Bedside Guns

Over the years, many people have written to me asking what I would consider the ideal home-defense handgun. (And yes: I know that a handgun is what you use to fight your way to a shotgun. But sometimes your shotgun in locked away in your safe. So let’s just stick with the handgun, for the moment.)

Now, let’s understand what I mean by “home defense”. I don’t mean that your house is under siege by Al-Qa’eda fanatics or even the local neighborhood homeowners’ committee (California residents will know exactly what I mean).

No, what I mean is that you’re fast asleep, when suddenly you wake up and realize there’s mischief afoot, inside your house.

Let me be perfectly clear about what I’m going to say next.

If you have practiced and practiced and practiced with your trusty 1911 or SIG whatever, and the operation thereof is as automatic as breathing, by all means keep a semi-auto in your bedside drawer.

But unless you’re a total loony, if there’s a round in the chamber you should have the safety engaged. Or, if there’s no round in the chamber, it means you have to chamber one first — noise and fumbling may ensue. In other words, operation of your gun is a two-step process.

Or you can just do it the easy way, and use a double-action revolver. Nothing to think about, nothing to operate except the trigger (like that wonderful line: Smith & Wesson — the original “point and click” interface).

Ultimately, of course, you’re going to do what you want to do, with the gun that feels the most “comfortable” to you — i.e. the gun that you feel is most likely to get the job done.

And that’s fine. Just be aware of the potential drawbacks and advantages of all the options.

After all the hundreds of hours and many thousands of rounds I’ve spent with my beloved 1911 pistols, my bedside gun is a double-action .357 Magnum revolver, chambered with Federal Hydra-Shok 125gr. JHP (jacketed hollowpoints).

Ultimately, as I’ve said before, it all depends what you’re comfortable with—and if you’d rather park your Glock 17 next to the bed, be my guest. Just be sure when you’re half-awake and fumbling for the thing that you don’t hit the magazine release by mistake (it’s been known to happen, more than once)—and that can happen with any semi-auto pistol.

A revolver is like a fork: you pick it up, and it works. Here’s my old S&W Model 65, just to illustrate the concept:


Now for some other thoughts:

I talked a little about ammo earlier, and I need to offer some advice to people who own guns in GFW states like Massachusetts, California or New York.

If you whack a goblin in your home in a Righteous Shooting, there’s always a chance that some asshat prosecutor (or lawyer for the dead goblin) will go after you because you used “killer” ammo.

Yes, I know, all ammo is supposed to kill, but there’s no arguing about this when you’ve just used a full cylinder of Black Talons you picked up at that gun show in Alabama. If that happens, you’ll be painted as a “bloodthirsty vigilante killer” quicker than Tom Sawyer’s fence.

Here’s a tip: Use the same type of bullets as your local police force does. If you use “police” cartridges, then no one can paint you as a vicious killer.

Ask one of your neighborhood cops what kind of bullet (not just caliber) his department uses. Mostly, they’re going to use CCI/Speer Gold Dot, Winchester PDX or Silvertips, Remington Golden Saber or Federal Hydra-Shok. The caliber may vary, but the bullet type is probably going to be one of those brands. Generally, the same bullet type will be available in your caliber.

(Ditto shotgun shells, by the way—you may think it’s a really cool idea to BBQ the goblin with one of those “Dragon’s Breath” rounds, or turn him into a pincushion with a “flechette” shell, but, regrettably, it’s not a good choice. Use “game” loads: you’ll be a “sportsman”, not Rambo, and he’ll be just as dead.)

And one last caveat for everyone: whatever you’ve got in your bedside drawer, make sure that your kids or grandkids can’t get hold of it.

How you arrange that is up to you.

My kids, even when small, knew better than to go into my bedside drawer — but even so, I used to lock my bedside gun away during the day anyway, and take it out again at night. Did I ever forget to do that? Not once. After a while, it becomes a ritual, like cleaning your teeth in the morning and at night.

Trigger locks are okay, I guess, if you don’t want to mess with locking the gun away — just remember to lock it every morning, and unlock it every night. That I have forgotten to do (unlock it, I mean) — and it’s no fun to be fumbling with a trigger lock when all hell is breaking loose in your house, which is why I prefer to lock it away during the daytime.

I can’t stress this enough. A gun is a lethal object in a kid’s hands. A dozen or so kids, and their parents, find that out every year, and I just want to smash my head against the wall every time I hear about another incidence of that, because it’s so unnecessary.

And when the kids get older, teach them about guns and about gun safety. The incidence of accidental shooting deaths among kids who have been trained in gun safety is almost zero. Follow the stats, folks.

But most importantly of all, if your kid have friends over to play, lock the damn gun away. You may be able to trust your kid, but a group of kids has the collective responsibility of a treeful of drunken chimpanzees, and that will include yours.

Don’t give yourself a broken heart by your carelessness — and don’t give the gun-fearing wussies more ammo to use against other gun owners, either.

Here endeth the lesson.


  1. One fun thing about ammo in GFW states- revolvers work great with flat wadcutters, and if you can’t use hollowpoints, wadcutters are often the next best choice. The flat profile is far better than round nose ball ammo at not deflecting off bone, or making a nice hole in the flesh.
    There’s more than a few switched on folks who carry nothing but wadcutters in snub nose revolvers (e.g, classic j framed S&W’s) because the short barrels don’t allow enough velocity for regular JHP to expand.

  2. Browning Hi-Power with Remington HTP high performance hollow points, magazine in gun, chamber empty and extra magazine with same load next to it. I like it that way and I have a high performance Brittany who sleeps in her bed next to my side of the bed and she is awake instantly when there is any disturbance in the house. While she won’t attack and bite and intruder she will be all over him because that’s what she does to strangers. I think that will give me time to chamber a round. That’s the way I like it and it’s my guns an my home so there.

  3. Kim, I would never BBQ a goblin in the house with a Dragon’s Breath; I’ll need the house to sleep the sleep of the just afterward.

    His buddies in the getaway car outside……

  4. G29 for me, same as for carry. Always goes bang, leave really big hole, and if I miss the fireball will probably still get ’em.

  5. CZ 9 with a light. Sixteen rounds…fuck California.
    One in the pipe, racked, safety on.
    Carry is a 1911 in condition 1.
    Cops tote .40s with Fed. hp.

  6. No kids, no grand kids. So my Glock 17 is equipped with a Surefire weapon mounted light, and sits on the nightstand in a raven vanguard 3 holster tied off to the bed post with 550 cord. That way the wife’s cats can’t accidentally activate the trigger. And it should keep me from doing the same in a groggy state. The light should help in positive identification of any intruders. Don’t want to shoot the the cat…..usually.

    Mine is loaded with Winchester ranger t series. These are the next generation after the black talons of old.

    That should cover me if I need something and can’t get to the shotgun just inside the closet door.

  7. Not yet determined. Just recently got my CCL, but have decided my carry gun (pocket auto right now) is not suitable for bedside.

    Its entirely possible a revolver will win out; I think my wife would be more comfortable with that; definitely a plus.

  8. Sound advice, I’m sure. I own no guns because some people are born to join the awkward squad, and I was born to lead them. A slew foot like myself should avoid deadly mechanisms such as power saws and firearms. But that’s a personal choice. I depend on herd immunity; I live in a rural area populated by Republican voting farmers. No thief in his right mind will choose a house in my neighborhood.

    That said, I recall a daytime talk show segment, some decades back, featuring a reformed crook who made his living advising people on how to protect their homes from his unrepentant fellow crooks. Asked what the of gun he most feared to see in a householder’s hands he said that the one time he had been seriously scared by a citizen was when he looked up the stars of a house he was robbing and saw a man with a compound hunting bow. His reasoning? A man with a gun may have just bought it ‘in case’, and never practiced with it. A man with a bow? He has it because he hunts with it, regularly. He’s going to hit what he aims at.

    He said that, with the bowhunter’s permission, he called the police on himself on the downstairs phone.

  9. Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm with a Surefire X300U on it. It rides in a Safariland SLS 6004 holster (the kind that usually rides on the thigh) attached to a flat piece of aluminum bar stock tucked between the mattresses with one of Safariland’s Quick Lock attachments:
    1 in the pipe, full mag, and no safety to disengage.

    I will eventually get a threaded barrel and a can for it, too, funds permitting.

  10. “…..when the kids get older, teach them about guns and about gun safety.”

    The time to teach kids about gun safety is well before they can do damage. Here is how my brother and I were introduced to guns and gun safety. At age FOUR, dad took us out to the pasture, and set up some cans. He then let us “target shoot”, with our hands on butt and trigger with his hand right over ours and actually doing the muscle work. We got the standard gun safety lecture and admonition to never touch a gun out of adult presence. This was in a rural area of the deep South. Gun safes were unknown. Long guns were stood loaded by the door to the outside world. Handguns were in a cabinet in the kitchen (not locked but high enough up as to be out of reach of toddlers).

    The above was true in every home I entered in the area until I went to college. I am unaware of ANY incidents of the “guns in the home” sort. I can recall TWO hunting accidents (one of which happened well before I was born).

  11. There’s just me and the parrot…and the bird can’t shoot. My house gun is a Glock 19 (Heaven forfend)…with a Docter red dot sight. And a 33-round mag.

  12. Bedside = carry, for me: Colt Detective Special with Hornady FTX 110 grain hollow points. I got to spend the day recently with a Chiappa Rhino, and I’m strongly considering retiring the Colt & going with the Chiappa. It performs as advertised, with significantly less muzzle flip than the .38. It’ll be just as (if not more) comfy in concealment than the Colt. And it’s .357.

    Incidentally, for those who’d like to get more in-depth re: the legalities of ccw & taking out goblins, I STRONGLY recommend The Law of Self Defense: The Indispensable Guide to the Armed Citizen, by Andrew Branca. In addition to spelling out the five “universal” concepts of self defense (innocence, imminence, reasonableness, avoidance and proportionality), he shows how each state applies them statutorily, and through case law.

  13. I’m a revolver man, too, at least for a bedside gun. Ours is a police trade-in M64, basically the same exact thing you’ve got pictured except in .38 SPL caliber, which, with proper ammo (HP) is more than adequate for home-defense distances. As an added bonus, the police dept or security company that bought these had them all modded to be DA-only and removed the hammer spur.

    Now while I think removing the hammer spur is an aesthetic atrocity, I don’t own this gun for looks and from a home defense or self defense standpoint it makes perfect sense: No hammer to snag and no temptation to cock the hammer – the spur is not there, nor is the detent. It’s a simple point/shoot interface with the same trigger pull on all 6 rounds.

    Best of all I think I paid all of $225 for it just a few years back, as all the cool kids were switching to semi autos.

    To me, at least, this last part is worth mentioning: Remember that if you have to actually use your gun, either at home or on the road (we camp a lot and the 64 is my go-to under-the-pillow gun), there’s a good chance that the investigating lawman will have to confiscate the weapon and put it into evidence, at least until they decide whether charges will be filed.

    Turning your gun over to the law hurts a lot less when it’s a $225 revolver of no particular history than when it’s a $1500 “race gun” Kimber or the M1911 that Granddaddy brought back from Bastogne.

  14. I might add the same caveat of caution if you have any family members or children that might be mentally unstable or have significant behavioral issues. As a matter of fact, it might not be a bad idea to do your own personal risk analysis as to having firearms in the house at all versus the hopefully remote but nonzero possibility that said family member or child might get hold of firearm and cause a real tragedy at school, or on the bus, or at work, etc. I wouldn’t want to be known as the next Lanza family. I remember many years ago having an emotionally unstable teenage stepson that went looking for my shotgun when he got into a scuffle with some neighborhood kids. For the next few years until we defused that particular landmine, my shotgun was in a state of disassembly with the firing pin carefully hidden away in a separate location, and my default home defense weapon became a baseball bat. Not an ideal situation, but back in the days of school shootings making headlines (I believe this was shortly after Jonesboro but before Columbine) I was unwilling to entertain any possibility of my stepson joining those ranks with tools from my home.

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