The "Shelf Gun" for Home Defense

The "Shelf Gun" for Home Defense

I don't know if I'm coining a new term or not when I talk about what I have decided to call a "Shelf Gun". This is the pistol you put on a shelf somewhere in your house, hidden, for a week or a month or a decade, just in case.

Shelf Guns are not expensive, custom guns, nor are they encumbered with a myriad of safeties, because they are supposed to be grab-and-go guns suitable for use by anyone (who knows where it is) in an emergency—just point it and pull the trigger.

I carry a gun everyday, but I'm not home all the time. I have a wife and kids old enough to know not just how to shoot but when, and if someone kicks in the door they may not have the time or opportunity to get to the gun safe. Having a loaded gun in the living area of my house, accessible but hidden, solves that problem. Everyone knows where it is, and how to get to it.

For those of you who think the idea of someone just randomly deciding to do you harm in your own home is paranoia taken to an idiotic extreme, before you use the anonymity of the internet to voice that erroneous opinion, do me a favor and Google "Glenn and Wanda Tarr". Heck, if you Google "random murder" you'll get over a hundred thousand results. LOT better chance of that happening to you or someone you love than winning the lottery.....


My "shelf gun" is a simple Smith & Wesson Model 13 I bought off a Sheriff's Department co-worker about 11 years ago. This is a simple bull barrel 4" revolver chambered in .357 Magnum, with fixed sights. If I remember correctly, my co-worker bought it used as well, and one of these days I'm going to have to contact S&W and have them research the serial number to see where this pistol has been and when it was made. I think I paid $200 or $250 for it.


I don't know if it had a trigger job or just a good trigger after having been fired/dry-fired so many times, but it has a very nice trigger. It has a matte finish, but whether it's bluing or Parkerizing I don't know. I've filed down the Hogue rubber grips on it a little (the result isn't pretty, but works), and some previous owner put some orange paint on the serrated ramp front sight, but other than that it is a completely stock piece.


Recoil and muzzle blast from .357 Magnums is prohibitive, so I have the pistol loaded with the original FBI load, a .38 Special +P 158-grain non-jacketed lead hollow point. This is a good round for snubnose pocket guns too, as the lead hollowpoint expands even at low velocities.

My Model 13 has low fixed sights, and points naturally just looking over the top of the gun. For years it was on the closet shelf in my bedroom, but I realized that a better place for it would be near the ground floor living area where my family spends the majority of their time. I don't keep the kitchen fire extinguisher in the basement….

A revolver is simple to operate—point it and pull the trigger. If it doesn't go off, just pull the trigger again. I look it over every few months or so, and rotate the ammo every year or so, but the beauty of a "shelf gun" is that if it gets a little scratched, or I see some surface rust, it's not a big deal. You might notice some dust on it in the picture--it's not a piece of jewelry, it's a tool. It doesn't have to look pretty, it just has to work.


Do you have a "shelf gun" for home defense?

Recommended for You

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is producing a limited-edition 25th anniversary K9. Industry

Kahr 25th Anniversary K9

J. Scott Rupp - July 19, 2019

Kahr's K9 9mm pistol is a quarter-century old, and to commemorate the milestone the company is...

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge – it's been a long Ammo

To Cast a Good Bullet

Bart Skelton - June 28, 2012

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge – it's been a...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

All About Handgun Ammo

All About Handgun Ammo

Rich and Jim get into the nitty gritty of the FBI ammo protocol, firing into various barriers to illustrate what can happen to a bullet.

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

From Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield M2.0 is a great option for a carry gun with optics option.

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Eliphalet Remington's world initially revolved around flintlock rifles at the time, and while early 1911

Remington Timeline: 2011 - R1 Pistol Is Introduced

Handguns Online Staff - September 09, 2016

Eliphalet Remington's world initially revolved around flintlock rifles at the time, and while...

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a terrific balance of weight, power and shootability. 1911

Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander 9mm Review

J. Scott Rupp - May 08, 2019

Available in .38 Super, 9mm and .45 ACP, the Ed Brown 1911 Executive Commander offers a...

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat Training

Pro Tips For Controlling Recoil

Richard Nance - April 11, 2017

Do you remember the first time you fired a gun? If you're like most, you were somewhat

See More Stories

More Personal Defense

The genesis of this article resulted from numerous online blogs and forums relating to defensive Personal Defense

7 Most Common Defensive Shooting Myths

David Kenik - December 08, 2014

The genesis of this article resulted from numerous online blogs and forums relating to...

The G&A editors are here to help you choose a sidearm with this list of the 10 best carry guns right now. Personal Defense

10 Best Carry Guns Right Now

Handguns Online Staff - August 12, 2013

The G&A editors are here to help you choose a sidearm with this list of the 10 best carry guns...

Richard Nance and James Tarr discuss and demonstrate the use of flashlights when operating in low Personal Defense

Using Flashlights for Low Light Situations

Handguns TV - July 10, 2018

Richard Nance and James Tarr discuss and demonstrate the use of flashlights when operating in...

See More Personal Defense

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×