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.

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15 thoughts on “Cruiser Ready: How to Store A Home Defense Shotgun

  1. I have a Ithaca model 37, 18&1/2 long barrel, it only holds 4 rounds in the magazine tube to start with so I always keep 4 in it. I also keep 1 in the chamber, safety on and the slide not fully into battery. Have trained myself to pick it up by the barrel, not the slide. So all I have to do is push the slide forward, push the safety off and I’m good to go. With the slide not fully in battery the shell is not against the bolt face so even if it fell over the firing pin could not hit the primer. And have 5 more in a holder on the stock for quick reloads if needed. Also have a second 26 inch barrel with modified choke in case I want to go bird or rabbit hunting. Luckily this model has a quick change barrel.

  2. Some folks keep them cruiser ready, but pre-cocked so the slide is a bit easier to manipulate for the first chambering.

  3. Great video, but I am extremely adverse to dry firing my Remington 870 Express. Especially if you own a newer one. Some people have had the misfortune of firing pins in those models breaking.

  4. I’ve always been back and forth on the rack/don’t rack issue. You made a very compelling argument for it. At the end of the day, I don’t want to kill anyone; I just want to keep my family safe.

    I also didn’t know previously that shotgun safeties don’t lockout the firing mechanism and represent a negligent discharge hazard when dropped. Thanks for the info!

  5. Round in the chamber, always. Just woke up?….Fine motor skills are non-existent. I put my sd shotgun where it won’t fall over, or otherwise cause it to discharge, until I pull the trigger

    1. So running the slide on a shotgun requires fine motor skills but pulling the trigger doesn’t? The whole “no fine motor skills under stress” myth needs to die. It is an extreme misapplication of a principle that most people really don’t understand at all.

    2. “I put my sd shotgun where it won’t fall over,”

      Try one of the weapon racks that fit to the side of your mattress and hold the gun horizontal. The rack simply mounts on the slides that go in between your mattress and box spring, and the gun is easy to reach when lying in bed. I store my Saiga 12 there with a full 12 round mag and nothing in the chamber. Picking it off the rack and working the action is quick and simple.

  6. Wow, the author really said it best about not having a live round in the chamber. I am totally in agreement with his comments and he said it best.I suggest readers to read it again. He makes perfect common sense. Use the shotgun slide as a warning. Practice with the shotgun and you will see that you can rack it very quickly and NO, I will not store a shotgun with a round in the chamber.

    1. “Use the shotgun slide as a warning.” Yep. A warning to tell your assailant your location. Can’t say I agree with this method but, to each his own.

      1. I don’t suggest using the sound of the shotgun as a warning, but I also am not concerned about revealing my location because I intend on issuing a verbal challenge if possible before resorting to deadly force. There are a lot of reasons someone could be in your house and most of them do not warrant getting shot.

  7. I think it’s probably best to keep a shotgun in cruiser ready mode, but I just ordered a 590A1 and will have to see what I think.

    I wonder how the Mossberg passed the MIL-S-3443G testing. It called for extensive drop testing of the gun from at least 4 ft of height on a hard surface from a variety of angles. Since it’s the only shotgun that passed, I assume it never fired in the drop tests (the world “shall” legally prohibits adopting the shotgun if it failed to be safe in the drop test). I did not that the 3443G standard did require the safety to be on notwithstanding the concerns mentioned above. Check it out:

    “3.17.6 Rough handlinq. Shotguns shall be capable of
    withstanding the impact when dropped from a height of four feet
    onto a hard surface without causing the weapon to be unsafe or
    unserviceable. This shall apply throughout the temperature range
    of -20 to +120°F. Type I shotguns shall include M7 bayonet and
    scabbard as specified in 3.3.1.b.

    “4.6.7 Rough handlinq. After completion of the performance
    test, three weapons shall be chosen and subjected to the rough
    handling test. Each weapon will have the safety “on”, a primed
    cartridge case in the chamber and a fully loaded magazine. One
    weapon shall be conditioned at -20°F, one at ambient and one at
    +120ºF for a minimum of four hours prior to the test. The
    weapons shall be dropped a minimum distance of four feet (lowest
    point on the weapon to the drop surface) in each of the following
    five modes: butt end down, right side down, left side down, top
    side down, and 45 degree angle with vertical Plane – butt end
    down. The drop surface shall be 85 + 5 Durometer (Shore A)
    rubber mat, one inch thick, backed by concrete. At the test’s
    conclusion, the weapon must be safe and serviceable and the
    primed shell shall not have fired.”

  8. LG Chris
    What barrel / length barrel do you have on the shotgun in the video ? It looks very short. Shorter than an 18″…?
    Great video.

  9. If there’s someone who has clearly broken into my house in the middle of the night I do NOT want to make a sound racking my shotgun, and I most certainly would NOT offer up a verbal challenge giving away both the element of surprise and my position. There are no children in our house and my wife sleeps next to me. She’s knows what our signal is that there is an intruder (three rapid squeezes on the forearm over and over until the other person responds with rapid squeezes on the initiator’s forearm). She then heads into the closet and dials 911. I would then go and hunt down the intruder(s) and kill it or them (once a person has committed to and actually breaks into my home they are no longer human in my mind – they are a predator after my wife and me, and they will be dealt with). I’m not willing to risk my wife’s life or my life betting that a home intruder will play nice once I catch him.

    The shotgun will remain in the closet with my wife. The M4 clone I own is my urban predator hunting rifle. And the 1911 is my backup. Really though it’s all just redundancy. The combined 220 lbs of our two very protective dogs will most likely already by eating a midnight snack. 🙂

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