Here's a story about a home invasion with a happy ending. I first saw this in the July 2011 edition of the American Rifleman in the "Armed Citizen" column (p.10). A man with a criminal record broke the glass on the door of a house. The homeowner warned the intruder not to come in and fired two warning shots. Mr. Saunders the intruder -- convicted most recently of felony burglary, first-degree theft, and identity theft -- forced his way into the house despite the warnings. The homeowner, armed with a ".22 caliber rifle", fired a single shot into Saunders chest. The intruder was, as they say, dead right there when the police arrived. The wife had called 911 when the break-in began, but the authorities did not arrive in time to recycle Mr. Saunders through the correctional system.
Police and prosecutors appear to be satisfied that the homeowner acted purely in self-defense. We are happy for that.
Given that journalists are generally idiots, a ".22 caliber" rifle could be anything from a .22LR to a .220 Swift -- though I'm thinking I would not want to fire a warning shot, let alone two, from a Swift inside a house. I think we can safely assume the shots were not fired from one of those evil "assault weapons". In all likelihood, the homeowner defended his life and property with his squirrel rifle, pretty good nerves, and one well-placed shot.
Our little story illustrates several principles I believe are important should one ever be forced into a similar situation.
1) Do as much as possible to avoid using deadly force. Calling 911 immediately was a very good idea. I am not so sure about firing warning shots inside a house. Shouting, "I have a gun!" should be sufficient. Save your ammunition. Also, unless the homeowner was using a .22LR and fired the shots into the couch or something, I would worry about what those rounds might hit.
2) Know your weapon and its capabilities, and use the weapon you know. The homeowner had likely done some target shooting or possibly hunting with his .22 rifle and knew the limitations as well as the potential.
3) Do not freak out. No doubt the homeowner's heart was racing and his system was full of adrenaline, but he managed to line up his sights and place a round where it would be the most effective.
4) When the threat ends, cease defensive action. If the fight had not been over, clearly, the defender should have kept shooting. However, he recognized that the intruder was no longer a threat and halted. This makes his action look even more justifiable in the eyes of the law. We want to always be able to honestly say: I only did what I had to do. No more -- but also, no less.
5) Nothing beats shot placement when it comes to the use of a firearm.