“What is the best self defense when I wake up at 2am with a guy standing next to my bed pointing a gun at me?”

A question I get almost every time I present a C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense Course is: “What do I do when I wake up at 2am with a guy standing next to my bed pointing a gun at me. Am I allowed to shoot him?”

As I am not a legal expert, I will not aim to provide an answer on whether you are allowed to shoot or not in such circumstances. The long and short of it is that you have to be able to prove in a Court of Law that you acted in self-defense and that there was no other way to defend yourself and your family. That involves lawyers, lots and lots of money and probably a psychologist to keep you on track due to the stress associated with all that comes from being the suspect in a murder or attempted murder case.

I will rather comment on how to avoid waking up with a bad guy standing next to your bed in the first place.

Waking up with a bad guy in your home is one of the worst situations you can be in, especially if the bad guy is armed and already inside your house.  Once inside your home, he has all the tactical advantage. He now controls the time, place and method of the attack and you can only respond/react to that. Action is always faster than reaction and he has already started to act by pointing a gun at you. You are half-asleep and totally unprepared to enter into a violent confrontation. You have no idea whether the bad guy is alone. Your chances of survival if you decide to enter into a physical confrontation or gun battle are very slim at best. Suddenly you experience the effects of adrenalin rushing through your body. You may freeze-up, unable to do anything. You may start blindly running or you may decide to fight. Most people freeze-up, especially if there are weapons involved. Most people lose the ability to use fine motor skills i.e. taking a fire-arm of safety. If you decide to fight, you better have the ability to fight effectively and to stop the threat before you are killed. Most people do not have that natural ability nor the correct training.

Waking up with the bad guy already inside your home means that a lot of things went wrong. It means that you had no early warning systems in place or if you had, it was not functional or if was ineffective to wake you up in time. It also means that you either had no physical barriers in place or it was easy enough to breach and enter your home without you waking up.

I have been a corporate security manager for most of my life and one thing that dealing with criminals in South Africa taught me, is that you can never have enough layers of security in place. In South Africa, criminals are not easily detered. They are often prepared to go to great lengths to enter a target premises. Relying on only one or two flimsy security measures to keep them out will not cut it. Any measure that is based only on reaction/response by a third party i.e. armed response or police, is almost always ineffective.


What is  needed is a security system consisting of various layers of protection measures to delay, deter and detect intruders. You want to know about them the moment they set foot on your premises so that you can prepare to take action according to a pre-determined action plan.

Think of an onion. The core of the onion is you and your family. Each layer of skin that you peel off makes your eyes tear-up and burn. Think of those layers of onion skin as your security measures at home. The outer layer is being involved in local Community Policing Forums and Neigbourhood Watch activities so that you know what is going on in your area. The next layer is to have security fencing around your home. The next layer is to have a reliable electronic system that will warn you when intruders breach the fence (Zeus your killer lion-cross-pitbull dog is a biological being. He gets tired, sick and distracted. When barking, the only people he is likely to wake up are your neighbours who become annoyed at his constant barking). The next layer is quality security gates and burglar bars on all doors and windows. The common retail store variety is a total waste of your hard earned money and will be easily breached. Having bars only on opening windows serves no purpose. The last layer is the emergency contingency plans you have inside the house. Your family emergency plan. Your secured saferoom where everybody can run to and lock themselves in when warned of an intrusion and where you have a phone, panic buttons, weapons, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and flashlight. Only keeping your trusty 9mil under your pillow is not a plan. Your 9mil is only a tool that you will use as part of your plan.

The layers of security will buy you time until help arrives. Stay inside the saferoom. Gents, if you go outside dressed in your PT shorts and flip flops with your 9mil to “sort out” the intruders, you are not a hero. Nope, you are wrong, you do not protect your family by going outside. By going outside, you actually expose your family more because you will get killed, leaving them at the mercy of ruthless criminals. You do not know how many attackers there are, where they are or what they are armed with.


If you want to be a real hero, stay in the saferoom with your family, keep them calm and protect them from there. You have a much better chance of “sorting them out” with your trusty 9mil when they want to break through your saferoom door and by the time they do break through,  your armed response team will hopefully have arrived to help you.

For more information on reality based self-defense training contact:

C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense South Africa

Cell 082 299 9117

E-mail: info@cobradefense.co.za