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The Fatal Funnel: Dealing with Doors

Richard Nance explains how to safely deal with doors in a home-defense scenario.

The Fatal Funnel: Dealing with Doors

Dealing with doorways is dangerous business, but sometimes it has to be done in order to clear a room. Tips like approaching a door from the knob side and keeping your gun’s muzzle up can put the odds in your favor.

In a home-defense scenario, arming yourself and taking cover to monitor the doorway leading to your “safe room” is a solid plan. Unfortunately, you may have to venture out to account for household members who may be less capable of protecting themselves. In such a case, you’ll likely have to open doors to clear what’s beyond them.

Cops often refer to a doorway as a “fatal funnel.” That’s because someone lying in wait can simply monitor the door and shoot as soon as you enter. While managing a door with a gun in your hand can be challenging, there are tactics you can use to help you prevail.

One of the cardinal rules for dealing with doors is to avoid standing directly in front of one. If the door were to open unexpectedly, you would have precious little time to react. Instead, approach from an angle whenever possible. Setting up on the knob or handle side makes the most sense because it prevents you from having to reach all the way across the door to open it.

As you approach the door, bring your gun in close, with the muzzle oriented upward about 45 degrees. This keeps the gun farther from the doorway and gives you a more advantageous position should someone attempt to disarm you. Also, with the muzzle up, you won’t inadvertently reach in front of it with your off hand as you grasp the knob.

While at the door, listen. You may hear something that prompts you to back away from the door or that motivates you to burst through it. The proper course of action can change based on the circumstances, which is why you must think when your gun is in hand. Never is this more appropriate than when deciding whether to open a door that may lead to a deadly threat.

If you need to open the door, turn the knob as quietly as possible. If it’s locked and you need to get through, you must either find an alternative entry or breach the door. Assuming the door is unlocked, turn the knob and shove the door open. Immediately back off a few steps while adding your second hand to the grip of your handgun. Move back at an angle so you’re not directly in front of the door.

Getting away from the door gives you time and space. From a longer distance, you have a better opportunity to perceive and respond to an emerging threat. While you should generally refrain from running through a doorway, always expect someone to come running out of one.

From a position of relative safety, pause and see if opening the door caused someone inside to move. If you don’t see or hear anything, it’s time to start clearing the room. This is best accomplished with a technique called “slicing the pie.”

It refers to viewing a small slice of the room at a time and then moving slightly to clear the next slice. Since the technique employs small steps in a semicircle pattern around the doorway, it enables you to see a potential assailant before he sees you.




Of course, you might not see much of anything if you’re looking through your gun’s sights. Lower your muzzle and look over the gun. This gives you a better view of a person’s hands and the waist area so you can quickly determine if they’re armed. But don’t lower your gun so much that the muzzle is pointed at the ground in front of you.

The muzzle should be oriented just under the would-be attacker’s feet to avoid sweeping your muzzle past someone who doesn’t pose a threat. This also enables you to raise the muzzle quickly on target if needed. Your trigger finger should be indexed along the frame of your gun until you are on target and have decided to fire.

Be sure to take small steps when slicing the pie so your leg or foot doesn’t give away your position before your eyes and muzzle have a chance to catch up. To minimize exposure, keep your right, foot forward when clearing to your right and vice-versa. Also, rather than rolling out at the waist when clearing, try leaning forward, over your lead leg. This will give you a bit more of a view without needlessly exposing yourself or compromising balance.

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If you locate someone beyond the doorway, you may give verbal commands and receive compliance. Or the person you located might run away, attack or do something else—like shoot at you. Don’t be lured into the room. That said, if an assailant is heading toward other household members, you may rightfully decide to give chase.

If an assailant is armed, you may have to shoot him. Even if he goes down, don’t rush past the doorway to assess. There may be additional assailants you haven’t seen, or the downed assailant may still pose a threat.

After you’ve visually cleared as much of the area beyond the doorway as possible and have decided to enter the room, be wary of the corners to the left and right when you cross the threshold of the door. Aside from a threat in the doorway itself, these are your most immediate danger zones.

Since you can’t deal with opposing corners simultaneously, pick a direction and move quickly through the doorway to clear one, then immediately turn 180 degrees to check behind you. Don’t linger in the fatal funnel. Once you’ve decided to cross the threshold, do so quickly and aggressively, then slow down to clear the rest of the room, then the next room and so on.

Dealing with doors is not complicated, but it is a skill deserving of your attention. Your goal isn’t merely to see what’s beyond the threshold of the doorway but to do so as safely as possible. Following these tactics will increase your odds of success.

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