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While researching for my book How to Defend Your Home with a Shotgun, I’ve come to a fork in the road. As Yogi Berra recommended, I’m taking it. More specifically, there are two schools of thought on whether or not you should lock up your gun at night. The first says what are you, Meshugana? In a Bump in the Night (BITN) scenario, you need immediate access to a locked and loaded firearm. With adrenalin flowing through your system, with the clock ticking on terror, there’s no way you’ll be able to successfully negotiate gun locks, safes, ammo, etc. You’ll die before you get older. The argument against this POV: you’re much more likely to make a mistake and shoot the wrong person if you have a “here’s one I prepared earlier” firearm at hand. Or miss the right wrong person. You need to WAKE UP, god dammit. The extra steps needed to prepare deadly force—unlocking, loading—will force you to do so and, this save your life. And, potentially, the life of an innocent BITN-generator. I can see both perspectives. But there’s simply no hard data on this. Once I get to Colorado, I’m going to find a sleep clinic and set up a proper experiment (list of variable after the jump). Meanwhile, what do YOU do for nighttime home defense?

Firearm Sleep Study – Is it better to lock up your gun at night?

Seeking to measure:

1. Ability to accurately ID target – Friend or foe?

2. Reaction time – How long does it take from initial stimulus to weapon and target acquisition and firing?

3. Accuracy of fire – What are the odds of a successful shooting?


In a controlled setting, arouse sleeping subjects with an audio stimulus. Measure their ability to acquire a firearm (paint ball gun), ID a target and hit it with various safety measures in place (or not).


1. Subject – age, race, marital status, children, firearms experience, etc.

2. Sleep drugs

3. Ability to accurately ID target – Friend or foe?

4. Reaction time – How long does it take from initial stimulus to weapon and target acquisition and firing?

5. Accuracy of fire – What are the odds of a successful shooting?


6. Depth of sleep

7. Nature and strength of initial audio stimulus (breaking glass, alarm, nudge from partner)

8. Type of weapon

9. Weapon position

10. Weapon acquisition procedure – by the bedside, safety on or off, in a safe, etc.

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  1. Unfortunately, to many gun owners the gun becomes a solution in search of a problem. I think any sober and reasonable analysis of whether to keep a gun in the nightstand has to start out with an objective and realistic assessment of the potential threats.

    For people who live in quiet suburban neighborhoods with very little violent crime, I would ask: Why keep a loaded gun at all? Sure, anyone can come up with a one-in-a-million scenario where a psycho killer picks your house at random (where would the horror movie industry be without such scenarios?) but if a realistic analysis reveals that your house is more likely to be struck by a wayward meteorite than to be burglarized at night while you are there, the loaded-gun-in-the-nightstand probably presents more risks than rewards.

    If the analysis reveals a vulnerability, then the second step (before loading the gun and placing it by the bed) would be to "harden" your house. Most criminals are lazy and/or in a hurry which means that every obstacle you put in front of them makes your house a less likely target. Security doors with dead bolts, alarm systems with panic buttons, and (best security of all) a big dog with a loud bark will probably make any criminal move on to a softer target long before you have to reach for that pistol.

    I think a realistic and unbiased analysis of burglaries of occupied homes would reveal two things very quickly:

    1. The home is in a neighborhood where such things are known to happen, often because they are percieved by criminals as "soft targets" (this is why college campuses are targets for break-in attacks by burglars and rapists.) or,

    2. The break in is not a random burglary, but the result of an ongoing relationship between the burglar and the burgled (either a criminal enterprise or a domestic situation.)

    My point in detailing the above is that people who are in those situations (high crime neighborhoods or being stalked by a crazy ex) generally know it, and those are the people who need to take precautions up to and including the nightstand hogleg.

    Those people who do not fall into one of the two scenarios above should do some objective analysis before proceeding down that path.


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