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Gun safe (courtesy The Truth About Guns)
A handgun is for fighting your way to your long gun. Nowhere is this more true than at home, at night, with kids. In that horrifying situation, you want to call the cavalry, put the good guys behind you, grab your long gun, assume a defensive position and wait. A bedside handgun is an excellent tool to help make that happen. You can use your free hand to dial 911, grab the kids, open doors, turn on lights, etc. until you can get to your long gun. So where is it? Where is your shotgun or rifle? A lot of people . . .

keep their long gun in a remote location. They put all their faith in their self-defense handgun and store their self-defense rifle or shotgun in a safe in their basement, garage or some other place that would require them to cross into dangerous territory during a home invasion to secure their long gun. That’s hardly ideal. You want that gun but you don’t want to lose sight of your family. Nor do you want to “fight” your way to your long gun. You want it before the fight.

Some people go the other way. They forgo handguns entirely and keep a long gun by their bed. It’s usually either outside of a gun safe (e.g. under the bed) or propped-up in a nearby closet. Best case: they store the shotgun or rifle in a nearby gun safe. Great but, again, a handgun is a gun owner’s best first choice for home defense. So even if a long is nearby and properly secured, you want a handgun, too.

So . . .

Let’s say you grab your handgun, dial 911 and gather the good guys. Then what? Then you have to go back to your shotgun/rifle. Ideally, you take the brood with you, to have them behind you should push come to ballistic shove. Good luck shepherding sleep and/freaked out kids back to your long gun-enabled defensive position in the middle of the night. That plan adds extra time you may not have and strategic complexity you don’t need.

The key question here: where is your “safe room” (i.e. the room where you’re going to assume a defensive position with your long gun)? Wouldn’t it be best for the safe room to be in or near one of the kids’ room? That way you’re looking at a one-way trip. And if the safe room is near the kids, shouldn’t your long gun be there, not in your room?

It should. That room should have a gun safe with your home defense long gun. And maybe that safe should also contain some water, food, a spare telephone, spare ammo, flashlight and ear protection.

Of course, a home defense plan should be tailored to your home’s layout and your family’s age and skill level. For example, one adult might go to the kids, get them all into one room, secure a handgun (that’s stored in a safe there), put the kids behind a bed and assume a defensive position – while another adult goes straight for the long gun and “covers” the stairs/hallway.

My main point: think about where you store your guns as part of your overall home defense plan. Otherwise you’re asking for trouble at a time when you’re going to have all you need. And then some.

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  1. Kids on bunkbeds make it even more difficult. Unfortunately for me, that’s what we have.

  2. Good write up! I actually thought about this same situation a year or so ago and put a small safe in the walk in closet a few feet from where I sleep. The key for the safe is on my car keychain. When I get ready for bed, the key goes in the safe. When I get ready in the morning, the key goes in my pocket. Easy security when I’m gone, and I never have to look for my keys in the morning.

    • At first read, I was like “WTF?!?! Why would you lock the key in the safe?”

  3. I personally feel a handgun is optimal for home defense. You’d be engaging at short range and it’s far more maneuverable. When I was the victim of a home invasion, I had a Glock and a PS90 under my bed. I went for the Glock and I don’t regret it. Like you mention, you’re freer to do other things and you’ll be unlikely to need the advantages afforded by a rifle. A shotgun I’d have a little more sympathy for, but only slightly. You also have much more favorable reactions from law enforcement. I even remember when the detective arrived he remarked “He used the old Glock defence, eh?” Not that I idolize Glock brand Glocks. Any reasonable capacity handgun would do. Why go for the rife?

    • Why go for the rifle? Because handguns frequently fail to immediately stop an attacker.

      For example there was a home invasion about a year ago where a mom was home with her children. She hid in a storage space with a .38 Special revolver. When the invader opened the door to the storage space, the mom shot the invader five times in the head at point-blank range. The invader left the house, got in his car, and drove down the road a ways before crashing. That home invader had plenty of ability to kill the mother after taking five rounds in the head if he was motivated to do so. He wasn’t even high on drugs. And the mother had a decent defensive handgun.

      • I think the important point is, he left. The mother and kids were safe at that point.

      • Most high powered rifle rounds will simply “icepick” a bad guy at such a close distance, in and out. Rifle rounds offer no guarantee of a “one shot, one stop” situation.

        • This is true given the context that the high powered rifle you’re talking about is a .223/5.56 chambering.

          I hunt with .30 cal 150gr loads and process the harvested meat myself. Even at close range, less than 25 yard, the results are devastating.

          “Ice pick wound” would not be the words I would use to describe it. Several pounds of ripped and torn flesh with shattered bone and massive blood clotting would be more fitting.

      • A lot a people prefer rifle rounds like .223/5.56 because that’s what the military uses. If it’s good enough for the military, then it’s good enough for home defense. I’m not saying it isn’t, and we have two Colt M4’s ourselves, but battlefield and suburb circumstances do have some differences.

        One of the main ones to consider is that while a .223 round is obviously lethal, that’s not necessarily its first priority. In battle, it’s actually preferable to wound, ideally to incapacitation, an enemy combatant, than to kill him outright. This is because it consumes much more in resources for the enemy to retrieve and treat a wounded soldier, than to deal with just a body after the fight. Those resources then are not available to project force at you. .223/5.56, as intermediate cartridges relative to 30-06 or .308 that came before, are well suited to this task.

        Second, while battlefield small arms encounters can occur at a wide range of distances, the upper end of that range extends into the hundreds of yards. Home DGU’s are at hallway distance at most. So the idea of an intermediate cartridge intended to wound makes a lot of sense when you have hundreds of yards of margin. In a home DGU, the lesser emphasis on so-called “one shot stop” of the .223 could result in an assailant whose stopping requires multiple hits, as Paul mentioned. That may be less likely with certain higher caliber handgun rounds.

        It’s just one of many, many variables to consider and doesn’t constitute anything conclusive. So please don’t anybody read too much into it and consider it an opening salvo in a caliber war.

        • Civilians get to use hollow points. That little .223 hits with TWICE the kinetic energy of a .357 (roughly a .44 mag) and can dump ALL of it (unlike a .44) in about 14 inches with the right round selection. Not bad for something that don’t recoil. It IS the ideal choice, which is why EVERYBODY uses it. I do like a .308 for many things, as I own an M1A. I like my Moss 530 shotty too.

        • So much fail in many of the responses here. 1: the 5.56mm is not designed to wound. It is designed to kill. A fragmenting M193 round out of an 20-inch barrel is devastating. Please do not spread old Internet wives tales or LGS stories.
          2. a 5.56mm, despite being able to make nice through and through holes on quarter-inch steel plates will not overpenetrate in a house setting. In fact, the 5.56mm is proven (please, please look this up) to not over penetrate as much as: 9mm, .40, .45 ACP hollow point ammunition in a home. It will certainly not over penetrate as much as a 9 pellets of double-ought buck fired in a home.

        • Thank you, GWB. The .223 is similar to a .22 in caliber only. TWICE the energy of a .357 aint small potatoes.

    • Long guns are exponentially more accurate than handguns. Use a sling for the long guns if you wish to grab doors or kids. The answer is to carry both. Grab handgun from night stand and go to long gun in closet. Put on belt holster and stick handgun in it. Presto, handgun and slung long gun. Best of both worlds.

  4. I had a friend that came home and confronted a bad guy that had broken into his house and found one of my friends handguns. He exchanged gun fire with a bad guy who was armed with his own gun.
    Years ago, in my wild and crazy single days I brought back a girl to stay the night. When I went to the kitchen I thought about her in my bed, with a loaded Glock in the bedside table.

  5. A handgun is for fighting your way to your long gun if you’re reenacting the final scene from “Scarface” and your home has been invaded by 30 Colombian hit men with automatic weapons. Otherwise, your pistol will do just fine. Or your shotty. Or your carbine.

    A handgun is for shooting the BG center mass. And it won’t take a lot of gunfire to do it. It never does. Except in movies.

    • Agreed. And food & water? How the f**k long is he expecting the whole thing to take? Has Farago pissed off the cartels? Should we be concerned?

      • Being besieged in his closet makes him hungry. That’d make one heckuva Snickers commercial.

        • Robert Farago: “Say hello to my little friend!”
          Barstow Cowboy: “RF, eat a Snickers. You act like Scarface when you’re hungry.”
          (RF eats Snickers)
          RF: “Better?”
          BC: “Much better.”

  6. I disagree with some of the advice in this article.

    You better be very sure of what is outside your home in all directions if you actually are planning on shooting your rifle chambered in 5.56 because you are going to shoot through your house and into your neighbors’ home.

    If you are going to run your SCAR 16 indoors you better have some ear protection right with it or you going to effectively take yourself out of the fight when that things goes off with its ridiculous muzzle brake.

    Get your family in the “safe spot” designated, call 911 and then take up a defensive position in that room protecting them until the cavalry arrives. A handgun with high capacity magazine will do well in close quarters. At these distances point shooting is the goal, a weapon light is a great idea.

    Going Joe Tactical and trying to hunt down the bad guys in your house with your 5.56 rifle is a recipe for disaster.

    • “You better be very sure of what is outside your home in all directions if you actually are planning on shooting your” 9mm pistol in your home, because it has been shown that the added mass and lower energy transfer of the pistol round tends to allow it to stay in one solid mass for a longer period and pass through more barriers. FIFY
      In all seriousness, you bring up a valuable point. Everybody should have a plan in place that specifies lanes of fire in order to protect fellow occupants and/or neighbors. While I have a lane of fire plan, my front door is directly across from my neighbor’s, so I am at a slight loss other than making sure I hit the target.

      • If a situation develops in your home that requires shooting, you’re not going to be nor are you going to have time to think about lanes of fire. If you start shooting, you’ve already decided the risk of the immediate threat is at least equal to the risk of a stray shot exiting your home. The best thing to do is get yourself in good physical condition to handle the stress, and practice as often as you can with your weapon of choice, so you’re more likely to put your shots on target. I do agree with planning a “safe room” strategy.

        • I agree that in the heat of the moment, lanes of fire won’t really be thought of, and aren’t of the utmost importance. In my last apartment, firing directly out of my bedroom sent rounds through a basement, and into a hill under the other side of the building. Shooting directly down the hall at the front door would send rounds through an exterior wall and into a hill. Either way, no direct harm. I don’t have an option at the current place. The front doors face each other, and my bedroom directly faces my front door.

    • “A handgun with high standard capacity magazine will do well in close quarters.”

      There, fixed that for you.

      • You didn’t fix anything, just showed yourself to be a pedant.

        I’ll grab my 26 round capacity Glock magazine, with my favorite social ammo.

        You grab your seven round 1911 magazine.

        I prefer high capacity.

        : )

        • He is welcome to correct me if I am wrong, but I believe he is saying that your Glock mag (I am still not sure which one holds exactly 26 rounds) should be considered standard capacity. Most full-size handguns these days hold 15 or more rounds, thus that is a standard capacity. I would actually consider a 1911 low capacity for today’s handguns.

        • I think Blaine and uncommon_sense are trying to steer you away from politicized terms like “high capacity magazines” which is used by Anti gun folks to describe anything with more than 10 rounds.

    • I bought a home in a safe neighborhood, I keep my home’s exterior illuminated, bushes trimmed, windows and doors visible from the street; I don’t make a habit of having things delivered to the house, I don’t make a habit of having strangers come to my home to do work, and I lock my doors and windows at all times and I don’t open the door to strangers. I think that probably cuts the odds of being home invaded to just about nothing, so having long, contentious debates about where to keep what gun seems kinda ridiculous, unless you’re a Mitty who enjoys fantasizing about dispatching Black Bart and his gang as they come over your backyard fence.

    • A 9mm hollow point actually penetrates through walls with more energy than a standard 5.56mm round. .45acp also penetrate through standard drywall rounds with greater residual energy than a 5.56mm round. If you use frangible 5.56mm rounds you won’t have any overpenetration unless you happen to shoot through a window.

      Some GunSite penetration tests:

      All that being said I’d rather have a suppressed SBR in 300BLK over a regular 5.56mm AR-15 for home defense any day. Too bad I live in a non-free state and have to settle for a standard length 300BLK.

  7. Coach your children to NEVER talk about the safe in their room or guns in the home. Firearms are naturally attractive for children, but the wrong words in the lunchroom or classroom can lead to serious ramifications. Schools err on the side of caution today, and a child who reports having a firearm in his or her bedroom – despite being secured in a safe – could lead to many uncomfortable circumstances fire both the child and parent.

  8. Break into my place and you’ll face what you face based on where I am in the house, but I’m not “fighting my way to my rifle” in the safe.

    If anything, I’m fighting my way to my children.

  9. Mmmmm. I wonder what it’s like shooting a .308 FN FAL or even the 223 AR15 in the dark at night with no hearing protection inside my house. I think I’ll just go with the pistol.

    • Don’t have personal experience, but I have read multiple accounts of self defense shootings where the shooter doesn’t even recall hearing the shots.

      • It is actually a natural physical phenomenon the body uses when put into fight or flight mode. Heart rate speeds up, and the body contracts blood vessels to all non-vital organs. Body function you would normally have and function quite well with will suddenly be very limited. This is also why people who have to use a firearm in a defensive scenario often cannot see much of anything to the sides of their target. Blood flow is limited to the eyes and ears. Hearing is all but cut off, and vision becomes a narrow tunnel.

    • “Mmmmm. I wonder what it’s like shooting a .308 FN FAL or even the 223 AR15 in the dark at night with no hearing protection inside my house. I think I’ll just go with the pistol.”

      Exactly. Consider a Glock in .45 or any other gun with subsonic ammunition and a suppressor.

  10. Umm…handgun and rifle (suppressed SBR, natch) both handy by your bedside? You’re welcome.

  11. Food and water? I know you’re in Austin but I can assure you there is very little danger of a protracted siege by Comanches here anymore.

      • Yeah, but they shit themselves at the mere sight of a gun.

        But really, food and water? You should definitely have those things in your home on general emergency preparedness principles, but what kind of home defense scenario are you envisioning where you have time for a nosh in the middle of it?

  12. I suggest a multi-tier approach.
    (1) Home carry: always have a handgun on your hip. Since you are in your home and concealment is probably not important, carry a full size with as much ammunition as possible in the largest caliber possible.
    (2) Sleeping: keep a firearm close to your bed for almost immediate access. And make sure it is not readily visible in case a home invader happens to make their way into your bedroom without disturbing your sleep. As in Tier 1, make sure your sleeping defensive firearm is a full size, large caliber firearm with as much ammunition as possible. Remember, in the event that you are responding to a bump in the night, you won’t be wearing a belt with spare magazines.

  13. Thanks, but I think ‘ll just stick to my (hand)guns. My wife would have a conniption if I brought a rifle or shotty in to the house; she thinks it’s bad enough when she sees gun on my desk. With no kids to worry about, I think it will suffice for the single point of entry into our bedroom.

  14. I have two mags, with about 26 rounds for my 9mm. If there is a home invasion my wife and I will hide behind the bed, call the police and wait for them. If 26 rounds doesn’t solve my problem, I’m not sure any rifle is going to help me.
    I do have a flashlight with a lantern function that I can place on the floor. The door will be in the light, I won’t be and the bad guy will have no idea where I am.

  15. Does anyone know of any high quality (particularly in regards to security) small long gun safes that could be put in a bedroom or walk in closet? There are a bunch of safes out there in the ~10-15 long gun range, but I’m thinking something smaller that can hold maybe ~5 long guns. Something that could house a rifle and/or shotgun for SHTF like described in this article, while still keeping it secure. An electronic lock is preferred due to the relative ease of opening it (normally I don’t like them because they aren’t as reliable as a traditional tumbler lock).

    • I’m not sure of the quality, as I haven’t seen one in person yet, but Sentry makes a pretty cool little safe they call a “Home Defense Center”. It’s designed to fit into a corner and holds a long gun and maybe a couple handguns. It’s quite compact, and it’s essentially designed for this exact usage scenario.

  16. I’ve started my home defense hardware setup with a Glock 41 loaded with Corbon DPX rounds and a Surefire X300 Ultra weapon light. Next will be a suppressed 300 BLK SBR for beside the bed. 13+1 of 45 ACP in the Glock and 30+1 of 30 Cal. in the SBR. EVERYTHING else I own stays locked up. While I’m out the SBR will be locked away but not the Glock. Sorry but I want one gun that my wife and I can get to and not have to think about it being moved. If we ever have kids the plans will be altered accordingly.

  17. A drink and snack in the middle of a home invasion? Don’t mind if I do!

    Seriously though, there’s just no workable space in our master bedroom to put a safe :X It’s going in my outbuilding where I can bolt it to the floor and there’ sspace for it.

    I wouldn’t mind an underbed safe for one AR and one pump, but the reviews on the ones I’ve found have been really, really bad.

  18. The V-line in wall safe with simplex lock is the solution to the long gun storage problem.

  19. All good points but my ~opinion~ is that 90% of the solution is what gun are you comfortable with and do you practice and how much. Dry fire training is very common in competition. You fight like you train. Maybe dry fire some defensive scenarios in your house in the dark to figure out if all your plans are realistic. Just sayin…

  20. One comment I have regarding the article:

    The best location for my wife and baby in a home invasion gun fight is NOT right behind me!

    Given that most shooters miss most of the time in a gunfight means that if my wife and baby are behind me, they are in the line of fire. I advise covering the hallway/stairs and having the wife and kids in a different sight line, preferably with the largest possible layers of building materials between them and the shooting “lane”.

    Example. I can cover the top of the stairs and hallway from my bedroom and using the doorframe for some cover.

    If my wife goes to the far side of the babies room she is out if the line of fire and has a door frame + 4 layers of drywall. If she goes to the master bathroom which is preferable, she has 6 layers of drywall+2 layers of tile+ a sink cabinet + a toilet for improvised cover.

    The plan isnt perfect, but if you arent clearing a house (which you shouldnt be) protecting an entity may best be accomplished with them from somewhere not directly behind you.

  21. I had thought about this very topic last year, in the middle of the night, and the next day moved the location of my safe to a more convenient location. Living in a very rural area, I am my first and only line of defense. IF I can get a hold of the Sheriff it could take 30-45 minutes for him to get here.
    No kids to worry about and I’ve taught the wife how to shoot – as a last resort for her defense. We’ve discussed various cenarios, so she has an idea of possible actions/tactics she needs to consider. As a retired LEO many times my mind goes through ‘what if scenarios’ on its own, per se.

  22. Semi-auto subguns are ideal for home defense imo. A bit pricey but the high capacity and accuracy is always a plus. Then again when a good 1911 comes in at around $1200, paying $1700-$1900 for something like a semi-auto MP5K clone, Sig MPX pistol or a Vector pistol isn’t too much more of an investment and a lot more versatility. I suppose the lawyer argument would come up but if you live in a free state where you are allowed to own an MP5K pistol, MPX pistol or Vector Pistol chances are you won’t even have to do anything beyond give a statement to police for a DGU against an intruder in your own home. These bigger, heavier weapons are probably also a good bit more unwieldy for a child too.

  23. Rifle lives in the closet on the way out of my bedroom, defensive position is at the top of the stairs right outside my bedroom and childrens’ rooms are on either flank and not in direct line of fire ever. Incoming rounds (if god forbid it comes to that) go into closet space behind me, and any rounds coming from me that “overpenetrate” go through the back wall of the house into my workshop and eventuall into the ground in the backyard if they make it that far. Staircase has 180 degree turn halfway down so any intruder is at a distinct tactical advantage if they try to gain the high ground.

  24. Stopped reading after “a handgun is a gun owner’s best first choice for home defense.”..

    Anyone saying 75 gr 5.56 will penetrate more than 150 gr 40S&W or 45ACP is misinformed. Severely.

    There’s a reason why basically all ends of LE (federal to state to county/city) have stopped using SMG’s with emergency response teams and special tasks force.. And it’s not all due to accuracy issues.

    I’m glad a few other posters actually know first hand what the “truth” is in the situation of rifle vs. pistol for home defense.

    A pistol is a SECONDARY weapon. Not a primary.. I mean unless that’s all you’ve got.

  25. I prefer digital safes bolted to the floor for the handgun storage, in different areas of the house, thus keeping friendlys from foolishness.

    Am a fan of the 12 ga for house defense, since i live in the city. the variety of ammo makes it extremely customizable for most anyone from non lethal to slugs.

    I also keep hearing protection with the weapons.

  26. Thank you guys and gals for including the hearing protection aspect. We just bought a set of muffs for the little one after going through our routine.

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