Monday, November 15, 2010

ShotLock Gun Safe: keeping a home-defense shotgun close at hand yet safely secured is no longer a challenge

I am a member of the NRA and as such I get one of their monthly magazines, "American Rifleman". Each month I look forward to reading one of their opening sections titled "Armed Citizen". This section describes at least a half-dozen incidents where Armed and Law-Abiding Citizens used their firearms to defend themselves, their loved ones and friends, or sometimes even perfect strangers. I enjoy reading about how regular citizens took a stand and said "Not today!" to some dirtbag criminal. But there is also valuable information to be learned here: I take note of the locations of the incidents, the types of firearms used, the conditions and situations, and most importantly, the aftermath. More often than not the criminal walks or even runs away from being shot with a handgun, even when they have multiple wounds. They are often picked up not far away, usually in a hospital seeking medical treatment. Shot placement, bullet selection, even caliber may come into play here - but there is one gunshot that most do not walk away from: the shotgun.

I have been using a shotgun since I was a young kid, and to this day it is my preferred tool for most of my hunting and recreational shooting, and it is my absolute go-to long arm for self-defense. Nearly everyone in America can tell you how destructive a shotgun can be, and most would recognize the distinct sound of a pump-action shotgun chambering a round. While I do not agree that this sound alone should be counted on to scare off home intruders, I will say that the presence of a shotgun should give any half-intelligent bad guy reason to reconsider his actions. While the shotgun may not be the best tool for every situation, particularly because of its limited range and increasing pattern size, I feel that every gun owner should own at least one quality shotgun. A good pump-action shotgun is easy to use, hard to jam, and deadly - but don't let that stop you from seeking professional training on its use.

The inherant problem with a home defense shotgun, as opposed to the relatively small home defense handgun, is safe storage. Small safes of various styles and security levels make storing a handgun within reach easy and cost-effective. A shotgun with an 18" (or longer) barrel does not fit so easily into a nightstand. Storing a shotgun between the mattress, in a closet, behind a door, or above a door are places that you will often find these long guns in a home. The problem with all of those places is not only a concern with safety and youth, but of unauthorized access by adults and theft. Here in Arizona, and throughout much of the United States, you can be held liable for any crime committed with your firearms if it is found that you did not secure it safely enough. But keeping a shotgun in a large safe, with time-consuming locks, or in a wall safe, which are costly and can be difficult to install, just may not be an option for the prepared and response-minded citizen. ShotLock has solved those problems and brought us their new wall and vehicle mountable quick access shotgun safe.

ShotLock, owned by parent company TruckVault, has only released this style of wall mountable safe so far, but word is that a similar safe for handguns and even for carbine-style rifles, such as the AR-15, will be available next year. The current shotgun safe is limited to certain types of shotguns, and you should check out their website FAQ to see if your shotgun will fit. Shotgun model limitations will also be fixed in upcoming models, again slated for release next year. The good news is that if you own a pump-action, semi-auto, or over/under shotgun without lots of aftermarket goodies, such as ghost ring sights and side-saddle shell holders, then your shotgun will fit like a glove. My own home defense shotgun is a Remington 870 Wingmaster with a buttstock shell holder, a 3GG removable side saddle, and a Streamlight TLR-2x in an Elzetta mount. It fits perfectly into my new ShotLock, and below you will find some pictures of my process getting the ShotLock installed and ready for emergency response.

The included mounting hardware is designed for use installing the ShotLock into studs or a similarly hard material. Unfortunately the location I wanted to mount my new safe in was stud-free, so I picked up some new hardware - 3/8" heavy duty toggle bolts, to be exact. Four of these into the wall and I can now literally hang my body from my safe. Will it absolutely keep someone from ripping it out? Maybe not. But they are gonna have to work awfully hard to get it out, and that's something that your average snatch-and-grab criminal isn't interested in. You could also get really creative with a crowbar and potentially break the safe open, but again this is not conducive to a quick home-raid. Not to mention that the ShotLock is made of some pretty solid steel, and the latches engage very positively.

It was easy to change the combo to a desired setting. There are 5 numbered buttons and a Lock / Unlock / Clear knob. I chose a well-known combo in our family that is easy to enter under stress, and once I got it mounted it was simple to install the foam interior and then hang my shotgun in it.A semi-auto or O/U shotgun is kept in place using trigger blocks, but my pump-action shotgun is kept in place with a small insert that goes into the chamber. This way I can fill the magazine tube, pull the pump back and place a shell on the feed tray, and then hang the shotgun in the safe with the installed insert in the chamber. Enter combo, open door, grab shotgun, let the weight of it slide the pump forward which chambers a round. Quick, easy, and ready-to-go. I've already been training both myself and my wife in this process, doing the entire process slow and methodically, then in the dark, and even under simulated stress. Training with new methods is just as important as the methods themselves.

Is the ShotLock the answer for your situation? It just may be. The safe can also be mounted horizontally and in a vehicle, and even though the price may make some shrink back a little - $169.00 - I found that the build quality and security level is very high. Easy to conceal in a closet or room, quick access code entry, and yet securely stored, the Shotlock works very well for my situation. Even though it isn't perfect, it's certainly better than most other options - especially the option of insecurely storing it where kids or thieves may have access to it.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, Train Hard.
-Glen Stilson