Not locking a loaded gun


July 15, 2011, 11:00 AM
I've had "Never lock a loaded gun, never load a locked gun" drilled into me from a young age. But what qualifies as a loaded gun as far as pistols are concerned? Is it okay to put a pistol in a safe that has a magazine in it, but no round in the chamber, or should the magazine be out as well?
To me it seems just as safe to have the magazine in the gun with nothing in the chamber as to have a magazine sitting next to the gun in the safe, and response time would be shortened. Even so, I still am uneasy leaving a magazine in the pistol when putting it in the safe. What do you guys think?

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July 15, 2011, 11:05 AM
All guns are always loaded.

As far as I'm concerned, nothing should go in the trigger guard unless the action is open. Otherwise, plan for a loud bang.

If you choose to secure a gun with the action closed, a holster or case would be the way to go. (Please also recall the NRA recommendation that guns be stored completely unloaded and separately from ammo.)

July 15, 2011, 11:14 AM
I keep no less than 2 handguns in my safe loaded. It's never been an issue to me. Every time I pick up a handgun, I treat it as though it were loaded and check to see if it is.

Vern Humphrey
July 15, 2011, 11:23 AM
All guns are loaded until you prove they're not. I don't care if Grandpa checked and said it's unloaded, it's still loaded until I check it.

July 15, 2011, 11:34 AM
I understand that whole concept of always treating a gun as loaded, and I check every gun every time I pick it up as well. I did know the NRA recommendation, but I will either put my gun in the safe with a magazine in it, or right beside it. If I need a gun and it's in the safe, I don't want to have to go searching for a magazine too. I just want to see what other people think about a gun in a safe with a magazine in it.

July 15, 2011, 11:35 AM
If your "safe gun" is also your "response time" gun, why would you want the chamber empty? It should be ready to go as soon as you get your hand on it.
Of course, only you know what your requirements are in your given environment.
I have a few guns in carry rotation. Those not in current use are locked away, but they are still loaded. Those guns not in rotation are locked away, but in a different location, and are not loaded.

July 15, 2011, 12:04 PM
For me, whether to store guns loaded or unloaded depends upon the level of access to the guns and their purpose. Here's a couple scenarios:

1. Storing guns used for self defense in the safe that only people you know and have briefed have access to. Why not keep them loaded? You take them out of the safe, verify they are loaded however you want to (press check, loaded chamber indicator, whatever), put it on your belt and go.

2. Storing guns used for range/target/plinking only. Why even have magazines inserted in them at all in storage? Likely to get them to the range and onto the range they are going to have be sans magazines anyway.

Due to a divorce which allowed my ex-wife to steal and sell all the guns, I have a limited collection now and no safe. My one carry gun, when it is not on my belt, is in the same location in the house and is fully loaded. Everybody in the house knows exactly where it is and knows it will be loaded at all times. The only time that changes is when my stepdaughter has friends over for extended visits, then the gun gets removed to a more secure location.

The 4 range/target guns I have are always stored completely unloaded, no magazines in the guns, no rounds in the chamber.

The final answer is to always assume the gun is loaded.... there is always that one time when someone is going to assume there is no round in the chamber just because there is no magazine in the gun. Stepdaughter at the range didn't want to finish a magazine, so she dropped the magazine and set the gun down on the bench. I asked her if the gun was unloaded and she said yes. I said really? She carefully picked the gun up and racked the slide and out pops the round. It was a very good lesson for her and I think it really drove home the requirement to second check and verify.

July 15, 2011, 01:39 PM
Without getting into the statements and arguments that have already been posted. I suggest that "it depends". Storing a 1911 with a round in the chamber but uncocked makes little sense and getting it in that condition is dangerous. A DA/SA could be different but in a SD situation you would always want to have a magazine in the gun. IMO, you have to be consistent as when the stress is on, it's not the time to think and actions should be burned in. Inserting a magazine and racking the slide takes about a tenth of the time it takes to open the safe. The law restricts my choices big time but if I had the choice for a defensive situation it would be magazine in the gun and a round in the chamber and in the case of a 1911, cocked and locked. Recreational guns would be unloaded and likely stored in a different place. Those would get loaded at the line.

July 15, 2011, 05:31 PM
My defensive handguns are not unloaded just because I put them away in a secured location for short-term storage. If long-term storage is the plan, I will unload, to apply extra protectant.

July 15, 2011, 06:53 PM
Mine has one chambered whenever i put it in the lock box because it is my home defense weapon...The only time I clear it is when company is over and I may show it...

July 15, 2011, 08:25 PM
Why not store all your guns except for your HD gun in the safe empty as they should be and keep a second small handgun safe on your night stand for your loaded HD handgun?

July 15, 2011, 08:27 PM
I have used this personal rule ever since I got my gun safe about 7-8 years ago:

All firearms in the safe are unloaded at all times. The only guns I keep loaded are those handguns I have placed in strategic locations around the house and inside my vehicle (CCW licensed) for defense.

For defensive purposes, the loaded handguns are ready to go instantly, no safety to flick off, no chamber to load, just grab and put into action. Me and my wife know where they are and in what state at all times. Nobody else does.

No kids around to create a safety issue. When the grandkids visit (all very, very gun savvy) I unload all guns, place them into the safe and spin the dial. Just peace of mind sort of thing.


M2 Carbine
July 15, 2011, 10:32 PM
Many of my guns in the safes are loaded. Revolvers fully loaded. Semi autos have fully loaded magazines but empty chambers.

Most all the guns around the place are loaded the same way.

The usual carry guns are on top of the safe with a fully loaded magazine, a round in the chamber and a spare loaded magazine or two.

The 24/7 car gun handguns are loaded the same way but the long guns don't have a round in the chamber.

This suits my life style.

July 16, 2011, 04:16 AM
Guns in my safe have an empty chamber. Revolvers are empty. I've seen pics of gun safes that have been in a fire. The cooked off bullet will go right through most safes.

A "ready" safe by the nightstand might be different. But unless you can open it one-handed, then what's the difference of leaving the chamber empty?

July 16, 2011, 04:45 AM
all of my guns are pretty much always loaded

July 16, 2011, 06:12 AM
(Please also recall the NRA recommendation that guns be stored completely unloaded and separately from ammo.)

Wouldn't a hammer be vastly cheaper and more effective in a defensive situation than an unloaded gun where ammo is safely locked away in another part of the house?

July 16, 2011, 06:47 AM
"If your "safe gun" is also your "response time" gun, why would you want the chamber empty?"

I'll go a step further. Why would your loaded response time guns be locked away in a safe? This could prove to be fatal.


July 16, 2011, 07:39 AM
These are my non-carry pistol's & revolver's They are all fully loaded. If I pick a weapon up I want to know it is ready right now otherwise it is just a rock or hammer. The two empty spaces are my carry & BUG

July 16, 2011, 08:49 AM
Wouldn't a hammer be vastly cheaper and more effective in a defensive situation than an unloaded gun where ammo is safely locked away in another part of the house?I have made an error; please allow me to correct it.

I remembered a rule that stated that guns not in use should be stored unloaded and separately from their ammo. I still think that's a good idea. However, if a gun is stored "on stand-by and ready" for self-defense use, I consider that gun "in use," and so it is fine to store it (securely) loaded. In the same way, given the tendency of batteries to leak and corrode over time, all flashlights not in use should be stored without batteries; but if you have one ready for an emergency, I'd consider that "in use," so batteries stay in, of course.

Here's the mistake: the NRA has no such rule (perhaps it did in the past?). It now has two rules ( that apply to this situation:
ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.


Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
Many factors must be considered when deciding where and how to store guns. A person's particular situation will be a major part of the consideration. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.
So, no specific rule about storing the ammo separately. I apologize. And I think we all recognize that the first rule quoted above does not mandate that, if you are drawing the gun in a SD emergency, you should check to make sure it's clear of ammo. ;)

July 16, 2011, 09:44 AM
My HD handgun is always loaded and secure. It is very fast to access even in the dark. My EDC handguns go into my RSC at night, still holstered and loaded for the next day. The other two guns that stay in the RSC but are always loaded are a Beretta 1201FP shotgun and a Marlin 30-30. All these have full magazines and are chambered. My other guns that are used for recreational shooting or hunting stay unloaded.

Ole Coot
July 16, 2011, 11:16 AM
I have no children around and live where I can shoot from the back door. I keep a 30-30 handy by the back door, 12ga with 7 or so rounds in it and always have a loaded handgun within reach or on me. I have problems with ferel dogs, coyotes and once a two legged animal. Anything in the safe may or may not be loaded. Doesn't make much difference, I always check any firearm even at the LGS to make sure it's not loaded.

July 16, 2011, 01:52 PM
My defence handguns stay loaded ,some readily accessable some in a safe. Mags for rifles are loaded and shot gun stay ready for real bear but with rubber buck shot and rubber slugs.. If there not there rocks and bats.

July 16, 2011, 02:27 PM
I'm the only person who has access to my safe (Although the GF knows where the fail-safe key is hidden). I keep a mag in my .32 and 9mm, but no round chambered, so I always do one of two things when I pick one up, drop the mag (and rack it just to be sure it is empty of course) or rack it, loading a round. So far I haven't had to chamber a round in the house (and hopefully I will never feel the need to do so).

Bears are the highest probability home-invasion threat around here, so in that situation I'm either exiting my home and calling animal control or diving into the closet, shutting the door, loading the long gun and calling animal control.

July 16, 2011, 09:26 PM
All guns are always loaded, treat them as such. However, for me:

Shotguns and "service" handguns are always loaded, round chambered
.22LR guns and "range queens" are unloaded
All other rifles have loaded magazines, but nothing chambered (special use, not first line of defense)

July 17, 2011, 01:59 PM
All of the guns - both rifles and handguns - that are in the "big" safe in the man cave are always stored unloaded (although some of them may have loaded mags or speedloaders or even loose rounds stored on an adjacent shelf).

In addition, I have a "gunvault" safe by my bed with a loaded and chambered Glock 21.

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