Looter Defense Tactics

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Last Updated on January 22, 2021

Preppers should have a plan for dealing with violent people who unconstrained by threat or presence of law enforcement when your family’s safety is on the line. Along with food and water, you should also consider looter defense tactics and how your own home fortification plans need attention.

For many; the not too distant events in Ferguson are the first thoughts that come to mind when you mention the word looting. Looting, in some circles, is what you do apparently when there is an opportunity to steal and occasionally destroy with relative impunity. For some people, looting is appropriate after your team loses a sports event like the 2011 Vancouver riots or wins one as in the case of the San Francisco riots of 2014.

The most likely place to see unabashed looting appears to be after a natural disaster like the looting reported immediately following hurricanes Katrina and more recently Sandy. Even before the Sandy storm had subsided, wannabe criminals were taking to Twitter to announce their looting plans. To be fair, our country isn’t the only one engaging in behavior like this during a crisis, as the recent hurricane in Cabo San Lucas showed.

Whatever the motivation, looting is wrong in my opinion and if it were happening to you, I am sure you would agree. There are some professionals (lawyers naturally)who have tried to justify looting in the context of a natural disaster by obliquely saying property rights are suspended and as such the looters aren’t technically stealing from anyone. Property without an owner needs to be redistributed. An example is when you leave your home because of an impending hurricane, the property is no longer in your possession so it is fair game.

Isn’t that special?

But consider for a moment, a real societal collapse, not your garden variety incident that provokes the theft of TVs, shoes, jewelry, and clothes or the overturning of a cop car. In a real collapse scenario where you didn’t have FEMA coming with tent cities to take care of you, the power wasn’t coming back on, and nobody had jobs outside of survival; looting would take on a different meaning. In a real collapse, I think looters would quickly forget about electronic game consoles and would quickly move on to food and supplies. In this article, I want to discuss some looter defense tactics to consider if the SHTF and the looters are coming down your street.

Looter Defense Tactics and Home Defense Mistakes

When it comes to a collapse, we are talking about living a life that is almost entirely devoted to survival. Even if you have plenty of food stored up, you will need to take steps to find and cultivate new sources of food and possibly collect water on a daily basis for your family. You will eventually need to go outside and even if you barricaded yourself in your suburban home, that would not guarantee your safety from determined looters.

Fight your own normalcy bias

Before a crisis hits you would ideally have a plan in place to deal with the potential outcomes. It is important to understand as quickly as possible the severity of the events surrounding you and take proactive steps to head off any further problems. It is too simple and dangerous to hope that given time, the authorities will be around, the power and water will come back on and life will go on as it did before the crisis. You have to start thinking of taking care of yourself without the dependence on emergency services from the start.

A father with starving children will not play by the rules in a collapse.

A father with starving children will not play by the rules in a collapse.

Of course, I am talking about cataclysmic events, not smaller regional events like hurricanes which we should all accept are recoverable as a societal whole, in most cases. If there is a football game that goes crazy and riots are in the downtown area, I don’t think we have to worry in the same way as if a terror attack that takes out the grid. People who are even half-way paying attention will know when it is time to jump into action and you should be well ahead of the chaos game before that point.

Be prepared to defend your life

In a true collapse, the regular rules are out the window. There will likely be no law enforcement for some period of time, possibly ever. At best, they will be much slower to respond because they will already be busy with other issues. You have to seriously consider what will be required of you in a worst-case scenario and to that end, what you are capable of in the realm of defending your family and home.

We talk about all kinds of forms of self-protection on the Prepper Journal, but each person has their preference. No matter what that is, are you prepared to use it? Are you prepared to take the life of someone who has plans to kill you if you are standing in the way of something they want? If you are not prepared to defend your home and the life of your family, are you prepared to live with the consequences?

Not being there to defend the home

This last one might sound overly simplistic but if the crisis comes and you have already bugged out to the woods, I wouldn’t expect to be able to return to an untouched house. If you don’t have the money for your own private security firm, who do you think will protect what is left inside? In a real collapse, it may make sense to always have someone stationed in your home to prevent looting and theft; possibly worse.

It isn’t like you will be driving to the in-laws or the mall across town and will be gone all day, but even short trips away from your home could give the bad guys an opportunity to smash a window in and quickly take off with supplies your family needs. During a collapse, you really need to start thinking of your dwelling as a castle. It may not have the nice tapestries hanging from the walls, but it will be worth defending.

The ability to provide round the clock security will force you to rely on a larger group. This is when your neighborhood watch plans would make the most sense. Here are some looter defense ideas that may prevent you from being a victim.

Deter – How to make your home less of a target

Don’t give them anything to come after

This one is harder to visualize in a collapse. When everything is fine, we would talk about moving valuables out of sight of people looking in your windows should they be casing your home. Grid down – they may be more desperate and not looking for jewelry or TV’s or care if your yard is nicely manicured. Hiding food and supplies will be more common for everyone so you have to seriously work on making sure nobody knows you have things they want. Concepts of the grey neighbor apply and it may be necessary to pretend you are worse off than you actually are. You could also make your home look like it has already been looted.

Signs and fences –Armed response

Make them think there is a chance they will get hurt, possibly dead looting from your home. At least they should think it won’t be as simple as walking up to the door and kicking it in. Fences are an obstacle they have to negotiate, but I think unless you have a ridiculous fence that might not stop looters in a grid down scenario. A good roll of razor wire could come in handy after a collapse to string along the tops of your fences, but this requires a fair amount of extra planning. Knowing they are dealing with an armed person (looters will be shot) might not prevent them from trying, but they will have to think twice before they do. This will deter anyone who isn’t really serious about getting into your home.


No thief likes dogs – although in a serious collapse if all rules are out the door, they may simply shoot Fido and keep going.

Detect – How can I have advance warning of looting?

Change your perspective

Foreknowledge is all about intelligence. You have to know what is going on outside your home and the further out you can gain intelligence, the more time you will have to prepare for looters. In a collapse scenario, I think it will be necessary to have someone outside monitoring the situation on your street, in your neighborhood so they can provide advanced warning. This is best done with a group for coverage and capacity of bodies. Neighborhood security plans would be best for this scenario.

Motion Detectors/Trip flares

Lights Perimeter Alarm – Barring an outside sentry team or system, motion detectors are a great way to have a security system that alerts you when movement is happening on your property. Driveway alarm systems can be purchased for simple notification but require someone to come up your driveway. In a collapse, something like a simple air-soft “grenade” could be turned into a tripwire noise device system or even cans on a string could alert you to movement in your yard. Motion-activated lights could give you advance warning assuming power is on and you aren’t trying to keep a low profile. Of course, these could go off like any other motion-activated device when the wind blows. Too many false alarms will lead to the Boy who cried wolf syndrome and will be ignored eventually.

Security Cameras

Security cameras are a good option if you have power and somebody to monitor the cameras at all times.


Yes, a dog will probably detect people coming toward your house better than almost any other means.

Delay – How can I make my home harder to loot or buy me time?

One of the primary looter defense tactics is to strengthen your doors and windows.

Traditional wood frame doors are very easily broken.

Reinforce your doors

Most home break-ins occur from doors and first-floor windows. Doors are pretty easily kicked in unless they are reinforced. One simple and cost-effective way of making this harder is to reinforce the jams and door-frame with something like the EZ Armor Door security kit. Any door’s weakest point is the hinges, the wood around the locking bolt, and their attachment to the wooden frame. A security kit takes the weakness of that wood frame and converts it to a steel shroud that increases the amount of effort required to kick in your door. An added benefit is that this device can be installed in a few minutes by almost anyone. Another option that requires no installation is a Security bar from Master Lock that simply attaches on the inside of the door under the doorknob.

Charley Bar for sliding glass doors

Yes, in a grid-down scenario sliding glass doors are a stone-throw away from obliteration, but if the looters are trying to be sneaky, a device like the Charley bar will slow them down. I like a lot of others have the simple sawed-off broom handle as my security feature, but the Charley bar is a nicer option that attaches to the door and puts the reinforcement at the middle of the sliding glass door as opposed to the bottom. Additionally, you can slide the bar up out-of-the-way when not in use and you don’t have to worry about the bar walking away, or in my case being used for a toy by someone. Kids!

Security Window Film

It won’t make your windows bulletproof, but adding security window film could slow down someone trying to break in. The concept is similar to safety glass, where you have a thin sheet of transparent plastic film over the glass. Instead of shattering completely on impact, the film holds the glass together making entry a much slower process. You can see a video of how this works here but this is another do it yourself home security project that is pretty simple and could give you precious seconds of time to defend yourself.

Defend – When all else fails, what is my looter defense plan?

In the Ferguson riots, two shops were ignored by the looters. Can you guess why?

In the Ferguson riots, two shops were ignored by the looters. Can you guess why?

Layers of security

This is when I believe everything will come down to life or death. In a collapse situation, if someone has gone through all your security options above and is not deterred, you will most likely be fighting for your life and the lives of everyone in your home. The ideal defense is to not even be in your home but to repel the attackers from as far away from your home as possible. If they get in, you do have the advantages of knowing your home, confined spaces, and possibly the element of surprise.

When they enter your home, it is not the time to negotiate though, that time has passed. Retreat to a secure area or at least a space that provides cover that will shield you from bullets. If the looters are coming in from two directions, find a place where they will funnel, possibly a hallway where you can attack them from one direction – your protected front. Make sure you have someone watching behind you also.

Hearing protection

Gunshots, contrary to what you see on TV and the movies, are very loud. At the range, we have ear protection, but in a panic situation that might not be the first thing on your mind. If you have to shoot inside your home it will be even louder (140-190db) and will render you effectively deaf for some period of time after that happens. Noise-canceling sport earmuffs use the same technology that the Bose headsets use to block loud jet engine noises, but let regular sounds come in. Any gunshot sounds will be blocked because they are higher than 80db but you will still be able to hear regular conversations when you are done. Instead of ringing ears, you will be able to hear people move or talk to each other and this can give you a huge advantage if you are prepared.

Plan and Communication

Having a plan will be important so that everyone in your home knows what to do. If you are shot, what do they do? If the front door is breached, what is our plan? If they throw a Molotov cocktail through the window, what do we do? Don’t wait until the looters are in your home to react, have a plan and practice it. I don’t know if this is absolutely necessary now, but would be one of the first things to consider in a collapse. A well-trained team will perform better than a group of scared people who are frozen in a panic.

What are your thoughts on looter defense tactics for your home? Have you given this any thought?

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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For a determined marauder gang, I think fire is their best option and your worst enemy. Your molotov cocktail example is just what I would want to do if assaulting a stronghold. Forget risking my life on a frontal assault or breaching a door/window. Smoke ’em out or burn ’em out like WWII Marines used to do to the Japanese with flamethrowers. Keeping the enemy outside is the first best option because if they can make it in they can loot and burn your house down simultaneously. If they’re forced to set fire to your house from the outside you… Read more »

Pat Henry

I think if they want to kill you more than they want your stuff you are right. Why even bother trying to get in?


You’re right that the use of fire is limited in scope but it might be more of a vengeance thing or a terror thing besides simply being out to kill you. In the military we were taught to assess both the enemy’s most likely way to attack as well as his most lethal way to attack. Often these methods are one and the same, particularly when the enemy does not have versatility in tactics or equipment. In Iraq the Sunni terror groups would ‘make examples’ out of folks who resisted with pretty horrific methods like this or publicly murdering children.… Read more »

S. Cullen

Totally agree with Pat that one needs to prepare. I also know that no one plan or idea covers all bases. Defending oneself is a very fluid “action” and many different scenarios can take place that will require different actions. However, #1 thought here is this…. AM I WILLING TO — USE DEADLY FORCE TO ELIMINATE THE THREAT? I can not emphasis that about question greater than I have just put it forth…. For me, I have absolutely, no hesitation, thought or question about using deadly force… I have done so several times previously and done so w/o even a… Read more »


CPTED is excellent at slowing down the determined violent invader. The “only” difference I have with Mr. Cullen above, is that for logistical purposes, we purposefully keep our ammunition/caliber components as common as possible. Makes it easier to resupply and to store. I am also, in favor of having high-intensity lighting available to you. A curtain of light, can mask a great deal of activity behind that curtain, (and yes, it can be shot out), however, we are speaking to the issue of “buying time” to respond to the violent attack/invasion on your primary dwelling. if someone is attempting to… Read more »

S. Cullen

We carried several different calibers of rounds both for our primary duty weapon as well as our back up weapons…

Also a lighter cal weapon is for the wife to handle.

Having multiple types of rounds for me is no problem.

As far as disclosure to others??? Having worked in law enforcement on all levels I kind of know the routine of non disclosure.


Was never suggesting nor intimating you “thought” otherwise on what I posted. Only posted what I did as an adjunct to your already good points. Apologies if you chose to take issue. Wasn’t meant that way at all. Never crossed my mind, I assumed that the vast majority of readers do not have the experience you or I have had professionally.(and personally) When we can provide ALL readers with excellent information, (and most will not and do not practice any form of OPSEC) the better off we all are. As far as ammo on hand, I don’t “know” if I… Read more »

S. Cullen

Oh not a problem… I think strictly from a tactical operation because that’s the way I’ve been trained. Defending my home or my environment is the same process for me. As far as having a variety of caliber of weapons partly it is to allow my wife to use multiple platforms which I problem wouldn’t use (9MM/380) which is more suitable to her ability. I used 357, 40 cal and 12 gauge (00 & slugs) and the AR came along after I retired, but it’s standard now for police work. My purpose also because of the size and layout of… Read more »

Herman Nelson

Smart move on the charcoal. I have mine stacked 10 high, 2 across with the lodges hibachi sitting on top. Next to it is the flats of coleman 1 lb cylinders stacked 10 high with a couple one burner stoves and lanterns. I’ve been stocking up on the 15 lb cylinders just by shopping around craigs list. Those I fill and chain up. As to the ammo- best practice is 10,000 rounds per caliber and double or triple on the 22LR. You can never have enough 22LR.. Something to consider- pick up a couple pellet rifles. Pellets are cheap and… Read more »

S. Cullen

I’m not trying to come across as a “know it all” here… But having been a cop for 26 years and worked a variety of assignments including Hurricane Andrew and seeing how that played out, I tend to look at things and plan for the worse case events…. That said, I have 200 lbs. of charcoal…. But that’s only the start… This is what I’ve done as well… Have one propane Bar B Que grill…. One Camp Chef double burner and Oven (to cook/bake breads rolls or small roasts etc…) I am also storing 20lb, 30 and 40 lb. propane… Read more »

Herman Nelson

Naaa… I never implied you were a “know it all”. I used to work for “Mr. know it all” and you are not him.. 😉

Every piece of information or experience shared is for the good of the discussion.

S. Cullen

I’ve just been around the block a few times….actually more times than I care…..and “blessed” to have lived such a “diverse life”….and how I’ve made it this far is way beyond my reasoning…. That said, I’m happy to share some of my experiences, views thoughts etc so people might be able to get some insight about certain situations w/o actually having to deal with the difficulties that come with it all…. As diverse as my life has been, there is a very high emotional price that comes with it and that I really wouldn’t want to put on anyone including… Read more »

Pat Henry

Sounds like you have lived an interesting life S. Cullen. If you ever want to share your thoughts with a wider audience, please let me know. I am always looking for great articles for the Prepper Journal.


S. Cullen

Ah, hmmm let’s see….
What I’ve shared here is only the tip of the iceberg shall well say…
I’ll be happy to share some further details with you via email
you can reach me via
[email protected]
I can send you some links on some additional stories….
Steve Cullen


I second the pellet rifle for small game. 6,000 BBs for $5 at Walmart and you can kill all the birds, rabbits, and squirrels you see. A lot more reliable than deadfall traps.

Herman Nelson

I’m more apt to shoot squirrels off the side of the house with a pellet gun than a .22.. I don’t need any holes through the roof nor do I need to have a 22 bullet continue after it’s taken down what I shot.


Mixed calibers can be a touchy subject. If you have a real chance of remaining in one place (the castle) throughout, then common calibered firearms makes sense. Unfortunately, I don’t see sheltering in place as a realistic option for urban and suburban folks. Every course of action I can come up with winds up with us bugging out, with no viable nearby options for holing up. With bug out as the most likely scenario, I’d choose varied common calibers that will increase the likelihood that I can scavenge or barter my way to additional ammo for at least one carried… Read more »


I think based upon our own experience in SoCal, (well before we retired and moved out of my native state), that sheltering-in-place, bugging in, staying put, or whatever someone chooses to call it, depends entirely upon the area where you are located. In SoCal, I was in law enforcement, and saw and participated in the Rodney King 1992 Spring Festival, and witnessed the very real “panic” among many many people, of all ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds. I also see nothing wrong at all with the revolver as THE solid choice for most folks. I have several in .357 and… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and preps! I wouldn’t want to be walking up to your house uninvited if the SHTF.


S. Cullen

WHY???? HUH????(smile)…. I’m really a nice guy….honestly, I’d give you the shirt of my back…. But you might also think I’m some kind of a “whack job” as well…. However, as Paul Harvey would say…….Now for the rest of the story…. I was a cop for 26 years….(good or bad, but definitely not boring)….. My first arrest (3 days on the job) went on to make the FBI’s 10 most wanted for blowing up government buildings…. Then I as a rookie cop walked in on two cops doing a burglary one night with a Sergeant who didn’t want to do… Read more »


For tornados and SHTF, I have pre-cut plywood sheets for each first-floor window, with holes pre-drilled for easy installation, and a bag of hardware attached. I have an expanded metal section cut and ready to install on the narrow window next to the front door (I hate those things, such a security problem). I also have a 5″ latch installed at the top of the door with long screws, so someone could not break the glass and just let themselves in. I have a Door Devil package installed on each exterior door, well worth the price. And finally, I have… Read more »


The window preps are genius and multipurpose. See what happens living in areas without certain threats like I do? You get soft!


It seems to me that the single biggest thing a person can do to prepare for the defense of their castle is to practice. These are basically the same thing we did in the Army. Contact front/back/left/right, and everyone moving to their designated positions. Drills seem corny, neurotic, etc.. but they only take a few minutes to do a few times. Getting everyone on the team conditioned to move quickly to their designated positions won’t take all that much, and if/when things go bad, it’ll be ingrained into their heads to do their assigned task. Far more importantly, doing an… Read more »

Pat Henry

Great advice Bob!

Illini Warrior

Just a FYI …. those “brackets” for sliding in a 2 X 4 across a door – called “bar holders” in the hardware trade …. two different versions – closed version as pictured in the article and an open top version for just dropping in a 2 X 4 …. .

Pat Henry

I have been searching online for these for a while, but kept neglecting to remember to search when I went to the hardware store and didn’t get the name right apparently till I stumbled on these in the post. These seem like a really simple (but ugly) option that will further reinforce the doors. The open style you mention will go in narrow places where I can’t get the 2 x 4 to slide in due to space restraints. A few of these, some 3″ screws and a fully charged cordless will be a nice compliment to pre-cut sheets of… Read more »

Herman Nelson

EZ Armor is a great idea. I watched the Youtube videos and was quite impressed that it rebuffed a police “door knocker”. When I replaced the front door sometime ago, I also added the EZ armor in as well. When it came time to replace the roof, I went with steel. It doesn’t burn very well when cocktails are thrown on it. My plan for the ground floor windows is having pre-cut pre-drilled 1-1/8″ plywood ready to go and 2-1/2″ torx deck screws to keep it in place. The idea is have a 1X2 lip to hold the sheet in… Read more »

Pat Henry

Omega Man is going in the Netflix queue. Wasn’t that another version of the book, I am legend?

Herman Nelson

I am Legend came out in the 60’s. Vincent Price played the doctor in that one, then there was Omega Man with Charleston Heston. Omega did not follow the same story line. I am Legend was re-made with Will Smith playing the doctor, it did not follow the story line completely either. Of the three, I like Omega best.

Pat Henry

Yeah, I saw the Will Smith movie and read the book, which was almost nothing at all like the movie. I think I have heard Omega Man was another treatment at some point, but I never saw it.

Now, I have something else to watch after I am done checking out “Survivors” on Netflix.


Great article. Reaffirms all my beliefs and opened some new prospectives.

Pat Henry

Thank you very much David!

Jim Collins

how will you defend your home against an rpg or hand grenade? don’t think people don’t have them because that is just what they want ,I know of many ex military and others who have stock piled these weapons for later use, my granddaddy was one of those marines who killed “Nips” with flame throwers while storming hidden bunkers and underground tunnels ,he never spoke of it but my grandmother told me the stories about men screaming as they were being cremated by “pop” as well as others nasty job but somebody had to do it ,my uncle was a… Read more »

Pat Henry

That’s true Jim, but I guess I didn’t put enough disclaimers in the front of my article. I do think that any structure will be overrun with enough time, superior firepower or numbers. There are some situations where you will simply not be able to defend yourself, but I was trying to think of some that were less drastic that could be liveable.

Dan Moore

Molotov cocktails can go both ways. I have the makings just in case I have to throw one into a group of marauders.

Ron Burke

There is no better protection for the majority of people than a WELL TRAINED protection dog. The operative words being “well trained”. A lot of people offer them these days but many are not actual protection trained dogs but “protection sport” trained dogs. Big difference. http://goo.gl/KHfC3x

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