I have a serious question; does anyone actually keep their safe in their living room?
The best gun safe needs to be childproof. Anyone with kids will tell you that they get into everything, especially when they are young enough that you don’t know how they managed it. I remember when I was 8 years old learning how to use a library card to break into my friend’s hunting room lined wall to wall with shotguns. Sorry Mrs. Cronk. But the biggest item of interest was the old Holland and Holland gun safe. I still don’t know what was in there, we never found out. I think we might have blown a hole in the ceiling but that enough of the after school special.
Now, I have a healthy respect for firearms and thinking back, I’m glad my friends and family invested in the best gun safes available.
The number one reason to own a gun safe is security. In fact several states have laws requiring a gun safe or locking mechanism in order to legally own a firearm, especially if there are children in the house. If a child finds your gun and you didn’t do anything to prevent it, you could be at risk for prosecution. If a criminal uses your firearm, you can be charged with accessory. Makes you think about the value of a safe. Even, or maybe especially, if you have taught your child how to use a firearm they will be interested in them and as I found out from a friend recently want them for protection.
Kids see guns on TV and movies; they read about them in books and use them in video games. They know what they are and how to use them even if they don’t understand the consequences. If you learned anything from this article, take to heart that your child should not be able to access your firearms without your knowledge and supervision
DO NOT FIRE A GUN THAT HAS BEEN THROUGH A FIRE WITHOUT CHECKING IT OUT WITH A GUNSMITH.
Choosing a size
Gun safes are roughly measured in how many guns can fit in the safe. Take that number with a massive grain of salt. They are assuming you won’t have any optics, magazines, bipods, pistol grips, etc. on the rifles at all. Roughly half the number will comfortably fit, though check out the gun accessories article for gun rods, a much better organizational system. Even with gun rods you will want to look not only for your current collection but for room to expand.
Chances are if you have a single gun, you will have three in the not too distant future, then one or two more because you got a deal at a gun show, you bought your range buddies AR because he is moving to a gun free state, and before you know it, you are trying to fit 20 guns in your 10 gun safe.
Don’t make the mistake so many of us have made, and prepare for expansion. Until you fit your safe queens you can fit so much into your safe that can be moved later. Safes never seem to stay “too big”.
Best Gun Safes
Liberty Gun Safes
- ProVault Electronic-Lock 18-Gun Safe
- ProVault 12-Gun Safe by Liberty with Electronic Lock
- ProVault Flex Loaded 24-Gun Safe
Liberty is considered one of the best safe makers on the market and chances are if you are buying a quality safe you are buying a liberty. In addition to having great customer service, in home delivery and installation, they make some of the best gun safes without breaking the bank.
The Provault and the Provault Flex from Liberty and Cabela’s is my go to recommendation, at least it should be your starting point, considering you can find them at most hardware, big box stores, and even tractor supply. Cheaper than most rifles while protecting from kids, theft and fire with its 14 gauge steel construction and 30 minute fire rating.
The Flex features shelving that encourages heavy customization while allowing for rifle and shotgun storage. The solid 3/16 thick military style locking bars, SecuRam electronic lock protect from theft. While the Palusol door seal expands under heat to protect from fire and water for 30 mins at 1200 degrees F.
The Electronic vs Mechanical Debate
A big concern of modern guns safes is the electronic locking systems not functioning in the event of a catastrophic failure or SHTF scenario. A key fail safe option is available for most safes but keys introduce weak points for theft and tapering. Mechanical safes can be better option for those worried about failures in electronics; however mechanical safes take longer to open than a simple biometric reading or key code. Whichever you choose it is important to make an educated choice, personally I prefer biometric locks for smaller items and mechanical locks for large safes, that the electronic locks have never failed is besides the point.
Cabela’s Mechanical Lock 10-Gun Safe
Cabela’s Mechanical Safes have the benefit of not leaving you at the whims of the machine gods when you need your firearms. Cabela’s 10 gun safe is a great entry level option into gun storage. It has the same Fire resistance as the above safes at 30 mins at 1,200°F, the same 14 gauge steel construction. However because it is smaller it only has 6 locking bolts.
Cabela’s Mechanical locking safe is great for smaller spaces, instead of taking up a full closet you can use half for your safe and half for your other gear. While it isn’t the biggest, fanciest or strongest; for you it might be the best.
The 2nd biggest safe on the list and the big brother to Cabela’s ten gun mechanical safe, the Outfitter is an amazing value, Lifetime Warranty, 40mins of fire protection, 12 gauge steel body, and the added benefit that it fits into most standard closets adding both security and extra fireproofing.
The mechanical lock will work whether you have power or not, and the amount of storage is staggering. This is the best entry level safe. Backed by both Liberty and Cabela’s it will hold your AR, bolt action competition gun, shotguns, pistols, and even my dreaded 55in M14 custom.
The Rapid Ready Vault is the high tech safe on the list. If you know anything about firearms you will have heard about Hornady and you know they make great products.
The best feature of the safe is the keyless access through RFID technology. You just wave your chip in front of the door and it opens. Simple, Fast, Easy. The Rapid Ready has great customization options including shelves, lights, climate controls and backup battery power.
The downside is the fire doesn’t have a fire rating. This means it isn’t the best safe if you are looking for more than secure gun storage. I would not keep documents of valuables in the safe without additional fireproofing.
The other downside is that children can quickly figure out how to open the safe, so you need to keep track of your RFID chips. But if you want a high tech solution for gun storage this safe is for you.
Another major player in the gun industry, Browning might be the best known name in guns. Widely known for their fantastic hunting rifles and shotguns, it is not surprising that they developed a great line of gun safes for hunters.
The Browning Sporter Safe really shines with its adjustable shelving and Browning’s accessories. You can build the safe of your dreams complete with lighting, climate control and still fit an impressive amount of firearms. The Sporter is a big safe, 58″ x 30″ x 20″ with a 60-min fire rating at 1400 degrees.
But the best feature is the Axis Shelve and DPX Storage System, that makes each safe fit your exact needs, while keeping your guns not only safe but in great condition. If you want a file cabinet in your safe, barrel holders, quick release pistol pouches, rust protection, dehumidifier, LED lighting, with a backup battery and a jewelry box that locks separately the Browning systems are for you.
Mechanical, Electronic, or biometric locking options are available. The Sporters come in 20, 23, 33, 49 gun safes, so pick your size with care. You want to be able to expand your gun collection while still being able to fit the safe through the door.
Unfortunately, the customization options come with a high price, but as the man says you get what you pay for.
Browning Black Label Mark IV 43-Gun Safe
The biggest safe on the list, the 42 gun Black Label by Browning is massive. Frankly, this is the safe I’m saving up for, its beautiful, adjustable shelving, DPS storage system, massive capacity for all your firearms. Lighting and A/C power with a 100 minute fire rating. 11 gauage steel body, anti pry locks, and hinges, 1.25” locking bolts.
It even has a gear loft for those accessories and ammo that you don’t want to keep in the safe. I can’t imagine you won’t have enough room.
The Pelican Alternative
- Vault by Pelican – V800 Double Rifle Case with Foam
- Pelican 1510 Case With Foam
- Pelican 1450 Case With Foam (Black)
- Pelican 1200 Case With Foam (Black)
- Pelican Air 1615 Case No Foam
- Pelican Air 1615 Case with Foam
Safes are great at what they do, but they aren’t without their drawbacks. They are by design difficult to move. They are heavy, expensive, and if you only have one or two firearms, they can be overkill, especially if you live in an apartment or your starter home. What if there was another option?
Pelican cases are most frequently used for travel by air or across state lines so the firearms can be locked and you don’t need to worry about the laws between states. I use them when traveling for competitions, and I realized very quickly, that I didn’t need a gun safe when I’m living hotel to hotel.
I grabbed a 1750 long case, threw my rifle in complete with a strong pad lock and a good insurance plan.
The Pelican case is waterproof, dust proof, crushproof, foam lined and about as safe as you can make a mobile gun vault and still be able to move it. If you haven’t seen a hard case, you should really be going to the range more, but the idea is the hard, durable plastic and foam protect the gun during transport.
Add in a good padlock and slide it under your bed, and you have a gun safe built for one, that is also easily transportable, for half the price of a full gun safe. The downside is that they are not fire resistant, and because they are easily moved theft is a potential problem from a dedicated intruder. They also should be checked more frequently for climate control, humidity and oil from cleaning as the foam lining will absorb contaminates over time.
For handgun safe, please read this article.
Gun accidents happen, fire happens, theft happens. As a gun owner you know you can’t stop all the problems in the world but you can prepare for them, react calmly, and limit the damage. It’s your duty to keep your firearms secure, protect them so they can protect you, as the creed goes there are many like it but this one is mine.
Andrew Maurer is a Precision Rifle Series competition shooter and gunsmith. Building competition rifles for over 12 years. He works as a big game hunting guide in Iowa, South Dakota and Arizona. He is also a political scientist studying the effects of gun control on society. He teaches youth rifle shooting.