Snoring With a Chambered Round

Snoring With a Chambered Round

Snoring With a Chambered Round

There was a memorable scene in the movie “Dances with Wolves” where Lt. John Dunbar, as played by Kevin Costner, awakes from a dead sleep. A group of Lakota Indian youths just stole his horse in the dead of the night. In his haste to react, he accidently slams his head into an overhead beam, which renders him unconscious for a while.

Allow me to tell you about a hot August afternoon inForsyth,Georgia. I had just arrived at the motel where I would be staying for a couple of days while attending Defensive Tactics Instructor Training. I checked in, got the room key, and went to the room. Unlocking the door, I perused the room and decided to take the bed closest to the window. I unloaded the car and brought “Boo Boo”, my Mossberg 500 tactical shotgun in with me. Putting things away, I decided to slip “Boo Boo” under the bed where I could get to him easily. I unzipped the case so that I could reach in and grab it should the need arise.

I left to find a place to eat and the door locked, as it should, behind me. I enjoyed a nice meal at a local restaurant and then drove to theGeorgiaPublicSafetyTrainingCenterto orient myself and see where the training was going to take place. Settling in for the night, I fastened the security chain on the door. Not that it meant anything but I was in an unfamiliar place and in a room that was not located in the busier part of the motel. It is always good to be cautious. Satisfied, I flipped on the T.V., lay on the bed, and relaxed. This is great! I thought. I am one person in one room. Perfect, I thought as I drifted off to sleep.

At about11:00 p.m.the door opened against the chain. Not fully awake, I quickly grabbed “Boo Boo” from his resting place under the bed with my left hand. The door quickly closed. “Hold on!” I heard from the other side of the door. “I’m your roommate!” the voice exclaimed. I looked down and the muzzle of the shotgun was looking back at me. I had grabbed the barrel of the gun instead of the receiver! I quickly got up, put “Boo Boo” away and unlocked the door. I apologized to my new roommate and told him that the motel failed to let me know that I was not to be alone. He quickly acknowledge the same and I called the front desk; whereas, I let them know in no uncertain terms that their failure to let someone know that there were supposed to be two people to a room could cost somebody their life. I also learned a lesson that day and admonished myself for not preparing properly. Had I positioned the shotgun with the barrel pointing away from me, I would have grabbed the receiver rather than the barrel.

My home shotgun rests high in a closet and I would have to make a concentrated effort to retrieve it. I also have a GP100 in a lockbox. What use to be my EDC is in the nightstand for night duty; a Bersa 45UC that is loaded, one in the chamber, with the safety in its “safe” position. The Bersa 45UC is a double-action first shot. The decocking/safety lever, when in “safe” mode, disallows the trigger to engage anything that would cause the weapon to fire; it is, essentially, a free-floating trigger. To fire the weapon, I must physically move the decocking/safety lever from its “safe” position to the “fire” position and a then pull a long, double-action stroke on the trigger. This adds an added degree of safety, in my opinion.

I began carrying the Glock G36 as my EDC but I do not keep it close for use at night for one simple reason – the trigger. Being suddenly jolted awake at night and find yourself holding your “home defense” handgun with your trigger on the finger is all too easy.

Imagine if you will, the following:

You have settled in for a good night’s rest. Within minutes, you go from a human being cognizant of your surroundings and usually in a relaxed state. You are about to enter, as Jeff Cooper established, “Condition White”.  “In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.” – Jeff Cooper

During sleep, we normally pass through five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over again with stage 1. As adults, we spend almost 50 percent of our total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20 percent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages.

During stage 1, which is light sleep, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows. People awakened from stage 1 sleep often remember fragmented visual images. Many also experience sudden muscle contractions called hypnic myoclonia, often preceded by a sensation of starting to fall. These sudden movements are similar to the “jump” we make when startled.

When we enter the second stage of sleep, our eye movement stops and our brain waves become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles.

In stage 3, extremely slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves.

By stage 4, the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, as they are in deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up.

Snoring With a Chambered RoundSleeping is a dynamic activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up.

Now, imagine if you will that, you are going through these various degrees of sleep and the house alarm sounds, which immediately causes chaos throughout your system. You jolt upright not being able to focus your eyes in the dark conditions that exists. You reach into your nightstand drawer to pull your Glock ‘whatever caliber’ from its resting place and the flashlight that also resides there. You are wearing your “tighty-whiteys or “Boxer” shorts. Maybe, you have a T-shirt on or maybe you are buck-naked. Maybe, you grab a robe or some other garment – or not. Regardless, you are in a heightened state of awareness, your heart is pounding in your chest and your hand that is holding the gun tightens in automatic response to a possible threat – and you shoot yourself in the leg. You left a round in the chamber and did not even think about it as your mind slowly unwound from dreams of your last vacation in theBahamaswith Bahaman Mommas and songs by Jimmy Buffet rolling through your brain.

Much later, and after you have recovered from your injury, you limp around because of shooting yourself with that latest in technologically-advanced and so-wanted jacketed hollow point bullet that turned your flesh, muscles, and bone into shredded meat, you are re-thinking your position about leaving a round in the chamber while you store the gun for the night. It does not sound so good right now.

The impetus for this write-up came from a thread on a website that asked fellow readers if they stored their firearms with loaded chambers. The responses were as varied as the readers were. The responses opined on short-term and long-term storage to should magazines be loaded for long periods and should your nightstand, castle-defending firearm be loaded with a round chambered while you are sleeping. I think that it is a topic worth looking into.

As I stated earlier, my Bersa 45UC rests in the nightstand table, loaded, a round chambered, and the decocking/safety lever in “safe” mode. With the long, 10-pound DA trigger, it is more like a revolver in that it takes a substantial amount of force to pull the trigger for that first double-action shot. I leave the decocking/safety lever in “safe” mode simply because I am used to operating a safety on pistols and doing so is second nature to me.

Crossbreed Bedside Backup

Crossbreed Bedside Backup

There are also many ways to store a firearm near the bed so that it is readably available when you need it (like the Cross Breed Bedside Backup). As with any kind of “storage” system, you must practice retrieving the weapon (unloaded, of course) and adjustments made where necessary. Regardless of how you store the weapon, the question whether you chamber the first round of that weapon requires some thought.

If my Glock (or other similar striker-fired pistol) resided in the nightstand drawer or other quick access location, it would be “safed” by removing the chambered round, the trigger pulled, and a fully loaded magazine inserted into the magazine well; I would have to physically pull the slide to the rear and release it to chamber a round. For these types of pistols, this is a safer alternative (to me) than leaving a round chambered on a gun that that takes very little pressure (about 5.5 pounds) to send the striker forward.

Single-action semi-automatics (1911 style) normally have at least one safety but also may incorporate a second (grip) safety that prevents the gun from firing unless both the hammer block safety is “off-safe” and a proper grip is applied to the gun. There are also pistols that are DA/SA and my thought is that they make a better choice over “safe” actions for a bedside firearm, as they are normally de-cocked and require a substantial pull of the trigger to fire.

There are also striker fired pistols that have a safety lever and may be safer when keeping a round chambered; you must manually activate the safety to “arm” the weapon.

A single-action revolver may find its way to the nightstand. Of course, with a single-action revolver I must cock the hammer in order to shoot the revolver. That is an inherently safe design in my opinion, as it takes a concerted effort to do so.

If a double-action revolver happens to be my choice of firearm to keep my household defended, it is fully loaded. Since it takes quite a bit of poundage to pull the trigger through to drop the hammer on a live round, it makes it a little bit harder to pull the trigger when I do not want to.

The home shotgun is loaded, but the rounds rest comfortably in the feed tube without one chambered. It takes a concerted effort to manipulate the slide-action when chambering a round and I am all right with that.

Regardless of your choice of bedside firearm, it is the responsibility of the gun’s owner to look after its welfare and ensure that it is safe until it is time, well, not to be safe. After all, and literally speaking, nobody wants to shoot themselves in the foot.

No one ever won a battle by dying for his cause. He won it by making the other bastard die for his cause.” – A paraphrase of a quote by General George S. Patton.

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  • Anonymous

    good article

    • Bill58

      I keep a chambered Glock 23 at my bedside.  There is an aftermarket device (Saf-T-block, or something near that) that sits snuggly behind the trigger.  It is impossible to accidently pull the trigger with this device in place if you inadvertenly put your finger inside the trigger guard while reaching for the gun in the fog of awakening. However, once awake the device is poked out in a microsecond and you are ready to go .  . .

      • Anonymous

        I keep glock 30 by my side

  • BAMF-Agent

    Imagine the same scenario except you don’t carry one in the pipe.  In your groggy awakening you forget to put a round in the chamber.  The perp is now 7 feet in front of you with a loaded gun pointing at you.  You pull the trigger, nothing happens……he pulls the trigger, bang…you are dead on the ground. Imagine the same scenario except that your gun is in the decock safety mode the author describes.  In your groggy awakening you forget to manipulate the decocker safety to fire.  The perp is now 7 feet in front of you with a loaded gun pointing at you.  You pull the trigger, nothing happens……he pulls the trigger, bang…you are dead on the ground.  Imagine you are on the ground from a self inflicted gun shot wound to the leg because you pulled the trigger on a Glock with one in the pipe.  The perp is now 7 feet in front of you with a loaded gun pointing at you.  You pull the trigger, bang the guy is dead and you are alive but have a gsw to the leg.  Which scenario do you choose?  I carry one in the pipe!

    • DarylD

      Like you, I store while snoring with one in the chamber, as well. I keep the safety on for several reasons; (1) I am used to dropping a safety without thinking about it, (2) Should the BG get it away from me, he probably won’t realize it is on safe and that give me a split second to respond as he pulls the trigger and nothing happens. Each of us has to decide which method of storing a gun while snoring is best. Between the house alarm and three dogs going off, I’m secure in my decision to have one in the chamber and the safety on.

    • Presticle13

      That is why you should have a Glock in whatever caliber you choose for your nightstand buddy. No decockers, safeties,etc. Just pull the trigger and carry on.

  • waddy

    I think a person should take seriously into account their own individual reactions to being awakened suddenly. There have been very few times in my entire life when I am not able to come instantly awake and fully alert when awakened. If I was accosted during one of those times, it would most likely be the end of me, whether armed or not. To paraphrase Mr. Jeff , “you get caught in condition white, you’re probably going to die”, and that can happen even when awake. My nightstand gun is also my carry gun, so it is intimately familiar to me. It is a 1911, and is on duty at night exactly as it is during the day; it is in contidion three and ready to go with a good grip and safety flicked off. That is MY solution for the way MY body reacts to being awakened. In my personal opinion, safety is directly related to ho I react to any given situation. Putting artificial methods of mechanical and mental “safety” guards can easily very go so far as to actually make yourself more vulnerable. 

    • waddy

      CORRECTION! My previous post stated I kept my weapon in “Condition 3”. I meant “Condition 1”. These definitions always get me. I should have simply said “cocked, round in the chamber, and safety on”. Sorry for the confusion.

  • Mark


  • MikeS

    I agree that this is one of those instances where it
    really depends on the individual, his/her surroundings, the type of weapon that
    they choose to protect their “castle”, etc. 
    If you know that you are a “heavy sleeper” and you do feel somewhat
    disoriented or “fuzzy headed” when you first wake up, or get woken up, from a
    deep sleep, then perhaps you should consider not keeping a round chambered while
    you sleep. 

    The same holds true that you wouldn’t want to ride a
    motorcycle or be on a ladder if you were disoriented in any manner.  It just makes sense to not do anything
    dangerous in that state of mind or awareness. 
    No matter how familiar you are with your weapon of choice, it is still very
    dangerous in your hand while in the ready to fire state, oriented or not.  People, who forget to respect their weapon or
    motorcycle in this example, are the ones who are destined to have an accident.

    If you have a home alarm system, dogs, cans on a trip
    wire, perimeter mines, etc., then you will probably already know how easily
    awakened you are on most nights and would feel comfortable with a loaded round
    in the chamber.  You are also probably
    used to carrying or firing your weapon and know what to expect when it goes

    If you are new to the home defense weapon concept and are
    just now buying a gun, then it’s probably a good idea to go to the range, a gun
    safety or permit class, or field of choice to get familiarized with your home
    defense weapon before leaving it loaded next to your head while you sleep.

    We would all like to say how we would react with our
    firearms in a given situation whether it be at home or abroad, but you really
    never know unless you are unfortunately placed in that situation.

    I think that being familiar with your gun, how it works,
    your comfort level with it, how deep you sleep, how comfortable your spouse is
    with it in the house, whether you have children that can get to it while you
    sleep, how secure your home and neighborhood are, and where you choose to keep
    the weapon, round chambered or not, while you sleep, are all major things to

    That’s just my two cents.

  • Fisher10

    Interesting, but I believe you cannot have one gun unchambered and another chambered.  You need to decide either way and keep all of your handguns chambered or unchambered.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to bumble around in the night attempting to check if I have one in the chamber or not since you really don’t know.  My pistol is always chambered since it is also my concealed carry weapon.

    Remember, the real safety is your head.  Keep that finger straight against the frame at ALL times until you’re ready to shoot and you won’t shoot yourself in the leg.  I promise.

    • Jones2

      Same here.  I carry either a H&K USP or a Ruger .380.  I’d prefer to keep the H&K with one in the chamber, and the .380 without since the .380 has no manual safety other than a heavy trigger pull.

      But I believe one should carry whatever gun in the same condition always.  When a thug shoves a “gat” in my face at the convenienet store parking lot, I’m not going to be thinking about what gun I decided to bring today and if theres a round in the chamber.  By that time it might be too late.

    • Bingo.  And, I’m a fan of training only one method of carry/defense rather than sometimes chambered, sometimes not; sometimes cocked and locked, sometimes DA on the first press.  I’m not a fan of trying to figure out whether my gun is chambered or not when my adrenaline dumps and I’ve just woken up.  If all of my loaded guns are always in condition zero then there is no need for a press check when I think I might be in danger.  And, I only have to train my muscles to perform one set of movements that are always the same.  My process will always be exactly the same: draw to low ready, assess/investigate, ID target, aim and fire.

      That said, I keep my gun holstered when it’s “stored” for the night. 
      That way I can’t accidentally stick my finger inside the
      trigger guard in my sleep induced stupor when I’m trying to grab it in the dark.  Once I have a good grip on the gun, my trigger finger will always be in it’s “ready” position on the holster outside the trigger guard at which point I can “shuck” the holster with my off
      hand and then begin to establish my grip.

      Done.  No negligent discharges and my trigger finger is outside the trigger guard ready to fire if needed.  If after I cleared my home/hotel room and discovered that there is no threat then the worst case scenario is that I have to check under the bed or a chair for my holster because I tossed it aside.  If in that situation and there was a threat then I was one step ahead.

      It might seem like I’ve replaced one action with another – racking with chucking my holster – but I don’t see it that way.  Ditching my holster is fast and quiet and I have the added benefit of knowing exactly what condition my firearm is in without accidentally blowing a hole in my nightstand.  Racking can be noisy which can give away your position and requires more grip strength (which isn’t always great coming out of sleep) and you can end up tossing one of your rounds if you were mistaken about there being one in the chamber.

  • Rlouder1

    I’m glad you didn’t shoot your roommate or yourself. Sound like you really sleep deep. I don’t myself and I always point the weapon away from me or anyone I am with.Also how do you put your trigger on the finger of your Glock 36. ha ha Good article though

  • Preston

    A weapon for self-defense should ALWAYS be loaded. Being former Army Infantry and an Iraq war veteran, an accidental discharge was grounds for severe discipline. The Army now calls it “negligent discharge” for very good reason. Just use common sense and NEVER rest your finger on the trigger unless or until a target is acquired. People that choose to leave the chamber empty in semi-auto handguns are fools. You are more likely to die by pulling the trigger and just hearing a ‘click’ from an empty chamber than you are from accidentally shooting yourself in the leg. Besides-if you are that afraid of accidentally shooting yourself-at least you admit your weakness-you have absolutely no business with a loaded weapon ANYWHERE near you. You are a NO-GO.

  • G_twenty_six

    Glock is my handgun of choice. I like the fact that all you have to do is pull the trigger and it goes bang. I keep it chambered at all times. I guess it all comes down to trusting yourself and training not to put your finger on the trigger until ready to fire.

    To each his own, but I don’t like all the unnecessary safetys.

    As for security at night, I have considered wearing a J frame in an ankle holster, and just might do that.