Published Jun 10, 2022 3:00 PM
The days of displaying guns proudly in a glass-fronted cabinet are over. Responsible gun owners want to keep their firearms out of sight and locked away from thieves and curious kids. That’s where a gun safe comes in. It’s not just a good idea, but the law in some places like California, to provide secure storage for guns in your home.
Gun safes are exactly what they sound like: safes for storing guns. They come in a variety of sizes, from one-pistol models designed to keep home defense guns locked up but immediately accessible to massive vaults that house entire collections of long guns. Any safe can be broken into, but the better safes will frustrate anyone besides a professional burglar and all of them will keep guns out of the hands of kids who shouldn’t touch them without supervision. Safes can also protect your guns from fire. Burglars might pick and choose what they take. Fire takes everything and a fireproof safe, properly sited, gives your guns a chance to survive a house fire. Want to know which model is the best gun safe for you?
There are lots to look at when you shop for safes. How many guns will it hold? Is the interior adjustable? How secure is it? How quickly can you get into it? Will it keep your guns safe in a fire? We put this guide together to help you find the right answers and the best gun safe for you.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Gun Safe
Buying a gun safe to keep your valuable firearms secure is an important decision. A large safe is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase for most people, and it’s important to get one that suits your current and future needs. And, if you need to keep a home defense gun safely locked away but instantly accessible, choosing the best gun safe can literally be a matter of life and death.
The biggest regret of most safe shoppers is that they didn’t buy a big enough safe. Gun collections grow. Choose a safe with a listed capacity of one and a half to two times the number of guns you have to store. Most safe interiors are made to hold guns quite close together to maximize capacity. Rifle and shotgun bolts and bolt handles and bulky scopes can all ding the gun next to them. You’ll want to be able to leave an empty slot next to some of your guns.
If break-ins are rare in your neighborhood, all you might need is an inexpensive safe to keep guns out of the hands of children, or to keep them locked away out of sight to keep honest people honest. If your collection is valuable, you’ll need to consider security features carefully. There are several things to look for. First, choose a lock that is UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) listed. An internal, drill-proof hardplate helps protect a lock against drill attacks. A relocker locks the safe shut if the lock is destroyed. Finally, look at how many sides of the door have bolts. Most safes only have bolts opposite the hinges. The best gun safes feature bolts on both sides as well as on the top and bottom of the door.
A fire-resistant model can keep its contents safe long enough for the fire department to arrive. Unlike locks, which are UL tested, there is no one body that gives out fire ratings, and different manufacturers use different standards. Find out how many layers of fireboard are built into the walls when you’re comparing safes.
Electronic locks are practically standard now on the best gun safes, although some people still prefer old-fashioned mechanical locks. Most electronic locks run for years per battery, and can be unlocked manually if need be, and some can be quickly keyed in the dark if you need instant access to a home defense gun. Biometric locks add an extra level of security because they require both the right fingerprints and the right combination to open.
Best Under $500
- Capacity: 10 long guns, plus handgun shelf
- Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 x 53 inches
- Weight: 30 pounds
Why It Made the Cut:
Easy to afford, easy to install. It gives bare-bones lockable protection for those concerned only about keeping guns out of sight and away from curious hands.
- Low Price
- Light weight makes it easy to move and install yourself
- Deters kids and casual thieves
- No fire protection
- Not California compliant
- Will not stop skilled burglars
- No fire protection
Not a safe, strictly speaking, but a key-locked steel storage locker. The Sentinel makes a good solution for those who only need to keep their guns locked up and out of the way. It is very light at 30 pounds, so one person can easily handle it, and it can be bolted to the wall and floor through pre-drilled holes. Installing it in a corner makes it more difficult for thieves to attack.
Although the case is advertised to hold 10 long guns and has a storage shelf, long shotguns won’t fit unless the shelf is removed, and 10 guns will overcrowd the cabinet. Despite those shortcomings, it’s a great, inexpensive choice for people who have only a few guns they need to keep locked away.
Best for Apartments
- Capacity: 18 long guns
- Dimensions: 20 x 24.25 x 59.5 inches
- Weight: 334 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
This safe packs a lot of protection and adequate capacity into a price tag below $1,000. At 334 pounds, it’s easier to move than more massive safes.
- UL certified electronic lock with hard lockplate
- Multiple fireboard layers for fire protection
- Hardened external hinges open wide
- Non-customizable interior
- Not California compliant
Made of 14 gauge steel, this safe is still sturdy. But it doesn’t weigh as much as thicker-walled safes, so two non-professionals with a dolly can move it. The doors bolt with 10 military-style flat rectangular bolts. The door is a full inch thick to defeat tool attacks, and there are multiple layers of fireboard inside. Although this safe only offers Liberty’s lowest level of fire protection, most apartments are in a town where firefighters can respond to a blaze in minutes, so you don’t need the same level of fire protection you might out in the country.
The interior shelving is divided into two halves; one to keep a few guns you frequently use handy, and the other for storing the “safe queens.” There’s also a shelf for handguns or accessories that you might have to remove if you own long sporting clays or trap shotguns. The interior is carpeted.
Best for Cars
- Capacity: One 1911-style pistol or 4-inch barreled revolver
- Dimensions: 12 x 6.4 x 2.2 inches
- Materials: 14 gauge steel
Why It Made the Cut
This is one of the best gun safes for cars. Multiple methods of entry—combination, key, RFID fob, and bracelet—assure that you can go into this safe and retrieve your gun at any time. A unique mounting system secures it in the car.
- Multiple methods of entry
- Big enough for a 4-inch barreled revolver
- Sleek and low-profile
- California compliant
This safe sits unobtrusively on the side of the car’s console, where it’s safe from kids but easily accessible and close to hand. It has a padded foam interior big enough to hold a full-size 1911 pistol or a revolver with a 4-inch barrel or your valuables. The safe can be opened several ways: with an RFID fob, bracelet or sticker, or by tapping a four-digit code into the keypad. Keys are also included. Once opened, the safe has a spring-assisted lid and presents the gun so you can get it into action immediately.
The safe also comes with a cable lock to secure it, as well as a unique bladder attachment that fits between the seat and the console, then inflates for a tight, solid fit.
- Capacity: 1-2 guns
- Dimensions: 14 x 13.5 x 8.75 inches
- Weight: 24.5 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
One swipe of an approved fingerprint opens the biometric lock and the door opens in a second. As the best bedside gun safe, it’s important to give you quick access to your pistol in an emergency.
- Can be programmed for up to 30 fingerprints
- Opens quietly and reliably
- Has room for 1 or 2 guns and other valuables
- Bulky for a bedside safe
Made of 14 gauge steel with an anti-pry door, this biometric gun safe keeps one or two guns and some valuables safely locked up by your bedside. The lock opens with a single swipe of your finger, so there is no code to press in a moment of stress. It can remember 30 different fingerprints, too, so you can also let some family members have access. The safe also has a backup key lock. The interior has a light and a shelf inside for extra storage, and the door opens quickly and quietly. You can choose between a 9v battery or an AC power adapter, and the safe also has two USB ports inside and out for charging devices.
Although fairly heavy at 24 pounds, it also features pre-drilled holes, so you can fix it to the floor for added security.
Best for Shotguns
- Capacity: 49 long guns
- Dimensions: 72 x 41 x 24 inches
- Weight: 790 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
The extra-tall interior has space for the longest barreled shotguns, and Browning quality offers your excellent fire and theft protection.
- Tall enough for any shotgun
- Adjustable interior for long guns, handguns and accessories
- Raised floor protects guns from dings
Designed with the shotgun enthusiast in mind, this safe is tall enough to accommodate the longest smoothbores. The shotgun safe has adjustable shelving inside as well to help you make use of its 41 cubic feet of internal space. The interior is carpeted, and the floor is raised so you don’t ding the stocks of guns as you take them out. The inside of the door offers quick access shelving for 10 of your most-often used shotguns. The door itself is made of inch-thick steel and has bolts on the top and both sides to make the door almost impossible to pry off. The lock is UL tool attack-rated and has a drill-proof hard lockplate. The entire safe is made of stout, 12 gauge steel and closes with an electronic lock. According to Browning’s rating system, the ThermaBlock fire-resistant lining can withstand 1400 degree temperatures (in excess of the 1100 degree temperatures of the average house fire) for 60 minutes.
Best Long Gun Safe
- Capacity: 39 long guns plus door organizer holds 6 handguns and other items
- Dimensions: 59 x 39 x 24 inches plus 3 inches for the front door handle
- Weight: 925 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
Excellent fire protection plus a direct-to-consumer business model that keep prices down make this Steelwater safe a good buy in a high end, fire- and break-in resistant gun safe.
- Good value in a high-end product
- Somewhat lighter than comparable safes
- Large drill plate in door protects more of the safe from burglar tool attacks
Steelwater safes provide top-notch protection at a much lower price than other safes due to their direct-to-consumer sales. Steelwater safes have all the niceties of other high-end safes such as interior LED lighting, user-customizable shelving, and humidty protection. Designed by the company owner who has both law-enforcement experience and many years in the gun safe industry, Steelwater safes have many attack-resistant features like longer bolts, heavier-duty hinges and a larger lock plate to better resist burglars. This safe also boasts a fire rating of two hours at 1,875 degrees, which is far hotter than the average house fire.
Best Fireproof Safe
- Capacity: 39 long guns plus handguns and accessories
- Dimensions: 72.5 x 42 x 32 inches
- Weight: 1,585 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
This safe offers the utmost security for valuable collections with the thickest walls and longest fire protection.
- Heavy steel walls
- Long-lasting fire protection
- Customizable interior with plush upholstery and lighting
- Massive; not a good choice if you move often
- Expensive, if worth it
The Magnum E-lock 50-gun Safe features walls made of 7 gauge steel, the heaviest steel used in gun safe manufacturing. According to Browning’s ratings, those walls are insulated with 16 layers of fireboard and a door with a heat-expanding seal to provide 2.5 hours of fire protection at 1,200 degrees. Inside, the safe features a rack in the door for your most-often used guns and a customizable interior complete with a jewelry drawer, plush upholstery, a dehumidifier, and interior lighting.
Best for Closets
- Capacity: 12 guns
- Dimensions: 59 x 18 x 16 inches
- Weight: 247 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
This safe packs a lot of great protection into a package that fits into a closet.
- Compact size
- Manageable weight
- Offers some fire protection
- Good value
At only 247 pounds, this is a safe that two people can wrestle into place. It’s narrow enough to fit discreetly in a closet where it’s out of sight of anyone coming into the house.
The safe has pre-drilled holes, so you can bolt it to the wall and floor to compensate for its light weight. The external hinges let the door open wide so you can get at your guns, which rest in racks along the back and sides of the safe, and an upper shelf allows you to store ammo or handguns. Although the safe has room for 12 guns, it’s much better for 7 or 8, unless you rarely get your guns out of storage.
Best Gun Safe for Multiple Pistols
- Capacity: 8 handguns
- Dimensions: 15 x 11.5 x 11.6 inches
- Weight: 32 pounds
Why It Made the Cut
Safes designed solely for multiple handguns are rare, and this one holds eight guns and allows you to monitor it from your phone at all times.
- Biometric and keypad opening
- Modular interior
- WiFi function sends tampering, temperature, and other alerts
This safe holds up to eight handguns and has a modular interior that can be configured to hold valuables and magazines. It has 14 gauge steel walls and a 12 gauge steel door to keep unauthorized people out. Both biometric and keypad open instantly when you press in the code, or it senses one of the 20 fingerprints in its memory on the scanner. The interior is illuminated to help you find what you’re looking for inside. The safe is drilled and comes with mounting hardware allowing you to secure it in a bedroom, office, or closet. The unique WiFi capability lets you monitor tampering or disturbance from wherever you are and gives you updates on temperature and humidity as well.
How We Selected the Best Gun Safes
As gun ownership rises in the United States, so does the number of safes on the market. And there’s much more variety among them, too, as safes are now more than places to store hunting guns. We looked at several different kinds of safes from many makers. We evaluated them for the level of protection they offered against theft, which involved examining the safe’s materials, its bolting system, whether its locks were UL listed, and if it also included important features like a relocker that keeps the safe closed even if the lock is destroyed.
With so much of gun ownership now focused on self-defense handguns, it was also important to look at safes that allowed quick, reliable access to a gun in a home, business, or car. They need to be secure, obviously, but have to open every time. We looked at the different types of locks—keypad, RFID systems, and biometric locks—to determine which ones were the least likely to fail in an emergency.
Q: Are gun safes bulletproof?
Whether a safe is bullet-resistant depends on the thickness of the steel and the velocity of the bullet. A safe with a ⅜-inch steel plate—which is quite thick—can resist any handgun caliber and some rifle bullets as well. Shooting your way in through the walls of a safe would be very difficult. Most high-quality safes feature relockers, which lock the door automatically if the lock is destroyed, so shooting the lock to open the safe won’t work either.
Q: What should I look for when shopping for a gun safe?
The most important decision is how big a safe to buy. Hardly anyone ever wishes they had bought a smaller safe, and many regret not going bigger. Choose a safe that holds one and a half to two times as many guns as you currently plan to store.
Consider your security needs. If all you need to do is keep guns away from kids, you don’t need a top-of-the-line safe. If you have a lot of money tied up in guns, then you want to spend some more and get a safe that’s harder to break into. Buy a safe with a lock that is UL listed, and look for an internal hardplate and a relocker that keeps the safe shut if the lock is destroyed.
Fire protection is another concern. The average home fire in town burns at 1100 degrees for 15 minutes before it’s extinguished. If you put a safe with a high degree of fire protection near a basement wall, you have a chance to save your guns and all the other keepsakes and valuables that wind up inside.
Q: Is a gun safe worth it?
The days of keeping guns in glass fronted cabinets or on the nightstand are over. Smart gun owners keep their guns locked up and out of sight. Also, a safe is a much better place to store a gun than in an unbreathable gun case which can lead to rust problems. And, some safes offer fire protection as well. Not only is it worth the money you spend on a safe to protect your investment in firearms and to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, but safe storage is also the law in some places.
A safe also makes sense if you want to keep a gun handy for home defense. A small bedside safe with a keypad or biometric lock keeps your gun close by and instantly accessible while also keeping it out of curious hands.
Q: Can guns rust inside a safe?
Gun safes are not air-tight, so the keeping a gun in a safe as opposed to an unbreathable hard or soft gun case isn’t as risky in terms of corrosion. However, guns can absolutely rust inside a safe, especially if you live in a humid climate. The likelihood increases if you put your safe in garage or building that’s not climate-controlled. There are several in-safe dehumidifiers and rechargeable silica gel packs on the market that you should consider. Also, always be sure to clean guns and wipe them down with a lightly-oiled rag before you put them away. If you bring a gun in from the cold, condensation can form on it, so be sure to wipe it down even if you didn’t shoot it.
What is the most fireproof gun safe?
There are several good, fire-resistant safes on the market. However, it’s impossible to tell which is the most fireproof, as there no standardized ratings. Individual manufacturers are free to conduct their own tests and establish their own ratings. As you shop for safes, you can choose the highest-rated safe in a particular manufacturer’s lineup. You can also look to see how many layers of fireboard the safe has in its walls, and check if it has an expanding fire seal. Based on those criteria, the Cabela’s Magnum E-Lock 50-Gun Safe by Liberty Safe is an excellent choice in a top-quality fireproof safe.
As you study fire ratings, remember that the average house fire burns at 1100 degrees and most fires are over within 30 minutes. If you live out in the country where fire response times are longer, you might want a highly rated safe.
The best gun safe for you depends on the number of guns you own, your security and fire protection needs, and your budget. An inexpensive safe can be enough to keep your guns locked up out of sight, and that’s enough security for many people. The more valuable your collection, the more you might want to spend on security and on fire protection.
If you want to keep a home defense gun locked but ready in your bedroom, spend whatever you need to for a good, reliable safe that will open instantly in the dark. Even the best one and two-pistol safes don’t cost much, and it doesn’t make sense to scrimp if you believe you need to protect yourself with lethal force.
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