The Reality of the “Bedside” Gun

As a firearms instructor and shooting enthusiast, the idea of a “bedside” or “nightstand” gun has come up very often.  I have never been a proponent of the practice for some very specific reasons.  I have always felt that if I needed a firearm while I was lying in bed, that I had failed at practicing the basics of personal safety by not having multiple layers of security such as an alarm system, a dog, or a wife who’s a light sleeper.  The other reason I’ve never kept a “bedside” gun is that I’ve always felt that in a self-defense situation, I need to be as clear-headed and awake as possible.  I’ve always kept my home-defense gun across the room on a dresser or in a closet so that I would have to get up to retrieve it, thereby giving myself time to clear my head and come fully awake.

We recently survived Hurricane Matthew here in northeast Florida.  Shortly after the storm I was subject to a brief power outage, and my actions during it made me revisit my thoughts and opinion on the so called “bedside” gun.  After the worst of the storm on Friday, my wife and I settled in to watch some television on Saturday evening.  We were very lucky that we hadn’t lost power up to this point.  Normally, I sit on the large couch, which faces the TV, but this evening my wife was stretched out there so I sat on the smaller couch, which sits at a 90 degree angle to the TV.  We shortly fell asleep, and at some point thereafter, we lost power.  I awoke in the sitting position to a silent and very dark house.  I didn’t understand why the TV was off, but I had the remote in my hand, so I pointed it straight out in front of me and pressed the power button.  Then I pressed it again because nothing had happened.  Then I pressed it some more.  I finally realized that I wasn’t sitting directly in front of the TV, so I pointed it where I thought the TV was and pressed the power button some more.  Nothing continued to happen.  At this point I realized that I needed some light to figure out what was wrong.  It still hadn’t dawned on me that the power was out.  I stood up and groped my way to the nearest light switch and flicked it up and down several times.  Still nothing happened.  Then I finally realized the power was out.

As you can see, it took me a few minutes to become fully conscious and aware of the situation.  This got me to thinking about how I would have reacted to the sound of someone breaking in, and what could have happened if it was a firearm and not a TV remote in my hand.  It truly reinforced my previous opinion on the “bedside” gun and gave me a great anecdote to help drive the point home to students in the future.

If you’re like me and have a clear conscience, you sleep pretty well at night.  Generations of not sleeping in the wilderness have eliminated our animal instincts.  We no longer wake at the slightest change in our environment.  You can train yourself to be like this.  I remember waking up upon hearing the hum of fluorescent lights coming on during boot camp on Parris Island and being instantly aware of my surroundings.  Most of us don’t need to train to this level, so we come awake much more slowly.  Now let’s add a firearm into the mix.  You’re awakened by a strange noise so you grab your handgun from under the pillow, or your nightstand, or bedside holster.  Are you fully aware of your surroundings?  Do you know there is an intruder out there? Is it just your child who had a bad dream, or your cat chasing a lizard that got into the house?  Are you truly prepared physically and mentally to handle any threat that should present itself?  I would venture to say that most of us are not properly prepared.  Do yourself and your family a favor, and get rid of your “bedside” gun and make it your “closet” or “dresser” gun.  Take the time to become fully aware of your situation before you put a firearm in your hands.

One of the other points my story drives home is the evils of routine.  We are creatures of habit.  We tend to always do what we’ve always done.  This works for most folks most of the time.  If you are training with your firearm for self-defense, you are probably training for the most common scenario you could find yourself in.  The reality, however, is that every self-defense situation is unique and there will be variables that we are unprepared for.  In my story, it took me 30 seconds to realize I was sitting on a different couch than I usually sit on.  How long will it take you to react when you are confronted with an aggressor while outside jogging when you’ve only trained to shoot your gun while standing still?  How will you react to an intruder upstairs when you are downstairs and only ever assumed someone would break in while you were upstairs.

Here at BASICS: Range & Gun we put a lot of emphasis on getting outside your comfort zone.  We believe that while standing still in the firing stall and shooting at target that doesn’t move can improve your marksmanship skills.  We also know that you need to prepare for more.  Real life doesn’t stand still.  Take an opportunity to attend one of our move & shoot sessions, or one of our other training classes to vary up your training.

Come shoot with us!

-Jeff Levan