Why You Shouldn’t Keep the Gun On the Night Stand

Originally Posted Dec 5, 2017. Updated several times. See most recent update date above.

What follows can be a touchy subject in the gun community. Nobody wants to be told how they “have to” secure or store their gun and everyone has different opinions about the balance between speed of access and security. In this article, we do not intend to address political questions or discuss tactics in any depth.

Instead, my goal is to address one single and simple question.

How much slower is it to secure the gun in a safe vs directly leaving it on the nightstand? Or perhaps better said, is there an ideal balance that can be found between speed and security?

Speed of Access Is Important In A Life-Threatening Emergency

safe on night stand

In a recent class, a student told me:

“My father taught me that when there is an intruder in the home seconds count and you won't have time to get to the gun safe. You should sleep with the gun on your night stand for quick and easy access.”

While I agree that time is important and not really on your side when you need to protect life, striking a balance is key especially if you have young children at home.

I say balance because this comes down to balancing Speed of Access with Security.

On one hand, leaving my staged gun directly on the nightstand maximized my speed of access while not providing any security for the gun at all. Of course if I lock the gun up in a big thick fireproof safe in my basement I maximize security but my speed of access is terrible.

Considerations for Gun Secure Storage

I don't mean to discuss secure storage at length but I do feel it is important for this conversation to acknowledge that there are various reasons why secure storage matters.

I have found, and most of the comments at the bottom of this article suggest, that at large gun owners think the question of secure storage comes down to children in the home. Certainly, I agree that the presence of children is a highly relevant consideration with how we store and stage guns in the home but it isn't the only consideration.

One should also consider that a gun left unsecured has the increased risk of being stolen by a criminal during a break-in. The majority of illegally obtained guns are stolen from law-abiding gun owners and while unlikely, I have reviewed incidents in which a criminal has surreptitiously entered a home, obtained an unsecured gun, and then used it against the occupants of the house.

Also I imagine somewhat unlikely but I am also aware of a good number of incidents in which a firearm has been grabbed in a “less than fully awake” state and used to great damage. There are incidents in which someone has shot themselves or a family member because they grabbed their gun and fired before their brain had woken significantly to be able to interpret the events in their environment.

RESOURCE: Quick Access Handgun Safe Buyers Guide – Locking Styles, Design, and Construction

So How Much Slower Is It To Lock Up The Gun?

So I feel the best approach is to balance availability and safety properly. A small gun safe mounted to your nightstand or in the drawer of your night stand makes that firearm nearly as available as the gun sitting atop the nightstand but it also adds a significant layer of security while reducing liability and risk.

However, while that sounds true as a statement I wanted to put it to the test and look at some objective data so I set up an experiment.

The Experiment:

I obtained several different styles of gun safes including what I describe as “clamshell” safes, “side access” safes, and gravity “drop box” side mount safes.

To test the time it takes to access the gun in each staging condition or safe I utilized the LASR software and a SIRT gun.

First I staged the gun in the safe or in its staged position and then I lied down in my bed fully awake and alert. Using the delay start feature in LASR I set a random delayed start so I couldn't predict the go signal. At the start of the timer the software makes a loud beep and I proceeded to jump out of bed, retrieve the SIRT gun and fire on a cardboard target staged near the entrance to my bedroom.

Since the LASR software “sees” the hit of the red laser from the SIRT gun on the target it provides a clear time between the initial go signal and the shot on target.

Obviously, the objective here is NOT to measure the time it would take from a fully asleep state to obtain the gun. The intent is to create a predictable way to measure the relative speed of different firearm staging plans against each other. I ran each configuration about 10 times and took the average response time of each.

The Results – Different Safes and Staging Options and How They Affect Gun Speed of Access

Here is a short graphic on the experiment I did, showing the time difference between using different types of safes, the drawer of the nightstand, and nothing at all which was the control:

As you can see keeping the gun in a safe is a little slower, but only about 1.5 seconds for the quickest type of safe. With practice, you can get faster.

I talk a lot more about this in the following video, as well as show these tests as I ran them:

Of course, as pointed out in the video, things would play out very differently in the middle of the night if you're attacked. You have to deal with grogginess and motor function issues, but as with all things, you should practice these things.

You should know what it is like to get to your gun quickly so you can defend yourself appropriately.

I want to add that Sports Afield no longer makes and sells the safes shown in this video and their latest models do not feature a button system that maximizes speed of access. I now recommend safes from SnapSafe or GunVault for a comparable fast and reliable result.

So Can You Strike A Good Balance Between Speed and Security?

I think you can. For me, in my home, I feel 1.5 seconds is not a big sacrifice of time when responding to a threat and certainly is justified to obtain a baseline of security.

For each of us, we have to decide what the right balance is for ourselves and our homes.

And of course, we go into a lot of detail on home defense in our Complete Home Defense course, found by clicking on that link.

How do you balance availability and safety? Let us know in the comments below.

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of ConcealedCarry.com. ConcealedCarry.com provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Mickey on December 15, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I do think some kind of pistol safe on the night stand is a good idea–sleeping and dreaming could reult in grabing the weapon by accident —-just sayn

    • Mike on December 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      I agree 100% I cant even sleep with a phone on the night stand.. Ive woken up talking to people on it with no memory of it ringing 😉

    • Dick on January 7, 2016 at 9:50 am

      I have often thought about that. I keep mine handy at night BUT I have to get out of bed to get it. Thanks

    • Roy Emmett on June 12, 2024 at 6:02 pm

      When I take it off at night I put under pillow. Always ready. When I take dog out at night I take it with me

  2. Joe on December 15, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I don’t have any children. None, so this isn’t an issue for me. Kids do not come into this house at night. (At least they shouldn’t, or else…) If they are here in the day (with a relative say), then the guns are already locked in the gun safe, with the exception of my primary and back up piece which are secured upon my person. However I don’t keep the pistol on my nightstand (nor in it), and it’s not in some holster stuffed between my mattress & box spring. (It’s not anywhere on the bed, nor is it even touching the bed.) It is instantly accessible to me, and in fact puts me in an excellent fighting position if the need arises (God forbid), but is not in plain sight, and it’s not in any type of safe. I’m not going to say where I keep it because I don’t want anyone to know, hence the term “concealed”, both from sight AND mind (of anyone but me.) There are always exceptions to every rule, and the number one rule is to practice, practice, practice with your firearms so you can handle them quickly as well as “knowledgeably safe” (as is humanly possible.) Another thing I do is constantly test new methods, as well as improve upon old ones to create a good working foundation, and I will always stress the foundation basics. Watch your back, and keep your nose clean. (And your powder dry!)

  3. Dynamicdave on December 16, 2015 at 2:25 am

    I keep my .357 next to me on my computer stand. Easy reach. We have NO CHILDREN in the house. It is holstered and ready for action. Same rules don’t apply for everybody and their particular circumstances.

    • Todd on September 16, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Agreed. No kids, weapon close by.

    • GunnyGirl on November 10, 2023 at 1:46 am

      If your sound asleep and an intruder enters your home, and they happen upon your firearm, you could wake up to it pointed directly at your face… What then?

  4. Rumple Stiltskin on December 16, 2015 at 6:37 am

    What good is a gun you can’t access for immediate use??

    • Jacob Paulsen on December 16, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Rumple, I agree but I also am of the opinion that there are a lot of ways to make the gun both available for immediate use AND secured in a locked safe.

      • Clark Kent on June 4, 2024 at 11:05 pm

        And when, exactly, will the batteries to your electronic safe go dead? Ever hear of Murphy’s Law? And Murphy was an optimist.

        • Jacob Paulsen on June 5, 2024 at 9:18 am

          When exactly are you going to make a comment on this site that is kind, respectful, or polite? I change out batteries every 6 months like I do the smoke detectors. Never had one die on me so far. Should that happen I can resort to the key which puts me back to having the same response time I would have with a key as I stage the key accordingly.

          • Clark Kent on June 5, 2024 at 9:52 pm

            If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. The truth hurts. Grow up.

          • Jacob Paulsen on June 6, 2024 at 4:30 pm

            You can share your opinions (which I value) without being rude or unkind to people. Or at least that is what we expect from people on this website.

  5. Semper Fi on December 16, 2015 at 9:48 am

    We have no children at home, So we keep our gun’s where we can get to them quick if need be. Also if someone breaks into your home will their gun be in a gun safe. Oh wait give me a minute to get mine out before you shoot me. If there are no children living there I say keep it where it makes you feel safe and not in a safe

    • Tim on September 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      Correct, NO gun safe will ever be as fast as a gun just out of sight on a nightstand!

  6. LARRY on December 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with all of the above.

  7. Anna on November 4, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Why not just teach kids to not shoot themselves or their friends? Just because you have kids around is a very bad reason to keep your defense guns in a safe. Growing up I knew where the guns were kept throughtout the house, how to use them, and when to use them. Somehow I never shot anything other than a few critters or targets despite growing up with guns everywhere.

    • Rickety Rick on September 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. I always grew up with guns around, then in the late seventy’s we had kids of our own. My loaded gun was on the nightstand. My kids were well versed about guns, and learned how to shoot and learned respect. This started from day one.
      As an aside, there is no such thing as gun violence. This is a leftist’s propaganda term. May I suggest criminal shooter instead ?

    • Parker on September 18, 2020 at 1:28 am

      Agreed Anna!!!

  8. Jimmy Lewis Ratcliff on August 4, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    My dad had 7 kids, we had no guns in the house. I spent a lot of time on my grandparents house. Shotgun, and rifles were there. I carried around the .22 from the time I was ten, the shotgun at 15. Never a problem. Never understood dads logic.

  9. Jimmy Lewis Ratcliff on August 4, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    On my grandparents farm.

  10. Sarge338 on September 16, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Here’s the issue with the “test” in this case. You weren’t asleep before you had to access the firearm. I will **guarantee** that you will not manipulate keys and or number pads as quickly after being awakened in a start from REM-stage sleep. Your heart will already be pumping and then you have to try to shake out the cobwebs and access your safe. Couple this with (in my mind) not wanting to turn on a light to alert the intruder to where you are.

    I would be willing to bet that those times to get to your gun would at least double if you were actually asleep when you were jolted out of bed by an intruder. Unless you have an obstacle course between their entry point and your room (or your kids’ rooms), that extra time is not acceptable. That’s the difference between me getting to my kids or the intruder(s) getting to my kids.

    If I need my firearm, I want nothing between it and me. I have no intention of crippling my home defense due to the “progressive” mindset that a present firearm equals a dead kid. 30 years ago, I didn’t know ANYONE with a safe, and everyone had guns. Now everyone is expected to have at least one safe if they own a gun. Unless everyone is ready to concede that current youth are as dense as uranium, I’m not changing anything.

  11. Rico de la Llama on September 16, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    I agree with Rickety Rick, I grew up in a house with no guns but in the 80’s I had guns and little kids in the house. I had mine in the night stand, my daughter who was 4 had already been taught to keep her hand off the handgun my son 2, I thought was to young to understand. That was till I was sitting in the bathroom doing my business when he comes wadling in holding the gun by slide and hands it to me. After the excitement of seeing that, I got cleaned up and made plans for the next day to go shooting. I explain that the gun could be very hurtful if handled incorrectly. He looked at me quizzically as to ask how? I had prepared for that question the day before. I had brought a large watermelon with us and I asked him if I spanked hard and he said yes! I spanked the watermelon a few times as hard as I could with no mercy. I asked him if the watermelon was hard and he agreed. So you know where this is going, I walked out about 10 yards from us and had him look at the watermelon when I shot it. He never touched the gun again without getting immediate permission. He’s 34 now and I gave him that S&W SS mod 645 when he turned 21 his 6 and 8 year old boys have no problem following the rules either, and they like to shoot too. No one touches the gun without dadas permission. I do agree they should be out of line of sight and a magnet screwed discreetly into that nightstand hides the gun perfectly. When the boys come over I lock up all the guns except our carry guns as a precaution because they might come across the unexpectedly and this isn’t their home.

  12. Larry Hines on September 16, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    I use a magnetic mount that is out of sight.

  13. GENNARO AVETA on September 17, 2020 at 1:06 am

    Why is no one commenting on, alarms or pets that cause an alarming bark? A well put together alarm system is key in any home or area you live in.
    You, now have time to react. Alarm goes off, dog barks intensely at the noise? Why not talk about those points of intrusion of home?
    That in my opinion would give me ample time to react to a threat. Better than not knowing, when someone breaks into my home.
    Your numbers are nonsense and impracticable!!
    I have measures in my home that allow time for me to act and giving me the time to do just that. Gun safe or not!
    I do not leave my firearms out and available to visitors, children or any others. I know when the are coming and lock them up and put my ammunition in another room!
    I am mindful of others coming into my home always! That is responsible gun ownership!! Simple!

  14. Eric Hammers on September 17, 2020 at 7:40 am

    All interesting perspectives. I do not have kids in the home anymore either. However, when I was raising my kids, When they were 7 years old (twins), I took them out in the desert. I took a handful of water melons, a 12 GA shotgun and a .45. These were the two weapons NOT locked up. I explained to them the watermelons were like people’s heads. I even painted happy faces on them (which brought giggles from the twins). Right in the middle of talking about gun safety and why they should NEVER play with them, I pulled the trigger on the shotgun, completely destroying one of the water melons. (Yes, it was done safely) Both my kids jumped out of their socks. As I watched them standing there stunned, I let it sink in a moment and then explained the water melon could have been one of their friends heads, or each others, or mine. They lesson stuck and to my knowledge, neither of them EVER touched one of my firearms without me present (as I taught them to shoot over time).

    Back to the topic, I keep three firearms “strategically” placed in my home and the rest locked up. They are all out of sight. Good stuff, thank you ConcealedCarry.

  15. Dale on September 17, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I think this is the ideal solution, if you don’t have kids to worry about. The Brave Response holster which, if I remember correctly, I first learned about here. I fill its four pockets with 1) firearm, 2) spare magazine, 3) tactical flashlight and 4) Bluetooth earpiece.

    If there’s a bump in the night I can have the whole assembly on body within seconds, no clothes required. If you slide it around to be appendix carry, you even have your most cherished body parts covered.

  16. Alex on October 18, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    There are never any children around my apartment. My apartment is also not so big, so a determined intruder could make their way from my front door to me laying in bed within 5 seconds. Even the small amount of time a good quick access gun safe adds to my firearm being ready to use could spell disaster for me. My firearm is in my nightstand and that works for me. No need to worry about my dumbass being unable to remember to combo to a quick access safe while I’m in fight or flight mode with a home invader 10 feet away from me. If I’m out of town, the gun is locked and inoperable, otherwise it’s ready to go. Whats the point of a home defense tool if you can’t reasonably use it for defense?

  17. David on September 13, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    The advice in this article, for folks with no children in the home, is patently absurd. Once an intruder has reached my bedroom, there is zero time to waste. Your “1.5” extra seconds to open a bedside safe is ridiculous, and doesn’t even consider the physical and mental conditions folks are in when suddenly awakened by danger.


  18. 38Special on November 10, 2023 at 2:03 am

    If I’m worried about a stranger entering my home, I’d definitely invest in a security alarm, first off. This gives anyone more than enough time to retrieve their firearm from a gun safe, or locked box, if the situation we’re to arise.

    Chances are, if an intruder triggers an alarm, they’re not sticking around… This, not only keeps you safe, in your home, but will also reduce, or prevent the the possibility of you taking another persons life. Or accidently hurting or killing someone you know, mistaking them as an intruder. These types of things happen all the time! However, there are also those who use that as their excuse, to off someone, intentionally. But that’s neither here, nor there.

  19. Larry on June 4, 2024 at 8:37 pm

    I like having a dog sleeping with us which will be the first line of defense. She will let you know as soon as anybody is even close to the house. Time to react is the key in home defense. Between home security and the dog, I feel I have time to react.

  20. Kevin on June 14, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    I have no children at home and leave mine in night within reach. I do not leave it chambered to fire. It requires you to be more awake to chamber a round and fire. Also, I want them to hear me chambering a round. I prefer pump shotgun for the latter because everybody knows that sound but a little cumbersome for arthritic hands when first waking up. Also, the reason for not story in safe. Know you firearm and practice.

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