Firearms storage for BOBs

I’m curious how people are balancing safety vs quick access for firearms intended for a BOB (in The Prepared’s layout, this would be a level 2 bag item). We’ve decided to go with compact handguns for our L2 bags, though I suspect the answers would mostly be similar if people are using a compact long gun or large format pistol like a PC Charger or AR-7 or 10/22 Takedown.

A non-exhaustive list of variables to consider:

  • Gun location: In the safe? Dedicated quick access box (e.g. GunVault) near the bag? In the bag? Somewhere else? Presumably always holstered, whether loaded or not.
  • Status: Loaded? Unloaded? Loaded but with an empty chamber?
  • Magazines: In the bag? If not in the bag, located where the gun is? Loaded? Unloaded w/ a box of ammo? Ammo in a vacuum bag with a dessicant?

Some concerns:

  • Time taken to head out the door
  • Risk of theft
  • Risk of unsafe access by the untrained
  • Maintenance burden (e.g. cycling out ammo, magazines, etc)

While we don’t have children and the corresponding safety concerns to contend with, others surely will, so it’d be interesting to hear suggestions for both scenarios.


  • Comments (9)

    • 6

      Assuming no small children / at-risk people in the household: I suggest keeping it in a holster inside the bag, with no extra security inside the bag (eg. a small gun vault). Have a mag loaded and inserted, but no round chambered.

      Try to store it in a place you don’t have to dig to find. I also like a holster/pack where I can quickly attach the holster to PALS webbing on the hip belt, or similar, so you can quickly attach the holster to somewhere quick-draw accessible if things get hairy quickly.

      If something is not stored inside of the BOB, I assume it might not be there when I bug out because I dislike the risk of things being in separate places. The only exceptions I personally make are shoes and cell phone (with shoes in arms reach of the BOB).

      If you’re uncomfortable leaving an “unsecured” firearm in your bag that way, just do the best you can to keep it nearby the bag and rapidly accessible.

      Don’t think there’s much of a maintenance burden. Just re-oil the bolt during your annual prep review.

      • 5

        That all makes sense, thanks. I hadn’t thought about PALS mounting for holsters on the hip belt padding. In my particular case I’m using a holster that could mount reasonably well on the pack’s belt (the wide webbing, not the PALS on the foam bits), which will probably be just fine if I can’t carry IWB, but that’s something to keep in mind for future holster choices.

      • 3

        TekLok mounts could also be useful if attaching to a belt or strap, they’re quick to throw on and are adjustable for size. 

      • 3

        As someone who, until a few years ago, had little experience with firearms, I’ve asked a lot of questions similar to this.  Taken a lot of classes, done a lot of training, spent a lot of time at the range.  One thing I’d mention, that I hear a lot, is that if you’re going to carry a firearm, keep it loaded and have a round chambered.  In the unfortunate event that you’re going to have to pull it out and use it, the average person will forget to chamber a round due to adrenaline, fear, etc.  Basically having it ready to be used is your best bet.  However, if you’re not comfortable with that, then you should practice drawing it the way you will carry it.  I prefer to have a safety on my EDC pistol.  So when I go to the range, I fire a couple magazines each visit practicing drawing it from a holster, disabling the safety, and firing it, to build that muscle memory and make it something you don’t have to think about if you’re ever in a situation where you have to draw your weapon.  However you choose to carry it, practice it that way.  Good luck!

      • 4

        That’s a good distinction to make. I agree: when carrying on your person, have a round chambered. Personally, I’m OK with John’s suggestion, knowing that in a case where I left the house in a hurry without my normal EDC I would be retrieving the holstered firearm as soon as I could pause, rather than treating the bag as off-body carry. One can’t ever escape having to think about the condition of weapons, anyway… Many shotguns are not drop safe, and are intended to be stored “cruiser ready” (chamber empty). Same with ARs (aside from fancy variants like the 416): the firing pin is free floating and could fire when dropped, though they don’t seem very prone to it.

      • 4

        Yes, an AR firing pin is free floating, but you would have to absolutely hulk smash it in order to set it off with the safety on. In fact, I don’t think you actually could get enough energy behind the firing pin to set the primer off, centerfire primers are pretty hard to ignite. I’m sure someone somewhere may have done it but the chances of it happening are very minimal. FWIW I’ve fallen down a 10ft hill with a round in the chamber and didn’t have an ND. It’s a personal preference thing but I wouldn’t let drop safety be a concern when it comes to an AR. 

    • 3

      I picked up a 5.11 AMP72 for this very purpose. It has a 22″ secondary compartment designed specifically to hold an AR pistol or takedown rifle and a separate concealed carry handgun pocket that’s large enough for most full size handguns and some spare magazines. This is not an EDC bag. My philosophy of use is to have a bag that’s packed and ready to go with everything I need (including firearms) in the event I have to evacuate. The main compartment leaves a lot to be desired in the ways of organization but I’m making it work. 

      • 2

        I have that bag and can get my AR15 in the main compartment if I break it down.  That and 4 mags add a fair amount of weight though.

    • 1

      Right now, I just do what I do. For home defense purposes, our firearms are staged (mag inserted, back-up mags loaded, chambered round, safety set). Staging works for our purposes because we can make our firearms safe until needed. Staging also minimizes response time, especially if you’re jolted awake in the middle of the night by a theif or home invader. No current CCW here (background checks are backlogged out the wazoo -still). However, I’d probably have that staged anyway also. Having CCW makes for an easy response to your questions and you’ll want pre-loaded mags on your person, near your BOB shoulder (better for your work space) or waist strap, and inside your bag. How much ammo? How much can you carry (in addition to your BO gear, rations, etc)?

      Additional things to consider: How available is ammunition in your extended area? Are you leaving by vehicle, bike, or foot? How’s availability in your target bug-out area? How much have you already stocked for yourself?

      Right now, we have to consider what bugging-out looks like with at least 1 rifle and 1 shotgun, along with ammunition, until my CCW comes in.

      Before I go further, you could consider doing as other preppers do: Stage firearms and ammo caches along your bug-out route in a waterproof, non-metal container. Bear in mind, situations are dynamic and routes get blocked or that active conflicts could prevent you from getting to your caches. Then there’s always the risk of your cache being found.

      In a mass-SHTF situation, I can see having everything staged and going mobile. It’s likely no one, including yourself, will be concerned with open carry laws or CCW if things are bad enough to call it SHTF. Emergency responders will be busy with the chaos and you’ll be initiating your bug-out. Legal ramifications would, in all likelihood, be kicked very far down the road, depending on how long the situation lasts. Consider the lack of ammunition availability.