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About two hours past the “dead of night,” my home security plan underwent a thorough, objective, and absolutely convincing practical evaluation. I was awoken from a dead sleep by the proverbial ‘bump in the night.’ It wasn’t one bump, it was five. They were loud enough to jerk me from vivid dreaming (something about a train) to 100% awake and hyper-alert in a split-second. The bumps sent me tiptoeing to the closet gun safe where the Big Gun and some lesser armaments wait in preparation for just such a moment. I had a plan, and I’d rehearsed it . . .

But not like this. My mind raced and time crawled. No new noises from downstairs, I thought. That’s a good thing.  I can see pretty well in the darkness. Another good thing.  I haven’t tripped over anything. Still good. I made it to the safe without making a soundStill no sounds from downstairs. All good up to this point.

Now the key is in my hand as I silently trace the door of the safe with my other hand, locating the keyhole.  And now I…can’t…get…the…damn…barrel…key…into…the…fucking…lock….

Metal clinks on  metal under my fingers. If they’re down there, now they know I’m awake, I thought, and they’ll know exactly what I’m doing. Not so good anymore. More metal fumbling against metal, and my key-wallet jingles even though I purposely closed it so only the gun-safe key is sticking out. What the fuck!  I’d rehearsed this!

Tense seconds later, my key finds its home and the lock clinks open.  If I’d had a head start on whatever might be downstairs, I think I lost it trying to open the safe. I don’t want to get stuck in the closet with the Big Gun, so I grab some Lesser Armament. I get out of the closet and take my position to guard the top of the stairway from cover.

Still no sounds from downstairs. What the fuck was that banging? God, the cat is purring loudly.

A tiny sound from the stairwell. I flood the stairwell with indirect light from my weapon light, and I let the laser dot play across the wall for a half-second longer than strictly necessary. Right where anyone downstairs would see it. The kitten trots up the stairs, looks at the laser dot, and purrs even more loudly. I went dark, moved to different cover, and waited.

Still no sounds from downstairs? Maybe it’s nothing.

Many long minutes later, I knew that it was really and completely nothing. The cats purred around my ankles for a few minutes and went to sleep. No sound came from downstairs. No street noises intruded, so I knew there were no open doors or windows down there.

Perhaps it wasn’t the absolutely safest, most cautious, most ‘tactical’ choice, but I didn’t call the police. I eventually  took a cautious look-around downstairs, and by that time the only thing I expected to see was whatever the cats must have knocked over to create the unholy racket that woke me in the first place.

There was no mess, no overturned side-tables, no dishes knocked from the counter.  Whatever had made that noise hadn’t done it inside the house. I found…nothing. But I learned a lot.

First, I learned that I can wake up quickly when the occasion requires it. Second, I learned that the closet gun safe is too far away, and too tricky to open quickly under stress. My security plan had a fifteen-second hole in it: fifteen seconds of tiptoeing to my closet and fumbling with a barrel key. Fifteen seconds for whatever happened outside my house last night to force a door or break a window and make its way inside. And upstairs.

Luckily, I could close that fifteen-second hole cheaply and simply. I journeyed to the local bulk-rate hardware store (one of the world’s happiest places, after gun shops) and discovered that my solution was on sale for less than $30 after taxes. I now have immediate bedside access to the Lesser Armament (not the Big Gun, alas) secured inside a small child-proof, if not burglar-proof, safe with keypad entry.

It’s not secure enough to defeat a concerted burglar’s effort to saw through it or smash it open, and in any event it would be much simpler to simply chop free and carry away, but it will keep unauthorized youngsters away from my Lesser Armament while I am home, and it will be an empty decoy while I’m not home. And nobody but nobody knows the number combination I programmed into it.

I never really got back to sleep last night after The Bump In The Night. My Saturday-morning detective work leads me to believe that an opportunistic cat-burglar tried my front door a few times and decided not to test the deadbolt or the door frame. So I lost a night’s sleep, but found a big hole in my security plan, which I never would have found on my own. There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

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  1. Opinions are split as to whether document-type fire safes promote rusting, but my small safe specifically says "Not Intended For Fire Protection."

  2. Fine motor skills are the enemy in a situation like that. I keep a gauge by the bed in “cruiser safe” mode. Dry fire to release the slide stop. Load the tube. Then you can get it hot with minimal fine motor skills. No kids, so I don’t feel it necessary to lock up my bedside gun.

  3. Our alarm goes off about twice a year. Who knows why. An errant roach perhaps.

    The drill has never gone exactly as planned but I learn something and hone it every time it happens. It's amazing how many dumb things you do under stress. So far, haven't done the same dumb thing twice but I always find new ones to add to the list of what not to do next time.

  4. I live in a very upscale town with my GF, who never believed that bad things could happen here. As someone born in New York City, I'm always in Condition Orange, so naturally we disagreed. Then another home in town was invaded and the owner beaten to a pulp. She then had a major attitude shift. We were already well armed, but since then we have practiced our movements for such awkward situations. Close to my side of the bed there are two handguns, a 20 gauge and a flashlight. On her side there's another gun with a laser. I'm not saying where. Any one of the guns can be weaponized in less than two seconds (that's timed, not estimated). These are my failsafes, not my first line of defense. The burglar alarm is the first line of defense. It will wake the dead, and I expect that it will wake even the local PD. I do not believe that any home invaders would continue the entry after the alarm sounds, but if they do we'll be wide awake and they will be in a crossfire.

  5. Any particular reason why you chose a keypad safe rather than a biometric fingerprint safe, Chris? I'm guessing expediency, but I am genuinely curious.

    • Cost was the reason, and the diminishing marginal returns for extra dollars spent. $25 will save me fifteen seconds tiptoeing to the closet and fumbling with the lock, versus $200+ for a biometric that will save me a few seconds more.

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