Firearm Security – Rapid Access
It’s 2:00 AM and you’re jolted awake by a loud thud. As you regain your senses, you hear a rustling sound at the other end of the house. Your skin begins to crawl and your heart races… faint footsteps. Now what? It’s a bad time to have no plan.
Safe bedroom gun storage is a key piece of home safety. When there is a bump in the night, can you reach a firearm that is locked for safety but easy to access?
A relative (by marriage) assures me she has her bases covered. She lives in an urbanized area, “protected” by a sizeable police force. She keeps a large baseball bat in her bedroom closet just in case she needs to repel invaders until help arrives.
Hopefully, she’s been doing lots of practice swings because the P.D.’s budget has been chopped and the force is a whole lot leaner.
My longtime buddy, Sgt. Leonard, laid out a much better plan during 2020 shortly before his passing. He shared it with me as an essay, and it’s based on more than 30 years spent wearing a badge in a busy metropolitan area. The information was just too good to sit on, so I included it in a previous post: A Police Officer’s Advice on Home Invasions.
At the risk of being redundant, I though his opener was pretty much spot-on:
There are many very good articles available about what you can do to protect yourself during a home invasion, but here are some tips that are often overlooked. Most articles start with, “buy a gun.” I am going to presume you already knew that, that you received some good training on how to use it, and know the laws in your state regarding its use. The gun, of course, should be available near your bedside, and if you do not live alone or have children, in an easily accessible handgun safe designed for quick access purposes. In most cases, it should be loaded. You cannot safely load a gun in the dark and under stress.Sgt. Leonard
Bedroom Gun Storage Solutions
You will see that the suggestions below offer a striking difference between access and security. Inevitably, when you increase quick access to any firearm, you give on the security of that gun. There is a compromise that must be made. Find the solution that fits your household.
1 – Bedside Guns
I’m not sure where Sgt. Leonard stashed his home defense handgun, but he did live alone without any children in his life. Those in similar situations could still wind up with overnight guests, leading, perhaps, to a shadowy figure roaming the house during an urgent search for a bathroom.
Even if no alcohol is involved, it’s not the best time to have a loaded gun within arm’s length. Among mistaken I.D.s with tragic consequences, one recurring example involves the return of a teenage son or daughter after curfew hours without the parent knowing they’re coming.
These kinds of incidents make a valid case for a light-equipped firearm, stored in a location requiring alert access – which rules out a gun under a pillow!
On two separate occasions years apart, one of my acquaintances managed to leave a handgun underneath a pillow in his motel room. The first time he remembered a couple hours after checking out, but not before it was found by housekeeping (and gingerly returned by the manager).
The second incident involved a lengthier memory lapse and phone call from the local police department. I’ll admit to the same practice, but it was a very long time ago when my pillow was a flak jacket. Nowadays, I much prefer to be fully awake before laying my mitts on a firearm.
2 – Guns in Drawers
A married friend with an empty nest related this eye-opener: Shortly after a younger couple dropped by for an unannounced visit, their six-year-old appeared in the living room – with a loaded .38 Special revolver in his hand. Tragedy was avoided thanks to quick thinking by the owner, who has since improved his secure storage system.
The gun, a double-action S&W Model 10, could’ve been fired by pulling its trigger. D/A service-type triggers are typically heavy – but you never know. Actually, I’d rather not store any firearm at toddler level. But, of course, kids are known to climb.
3 – Hidden Guns
I still recall balancing on a makeshift support in an effort to search a high closet shelf for hidden Christmas presents. I was probably around age seven – old enough to know better and much too young for unsupervised gun handling.
Fortunately, the shiniest item discovered was a Lionel electric train that reappeared on Christmas morning. If it had been a gun, there’s no telling what might have happened between me and my curious cohorts.
Thirty years later I had three boys of my own. They grew up around firearms, and were heavily schooled in safety rules, but other kids were regular visitors. Some had little-to no firearms exposure, but I can happily report a lack of firearm incidents. Then again, by that point I owned a gun safe (more to follow shortly). Out of sight, out of mind – and no unattended firearms either.
After our kids were gone, I moved a pistol to the upper shelf of a bedroom closet. The gun, a 9mm double-action S&W Model 3913 semiauto, featured a safety/decocking lever and much-debated magazine disconnect. Because it wouldn’t fire if its magazine was removed, I stored it “on-safe” with a chambered round, and a separate loaded magazine.
Although far from the safest method, firing this pistol required a progression of deliberate actions (unlike the above D/A revolver). Because I also carried it on the job, its operation was second nature. Nevertheless, to maximize safety, the magazine was inserted or removed only when the pistol was holstered on my person.
This procedure kept gun handling to a minimum and saved wear and tear on ammunition. The era preceded the proliferation of affordable fast-access security devices – today’s much better option.
Do secure containers rule out hidden guns? Although, as a general rule they’re safer, I can still see a role for the ingenious trick clocks, shelves, and mirrors sold by outfits like Tactical Walls.
How about combining both a hidden case and a lock? Hornady’s RFID clock, manages to merge concealment with security (see below).
4 – Small Locking Containers
Recent technologies have spurred new storage solutions, but more basic designs could cover many needs.
Around eight years ago, I wound up adding around 100 new armed personnel to a list of firearms-qualified staff. These LEOs were spread across our state with no centralized location – which meant 100 pistols would be entering households. After examining the various security options, we issued a touchpad activated GunVault MV-500 Micro-vault to each officer.
At that time the issued pistol was a 9mm S&W M&P, equipped with a mag-disconnect. Knock this feature if you must, but it worked extremely well with these locking containers. Matter of fact, the SOP developed for their use pretty much mirrored the routine I followed for my Model 3913.
- Dimensions: 11 inches by 8 1/2 inches by 2 1/4 inches Interior dimensions: 10 3/4 inches by 6 1/2 inches by 2 inches
- Weighs 4 lbs, 20 gauge steel exterior construction
We got into the MV-500s through a well-credentialled connection who kept one underneath his bed (no kids in the picture). The vault was tethered to his bed frame by its locking cable. The lid was opened at night for ready access to a pistol. Each morning, he snapped it closed with a toe and slid it back under the bed. The MV-500s are still available, too.
They can be opened via a programmable touch-pad sequence, or a key. The touch feature is powered by a 9-volt battery, and some versions are sold with illuminated pads. Access isn’t instantaneous, but it’s pretty quick once the pads are mastered.
These containers and other competing products could be viable choices for storage of EDC handguns – the reason we chose the above units in the first place. We considered biometric versions, but those we could find at that time got mixed reviews. Assuming the technology has improved, access should be nearly instantaneous.
Then there’s the latest RFID systems that open via programmable chips. I almost sprung for Hornady’s Night Guard, a hidden-in-plain-sight digital-clock/handgun vault, but finally opted for a larger version that could also handle a long gun. However, the Night Guard looks like a great pick for a bedside or EDC handgun.
5 – Larger Lockers
With kids back in the picture – this time grandchildren, the timing was right for a toddler-proof, bump-in-the-night security upgrade. After a lengthy wait, a Hornady Compact Ready Vault was delivered to my doorstep by a Fed Ex driver (no dolly needed). Within 24 hours it was bolted to the floor beside the bed.
- Wi-Fi Connectivity Keeps You Informed - the Hornady Rapid Safe Compact Ready Vault with WIFI (98196WIFI) will help you keep tabs on your Ready Vault safe through your smartphone. Download the Hornady Security app and receive an alert when the safe is unlocked
- Fast and Dependable Touch Free Entry - patented RIFD technology unlocks safe faster than a keypad or biometric gun safe. Four included RIFD tags can be selectively programmed to open this home safe
From where it sits, a simple swipe of the small RFID holder on my watchband will unlock the door for instant access to a handgun or rifle. It does so with an audible bang, meaning you (and possibly everyone else) will know when the latches release. A further clue: The illuminated control panel blinks continuously when the vault is unlocked.
The RFID sensor and its locking mechanism are powered by household current, but the entire system is backed up by a 9-volt battery. You can also program a numerical code into the illuminated touchpad, or just use a provided key. Additional adhesive RFID labels are provided, along with a key fob. Advertised as “heavy duty,” this 52” tall, 10”x 10” unit weighs around 80 pounds.
The door is secured via five steel latches and, although suitable for its intended purpose (controlled access), the “vault” is more of a sturdy locker.
I chose this unit to accommodate long gun as well as a handgun. To get the ball rolling, I jury-rigged a rack in its upper shelf to hold an upright 9mm S&W Compact M&P (thumb safety version). The plan for the lower section involved a 9mm home defense AR-15 carbine, reserved for both defense and use against large varmints that frequent my rural setting.
Enough space remained for a second .22 LR AR-15, handy for garden-raiding pests. To make it all work, I ditched the included barrel rack and wound up storing both ARs muzzle-down at an angle so their pistol grips would clear the door.
As presently configured, with the handgun stored upright (leaving space for a small dot-sight), the underside of the shelf provides 43” of clearance – about an inch sort of what I’d need to store my 12 gauge 24” Beretta M-1301 autoloader with a 14” stock.
If this shotgun was destined for the vault, I could gain the needed space by storing the pistol on its side and raising the adjustable shelf. Of course, most defensive shotguns (like Remington M-870 and Mossberg pumps) are around 3” shorter.
6 – Gun Safes
For many years, my gun safe was in our master bedroom. I’m no stranger to their locking systems (both dial and E-lock/digital), but access during an emergency (especially in low light) seemed sketchy. Instead, I unlocked mine each night and stashed a loaded magazine in a separate spot, for use with a designated pistol in the safe.
Once the kids were gone, the safe was replaced by a larger version in another room – the reason for my hidden M-3913. But I still follow this established safety rule: “Store firearms and ammunition separately.”
Those using their gun safes for bump-in-the-night purposes will need appropriate SOPs; also, a tactile means to identify the go-to firearm when the lights are off. I’m a lot more comfortable with my separate bedside Ready Vault, which serves as the designated “hot zone” for defensive purposes.
7 – Trigger Locks (or cable systems)
Some firearms, like the S&W revolver in the photo, can be disabled using an included key. Most others are separate systems. Good luck releasing one in the dark. Most trigger locks can be easily defeated by a simple screwdriver and moderate effort anyway. They’ll toddler-proof a hidden gun, but that’s about it.
This post centered on firearm storage, balancing security against rapid access. Guns are a topic all their own. As noted by Sgt. Leonard, the presumption is that a suitable is already on hand. Which begs a “loaded” question: Round in the chamber, or not?
Legal aspects are another concern. After several tragic incidents involving unattended firearms and kids, during 2021, my state proposed new legislation (summarized here):
This bill requires that firearms kept in a place where children reside or receive childcare services or where persons prohibited from possessing firearms reside be secured in a locked container or with tamper-resistant devices that prevent them from being discharged.https://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_129th/billtexts/HP076301.asp
Of course, our responsibilities don’t end with security. Target I.D. being a huge concern, we’d better come up with an effective low-light system. Lots of good choices here though!
All three firearms in my go-to vault are equipped with rail-mounted light/laser devices. But with proper training, a revolver and a hand-held light (like Sgt. Leonard’s Fenix) are still effective. Other concerns include communication and an early warning system.
Whatever the choice, your bedroom gun storage system has gotta work in the dark. The unlocking system of my Ready Vault is noisy, but it’s nothing compared to the household alarm – a gung-ho 80-pound system with great hearing, four legs, big teeth, and a hellish voice. If it does go off at 0200, well, at least I have a plan.