Having come around to the idea of a shotgun for home defense, we have to think about how to store it. Or rather, what loaded condition it should be kept in. I imagine we all agree that a firearm intended for home defense shouldn’t be left unloaded. So, the question becomes, how loaded should the shotgun be.
Wait, we shouldn’t have shotguns loaded all the way? Round chambered and magazine tube full? Well, no, and here is why. Shotguns are not considered to be “drop safe” firearms. Meaning, that if they have a round chambered and take a good jolt, the gun could fire. Even if the safety is on. Because of that, conventional wisdom says we do not chamber a round until we need to use the shotgun. Otherwise, the magazine tube is fully loaded.
Even with the magazine tube fully loaded, we have to consider what condition do we want the action to be in. The action locked, per normal, or the action unlocked so that all we have to do to get the shotgun into fighting condition is run the pump.
On semiauto shotguns, this all kind of a moot point because the action really isn’t locked or unlocked. What we do have to do with semiauto shotguns though, is make sure we have hit the shell release lever, or button, or whatever your particular manufacturer calls that part. They all seem to work just a little differently.
The action unlocked, but magazine tube fully loaded is called Cruiser Ready. If you wonder where the name comes from, it is called that because these loaded conditions originate from law enforcement. The good thing about cruiser ready is that it has the simplest action to get the gun ready to rock and roll, just pump the gun. The downside is not so much the condition of the gun, but getting the gun into that condition.
Loading to Cruiser Ready
The correct way to do it is to have a completely unloaded shotgun, point it in the safest direction possible, and press the trigger. At least on pump guns. Pressing triggers when not shooting the gun always comes with a little extra risk. So be extra careful here.
Once the gun is unloaded, the trigger pressed, we can now stuff our favorite flavor of shotshell in the magazine tube. As many as will fit is usually the right answer here. The safety can be left on or off per user preference. I would still recommend safety on as a default.
The next option is called Cruiser Safe. The only real distinction here is that the action is not unlocked. Depending on how a shotgun is mounted in a vehicle and depending on how the vehicle is being driven, an unlocked action can open. This would feed a shell onto the lifter, and it would either be lost, get flipped around backwards, or who knows what. The solution was just not to have the action unlocked.
This adds a step to getting the gun into action, though. Now we have to hit the action bar lock as well as run the action. On the flip side, it means no additional trigger presses. This provides some continuity in how the gun is handled. With Cruiser Ready, even when I know the action is unlocked, I usually hit the action bar lock anyway because that is what you do to open the action when the trigger isn’t pressed first. It is just something that happens because, in every other instance, it is required to perform the action.
Pick One, and Stick With One
At the end of it all though, this is user preference and dependent on individual circumstances. Choose the one that fits your needs the best. Just understand what it is, and how to employ it safely. If you do run a Cruiser Ready shotgun, it might be worth occasionally practicing acquiring the shotgun while it is in that condition and getting it into action. Same for Cruiser Safe.