Defensive Shotgun Storage Conditions – A Primer

Safe Shotgun Storage

Now that we have our defensive shotgun, we must decide how we are going to store it. Will it sit completely empty in the safe until the next range trip? Or do we want our shotgun ready in the event of a home invasion? The former is an easy solution; ensure the shotgun is unloaded, then set it in its storage location. The latter gives us a few more options.

Cruiser Ready

“Cruiser ready” is how I typically recommend a defensive long gun, rifle or shotgun, be stored. This term is commonly used to refer to action unlocked, safety disengaged, with an empty chamber. To keep the action unlocked, the hammer must be down, which requires the trigger to be pressed. If doing this, physically and visually inspect your gun to ensure that the chamber is empty to prevent a negligent discharge of the shotgun. The last thing you want to do is accidently fire your gun inside your home or vehicle. This can result in property damage at best, and death at worst. If you are uncomfortable with pressing the trigger of your gun like this, simply press your action release lever. This is something you’ll want to practice on the range and in dry fire to build up the muscle memory.

Safe Shotgun Storage
The action release button. Some are located at the front of the trigger guard. Check your manual to be sure.

To get the gun ready to fire, simply chamber a round in whatever way that is done with your chosen firearm. With a pump action, aggressively pull the forend completely to the rear, then completely forward. With a semiautomatic shotgun, you’ll need to aggressively pull the charging handle to the rear. The intricacies of a semiauto will vary based upon your make and model.

Cruiser Safe

Cruiser Safe is very similar to Cruiser Ready, with a few distinct changes. With Cruiser Safe, the action is locked, safety is on, and chamber is empty. To get the gun ready, disengage the action lock, cycle the action, then disengage the safety to fire.

These additional steps could be a benefit or detriment depending on your situation. On one hand, the additional safety could be helpful for those with children in the home or similar situations. However, it could result in more hang-ups in getting your gun ready in a defensive scenario. These drawbacks can be trained through, which will be dependent on the shooter. This is how I store my defensive long guns, whether they be a shotgun, PCC, or rifle.

Are Shotguns Drop Safe?

Generally speaking, no. Due to their weight, most long guns, and especially shotguns, are not drop safe. This issue is magnified once your start adding lights, spare ammunition, optics, and more. With the right impact the hammer can dislodge from the sear, potentially causing the gun to fire. That reason alone is one of the biggest reasons to store your shotgun with an empty chamber. This video from Justified Defensive Concepts clearly illustrates how little margin of error there is regarding shotguns and drop safety.

Why Store with an Empty Chamber

The majority of the times, we are storing our long guns for near immediate use. Whether it’s riding in the rack of a squad car, or sitting in the corner of a bedroom closet. An empty chamber protects us from an accidental discharge whether that’s from hitting a pot hole in your squad car, or it falling over in the closet. In an emergency, the shotgun can be brought into action by simply chambering the gun. If we’re expecting trouble, it can be quickly loaded, and the easily unloaded afterwards.

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Many people confuse Cruiser Ready/Safe as a fighting condition, which is incorrect. These are strictly administrative conditions. When our pistols are in a safe or drawer, they are not chambered because they’re stored, not actively in use. However, these administrative conditions are readily converted to fighting conditions when the situation calls for it.

More Thoughts on Safe Storage

Want to learn the differences between gun safes, gun cabinets, cable locks, and more? Luckily we have a solution for you! Check out my article on options for safe firearms storage >>HERE<<. This primer will cover the most common options, many of which I use personally. These options can protect your firearms from both curious family members, and potential thieves.

More Shotgun Primers

Check out the other articles in our defensive shotgun primer series below!

Action Types for Defensive Shotguns

Sighting Systems for Defensive Shotguns

Ammunition Selection for Defensive Shotguns

Accessories for Defensive Shotguns

Defensive Shotgun Training and Resources

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About Daniel Reedy 400 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

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