On Unexpected Knocks

When I first moved into this apartment, I’d open the door whenever anyone knocked. I never used the peephole. In retrospect, this was rather dumb, so I rapidly stopped doing it.
Instead, I’d observe the person at the door through the peephole, position my foot so as to stop the door from opening very far, then open the door far enough to stick my head out and speak with them. My thought was that if someone kicked the door, they’d be stopped by my foot. After thinking about this plan, I realized that I often don’t wear shoes in the apartment, and didn’t want to have my foot crushed if someone tried to kick the door in. Also, I could be surprised, jump, or otherwise move my foot, thus allowing the door to open.
My current plan is that I observe the person through the peephole, and if it’s an obvious “good guy” (my friends, my landlord, etc.), I’ll open the door with no problems. Otherwise, I ask (through the closed and locked door) if I can help them. If I don’t recognize them or if they’re a solicitor*, I politely indicate that they should leave. I find it much easier to dismiss them if I don’t need to make face-to-face contact with them.
If they refuse to leave, or become aggressive (which hasn’t happened yet, thankfully), there are less-polite courses of action, such as calling the police, or racking the shotgun. Since the door remains closed and locked, and they have no idea how many people are in the apartment or where they might be located, I remain in a strong defensive position.
I’m constantly surprised to see how few people use any sort of defensive strategy in their home: the solicitor that stopped by this evening (I politely declined their offer and asked them to leave, all without opening the door) moved on to my neighbor’s apartment, where his knocks were answered immediately by the neighbor opening the door. If the solicitor was, in fact, a robber or had other ill will, the neighbor would be completely unprepared.
Peepholes and door locks exist for a reason. Why people choose to ignore them when someone knocks at the door, I’ll never know.
If I had my own house, I’d probably put a small wi-fi based webcam outside (sheltered from the elements, of course) in a discreet location so I could have a wider field of view than the peephole provides — it would allow me to see if the person was alone or not, and allow me to view the entryway without actually standing right next to the door. An intercom might be handy as well.
* Tip: don’t go knocking on people’s doors after dark. You might also want to avoid the apartment complexes marked “no soliciting”.

6 thoughts on “On Unexpected Knocks”

  1. Don’t rack the shotgun. Then they know you have a shotgun. They could can call the police and say that you threatened them with a shotgun. You don’t want that.
    Another thing. In the apartments that I have been in every single one of them was setup to naturally have backlight on the door. This leaks out under the door or can be see when you step in front of most peep holes (i.e. it goes from light to dark). That is a really good time for a thug to shoot though the door. You also don’t want that. Limit the amount of backlight shining on your door. When answering the door turn off lamps and shut curtains that shin onto the door. Put a thick rug in front of the door. This does make the door harder for you to open but the same goes for them, and it will help cut down in light that shines under the door. If you have a peep hole (as you should) put a post it note over it (tape it there if need be. To use put your head in front of the peep hole and then lift the note.
    Or even better don’t approach the door. Simply yell “Who is there” while you are chamber checking your house gun of choice (no racking the shotgun remember… you should already have a round in there). If it is not someone you want to talk to tell them to get bent in the nicest possible way.

  2. Ben,
    The shotgun is kept cruiser-ready in the safe (it’s a small apartment, else I’d keep it near the bed). I don’t keep rounds chambered in the guns that are in the safe; if there’s a fire, I don’t want rounds discharging when the firemen are trying to extinguish my apartment.
    My .45 and 9mm pistols are kept loaded and chambered, usually with one on my person. They’re always with me whenever I open the door.
    I haven’t had even the remotest need to even consider using a firearm in defense, but if a confrontation arises, I’d much rather resolve it peacefully (“Hello, police? Yes, I had some aggressive people attempting to enter my apartment. I racked my shotgun and they fled. Here is their description…” — always call the police first, so they get your story before the bad guy), even if that may involve the police stopping by and asking me some questions.
    I keep a bottlecap taped over the peephole (it can be readily lifted), so as to prevent that light-dark transition, as well as stopping people with reverse peephole viewers from looking in. With the amount of beer I drink, bottlecaps are essentially free. 🙂
    I’d love to get one of these devices, but I wish they’d make them in brass rather than plastic.

  3. If someone I don’t know and am not expecting knocks on my door, I usually won’t answer it. Chances of it being someone I want to talk to is pretty slim. That’s the safest bet, I think. If you’re going to answer the door for someone who you’re not expecting, and don’t know and they look out of place for the circumstances, I would recommend always having a loaded firearm within arm’s reach. But the best bet is just not answering the door at all. Of course, if they start breaking down the door, you know the drill in that instance 🙂

  4. Sebastian,
    The postman always rings twice? 😛
    I have little problem with responding to a knock, as it might be the UPS guy, the mailman delivering a parcel, an unexpected visitor (ala The Hobbit, though perhaps I should stay away from wizards and dwarfs), etc. But I won’t open the door unless I recognize them.

  5. During the day I keep my Ruger Vaquero beside me on the computer; I can glance out the window to my left and see if anyone enters the driveway. If someone knocks on the door and I didn’t see them in the drive (or if I did see them and don’t know them) the Ruger accompanies me to the door, behind my leg as I open it. If it someone who has genuine reason to enter, I shift my grip on the Ruger so it is held in a non-threatening way, but I don’t apologize about carrying a pistol in my own home.

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