If you own firearms, it’s wise to own a good-quality gun safe. Not only does keeping your guns locked up protect them from unnecessary damage and being handled by someone who shouldn’t have access to them, it protects them from outside issues like thieves, fires, and flooding. Choosing the best gun safe for your needs might seem overwhelming, but it can be simplified by taking certain factors into consideration.
What Are the Best Gun Safes?
Your ideal gun safe is one that cannot be readily opened and is at least somewhat resistant to extreme temperatures and moisture. Keep in mind that does not only mean a pry-proof safe but also one that cannot be beat open by a bludgeoning or sharp object, or easily peeled apart by an acetylene torch. Is it likely a thief will enter your home prepared for a serious attempt at breaking into a gun safe? No, but you also cannot predict the future or which criminal might break into your home. Try not to get distracted by marketing techniques like camo-painted exteriors, visually impressive dials and tumblers, or endorsements from social media influencers. When choosing the best gun safe for your home it is well worth the time and cost of doing it right.
The best gun safe for you will likely have the following features:
- At least 1 ½-times the storage capacity of your current collection
- Fire resistant to temperatures of around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably more
- Fire seal on the door to prevent it from being a weak point for heat resistance
- Constructed from a steel alloy
- Heavy gauge rather than lighter; lighter gauges are easier to move but also much simpler to break into or steal (preferably 10 gauge)
- Casements or plates for resistance to prying or drilling (no hollow or thin-panel doors)
- More than one locking mechanism so there is backup if one method fails (often called redundant locks)
- Quick-access locks rather than old-fashioned rotating dials
- Consider waterproofing or water-resistance, especially if you live on a flood plain and intend to keep paper in the safe
- Note: If you store important documents or family photos in a safe, be aware paper ignites at a lower temperature than firearms. Consider obtaining a safe specifically for paper.
- Use a dehumidifier to protect the contents
- Cannot be pried, drilled, or otherwise damaged to access contents
- Can be bolted to the floor, specifically in the case of smaller safes
Bottom line? The best gun safe for you is one that keeps your guns intact in the same place you left them regardless of what’s going on outside the safe.
What Are the Worst Gun Safes?
Some of the worst gun safe features we’ve heard about are the fault of the manufacturer, and some are yours. When choosing a safe, make sure the following things cannot be done to it:
- Metal should not flex or otherwise bend from the pressure of your own hands
- It should not be possible to pry it open with your fingers, a crowbar, or any other object
- The metal used to construct it should be heavy-duty, not aluminum, plastic, or otherwise cheap
- Locks should be far better than a simple key like you would find on a small lockbox
- Old-school combination-only models
- Safes with no heat resistance
- Safes without the ability to keep moisture or humidity out
- Objects that are not really safes, such as retro cases, glass-fronted display units, gun cabinets, and wooden boxes
- Any “safe” that can be carried or carted away
Let’s take a moment to cover the issue of your guns being removed from your home by some guy who exerted no more effort than walking off with a little box or dragging off a larger safe with the help of a criminal friend, or a dolly. You can buy a fantastic gun safe, but if you do not bother to bolt it down or otherwise secure it, it won’t be any good against thieves. Do not be the guy that did not bother to secure the safe or safes to the structure itself. If a bad guy can walk away with it, it’s not doing you any good.
Should I Get a Safe With or Without Fire Protection?
This question has more than one answer. Yes, you should get the best gun safe possible with good fire protection. However, it will do you no good if it has heat resistance but no security. Choose the most rugged security first and then check out its fire rating. Security comes first although fire protection is important. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, there were approximately 3.7 million burglaries each year between 2003 and 2007, and 65 percent of those burglaries are carried out by people you know (meaning they probably know you have firearms in your home).
House fires can easily reach a temperature of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, the standards used in the gun safe manufacturing industry for fire resistance are not consistent. An Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) rating is often used but the manufacturers often do not carry out enough testing for reliable ratings. Although it is not scientific, it is true that between two safes of the same size, the one that is much heavier likely has better fire proofing. It is a good idea to look for safes with more modern liners made of gypsum or ceramics instead of K-wool or sheetrock.
Gun safes are typically rated for how many minutes they can supposedly withstand a fire before the internal temperature exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Firefighter Insider, house fires can last anywhere from five minutes to two hours. Factors like the material the house is made from and the presence of accelerants inside or near the home affect burn time and how it hot it gets.