In our ongoing series on defensive shotguns, I wanted to give some attention to a topic that’s easily overlooked — how to store a shotgun that’s kept in the home for personal protection. There are storage devices like safes, cabinets, and lockers that are designed for keeping long guns in the bedroom for quick access, but I would be willing to bet the most common location for the home defense shotgun is the corner of a closet. While that’s not a storage method I would recommend in most cases, that’s actually not the topic of today’s video. Instead, I’m addressing the loaded status or “condition” of the home defense shotgun, which is applicable whether the gun is securely locked away or not. I’m suggesting a condition known as “cruiser ready,” or as Tom Givens calls it, “closet ready.”
Video: Storing a Shotgun in Cruiser Ready Condition
In case you maxed out your data plan this month watching cat videos, here’s the full transcript:
If you keep a shotgun in your home for personal protection, you’ve probably given some thought to how to keep that gun stored safely, but in a way that it’s also readily accessible. So whether you keep it in the back of a closet or locked up somewhere, you’ve also had to think about what condition to keep that gun in. Are you going to have ammo in the magazine tube? Are you going to leave a round chambered? Are you going to leave the safety on or off? There are a lot of different ways to set it up.
I’m going to suggest that you keep a home defense shotgun in what is called “cruiser ready” condition. That name comes from the way cops have often stored shotguns in their patrol cars. And that is with the magazine tube loaded, the chamber empty, the slide unlocked, and sometimes with the safety on, but I’m going to suggest you leave the safety off. So that way, if I need the gun in an emergency, all I have to do is just grab it, rack a round in, and it’s ready to fire.
There are a few reasons to store the gun this way, but as far as I’m concerned the only reason that really matters is the safety issue. Most shotguns are not drop safe. If there’s a round in the chamber and the gun falls down in the closet or it’s dropped, it can go off by itself. Even with the safety on — the safety just prevents the trigger from being pulled, it doesn’t block the hammer, it doesn’t block the firing pin, and it doesn’t prevent the gun from being discharging if there’s some kind of sudden jolt. And really, you’d be surprised at how little it takes for one of these things to go off if there’s a round in the chamber. If we keep it stored in cruiser ready condition, the chamber is empty, so we eliminate that possibility. And with the slide unlocked, it really just takes half a second to get the gun into action.
I’m also going to leave the magazine tube down-loaded by one round. So this tube holds five rounds but I’m only going to load four in there. Normally, these pump-action shotguns are extremely reliable, but when they do fail, one of the things that tends to fail is the magazine spring. So I don’t want that spring to be under any more pressure than it has to be by leaving it fully compressed for long periods of time.
With a shotgun this short, that means I’ve only got four rounds ready to go when I’m in cruiser ready condition. I’ve sacrificed some ammo capacity for better maneuverability with this super short barrel. But if that doesn’t sound like enough to you, as long as you stick with the more popular home defense shotguns on the market, you’ll probably have a tube that holds 6 or 8 rounds, so you’ll have a couple more than I do. But no matter what my capacity is, when I’ve retrieved that shotgun and chambered that first round, if there’s no immediate danger — if I don’t need to fire right away — I can just go ahead and top off my magazine tube from the shell carrier that’s on my shotgun.
To get the shotgun into cruiser ready condition, first I want to make sure I’m starting with an empty gun. I’m going to check the chamber and check the magazine tube to make sure they are both empty. Then with the action closed, I will move the safety to the off position. Next, I’ll point the gun in a safe direction and press the trigger. Then I will load the magazine tube to one round less than full capacity and now it’s ready for storage.
It’s probably worth mentioning (because if I don’t, someone else will) the whole myth about the sound of racking a shotgun making bad guys pee their pants and run away. That has happened before — I’ve heard of it happening before, but it’s not really something we count on and it’s not the primary reason we keep the shotgun in cruiser ready condition. We don’t really want to count on fear and intimidation as a primary tactic.
On the flip side of that, I also suspect some of you guys are thinking that you want your home defense gun to already have a round chambered because you don’t want to waste a whole lot of time and make noise that’s going to “give away your position.” Personally, I kind of think that’s a little silly. If there’s someone in my house who’s not supposed to be there, I want them to know that I’m there. I want to give them a every possible opportunity to leave my house before we have some kind of confrontation.
So, not only am I going to make some noise racking the shotgun, but I’m also going to issue some sort of verbal challenge, like “Who’s there?” And I’m going to have a flashlight in my hand or mounted to the shotgun. Now, if the guy still wants to stick around after that, that’s why I have a shotgun. But statistically, it’s far more likely that whatever noise I’m responding to is actually a member of my family or a roommate or a pet or something like that. And in those cases, making a little noise racking the shotgun is actually giving them one more opportunity to identify themselves.
If that approach is just not tactical enough for you — if you don’t like that and you just have to have a gun with a round already in the chamber, I strongly recommend you make it a handgun or some other firearm with a drop safety. It’s just a bad idea to plan on keeping a shotgun stored with a round in the chamber.