A “nightstand gun” — the handgun you keep by the bedside for quick access in a bump-in-the-night-scenario — is a niche firearm. While your nightstand gun can be your everyday concealed carry gun as well, it’s best to have something specifically suited to the task (finances allowing). Here are three criteria which should guide your selection.
1. A full-size semi-automatic handgun or revolver
There’s one main reason not to carry a full-size handgun: it’s big. As you don’t have to carry your nightstand gun — again, depending on your financial situation — why not have a full-size pistol by your bed?
Given the dangers of over-penetration (i.e. stray rounds) at home, maximum accuracy is a must. Full-size handguns enable the best possible grip — one of the keys to shooting accuracy. Full-size semi-auto pistols also stow plenty of ammo. While you probably won’t need all of those rounds in a home defense scenario, no one ever ended a gunfight wishing they had less ammo on board.
That raises the thorny question of whether a five, six or seven-shot revolver makes for a suitable choice for that one gun you’ll count on in an emergency.
The overarching concept: have a nightstand gun you can shoot well. Instinctively, even. If that’s a full-size revolver, then good. Just don’t get to thinking you’re going to reload your wheel gun in the dark, under stress, while moving, even if you happen to have a speed loader handy. A man’s got to know his handgun’s limitations.
Your choice of the best nightstand gun will be up to you. While I carry a 1911, I prefer a striker-fired handgun without an external safety for home defense. If ever there’s a time when I’m likely to forget to switch off a safety, the middle of the night under stress is it.
2. Night sights
Night sights on a bedside gun are a tremendous aid in low or no-light conditions. That’s why your nightstand gun should have them.
A lot of gun owners eschew night sights in favor of a weapon-mounted light. I get it. A WML illuminates the dark while keeping a hand free for opening doors, dialing 911, guiding loved ones and turning on lights. Equally, WMF adherents reckon that their knowledge of their house — in the dark — gives them a strategic advantage.
Clearing a dark house is a technique best left to operators. There are too many ways a solo house clearance can go wrong, especially if there are multiple home invaders. Which is why those operators work in teams.
Turning on your lights in a bump-in-the-night self-defense scenario eliminates the stress and danger of clearing a darkened house. While lights-on signals the bad guy/guys that you’re awake and alert to their presence (and maybe even your location), the info may cause them to retreat, especially if you shout out that you’re armed and the police are on their way.
Will most home invaders retreat when the lights go on and they know they’ve been detected? Who knows? But some will. Remember: a lawful defensive gun use involves an awful lot of paperwork, expense and potential psychological trauma.
Also, unless you’re going to leave the WML switched on — which clearly identifies your exact position — manipulating your light under stress will be difficult. Training in WML room clearing techniques may ameliorate some of these unavoidable challenges. Or it may not.
As for using a handheld flashlight for bump-in-the-night work, again, it’s best to have a spare hand for ancillary tasks.
3. Suppressor or active headphones
Guns are REALLY loud. Fire a gun in your house and you will lose at least some hearing, probably permanently. I value my hearing to the point where I’m not willing to sacrifice it if I don’t have to. And I don’t have to.
As you may know, suppressors aren’t necessarily “hearing safe.” But they will reduce your gun’s sonic signature to safer levels. Not only will a suppressor protect most of your precious hearing long-term, they allow you to use your sense of hearing during a gunfight.
Yes, the bad guy may shoot a [very loud] gun. Hopefully, that noise won’t be right by your ears. And if he does, your hearing probably won’t be your biggest concern. Equally hopefully, you’ll be able to shoot the armed bad guy(s) before he or she has a chance to fire. Assuming they’re armed with a gun.
Keeping a pair of active noise cancellation headphones within easy access is a far cheaper and more effective alternative. Not only do they eliminate gunfire entirely, they can amplify your own hearing. You’ll be able to more easily identify the threat’s location.
Of course, you have to keep them next to your gun and remember to put them on. Will you do so under stress? If you don’t like the idea of wearing ear pro when the S hits the F, or worry that you might forget, a suppressor is the better choice.
Oh, and one more thing . . .