You own a firearm, and you want to buy the best gun safe. No problem, you think. So you walk into a store or do an online search for gun safes. And that is where your problems begin! A bewildering array of sizes, styles, brands, prices, and designs greets you. So how do you choose?
To guide you through these possibilities, I’ve looked at the main options. By answering these example questions, you can confidently narrow your search to find the best safe on the market for your needs.
Why Do You Own Guns?
If you bought your gun for home defense, you might need a small safe with quick access that you can store in your house where your children can’t get to. But because it’s small you must be able to attach it to a larger object to prevent it being carried off.
If the gun is for self-defense outside the home, you may need something small enough to be portable and easily concealed, but quickly secured to and separated from different objects (e.g., car seats) at various times.
Then again, perhaps you are a collector of valuable weapons. Then you may need a fire-resistant and burglar-resistant vault that cannot be moved and has power points for accessories such as electric dehumidifiers to prevent damage to your collection.
Why Do You Want a Gun Safe?
Examples of reasons are:
- To comply with local laws or regulations
- To prevent theft or accidents
- To prevent damage
If you must buy a gun safe because of local laws, then the safe must meet certain specifications. The specifications issued by the California Department of Justice are generally regarded as the gold standard. Any safe meeting those specs is likely to meet your local standards. However, it is essential that you check your local regulations!
These specifications do not guarantee protection against theft. Most products sold as gun safes are designed to keep thieves with prying-type hand tools out for several minutes; they won’t withstand an attack with power tools.
This is also true for fire resistance: many safes are not fire-tested. And even if they do survive a fire, the contents may not because of the heat build-up inside the box.
Most gun safes are made from steel. You’ll see something like “made from 16-gauge steel” or “12-gauge steel.” When you see this, the lower number indicates thicker steel.
How Quickly Does It Need to Open?
Solid construction and sturdy locks keep unwanted people away from your guns, but what if you must get to them?
The technology used for the locks on gun safes is evolving rapidly, but you can classify the types of locks as:
- Gun Safes with Keyed locks
- Gun Safes with Combination locks
- Gun Safes with Biometric locks
Gun Safes with Keyed locks are what they say. Insert a key and turn it. The advantage is that keyed locks very seldom malfunction. The potential disadvantages are that you could misplace or lose the key, someone could steal the key or make a copy of it, or in an emergency situation such as during a house invasion, you may shake too much to insert the key quickly.
Gun Safes with Combination locks come in two main types: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical combination locks are activated by rotating dials to individual numbers or pressing numbered or non-numbered buttons in a particular sequence.
Gun Safes with Electronic locks also use programmable codes that you enter on a numbered or non-numbered keypads.
If you are proficient in remembering and entering your code, access can be gained very quickly, but forgetting your code when in a panic is a possibility. Additionally, instances of keypad failure and power failure have been reported. This is not something you want happening in an emergency. Such failures do tend to be unusual but are possible.
The advantage of combinations is that you can keep your code to yourself or only give it to a select group, and it is unlikely that anyone outside that group will be able to guess it.
Gun Safes with Biometric locks usually refer to an electronic lock opened by use of a fingerprint reader. After programming the fingerprints of authorized users, the user simply places his or her finger on the plate and the safe unlocks. This has the advantage of speed plus, in an emergency, there are no codes to remember of keys to fumble with.
But this does not mean biometric locks are the perfect answer. Like electronic locks, there have been instances of electronics failure.
There are other types of locks on the market such as Radio Frequency Identification locks, but this technology is really new and comes with all the potential teething problems of new technology.
It’s worth noting that I’m not saying that electronic locks ARE going to fail; it is just a possibility. Also, electronic locks always come with some form of backup such as a keyed lock.
What Price Range?
Gun safes are found at almost every price point from approximately $100 to several thousand dollars. There are many options if you are on a budget, especially if you go through these questions, decide the least amount of security needed, and work from there. In fact, you might be surprised at the level of safety you can find for your money.
Obviously, as the size and the resistance to damage or attack increases so does the price.
Where Will You Keep the Gun Safe?
This can determine not only the size and speed of access needed but also design. Say you are buying the safe for use at home or in your apartment but want to conceal it from your children as well as from thieves while still keeping it close by. If you wanted to hide it in the drawer of a nightstand a front-opening safe would be useless; you would need a top-opening design.
If you intended attaching the safe to a shelf in a closet, the position of the door might not make much difference (unless it is a high shelf).
Keeping the gun and its safe at work may mean you want some trusted colleagues to have access so you would need something that allows multiple users.
Alternatively, if you wish to keep the safe at home when you are there but carry it in the car when you leave home a light safe, convenient for carrying, but quickly secured and unsecured would be needed. Here you may want to consider one that is designed for use with a security cable.
What Size Do You Need?
I left this question until last because it is the one most frequently misjudged by buyers. And they usually underestimate the size needed.
Other issues in this group include what type of guns and how many do you want to keep in the safe? If you want a safe for long guns, or you own a combination of long guns and handguns some form of cabinet will be necessary.
If you only own handguns, a smaller safe can be considered, and if you only want to keep a single gun in the safe an even smaller design might work.
But don’t forget accessories. This is where many buyers make their mistake. Perhaps your gun has a flashlight attached. It will naturally take up more room. Do you want to store ammunition either, in a box or in spare magazines, along with the gun? Even more room needed. And is the area where you will keep the safe especially damp? If so, you may want to consider keeping some form of dehumidifier, electric or otherwise, in there to protect your gun. Yet more room needed.
And there is one more thing that many people don’t think about. You’ve bought the safe. It’s big enough for your gun and its accessories. So now you have a really secure place in your home. Ah, you think. That would be a great place to keep my jewelry or the family’s passports or those important insurance papers that I need to protect. And before you know it you’re wishing you’d bought the next size up!
As you can see, choosing a gun safe involves a lot more than just buying a box a little bigger than the actual weapon. There is a lot of thought and planning required to make sure you pick the best gun safe for your money.
These questions are not exhaustive. As you work your way through them, I am sure you will find others spring to mind. However, they will let you quickly weed out those safes that are no good for you, and narrow your choices.
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