How to Choose a Gun Safe

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How to Choose a Gun Safe

In my opinion a gun safe of some sort is a must for any firearm owner. Whether you’re a casual shooter, a hunter, or a CCW devotee, you’ll need a safe place to store your guns when they’re not in use.

And there are good reasons why. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study conducted over a five year period, nearly a quarter-million guns were stolen annually. Over the last year, crime ridden cities have seen sharp spikes in the number of violent crimes involving stolen guns. And that’s before we get into the issues around gun safety, firearms storage, and children—the subject of an entire article.

With that in mind, it’s pretty clear that a good gun safe can keep you from accidentally arming the criminals or contributing to some genuinely tragic mortality statistics.  The question then becomes “How do I figure out which gun safe I need?”

First, consider your needs and the space available. A typical American gun owner has about eight firearms, so for most of us a small safe will do. And that’s a good thing, as most gun safes live in closets, corners, or garages—few of us have room for a 50+ gun monster.  Whatever you choose, allow a little room for your collection to grow. Trust me, it’s going to.

Now it’s time to talk selection. This is one of those times to buy the best you can afford; a lot is riding on the quality of your purchase, and it should last a lifetime. There are two chief factors in this decision: the gauge of the steel and the fire rating of the safe. Most experts I’ve researched recommend a minimum of 10 gauge steel and a fire rating of 60 minutes at 1,300F external temperature. That’s tough enough to resist most common power tools and stand up to the average house fire.

It goes without saying, but pick a recognized name brand manufacturer with a good warranty and buy from a reputable source. You’ll avoid many potential headaches in the long run.

Safes these days come with a wide variety of locking mechanisms, up to and including biometric scanning. Personally, I recommend an old fashioned, spin-the-dial combination lock. They’re proven, easy to use, and there’s no key to misplace. Just do yourself the favor of changing the combo to something other than the factory pre-set. Clever thieves know what those are, and will use them to defeat your security.  Oh, and the combination is need-to-know only, and the only people who need to know are you and your spouse.

If you want a handgun for home defense, you may consider a dedicated handgun safe with a quick access feature. There are a number of makes and models available, so do your research.

Now it’s time to install your safe. I don’t know your home, so I can’t make specific recommendations, but you should in general find a place that’s both easy for you to access and relatively out of site. Criminals operate quickly, so anything that delays them finding your gun safe decreases the likelihood of theft. Even throwing a decorative fabric over it can help. Mine’s in a closet, and I keep the door shut.

Buy a safe you can bolt to the floor/wall. It’s both more secure and less likely to tip over and cause a horribly ironic accident.

I’ll close with this. In lieu of safes, a lot of folks opt for rolled-steel security cabinets. They’re affordable, they lock with a key, and the look a lot like a gun safe. If this is the best you can afford, go in peace, but please remember that they’re not a safe and won’t stand up to a dedicated thief with a power tools and a crowbar.  Keeping your guns secured is your responsibility, so make every reasonable effort you can.

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