Choosing a shotgun as the “tool of final resort” to defend yourself, your family, and home can be a wise decision. A light, short-barreled shotgun has a lot going for it as a defense weapon. We’ve looked at the pros and cons versus a handgun, and there are many reasons the shotgun can come out on top.
However, there’s one big question that must be answered: How are you going to store that shotgun securely and safely yet keep it accessible in a fraction of a second should you need it?
Keeping a handgun secure, but ready is easy. The right choice is almost always a small safe – probably with a biometric locking system – kept within reach of your bed. There are dozens of makes and models out there; some that blend in completely as furniture. If you make the decision to keep a handgun for home defense and take on the responsibility of owning one, then the purchase of a safe should be made at the same time you purchase that first gun.
There are a few biometric safes that will accommodate a shotgun, but they are big, bulky, and not so beautiful to most beholders. If you have anyone at home with a concern about the interior design of your home, he or she will have a tough time seeing the beauty of an upright steel locker in place of a nightstand next to the bed.
Of course, you can find full-sized gun safes that look like furniture or built-in woodwork, but none I could find with biometric access. Plus, any time you start talking cabinetry, you’re talking big money to buy and install.
However, let’s not rule out the steel gun safe – biometric or otherwise – as a home defense shotgun storage solution. “Retreat, retreat, retreat” is a legitimate defense plan. A safe room, even if it’s a walk-in closet, is a good idea. Your full-size gun safe should be in that safe room.
Let’s play out the scenario.
In the wee hours of the morning, you hear the sounds of an intruder in your home. You dial 911 and get the police on the way. You quickly, but silently gather the family and move into the safe room. You stay on the phone with 911 and tell them what you’re doing, but open the safe and take out your locked and loaded shotgun. Your family huddles in the corner behind you while you face the door with the shotgun pointed there. And you wait for the police to arrive.
Of course, this presumes the layout of your house makes this kind of defense plan possible, you’ve trained with your family on what to do and where to gather, and you adhere to the silence, retreat, and wait philosophy of home defense.
If your defense plan is more aggressive or could require near-instant access to your shotgun, a different security strategy is required. There are drop-down shelves and bed headboards with hidden locking panels. The problem with these is they require key or combination access. Finding a key and getting it into its slot or spinning dials to align the right combination – probably in the dark and certainly under the emotional stress of a home intrusion situation – are far less speedy or reliable than the scanner on a biometric safe reading your fingerprint and the door unlocking. You’re also vulnerable while taking this action out in the open rather than sheltering in the closet.
And maybe it’s just me, but there’s something creepy about sleeping with a locked and loaded shotgun just a few inches from my head.
Keyed security – whether a safe or a lock of some kind – poses an extra problem. You need to have a hiding place for the key that you can access instantly, but which can’t be easily found by a curious child or an intruder in your home when you’re not there. One idea is to attach an inconspicuous key holder somewhere on the frame of your bed where you can reach it, but hidden from view.
Which brings us to locks – trigger locks, cable locks, and some other types of chamber locks. Any of these require unlocking with a key or combination, which is less than optimal as described above. There are some biometric trigger locks in the works, but they are specific to certain handgun makes and models. There are currently none for shotguns.
Depending on how a common trigger lock fits on your gun, it may be possible to operate the action, safety, and even make the trigger go back with some serious force. So at the very least, I would never rely on one with the magazine loaded, much less with a round in the chamber. Cable or action locks also require the action to be operated after it is unlocked or removed. If you believe in the fear factor of the sound of a shotgun racking, that’s a good thing. But if you’re one of the many who believes that silence is the best plan when you’re dealing with an intruder, then it’s nearly impossible to load a shotgun or cycle a round from the magazine to the chamber after you’ve managed to get the gun unlocked.
It’s impossible to over-stress the importance of securing your firearms in your home, especially any that you’ll keep loaded for defense purposes. In most states, today, it’s the law – and everywhere it’s a gun owner’s ethical responsibility.