Skip to main content Skip to main content

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?

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

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Federal Premium Punch Defensive Handgun Ammo: Reviewed & Tested

Handguns editor Scott Rupp fires some Federal Punch .380 defensive handgun ammo into ballistics gel the range for a performance test run.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

HGDW 10 308 v. 223

HGDW 10 308 v. 223

HGDW 10 308 v. 223

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Get the top Handguns stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now