The Ultimate Nightstand Gun?

In my opinion, this one

I am sometimes hard on a certain gun that is very popular amongst our readers, but I do also give it the respect it deserves in certain situations. And I will readily admit that for some applications, it is absolutely the best choice. While I might generally prefer a striker-fired plastic fantastic for things like Rat Patrol across the open desert with Task Force Numbers/Sounds Cool/Shark Name whatever, I will also readily concede they aren’t the best choice for everything. When it comes to a nightstand gun, I prefer old slab sides. Mr. 1911 himself, and maybe not for the reasons you would think.

About to be a bad night

A nightstand gun is premised on the idea you don’t have children. I do now, so I have to err a bit more on the side of caution. But as a single dude living in some perhaps sketchy areas, I was a huge advocate of the nightstand blaster. And for that particular role, the 1911 packs some clear advantages.

A lot less of a problem

First and foremost, when I say nightstand gun, the implication is that it is loaded. While I might keep my guns empty now, when I lived alone that was not the case. It takes a lot of practice to remember to rack the slide when you snap awake, which can be done. The calculus, as with all things gun, comes down to potential threat vs safety. You have to make your own decision on that one. But for me, when I was living a high threat lifestyle, that meant round in the chamber all the time.

The two safeties of a 1911 give it a clear advantage here

So let’s set the stage. Bump in the night, glass breaking downstairs, what have you. Something that pulls you out of your slumber and sets your heart racing. When you reach for that gun in the dark, with eyeballs that just came open, can you be sure you won’t accidentally mash the trigger? For me, this is point #1 for the 1911. It has a manual safety. I actually wish all guns had a 1911 style safety, which is heresy for a Glock fanboy. But it’s true. A safety slows you down zero percent from the draw, provided you have trained with it. No one, not one person, advocates for a safety-less AR-15. And that is our primary kick the door in gun. How we ever accepted a pistol without a manual safety, I still do not understand. But we did, and now that is the norm for any striker fired pistol. You have to go looking for it to find one that has the feature. 1911? I’ve never seen one built without it.

Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro, a great add on

Which to me a is a huge benefit on the fumbling in the dark for a hand cannon issue. Even if you grab the pistol wrong, your odds of a negligent discharge with the 1911 are very slim. It takes a full grip to disengage both the safeties on a 1911, which in this case is fantastic.

new ability to swap batteries without losing zero

Point #2 for the 1911 is both excellent trigger and heft. Carrying an all steel gun in the street can be less than fun. It is fatiguing on the hip, which is why I carry a micro 9mm. But I will also readily admit that for pure range style blasting, the weight of a 1911 is an advantage. If my only task is to get from my bedroom to the kitchen, fatigue becomes a non-issue. And when I get there? 10+1 courtesy of my Tripp Research Cobra mags, throwing 45 ACP ash tray hollow points, is likely going to be P for Plenty in terms of combat power.

Tripp Research Cobra mags

Point #3 for the 1911, a new one at least, is the Picatinny rail front. This means I can mount something like the Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro. For house guns, I am a huge fan of both lights and lasers. And the Rail Master is both. I know that new, smaller lights are available for CCW guns. I, however, still prefer to carry my Hellcat naked. Because I am lazy, and the holster is comfier that way. I am certainly too lazy to put a flashlight on it every night before I go to bed. With a dedicated house platform, installing the laser and light combo is a once and forget activity. With sleepy eyes, I also see a way more than normal advantage to the idea of a laser sight. I have written before, many times, about the propensity to look at the target instead of your sights when you are scared. Being flash banged awake to repel invaders in your own home most certainly meets that requirement. In my opinion, this is a situation where a laser is absolutely perfect. And you want to talk about a tactical advantage? Throw 400 lumens of white light and a bright green dot on the goblin with his hand in your cookie jar. Even if you don’t shoot him, you might have to clean up a mess after he soils his pants.

400 lumens of stop right there

And point #4 is a big one. You might not wake up in time to have the tactical advantage. Also, every break-in might not have started as an intended murder, but it can go that way. If you don’t’ wake up in time, it isn’t out of the question that a goblin gets to your gun before you do. A 1911 offers a very odd advantage here. The old guys are going to laugh at this, but it’s true. Most people today, thanks to decades of striker fired guns, would not know how to disengage a safety. As a younger man, I have even handed over a 1911 to an Officer during a traffic stop. He looked at it like it was a Unicorn riding the Easter Bunny, and was incapable of clearing it. That from a dude that carries a gun for a living. 1911’s are that uncommon among the younger generation. So while any Goblin could pull a striker gun trigger, you might just buy yourself enough time with a manual safety to turn the tables.

Its days on the battlefield might be over, but old reliable still has a place in your stable. It is definitely worth considering. And an excuse to buy another gun!

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

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  • Fredrik Felphs October 8, 2022, 1:32 pm

    For me it is a Ruger SBH as the go to gun.

    Single action that will take down any Intruder.

    From a Grizzly to a Crackhead.

    My backup is a 1911 sitting in the drawer on my nightstand

  • Cosmic September 16, 2022, 10:04 am

    My go to nightstand home protector is a, FNX .45, 230gr. HST’s w/ Surefire and a Holosun Green Dot,
    Safety, OFF!

  • Gerg September 7, 2022, 10:54 am

    Clay, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles in the past. While True Pearce wrote an article about the new Springfield 1911 DS Prodigy Double-Stack 9mm, I was wondering YOUR take on this new-to-price-point, MSRP $1499.99, double-stack 1911?

  • Todd September 2, 2022, 10:26 am

    Glock in a kydex holster is my night standgun. No safeties to fool with (while only half awake) and CANNOT accidentally pull the trigger while reaching for it and grabbing it. Solves a lot of problems!

  • Dan Barnes September 2, 2022, 10:11 am

    “No one, not one person, advocates for a safety-less AR-15. And that is our primary kick the door in gun. How we ever accepted a pistol without a manual safety, I still do not understand.” Perhaps because, there’s a world of difference between a offensive situation where you always know well in advance you may have to “kick the door” and a defensive one where you are reacting to an instant threat. Perhaps because at least some defensive pistol owners started as defensive revolver owners, and very few revolvers ever had a manual safety. At least that’s why I chose a G-modded, laser equipped, Beretta PX-4 Storm in .45 ACP over a 1911 as my nightstand gun. That said, I agree that striker fired pistols, which tend to have lighter triggers than a the DA pull on a DA/SA pistol and generally don’t have a manual, are outside my comfort zone.

    • BrianJMiller September 13, 2022, 5:53 pm

      To steal from the Colonel, safety less semi-autos are an ingenious solution to a nonexistent problem. To each their own, but from my optic the concerns about safeties getting in the way of getting a shot off are easily answered by training, training, training. You don’t even have to spend ammo for this, just do dry-fire exercises (which won’t harm the firing/striker pin if it’s not a rimfire). I’m very happy with my XD-45 tactical that includes the frame-mounted safety, plus a light/laser combo like the author.

  • Mikey Bigears August 31, 2022, 9:43 pm

    Navy river craft Vietnam: we tried .38, 9mm, etc. The old Colt 1911 .45 was the only pistol that could make a path through the thick riverside jungle brush and find its target. You could also wash the mud out with river water and keep on pluggin’.

    Guess what’s in my nightstand (and other special places) with extra mags?

  • Charles August 31, 2022, 12:50 pm

    I have to admit to changing my 8 month of the year carry piece to a Sig 365. It just happens to be lighter and as I’m old I have no “hips”. But the gun I carry in the winter and keep by the bed is a Wilson Combat 1911. Being an ol guy with no use for Glocks…I also question the use of lights on handguns. I kinda feel they give the opposing team a reference point of aim. I look at the handgun as a very short range protective tool esp in the house at night. My life partner keeps her 45 Colt loaded with 1 round of snake shot followed with 250 gr SWCs. Her can’t see you without eyes idea is harsh but true. As a paramedic many years ago I responded to a shooting one night where the BG had been shot in the face with one of those short Mossberg 410 pump things with #8s. It was a bad night to be him. The 1911 is STILL a great tool

  • paul I'll call you what I want/1st Amendment August 30, 2022, 11:12 am

    Well I have to agree, if you’re not confident in your skills or just don’t want to practice then stay away from a glock (or any of the other trigger safety brands). News flash the safety is more for preventing the gun from going off when dropped or banged into something or when one just can’t master trigger fundamentals!

  • Elmer Fudd August 29, 2022, 8:44 pm

    Hey pops where do you put the Red Dot on that old timey gun?

    Whoa there son, no rapid fire shooting on my range! My Kimber 45 here on my hip I shoot nice and slow.

    Why do I carry a .45? Because they don’t make a 46. Yuck, yuck.

    Well, Ken Hackathorn says plastic is for storing leftovers, give me steel.

    When I open carry in Walmart my 1911 sends a message that I got a gun that has knock down power.


    Seriously, love my 45s, but they are for home defense and range use

  • alan August 29, 2022, 6:44 pm

    Well i wont argue with your choice there Mr Martin. the 45 IS superior to the 9mm in every way for close range stopping power and hammers are great for this application. thus i will advocate for any sa/da hammer fired 9mm semi like a a cz, beretta, sig, or hk as a decent nightstand gun. with wml of course.
    you can even get one w a polymer frame. i bet u carried an m92 in the service.
    with these guns u can leave a leave a round chambered, hammer down w double action ready to go, safety/decocker optional. prob best to have safety on w young uns around but like a revolver, its pretty safe already in da. i agree that strikers do not make good, night standbys, bc leaving them chambered in single action only is spring tension on the firing pin.

  • Lee Latham August 29, 2022, 3:37 pm

    Honestly, I consider all Glocks and their many imitators dangerous, crap guns for these exact reasons. There is no inherent reason a striker fire gun can’t have a manual safety. it’s literally irrelevant.

    But as much as anything else, if you can’t manage to flip off an ergonomically placed manual safety even under pressure–I’m not sure you should be carrying a gun at all.

    • BR September 9, 2022, 3:13 pm

      Col. Cooper made the most sense on the issue of a safety on a defensive handgun when he opined (paraphrased) No reason on this earth that a defensive firearm, needed in an emergency, should have an ON/OFF switch.

      • Wild Bill December 11, 2022, 4:53 pm

        I’ve often heard that “The most important safety on a gun lies between the ears of the user”.
        Still valid!

  • Ken August 29, 2022, 2:16 pm

    Started carrying a 1911 every day at age 15… legit bad guy was after me, but that’s another story.

    Chicago Park District Pistol Team (yes, Chicago) at age 16 with 1911.

    25 months total in Vietnam and as team corpsman… I went out every night with rotating patrols with rifle and 1911.

    Private contractor for 12 years… 1911 and HP at the same time… plus a lot of AK’s.

    Private citizen and attorney, carried a 1911 for years and sometimes a S&W model 13 with a 3″ barrel.

    Current night stand guns: Beretta 96 and H&K USP in .45 ACP.

    But every once in a while when I have a bad dream about war… I’ll get up and just hold a 1911 in my hand for a while and I am fine.

  • srsquidizen August 29, 2022, 1:02 pm

    It’s been shown in tests that most people not familiar with a safety-on 1911 can’t fire it immediately if at all. That’s a good thing. OTOH a “nightstand” gun shouldn’t actually be there. It should be in a holster attached to headboard, behind mattress if possible, where you can grab it instantly but home invader won’t know about it until St. Peter tells him.

  • Jake August 29, 2022, 11:48 am

    I have a striker fire without a safety and the same pistol with a safety. As all the muscle memory (slide stop, mag release, safety lever) except the missing safety is 1911 I decided to sweep for the safety with every pistol so whether there is one or not it will be disengaged automatically without having to think about it. Pretty easy since I am old and cut my teeth on the 1911. I was an early adapter of the plastic fantastics but they were HK P9S hammer fire pistols with 1911 type safeties.
    Have you done a review of that Emissary? I hear they are as accurate as the MK 23 HK. Would love your take on it as it has really piqued my interest.

  • Shanz August 29, 2022, 11:47 am

    To me there is nothing more American than a 1911. Maybe Apple pie? IDK.

    Although my nightstand piece is a S&W M&P 45 with Trijicon fiber optic night sights and a Stream-light TLR-2

    And it packs a 14 round mag. It also has a 1911 style safety.

  • Cea August 29, 2022, 10:31 am

    For me, it is my 15+1 FN45 Tactical. Red dot, 800 lumen light, threaded barrel (for future suppressor), suppressor height/co-witnessing sights, Ambi everything and 16 rounds of good ole American 45 ACP! It can be used DA/SA or cocked and locked. And it has a de-cocker. Really, it has everything!
    I stick it to a gun magnet attached to a 1×8 board between the mattress and box spring.

  • Todd August 29, 2022, 10:15 am

    My go-to flashlight is a Glock 30. It has outstanding night sights and a lasemax guide rod along with the light.

    I like the 10 rounds of .45 but really appreciate the ability to nearly palm an all-black, hefty, 10-rd .45 for lower obviousness when I check something out.

    Now, the other side of the equation. I can not stand Glocks in general for many of the boring and old reasons. And this one, I don’t *like* any better. But I DO appreciate it for its reliability, bizarre accuracy and compactness.
    But I too, as with the author would dearly LOVE to have a “1911 style safety” for it and ANY striker-fired gun that I may ever own.

  • Mike in a Truck August 29, 2022, 9:47 am

    A box stock 1911A1 with light is is my “nitestand gun”. I detest striker fired bladed trigger pistols. I detest even more the little popgun 9mm Parabellum. And yes I, like many of my generation have no problem flicking off a safety. Then again we learned to walk and chew bubblegun at the same time before we were 3.

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