Maybe you just got a new handgun, or it's the first handgun you have ever owned and you're excited about concealed carry, but what do you do when you're not carrying it? What do you do at night when you're asleep?
Obviously you're not going to be wearing your concealed carry setup while you're sleeping. So how do you store your handgun when it's not on you?
A number of factors come into play when you have to store a handgun at home when you're not using or wearing it. Most of these come under to major divisions: Home Defense and Living Situation. Everything else will fall under these two categories.
Now we're going to assume that this situation is mostly about how you store your handgun at home and not out on the road or other unusual circumstances. So let's look at the first division.
Your home defense plan is one of the two largest factors in how you store not only your handgun but also your other firearms. This mostly entails what tools you have available to you and the infrastructure of your home.
If your pistol is the main tool of your home defense, access is an important factor. The easiest way is to have the pistol staged either in a belt setup or beside your bed.
The classic nightstand method allows for the pistol to be at hand, but not in the bed with you. The pistol can be stored in a drawer or on the nightstand itself while in its normal holster. This help mitigate potential discharges while you're half asleep.
Another method is the staged method. A “battle belt” is setup to hold the pistol and any other tools (like pepper spray, flashlights, etc.). This can be hung on a hook or conveniently placed in the room so it can be easily thrown on in the event of a “bump in the night”. The belt can also be staged in a pair of pants or shorts so the act of getting partially dressed also puts your tools on your person easily.
However, if a rifle or shotgun is the major tool of home defense the pistol will fall to a secondary role. The staged battle belt can still hold the pistol or if you want to lessen the number of firearms in the equation (situation dependent) the pistol can be stored in a safe or lock box.
If you are concerned that a secondary weapon might be needed, keeping a pistol on a battle belt will be a better option than storing it in a safe each and every night. But if you put more emphasis on the rifle and none on the pistol, securing the pistol is a more viable option.
But this all hinges on the second major factor of storing your handgun: your living situation.
Your living situation, or more specifically where you live and who you live with, is probably a more important factor than your home defense plan. They need to work with each other but your living situation definitely shapes your home defense plan more than your home defense plan shapes where you live.
Let's start with one of the broadest factors in your living situation: what you can legally have for home defense. Certain locations restrict firearms storage. Certain apartments and housing complexes ban firearms storage on the premises. On top of that some states regulated what types of firearms can and cannot be owned. This can limit your home defense options to only a pistol. While this is generally less of a concern over most of the United States, it is still a factor to consider.
A larger factor is who you live with. While a spouse should be less of a concern, children and pets are major concerns when considering safe firearm storage. A pistol left unattended or even on the nightstand while you sleep can easily become the next chew toy for your dog or worse the next adventure for a child.
Both potentially lead to, at best, a damaged pistol and at worst a fatality. In between the two there is property damage, but part of firearms ownership is risk mitigation. To avoid all of these scenarios it's best to keep the pistol secured either in a gun safe or a specifically designed pistol safe.
Some larger high quality safes have areas set out for pistol storage. Pistol safes on the other hand are generally designed to still allow easy access while restricting unwanted access to the pistol. They do this by a variety of methods. The simplest is with a basic lock and key setup. Others include number pads, RFID devices, and biometric locks. Each has strengths and weaknesses and deserves research by the individual.
These smaller safes are ideal for those who either have only one gun or have their main gun safe located elsewhere in the house. The most important aspect of either is limiting access to firearms and ammunition. There are locations that specify how ammunition and firearms are required to be stored (Mostly in locations outside the US) but with the fluidity of firearms regulation some areas may implement European style requirements. Always check your local laws for appropriate information and seek legal counsel for more specific questions.
Another factor to consider is how easily the safe may be moved. Larger, quality safes are heavy and hard to move. Cheaper safes are light enough to be able to be moved by a few individuals. This is even more applicable to pistol safes.
Pistol safes can sometimes be nothing more than a glorified shoe box that can be locked. Better quality pistol safes can be secured to the floor or a piece of furniture making it harder for the safe and pistol to be taken. This needs to be considered especially if you live in an area with higher crime and home invasion rates.
This creates a careful balancing act between how easily a pistol needs to be accessed and how easily unwanted access can be denied. Each situation is different and each preference is different. Some may want more access and others may want a more secure safe due to children being present.
The answer to how a pistol should be stored at night is that it should be stored in a secure area as much as the situation allows. This will obviously changed from individual to individual. What is secure to someone in the backwoods is not secure for someone in a large town or in the city.
Additionally secure means something different to someone who only has a dog or two compared with someone who has a toddler. This also changes when young children, pre-teens, and teenagers are added to the situation.
All of this comes down to how much faith you put in your particular system. In order to keep your dogs from trying to eat and play with your pistol a cheap pistol safe might be the answer. But for someone with a very active and curious child more safeguards may be needed. These safeguards may need to be even stronger if the risk of potential theft is higher.
Find the solution that fits your specific situation that keeps your pistol secure.