as well.

This review is based on experiences and plans my family and I had when living and working (and for many years with young children) in not-the-most-salubrious-parts of the planet. These places also didn’t allow foreigners to own firesticks whether long- or hand-guns; a couple of countries grudgingly allowed private possession of shotguns but only for citizens, not transients, even if the transient was going to be there for years at a time.

As a consequence, the Lady of the House and I developed a set of precautions, improvisations and occasionally downright nasty traps for the ungodly should they threaten the sanctity of our domain. Some of our tricks were useful or I should say usable when traveling, especially but not only to/from schools and in hotels. Some could be used at airports; if there is going to be an uptick in domestic terrorism, people are even more constrained, patient, and docile at airports than they are at concerts.


But before we continue… the Best Defense is the one you never have to mount. And the Best Fight is the one you never have.

If we have / had the option to run away from a dangerous scenario or a home invasion, we would. But running away is less feasible in a country where we are strangers; where we are a different and stand-out by skin color; where we understand and speak only some of the language; and where we could rapidly end up in a worse predicament, away from where we live and have resources.


There are a mix of actions and tools here, and no focus on core gunpowder-weaponry for the reasons above. These ideas we had and implemented are designed to make it cost ‘Them’ a lot of time and effort to break in whether by stealth or force; and then if there still is a break-in, to help us to fight back if that’s what it ever came down to.

Even just planning, setting-up, and training made us feel more in charge of our physical destiny.


Stage I – this is not the easy invasion you are looking for.

When choosing a place to rent we always look for a place with one front entrance with a solid front door, and no floor-to-ceiling windows on the outside walls as much as possible. If that wasn’t possible, we would put a wooden barrier inside those windows at about waist level so if you kicked through a large glass pane you’d still have a waist-high barrier to overcome, hopefully with nasty glass-spikes reaching up for your perineum. Sheet wood is much cheaper and easier than sheet metal to install and is still quite hard to bash your way through – especially double-thickness marine ply.

In a couple of places we actually installed a second door on the corridor inside the first; and we always had a (battery-powered) intercom in the early years, more recently audio+video with an Arlo-style camera under the roof eaves so not easily spotted.

In a two-story house we always had a designated safe room on the upper floor. Not like a movie-style safe room, just a room on a corner with at least two window exits, a “window ladder” for each window, and an extremely stout door. I’m sure the readership hear already knows this, but the weakest points of a door are almost always the hinges and the frame. We routinely remounted door hinges after screwing the frame more firmly into the structure. We did ask the landlords and they were generally quite happy for us to discreetly strengthen this at our expense.

In coup-adjacent-times when things got a bit spicy, at night we’d lay down aluminum-foil trays filled with olive oil just inside windows / doors where entry might be forced. I’m not saying the intruders would go slip-sliding away, but they would have a sustained loss of traction.

We did not rely as much on locks as we did on bars. Usually a combination of metal brackets and large wooden beams. Large wooden beams meant small children couldn’t do much with them, and in the event things went really bad, we’d have a big fat wooden club ready to hand.

Although it would have been a little bit more convenient in regular use, we didn’t put the door bars on a pivot on one side because we didn’t like to forgo the nice blunt weapon.

We definitely made sure that if we had to generate a lot of noise quickly, we could. Going back 3 1/2 decades now, in one of our Asia postings, we scavenged a loudspeaker and a 12 V battery and hooked up a ‘press’ button plus an override that would leave it blaring continuously if we wanted that to happen. Sirens don’t get hoarse. At the same time, we were both prepared to shout/scream if things were going awry. Criminals don’t like attracting attention.

The next thing we did was always a negative, we left outside no ladders, tools, axes, hammers, baulks of timber, firestarters or accelerants.

Not for daily use, but certainly when there was a coup ongoing / increased riots / risk of terrorism, we’d add wedges under doors and in sliding windows’ tracks, including in hotels.

In some of the older hotels with double doors, we habitually traveled with a motorcycle cable lock to lock the handles together, and indeed it’s also an excellent standby weapon (especially as one of us rides, and a motorcycle cable lock in your suitcase with a helmet and gloves and boots doesn’t raise any eyebrows).

– a walking stick always close to hand. My preference is for the Cane Masters custom sticks; they are not cheap, but they are good, and I say that with no interest in the company other than being a satisfied customer

Stage II – your persistence will not be readily rewarded.

Remember high school physics! liquids, solids, gases…!

When riots and chaos were starting to get a little bit too close to home, literally and figuratively, we would set up the following in reserve:

– hot, thick, chunky / fatty soup simmering on the stove – we used to call it Mother’s Napalm… A pot of that dumped on someone’s head and face would ruin their outlook spectacularly.

– vinegar – eye eye, sir! if you haven’t got time to get to the Superbright Torch, a cup of vinegar or filling a spray bottle with vinegar works very well.

– a cast iron skillet, pick the one with the longest handle (but be determined if you have to use it. A tentative tap won’t do…).

– a rubber mallet (not a hammer – less likely to be lethal* and far easier = lighter, to swing. *You can hard-bounce a rubber mallet off a crim-skull and not end up in jail, not so for a hammer).

– a yard broom – again, poking into eyes.

– fire extinguisher(s), especially the ones that say “keep clear of eyes”. You should have these anyway, but a couple more will never be a wasted investment

– hair spray – or any spray, especially the ones that say “keep clear of eyes”. Many countries do not allow to buy, import or possess pepper spray…

– olive oil bottles that uncork quick and then you oil the floor as you retreat upstairs. Buys time.

– ultra-bright torches; see more below.

If it becomes necessary to actually strike back, let’s ramp the improvs up a notch or two, but still not using anything that isn’t part of normal household goods.

– baseball bats with greased ends – if they make a grab to disarm you they’re serious, so make do your best to ensure they can’t take it away from you.

– looped extension cord – the more loops the heavier it hits

Anatomical Note 1: with any *long* weapon, do not swing, do jab, and jab at soft points. Swinging costs you a lot of time – for the backswing as well as the forward arc – and you generally will hit more peripheral bits’n’pieces or stuff protected with bone; whereas you really want to score centrally. Of course, if you think you can strike an invader’s head with your pointy-thing, push the point out and do that; disrupting the command and control computer inside the criminal cranium will take effect much faster than trying to disable peripheral limbs


Stage III – “and who knows, the horse may learn to sing.”

Sometimes the best we can do to secure our homes and defend ourselves is never going to be good enough, other than to buy time. But buying time is a worthwhile goal. Maybe they’ll get bored and go away – or more realistically, maybe the forces of “lorrenorder” will show up finally, maybe the neighbourhood people you networked with will come to see what’s going on, just as you would go and help them out; and maybe the invader(s) will get a sudden tachyarrhythmia, go hypotensive, and faint / collapse precisely so the rebar holding the rosebush upright spears them under the xiphisternum…


If all of the above sounds a bit daunting, then it ought to be. It’s gonna be really, really difficult for those of us who haven’t previously engaged in hand-to-hand fighting, to overcome one’s natural reluctance to hurt other people. But if those people are gonna start hurting you or your loved ones if they get past you, you really do have to up your game.

In which context,

– a long spear-like / pike-like weapon is the easiest to use. Again – jab, do not swing*, jab, do not throw. Know enough anatomy to jab the bits the invader would least like jabbed. (*It’s a pike, not a quarterstaff).

– a (hollow) bicycle grip with an eyebolt down it, filled with epoxy, then a length of chain that fits in the bolt’s eye with a shackle – makes a great flail once the glue dries; and the separate parts look innocuous until you assemble them, which can be done quickly and in darkness.

– a very powerful torch. Blind the intruder and keep them blind. I recommend as my personal current favourite for lightwarfare the LedLenser P18R @ 4,500 lumens (I have no interest in this company beyond being an occasional customer, but this unit works very well).

– a ceremonial or souvenir sword or weapon, hung on the wall – “we just had it for decoration!” e.g. a kris in Jakarta, a Pattern 1908 cavalry sword in India, and a knobkerry in Cape Town…

– (in the other hand) a defensive shield / buckler, the lid off an (oldschool metal) kitchen rubbish bin. Held on by Velcro armbands (wide) this will not pull off your arm easily; we tested that.

– hockey sticks / cricket bats when the kids play those sports at school

Other, even nastier items I have seen stored…
– throwing (small) axes/hatchets
– a sturdy hoe with the metal ‘wings’ removed for a spear
– lead fishing weights in the end of a calf-length sock
– ice-ax (if the climate makes that credible to have)
– pipe wrench under the sink
– speargun (she had a wet suit and flippers nearby)
– crowbar
– bungie cords (you gotta practice though!)


Occasionally we’ve heard some no-good-very-bad ideas proffered at neighbourhood meetings. These align with the concept of “what could possibly go wrong… Basically everything.” I hesitated to put these on here but hey, why not. My mother – may she Rest in Peace – used to say “you’ll never make a good example, but you could be an effective warning…” Love you, mom!

– A weedburner on the end of an LPG bottle. Well, now. Apart from the fact that you have to take a little bit of time and care to light these properly or they simply won’t ignite, while it may be that waving around a hissing blue flame might serve to keep some distance between yourself and invaders at the beginning, it is not really a viable home defence strategy. Because what could possibly go wrong could lead to the police turning up to sift through the ashes.

– A chainsaw. Okay then. Apart from the fact that gas chainsaws also don’t start promptly the way they do in the movies, if you do get it started swiftly then, yes, you have a rotating chainsaw to threaten people with. And that’s all you have. That’s pretty much a close-in weapon and is not exactly defensive. ‘They’ might just decide to stand off and take you out with various missiles and other implements – and the fright factor will ensure that they will try very hard indeed to do that swiftly. At one of the meetings an audience member piped up to say “well what about an electric chainsaw, they always start first go.” Mmmkay. Glad you’re not our nearest neighbour.


In Conclusion

– choose from the above or your own imaginings and skill-sets, what you know will work for you and your loved ones.

– keep the vulnerable away from windows and doors where entry is possible and rapid; but – and particularly if you’re not on the ground level – make sure leaving in a hurry is always feasible.

– a connecting door to your younger children’s bedrooms direct from your bedroom (closet) is always a really really good option. It’s not that expensive and it pays for itself in peace of mind. Ask me how I know…

– other than in places and contexts like present-day Haiti, help will usually arrive so focus on keeping your loved ones in yourself safe in the meantime.

– unless there is a complete breakdown of society, ferals of all sorts and especially the human ones don’t like noise calling attention to their depredations. Sirens and screams are good.

– never ask, in a darkened house, the question “is somebody there?” If you think it’s one of yours then at least make a statement such as “hurry up!” If you are pretty sure it’s not one of yours – that’s just the time to grab the extremely bright flashlight and blind them temporarily. If they are indeed innocent, no permanent harm done. If they are nefarious, you have time to react before they regain their vision.

In closing, I heartily wish you never have to use any of the aforementioned.