This particular article is about firearm safes that are intended to hold multiple firearms and provide a significant level of security and fire protection. Locking gun storage cabinets and bedside or automobile pistol safes are not discussed here, but will be addressed in the near future.
There are a number of reasons to store your firearms and other valuables in a fire resistant firearms safe. It will deny access to firearms by children and other unauthorized users. It will provide some level of protection if there is a house fire. It will provide some level of protection from theft.
Firearms and other valuable equipment can be ruined if improperly stored in a firearms safe.
Research to make sure that you are purchasing a safe with thick enough walls, adequate fire protection, and a secure locking mechanism.
Make sure that you gun safe is properly installed and secured to the floor and wall.
You safe should not be your primary or sole anti-theft / fire protection measure. It should be part of overlapping layers of security.
Reasons For Owning A Gun Safe:
A gun safe is a great way to keep children or unauthorized users from accessing your firearms. There is nothing more tragic than when a child finds a loaded firearm and accidentally shoots themselves. Even if you child is old enough and firearms savvy and educated enough to be trusted around firearms, their friends are not. The only way to be sure that you child’s idiot friend doesn’t handle your firearms is to lock them up. If you want to guarantee that you are the only one that will access your firearms, then you need to lock them away when you aren’t using them.
Firearms, jewelry, and small electronics are the favorite items for thieves to steal because they are easy to pawn. Criminals will seldom use legitimately acquired firearms in the act of a crime. They use firearms stolen from homes just like yours. If someone breaks into your home, they will be actively seeking those type of items. Storing your firearms and other easy to sell items in a gun safe as part of an overlapping layer of security will make difficult to abscond with your property.
A quality gun safe with the appropriate fire rating will help protect your firearms and other valuables from a structure fire.
Gun Safe Fundamentals:
- Dean Safe’s Safe Ratings Explained
- Gun Safe Review Guy’s What To Look For In A Gun Safe
- Gun Safe Review Guy’s Best Gun Safe For The Money
Gun Safe Security Considerations:
Your safe should not be your primary or sole anti-theft / fire protection measure.
Gun Safe Operational Security:
Practice Operational Security (OPSEC). No one will attempt to steal or break into a safe that they don’t know exists. Hide your safe in a closet and do not use your safe as a decorative piece of furniture in your den or living room. Keep its existence a family secret. If no one knows that it exists, then no one will come looking for it. Keep in mind that someone doesn’t have to use any tools or special skillsets to crack open your safe. Home intruders that are aware of your safe might hold and threaten your loved ones until you open the safe yourself. Hostage = Master Combination. Works every time.
Gun Safe As Part Of A Overlapping Layer Of Security:
Check out Savannah Arsenal’s Home Security page to read more about multiple, overlapping layers of security. This will include simple and traditional security methods such as owning a dog (burglars even hate yappy little dogs), installing quality locks on doors and windows, installing motion sensitive security lights, and then upgrading with more high-tech methods such as employing a quality burglar / fire alarm and video surveillance system. Make a burglar go looking for the loot while they are being recorded on video, and the alarm is sounding and notifying the police.
If items are considered absolutely priceless (copies of wills, legal documents, large sums of cash or precious metals, irreplaceable collectables, computer backups, etc.) then you will be better served by storing those items in a safe deposit box in the vault at a bank.
Gun Safe Fire Protection:
- Gun Safe Review Guy’s 9 Myths about Gun Safe Fire Ratings
- Dean Safe’s An Explanation of Fire Ratings for Home Safes and Gun Safes
Safe Thickness and Construction:
Many safes are not very hard to carry away or cut into. Do your own research and find out the type and thickness of the steel that your potential firearms safe is manufactured with.
Dial vs. Digital Lock:
I have a small safe that is over 100 years old. Its traditional dial works a well today as it probably did when it was made. I prefer a traditional dial for a new gun safe because I know that the design and technology, while very old, will continue to be used for many years to come.
When unlocking a traditional dial, turn it slowly and deliberately. Do not spin it fast as this can damage the internals of the lock. When locking the safe, turn the dial slowly to reset it, but do not spin it like you see in the movies.
Per the manufacturer’s service interval recommendation you will want to have a qualified locksmith periodically disassemble and clean the internals of the lock.
Some people prefer digital locks on their safe. I do not for several reasons:
First, I do not know how easy it is to electronically defeat digital locks. It’s probably easier than you think. I’m sure that if you search YouTube that there are videos on how to build an electronic devices to defeat any given digital lock.
Second, traditional dials are timeless. Eventually the particular digital lock that you will buy will become obsolete and will no longer be supported. When the lock breaks then the safe will become useless. Most digital locks use 9 volt batteries. How much longer will they be available? I doubt that any current production digital lock will be usable in 100 years like my antique safe.
Third, digital locks are vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. A dumb, traditional dial safe will work long after all of the electronics of the region have been fried. This should be a serious consideration by any serious prepper.
Gun Safe Installation:
It is best to install a heavy gun safe on the ground floor of a home. In a house fire the floors may become structurally compromised and the safe may fall through to the floor below and possibly injure or kill a firefighter. Also, fires burn up towards floors above. If a fire occurs on an upper floor, it may be put out by you or the fire department before it has a chance to reach anywhere downstairs where the safe is located.
Make sure that it is properly bolted into the slab of your home, and that the back of the safe is bolted into the studs of the wall. Make it hard to move. The more effort that it takes to move it or cut it open, the less likely that burglars will go to the trouble to waste their valuable police response time attempting to move it or access it. They will go for easier, low-hanging fruit, and then leave quickly.
Gun Safe Accessories:
There is an almost endless offering of gun safe accessories available online and at sporting goods stores that sell firearms safes. Some of the more useful accessories include a light to illuminate the lock dial (preferable red to protect your night vision), internal lighting, and electric de-humidifier. Other useful accessories that you might find helpful to organize the content of your safe include jewelry drawers, and rifle and handgun racks. You may choose to simply store small items in small Tupperware style plastic boxes.
Gun Safe Contents:
Don’t store large amounts of ammunition in the safe. A few loaded magazines are fine, but do not stack it full of cases of ammunition. If it were get hot enough to cook off any ammunition then there is a very good chance that any other types of valuable items that might otherwise be salvageable will be destroyed.
As already stated in the discussion of the use of safes in overlapping layers of security, do not store items and documents that are considered absolutely priceless (copies of wills, legal documents, negatives, large sums of cash or precious metals, irreplaceable collectables, computer backups, etc.) in a home gun safe. You will be better served by storing those items in a safe deposit box in the vault at a bank.
Do not place your valuables in a safe if you aren’t going to protect them from humidity. Make sure that the contents of your safe are protected by some type of de-humidifying device or product or the contents will be ruined (photos, firearms, computer drives, etc.) Use either an electric safe de-humidifier, available at most major outdoors stores that sell gun safes, or Damp-Rid moisture remover, which can be purchased at Wal-Mart or any of the big home improvement stores. Check your safe’s Damp Rid once a month and replace as necessary. It is shocking how fast a firearm can start to rust in an unprotected safe.
Even if you practice humidity control with a religious dedication, you should still pull all of your firearms out of the safe at least once a year and wipe them down with an oily cloth. Run an oily patch through the bores. It is not fun to pull out a firearm out of the safe that years ago was put away clean and beautiful, only to discover that it now has surface rust and corrosion in the bore.
Here is an interesting gun safe/corrosion issue that is discussed in one of the videos above, and one that I can directly attest to. Most gun safe interiors are lined with some type of particle/press board that is covered with felt or carpet. Do not ever store firearms or any other metal items directly on the floor of the safe without the felt or carpet installed. There is some type of acid used in the manufacturing process of the particle board. If you leave any metal in direct contact with it, even for a short duration, the acid will react with even the most minute amount of moisture in the air and cause rapid and aggressive corrosion. It will start to seriously damage firearms within just a few days. It isn’t surface rust, but rather deep pitting where ever the metal comes in contact with the board. Do not remove the safe’s interior lining. The felt or carpet isn’t just for looks. It serves a purpose.