Having gone on dozens of solo road-trips myself, I can tell you that there are few things more empowering than knowing that your magnum is an arm’s length away, when you hear a wolf howling in the distance as you’re gunning it on a moonlit highway.
As poetic as Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ anthem makes this particular experience out to be, you still can’t leave your weapon unchecked on the passenger seat or the dash of your car: the easily accessible weapon will be a danger for fellow passengers, other travelers – and most significantly, it will be illegal in the majority of the states.
Dimensions (h x w x d)
Fort Knox PB1 Original Pistol Safe Box
4.25’’ x 12.5’’ x 10.375’’
American Security Products PB3 Handgun Safe
4” x 12” x 8”
Artemis Quick Access Biometric Gun Safe / Locking Security Case
11 3/8" x 11 3/8" x 3 1/4"
10 Day Refund
SHOT LOCK 1911 Full Handgun Solo-Vault Safe
9’’ x 7’’ x 2’’
Hornady Security Rapid Gun Safe, Black
3.5’’ x 15.5’’ x 9’’
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix to this dilemma: car gun safes - compact, sturdy and inconspicuous storage solutions that let you stash away your firearm until the time it’s needed, thereby ensuring the safety of everyone while you’re on the road. Choosing the right safe is another thing entirely: the market is flooded with them. Having spent a good amount of time researching these products, I’ve put together this guide to help you pick the best car gun safe for your needs.
If you were to leave your weapon unsecured in your car (e.g. in your glove compartment), and a thief were to break in and steal the weapon, you’d have to report your pistol as having been stolen.
Even if you didn’t report it to the authorities, they would trace the weapon to you automatically if it was found at a crime scene – and you’d end up being flagged by the government as a potential gun owner anyways.
Locking the weapon away in a gun safe would make it extremely difficult for the thief to steal your firearm (they tend to go for easily accessible articles in most cases). If you firearm can’t be stolen, you’ll never have to deal with the consequences!
An unsecured gun is a major risk around children and/or over-curious adults. If you don’t use a dedicated safe for locking up your weapon in the car, you’ll probably have to be very strict about who can access your car keys, and you certainly won’t be able to leave your kid alone in it!
A gun safe will do away with all these concerns by preventing access to your pistol for anyone but yourself. When no one can access it without your approval, no one (least of all children) will be able to use it negligently and cause damage to themselves or their surroundings.
Incidentally, if a child did negligently discharge your firearm, you could be held liable in a court of law for the damage caused as a consequence.
To comply with state laws: You aren’t allowed to carry a concealed weapon in a manner such that it is readily accessible – common sense, since the majority of drive-by crimes are committed in this manner. You’ll have to store the weapon unloaded and locked away so that it can’t be readily accessed even by yourself. A gun safe, which requires you to use a physical key, key code or biometric scan to access its contents, is the obvious choice for this.
All safes must be reasonably strong to hold out against determined theft attempts, and this is especially true for vehicle gun safes because they’re small and easy to target with a crowbar or a sledgehammer. However, since vehicle theft is a much less probable scenario as compared to a domestic burglary, you don’t have to go all out on a 10 GA pistol safe if you don’t have the budget for it: even a 16 GA safe will serve the average pistol owner fine.
If possible, look for a product with dedicated anti-pry protection / resistance, since crowbars are one of the favorite hand-tools for breaking into small safes.
With small gun safes like these, you’ve got a number of lock styles to choose from:
Mechanical Key / Code / Dial
This is the most reliable option by virtue of the simple components used in the mechanism. No maintenance work is required on your part, except for periodic oiling every few years to prevent damage due to rusting.
On the down side, mechanical locks take longer to open, and won’t be give you fast access in a contingency.
This is a much easier option as compared to the mechanical lock, in that you’re only required to enter a 4 / 6 digit digital code to access the contents of the safe. While these locks provided quick access when you’re in critical need of your weapon, they have been known to fail randomly because of the delicate electronic circuitry present inside them.
Furthermore, most of these locks aren’t very power efficient, requiring you to replace their batteries on a monthly basis.
Biometric Fingerprint Scanner
This is one of the most recent innovations in lock actuation mechanisms, granting access to the gun owner through the verification of their fingerprint. In theory, this is the fastest and most secure mechanism for accessing a gun safe, but the technology hasn’t been refined to the point where it is completely reliable:
Fingerprint scanners, especially the ones found in cheaper pistol safes, are notorious for randomly failing to recognize the owner’s prints. While some responsibility also falls on the owner to keep both their hands and the scanner clean before using it, this does make the product somewhat unreliable in emergencies.
Car gun safes come with the following two options for securing them to the body of the vehicle:
These holes are pre-drilled, and the majority of car safes come with their own mounting hardware as well. While securing them like this requires effort and limits you in where you can put the safe, it is the safest option as far as preventing the theft of the safe itself is concerned.
Securing the safe by means of a reinforced cable is quite easy, and lets you place it practically anywhere in your car where the cable has a hole to loop through. However, not all safes come with pre-drilled looping holes for security cords, so you’ll have to make them yourself – this could damage the interior lining of the safe.
Furthermore, a determined burglar will be able to cut the cord with the right equipment.
Make sure that you pick the correct interior size for the safe, as per the size of your firearm. The manufacturer will quote both interior and exterior sizes, and depending on the thickness of the body, there may be a significant difference in the two.
The interior must be able to comfortably hold your handgun, as well as at least one box of ammunition. Preferably, it should have a foam lining so your weapon doesn’t get bumped / scratched while you’re out on the road.
In addition to this, the safe must also be able to fit inside your vehicle, in a place that can be easily reached. For instance, a safe that has been built to hold a couple of hefty revolvers may only fit in the console of bigger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs – those with smaller vehicles will have to compromise on the size.
Manufacturers normally do not design their car safes to be as strong as full sized long-gun safes – consequently, the warranty you get with this kind of safe is also considerably meager compared to that on a long-gun safe. You may even come across products with no warranty at all in this niche!
Still, the standard period for most quality products is 1 year, so this should be the lower threshold from where you start looking, unless you’re really tight on cash.
Sporting a hefty 10 GA steel construction, a 3/16’’ lid and a lock made completely from steel, this is the safe to get if you want extreme protection against brute force breaking attempts – prying attacks, drilling attacks, hammer attacks – no matter what the burglar tries, this safe has been built to withstand it.
The safe uses a 5-digit mechanical code lock that can be programmed with 1081 different combinations – this yields faster access than traditional combinational / key lock designs, while also ensuring optimum reliability. Since it is a mechanical lock, trying out all the 1081 possible combinations serially will be a nightmare, as opposed to an electronic lock where a sophisticated burglar would crack it open in minutes.
To help you open the door of the safe easily, it comes with a gas strut mechanism. The interior has ample room for holding a large sized handgun and an ammo box inside it; it bears a thick foam lining to keep the weapon from bumping around as the car moves.
While the safe has not accrued any complaints pertaining to its performance, its large size and the fact that it has to be mounted (via its pre-drilled holes), means that those with especially compact vehicles will have to pass on this one. Other than this minor quibble, this is one of the best gun safes for your car – especially considering the lifetime warranty it comes with!
The Amsec PB3 pistol safe doesn’t make any bold statements: it is a low-cost product designed to provide bare bones theft protection to gun owners on a very tight budget.
Incorporating a robust locking bolt designed to withstand pry attacks, as well as a tamper-proof penalty lockout feature, the safe ensures the security of your handgun against basic theft attempts. You can mount it in your car by means of the pre-punched holes for additional security.
It utilizes an electronic lock that accepts a programmable code by means of five push buttons. This is one of those rare electronic lock safes which doesn’t consume its battery in a single month: in this case, the 9V DC battery will work for more than 5000 openings! You’ll be alerted via an indicator when the juice is about dry up.
The safe has an external power connection available as well, so you can quickly open up the safe in case the internal battery runs out completely – it is impressive to see that the manufacturer has given serious thought to the major issues pertaining to electronic locking systems, then again, I wouldn’t have expected less from a manufacturer as venerable as American Security.
A cushioned interior ensures that your pistol doesn’t get damaged while the car is motion. Surprisingly, the manufacturer offers a limited lifetime warranty with this product – even at its incredibly low cost! This is a good thing too – since there have been a number of complaints pertaining to quality control.
If you’re only in need of a quickly accessible pistol safe that can keep your firearm from falling into the hands of children and unwitting juveniles, you may want to take a look at this unconventional biometrically accessible solution.
In a break from tradition, the safe is made from a weapon’s grade polymer instead of steel – it is thus extremely lightweight and portable. Mind you – the material is bulletproof, the same stuff that is used to make body armor, so it should hold out well against moderate hand-tool based attacks.
You can also secure it further through the four mounting holes that come pre-drilled into it. Obviously, it won’t stand for long against serious hardware such as large sledgehammers, but the manufacturer doesn’t even advertise it as such.
The safe incorporates a sophisticated fingerprint scanner system called ‘Second Touch’, which is comparable to the systems present in smartphones, so you can expect it perform very reliably. Second Touch can hold as many as 200 unique prints at any time, so you can give access to anyone you want. A penalty lockout feature, which produces a loud alarm after 5 incorrect attempts, is put in place to prevent tampering.
The safe, which has been designed to hold most 1911 model weapons with ease, runs on 4xAA batteries which should sustain for roughly 4000 scan operations; a low battery warning relays to the user when it’s time to change them. You also get a tubular key for backup overrides in case the battery runs out or the electronics fail.
My only issue with this product is the lack of a proper warranty policy: the manufacturer only offers a 10 day refund deal, so you’ll have to test it very thoroughly in the first week or so for any design flaws – not that any prominent ones have been reported by consumers.
The 1911 Solo-Vault is an economical choice for handgun owners requiring an understated yet dependable mobile secure storage solution for their firearm.
Made out of 14 GA steel, the safe will be able to sustain the majority of theft attempts reasonably well – obviously not on par with the Fort Knox reviewed above, but more than sufficient for the average gun owner.
Also, given the fact that the safe has a compact form factor that can’t store bigger (and more valuable) handguns, and can be concealed in an obscure corner of your vehicle, it will take a very meticulous thief to spot it!
This safe, too, uses a mechanical lock which accepts a code via five push buttons. You can choose a unique code from over 1000 different combinations. As with the other products sporting this type of lock, it is both reliable and easily accessible.
Most users have been satisfied with the safe’s performance – only a few had issues with the mechanical lock, and frankly, at a low price like this one, it is impossible to ensure QC for all manufactured products. You can always utilize the 1 year limited warranty if the safe develops an issue in the prescribed period.
With its unorthodox RFID lock actuation system, the Hornady Security Rapid Gun Safe promises incredibly fast and reliable access to your handgun while you’re on the road.
The Radio Frequency Identification system is triggered via three types of passive RFID tokens: key fob, card or bracelet. You wave any of these articles in front of the reader, and you’ll be given discrete and swift access to your firearm. The lock can also be opened by means of a digital key code and override key if necessary.
Personally, I’ll advise you to stick with the bracelet when you’re travelling in your car, since you’ll have it on your wrist at all times and won’t have to look for it in a contingency. A word of advice: even though this mechanism is pretty cutting edge, you should ensure that none of the RFID tokens fall into the hands of a child.
As far as its build is concerned, the safe is made from 16GA steel (pretty standard for pistol safes), and has a robust dual-lug locking system that ensures decent theft protection. You can secure the safe to your vehicle, if needed, by means of the included 39’’ security cable that has been tested to withstand 1500 pounds of force.
The Rapid Gun Safe can run on both AC power and a battery pack – for vehicular needs, of course, you’ll make use of the latter option. But in case you’re staying overnight in a hotel, you can easily take the safe with you and plug it into a mains outlet!
The safe comes with a 1 year warranty so you can test it well for any design faults and malfunctions: the most frequent complaint has been about the interior sleeve that is supposed to place your handgun in an optimally accessible position but is prone to jamming up at critical times. Thankfully, the sleeve is removable, so you should get rid of it for more reliable operation of the safe. Removing the sleeve will also give you more room for storing your weapon.
Finding the right gun safe for your car isn’t as daunting as it might seem in a market filled with so many similar looking products: if you’re clear on your requirements (i.e. the size of your car, the type of weapon you’re storing and the degree of protection you require) and know which pitfalls to avoid, you’ll come to the right conclusion. Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two from my guide pertaining to this.
While there is no universal solution that can match everyone’s needs, I personally find the Fort Knox PB1 Original Pistol Safe Box to be the best car gun safe for the average gun owner. It may be costlier than its competition, but it is far superior in its construction, and its mechanical push button lock is the most reliable (if a bit sluggish) option you’ll find. With the lifetime warranty and general lack of complaints about its performance, it’s hard to pass over this one.
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