First we are going to jump into the key points that you truly need to evaluate before making a gun safe purchase. Our goal is to make sure that whether this is your first purchase ever, or whether it’s your fifth gun safe purchase, that you have all the information you need to make an educated decision.
The biggest part of the process of buying a gun safe is making sure you are asking the right questions before you buy. There are several key items that you need to address before you buy so you don’t end up needing a new safe a few months later. Below are some of the key elements you need to look at when analyzing your first or next gun safe purchase.
There are a lot of things to determine when making a purchase such as size, weight, capacity, anchoring ability and of course cost. We cover all of the items you should be asking yourself in detail in our buyer’s guide. Let’s jump in!
- 1 Gun Safe Logic
- 2 Buyer’s Guide
- 3 Safe Types
- 4 Best Gun Safes For Handguns
- 5 Best Gun Safes For Rifles
- 6 Final Thoughts
Gun Safe Logic
Below we highlight some of the main reasons that you need to have some way of locking up your firearms. If you haven’t fully committed to proper firearms storage, please consider the following reasons why owning a gun safe is a must.
Child Protection: According to a recent study, Guns kill twice as many children as cancer and 5 times more than heart disease. This in itself is more than enough reason to own a gun vault to properly secure your firearms. You may not have children, but that doesn’t mean your family, or neighboring children won’t have access to your firearms if they visit your home. Protecting America’s youth from firearm accidents starts with you being a responsible gun owner.
Theft Protection: While not quite as important as protecting children, a strong gun vault will protect your firearms against theft. Many people put other valuables in their firearm vaults along with their firearms. If you plan to lock away money, gold, silver, and/or important documents I would highly recommend purchasing a model that’s heavy or can be bolted down. Bolting your safe down or buying a heavier model will save you money in the long run by protecting you against theft in the event of a robbery.
Liability Protection: Depending on your state laws, if your firearms are stolen, you may face liability from a legal standpoint. Owning a gun safe in states that hold you accountable is an absolute must. Owning a firearm is your constitutional right, but it’s also your job to make sure they are properly secured.
Fire Protection: Many of today’s models have fire protection or fire ratings. This not only will help keep your firearms secure in the event of a catastrophic fire, but also any other valuables that you might own that you want to keep secure. House fires have grown at an alarming rate and you need protection that adequately protects against disaster. This is always a great idea to keep things out of harm’s way.
Cheaper Insurance Rates: In some states, legislation is being reviewed to propose that firearms owners will need to carry liability protection to insure against the potential firearms accidents. Whether or not this passes will be closely watched by many firearms enthusiasts. With that being said, it’s more than likely that you will qualify for cheaper insurance rates if you have appropriate firearm security in your home.
There are many different things you’ll need to fully consider when purchasing a gun safe. These universal rules apply, regardless if you are buying your first safe, or your third. For first time owners, we’ve organized our recommendations based on order of importance in our eyes.
This is important for several reasons. The first reason is “will it fit” where you want it to. Some individuals don’t have a problem with a gun safe sitting in their living room. If you are like me and have a spouse that prefers to keep your firearms out of sight, this can become problematic. You need to make sure that you are measuring the correct dimensions of your safe before you buy one. You need to make sure that you are measuring your Width, Depth, and Height appropriately to ensure your new safe fits where you want it to. Some of the typical things people don’t think of are listed below when taking measurements into account:
Safe Depth: Does the depth of the safe include the handle? Sure I can get that safe through sideways at the advertised depth, but does that advertised depth include your handle and combination lock?
Storage Location: Do you have anything overhanging in an odd fashion where it might interfere with the height of your safe? I know for me, I have at least 3 inches of space between my shelving unit and safe which is great for storage of small items.
Anchorability: If your safe is relatively thin and heavy, does it need to be anchored down? Thinner wider safes have a tendency to lean forward when the door opens. Get some shims or bolt it down if you can.
Growth Potential: Does your safe have enough room for you to GROW? Nothing is more problematic than buying a large heavy object, installing it in your home and realizing it’s just not big enough. You need to make sure you buy a safe that’s got enough room for it to expand with your family and your firearms.
Is your safe heavy enough? A 300 pound safe is unlikely to deter theft. You can lift a safe out of a house with a simple hand truck and some time if you are looking at a safe that’s 300 pounds or less. If you are buying a safe in this weight range, I’d HIGHLY recommend you bolt it down. Anything 500+ pounds should be adequate to give anyone trying to take the safe out of your house at least a little bit of trouble.
Buying a large safe? And if so is it your only safe? If your only safe you own is a large safe, save yourself the time and get an electronic lock. A Manual lock will be a nightmare if you have an intruder in your home at midnight and need quick access to your firearm. Good luck turning that dial with Joe criminal lurking around your house. Let’s look at the four different lock types.
Biometric Locks: Biometric safes are a good idea if you can afford the cost. There are several models that we think are excellent, which we cover in-depth in our Biometric Safe Guide. These locks unlock when the owner uses a fingerprint or fingerprints to unlock the safe and retrieve their firearms. It can be quicker to use than a manual lock, provided you pick the right model that doesn’t have any known defects.
Electronic Lock: This is a preference for many long gun safe owners over Biometric locks. You still get the security of working with electronics, and the safe is usually opened by a sequence of button pushes or a code. Electronic locks are good for people that don’t want the hassle of programming a biometric safe.
Combination Lock: These locks can be more secure than any of the locks on this list. Unfortunately, they are as time-consuming to open correctly as your Master Lock from high school gym class. This is the traditional rotational manual combination lock. They are not fast to open, but they are very secure.
Key Lock: Have your lock and key? These are usually the cheapest safes you can buy. It’s more common to see a handgun safe with a lock and key than a larger long gun safe. This is the simplest type of locking mechanism, and you’ll just need to make sure that you don’t lose your key.
This is personal preference. For me I cared far more about all the other topics than I cared about fire rating. Yes it’s nice to have, but was not nearly as much of a deciding factor as the rest of the topics we’ve already covered. If you live in a place where fires are common, this might be more important to you.
Some consumers are under the mistaken impression that all steel gun safes are fireproof. Steel construction can delay fire and heat damage, but does not accord absolute fire protection in and of itself. You must buy a safe that has additional fireproofing lining its interior to fully protect your contents. Without a fireproof lining, the contents of any steel box will be damaged or destroyed as the box becomes hotter.
The flashpoint of paper is 662 degrees and gun metal can warp when it is heated above 1500 degrees. Since the average temperature of a sustained house fire exceeds both limits, you can understand the importance of having a fireproof lining to protect the contents of your safe.
Next we will dive in deep to the different types of fireproof linings that you will typically see in most safe makes and models. There are several different methods that this can happen, and most people aren’t aware of all their options.
Sheet Rock Lining: There are two main types of fireproofing material used in the industry: sheetrock and ceramic wool. Sheetrock is often considered the less efficient of the two because it has a tendency to disintegrate when it is heated. Many manufacturers who opt to use sheetrock use a material that has fiberglass embedded in it to minimize disintegration, but the problem can not be eliminated. The crumpling can cause gaps in heat protection, allowing damage to occur when heat is applied or sustained.
Ceramic Wool: Ceramic wool offers the most consistent fire protection. Ceramic wool offers fire and heat protection up to 2300 degrees. This material is used to line melt furnaces in foundries and is sturdy. Since the average house fire never reaches 2300 and the heat is not sustained for as long as it would be in a melt furnace, you can understand the protection your contents will be afforded by ceramic wool.
One last consideration to keep in mind with fireproofing is that you need to be sure the entire safe is protected. Some manufacturers try to keep costs down by only protecting the top or bottom of their products. In order to fully protect your contents, you must have a safe that is fireproofed from every angle.
Regardless of lock type, there’s really just two types of gun safes when it comes to storing up your firearms. You have long gun safes, which are meant to house rifles, shotguns, ammo and handguns. You then have Handgun safes, which are only meant to store your sidearm. These are obviously smaller and more portable. They usually also have the option of being mounted in hidden areas for quick access.
Handgun safes are smaller, and usually have three different lock options. Key operated, electronic code operated, and biometric locks. Handgun safes will typically store one handgun, and one or two magazines. They can usually house a few important documents like passports, cash or social security cards.
Handgun safes should not be used to store much else. These are typically best for storing in your home office, or next to your bed. You can also mount them inside your car for portable firearms safety.
Long Gun Safes
Long Gun Safes are usually the go-to choice for any firearms owner. These vary quite widely from both size and budget. The budget version example of a good long gun safe, is the Liberty Fatboy Jr., which houses up to 48 long guns and can usually be had for a pretty reasonable price.
But there are also several other models that will house anywhere from 8 to 10 guns, all the way up to 64. We always recommend you buy up at least a couple sizes over what you need to have adequate room. These are most commonly stored in your bedroom, basement, office, or garage.
Best Gun Safes For Handguns
If your only gun is a handgun, you are off the hook price-wise. You don’t need a long gun safe. It only makes sense to purchase a smaller safe for now, one that you can utilize later as a nightstand safe, or something that you’ll store in your office or car. Below we take a look at our six favorite safes specifically for handguns.
AmazonBasics Steel Safe
If you are looking for a small handgun safe and are on a budget, the AmazonBasics Steel Safe is a great option. This is a small stand-alone gun safe, and it’s big enough to fit a few handguns. It can be mounted to the floor or the wall, so it’s a great option if you are on a budget and can’t afford a 700 pound plus behemoth.
While this safe isn’t fireproof, it offers adequate protection for the cost when it comes to keeping your handguns locked away. There’s also enough room to store sensitive documents and other small valuables.
The keypad has reprogrammable digital access and is battery powered. It’s made from pry-resistant steel, and comes with two backup keys in case your battery dies. The door locks behind two solid live door bolts. Weighing just over 16 pounds, this won’t deter many thieves unless you make it a point to bolt it doen.
If you are on a very strict budget, this safe is definitely worth consideration.
SentrySafe Biometric Safe
The SentrySafe Biometric safe is a stalwart and has been around as a top pick for several years. This Biometric safe is budget-friendly and has the capacity to store a single handgun, along with some valuables. They do have a slightly larger model that has a 2 gun capacity, but it’s more expensive and less mobile.
You are able to access this safe using either a fingerprint, a backup key, or a digital combination, depending on the model you buy. The Biometric offers both the combination and key as a backup to the biometric version.
This safe comes equipped with the ability to be mounted to any flat surface. It has four bolt holes that allow you to anchor it into concrete, wood or other material where the safe can be secured away from potential intruders.
The safe is made form pry-resistant seal, and the gas struts allow for easy open/close. It only weighs around 12 pounds and is relatively thin. This makes it a great option to put in your car, or slide behind your headboard and bolt to the wall for quick access.
Vaultek Handgun Safe
Both the VE10 and VE20 safes are excellent choices for handgun owners. The VE10 is a subcompact model, leaving you with little room after your sidearm is locked up. The VE20 gives you a little bit more room for additional magazines.
This safe is thin! It also has predrilled mounting holes, similar to other models on this list. This means it’s a great option for those who will eventually buy a rifle safe, and relocate a smaller handgun safe to a more tightly fit area. While the VE10 and VE20 are not biometric safes, they are both electronic locks, with upwards of 40k different programmable combinations.
The safe is made from pry-resistant steel, and it has an auto-locking feature if the safe is tampered with. This means if a thief tries to guess your combination, they will just get locked out. The built-in interior LED light is also a nice touch, making it easy to see your sidearm in low light conditions.
We’ve already mentioned the slim design, but just want to point out again that this is the perfect home office companion. The compact size works well inside a drawer, or tucked behind a desk. The budget-friendly price will also ensure that you don’t break the bank.
Vaultek Slider Handgun Safe
Best Gun Safes For Rifles
Barska 10 Long Gun Biometric Safe
Steelwater 20 Long Gun Safe
American Security 18 Long Gun Safe
Liberty Fatboy Jr. 48 Long Gun Safe
Gun safes are not a one-size-fits-all type of situation. Everyone has different needs and different requirements. In our view, it’s best to own one larger gun safe, and an ideal a secondary backup. The backup can be used for your bedside, office or in any other place you’d need to have quick access to a firearm. This way you are only a hand-swipe away from having quick access to your sidearm.
If you are a beginner just starting out, we recommend looking at a handgun safe to lock up your first handgun. These are usually cheaper, and will set you on the path for proper firearms safety as you grow. Once you’ve purchased your first rifle, you’ll want to at least get a smaller sized rifle cabinet that can be bolted down and store anywhere from 6-8 guns to accommodate future growth.