If you're serious about home defense, your nightstand wouldn't be complete without your trusty gun. But what if you have children in the house?
As soon as our little boy started crawling I realized that it was no longer safe to keep my gun by my bed, unsecured. The whole purpose of having a bedside gun, is that you have a loaded, chambered, ready-to-go- gun within arms reach at 2am, should you need it. So while keeping an unloaded gun, with the magazine and ammo in a nearby location, would technically be safer, I wouldn't like to be half asleep, trying to get it all together without knocking something over in the middle of the night.
Most of our friends have children, and it's impossible to supervise them the entire time they visit and it's added peace of mind to know they can't 'accidentally' stumble on any guns in the house. We have a large gun safe, but not in the bedroom. With a dial lock it's off limits to kids, but was hardly quick to access in an emergency. Little arms are surprisingly strong, and those little fingers amazingly nimble, so just keeping
the gun in the drawer wasn't going to be all that safe for very long. How many news stories have you read of children getting into closed drawers and finding unsecured guns, with disastrous consequences? Exactly. So it was time to get serious about keeping my bedside gun in a safe.
But which one? The hunt was on for a small pistol safe that would be easy to get into in a middle of the night emergency situation, but impossible for the little one to access. It also had to fit into our budget, since we needed more than one. Finger Print sensors, combination locks, keys, digital buttons, anchored to the wall or free standing....the choices can seem overwhelming.
Here are some points to consider when choosing a pistol safe:
Budget - This plays the biggest role for many of us when choosing a safe. Prices for a small gun safe can range from $20-300+, so figure out what you afford, and then look for the best safe, that offers the features you want, in that price range.
Locking Mechanism - This comes down entirely to personal preference. If the main purpose of the safe is just to keep the gun away from children, then you may be happy with a key or combination dial lock (just make sure you keep the key out of their reach!). If you want to be able to get into your safe in seconds, and as quietly as possible, then you may want a fingerprint sensor or digital button lock. Keep in mind that the price usually goes up the more sophisticated the lock.
Size - Is the safe just for one gun, or do you want to be able to store multiple firearms? For the nightstand you may only want a small, slim safe, big enough to hold one or two guns, or one gun and several magazines etc., while a slightly larger safe might sit in the closet or on the dresser. Does it need to be long enough to accommodate a suppressor attachment, or will it be for a pocket pistol?
Features - Do you want it to be portable or more of a permanent fixture? Mounted under your nightstand or in a drawer, or sitting on top? Would a shelf inside the safe be useful, or do you just want a flat space? Vertical or horizontal design?
Some small safes come with the option to bolt them to the wall or the back of a drawer, or have a cable that can be hooked to a solid object, while others are designed to be portable, in case you just want the one safe, and plan to move it around the house/car as needed. Some are designed to be water and/or fire proof, while others are just glorified lock boxes. There's also the option to go with a trigger locking device that just locks around the exterior of the gun, and releases via a key, combination lock, or fingerprint scanner.
Here's what we ended up choosing and what we think of it so far.
For the house: First Alert 5200DF Portable pistol safe $61
Price - Since I knew we were going to need about three small gun safes for the house, and one for each car, price was going to play a big part in our choice, and this one fit the bill. We found ours on Amazon for $61, but the price has gone up since then. Once you've settled on the model you want, shop around till you find the best price.
Features - I like that it has both a key and an electronic keypad entry option. A finger print scanner would have been nice, but it almost doubled the price, and the reviews on it's reliability were mixed.
I also like that it comes in a nice variety of sizes. I chose the small size (3.5 x 9.3 x 11.5 inches), and I was pleased to be able to fit two guns inside. My EDC gun (Sig p238) only lives in the safe at night, while my range gun (Sig p226) stays there all the time unless we're taking it out for a spin. It does also come with a cable that can be attached to the back of the drawer, or anchored to the wall, but since I wanted to be able to take it to the range or on trips as well, I chose to let it just sit on my nightstand. It's nicely padded, and has a nice weight to it (4lbs). It was easy to program my keypad entry sequence, and it opens reliably.
The mechanics are a bit noisy and the buttons feel a little clunky, but that's not a huge deal.
When did you decide it was time for a bedside safe, and which one did you choose? We'd love to hear your stories of good solutions, bad solutions, times a pistol safe has saved a life, or things that have gone wrong that you wish you could have prevented. There are so many things to consider, and we can learn so much from each other's experiences!