December 2, 2021

Cover and Concealment in Home Defense


I’m a big movie buff. I always have been. The storytelling through movies and television shows is one of my absolute favorite things. It has also introduced our society to many memorable characters like John Rambo, Indiana Jones, John Wick, John McClane and more. However, in movies with these characters, there are many common Hollywood gun myths.

Intruder during a home invasion
Do you have cover in your home that you can use in the event of a deadly home invasion? Are you prepared? Image: Shutterstock/Cumberland

In the John Wick movies, we see suppressors on guns making them near silent. If they edit in noise, it almost sounds like a futuristic squelch of a laser gun. Bystanders can pass oblivious to the gunfight happening around them. But one thing I have noticed in a lot of movies that can be misleading revolves around the question “what is bulletproof in your home?”

Man using a rifle during home defense
Doorjambs are made of several 2×4 boards that can provide some ballistic protection. The multiple layers of 2×4 boards are there to hold up the heavy header joist above.

The short answer to this question may seem obvious to you. Nothing is “bulletproof.” Merriam Webster defines bulletproof as impenetrable to bullets. Nothing in most modern production homes, except for if you specifically had something placed for that purpose in your home, is bulletproof.

Cover or Just Concealment?

So, is there any cover in your home? Not exactly. What you will find in modern homes is concealment that hides your presence, like hiding behind corners and doors, etc. But those items are not bulletproof. There are certain items in your home that can give you added protection, though. First, let’s talk about what is not one of those items.

Man using a rifle in home defense situation
Rifle rounds are incredibly hard to stop. If by chance a piece of furniture would deflect a handgun round, the likelihood of it also stopping a rifle round is very slim.

In Hollywood movies, you tend to see these objects used a lot. The protagonist will flip over the kitchen table and hide behind it as bullets smack into the surface of the table, leaving the hero unharmed. This would not be the case in the real world. I suppose if you have the heaviest solid oak table in the world it could potentially stop some bullets. For the most part, though, this is a complete myth.

Man using a pistol with a laser during home defense
Placing your vitals behind a door jamb could potentially save you from life-threatening impacts. The thick layers of boards have been known to cause deflection, causing rounds to miss altogether.

Couches and refrigerators are other items you see people use as cover from gunfire. Here is the truth. Are those items better than standing in the open? Possibly yes, but it would depend on the situation, of course. Could some of those pieces actually stop a projectile from hitting you? Sure. It’s of course, relative. If your attacker has an M1 Garand chambered in 30-06, I doubt it would hinder the round at all. However, if the threat has a .380 ACP pistol, it just might. Again, it’s all relative.

In most homes, what we are really looking for are items that can deflect or divert the path of a bullet. A common thing every home has that can do this is a door jamb. Door jambs are comprised of multiple layers of 2×4 boards to support a heavy header joist above. Those multiple layers of 2×4 can potentially redirect the flight patch of a bullet, which might make a round targeted at your vitals pass through the door jamb and be directed downward to a leg or make it a miss.

Man using a rifle in home defense
While your house may be lean on cover, you should make an effort to utilize whatever might be available.

Take inventory of your home and try to notice if you have any dense objects that can deflect bullet flight, or if you are stuck with concealment only. This inventory process should be part of any home defense plan. Some items to look for would be things like wooden columns, interior walls that are brick, or rock, door jambs, or anything that gives you some coverage. For example, if you can seek cover on the other side of cabinets, but there is dead air and a kitchen island between you and the shooter plus the cabinets, that’s great.

Alternatives

Once you start giving some thought to this you will see the world in a different way, constantly looking for things in stores, busy streets and homes. You will categorize them as concealment or cover and wonder if they can provide some bullet deflection. You will add this to your list of always checking the exits and sitting where you can face the door. Remember, in some cases concealment can be just as good as cover if your attacker is not as savvy as you.

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