Owning a spectacular array of firearms might be the fun part of being a gun collector / hunter, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Ensuring that your weapons are not accessed without authorization, and keeping them safe from damage are two concerns that will keep any serious gun owner up at night.
Gun safes offer a solution to both of these concerns, but choosing the right one is a whole different ball game: There are so many of these in the market right now, differentiated into a plethora of categories based on prices, sizing, applications etc., that finding the best gun safe for yourself can easily become a serious dilemma, even for those who have owned firearms for years.
Fortunately, you’ve got this gun safe buying guide to help you make the right investment for securing your weapons – I’ve included some reviews of quality gun safes so you’ll have examples to benchmark the market’s offerings against.
Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe Fire Protection for 45 Minutes
59’’ x 28’’ x 18’’
12 GA (4.75’’ door)
1 Year Repair Warranty + Limited Lifetime Warranty Against Fire and Theft
Fort Knox FTK-PB Pistol Box Handgun Safe
4.25’’ x 12.5’’ x 10.375’’
10 GA (3/16’’ door)
SnapSafe Titan Modular Vault 12 Gun Safe
59’’ x 22’’ x 17.5’’
9 GA (7 GA door
1 Year Warranty
Stack-On SS-22-MB-E 22 Gun Fully Convertible Security Safe with Electronic Lock, Matte Black
55’’ x 26.8125’’ x 17.625’’
3 Year Warranty
Liberty 9G HDX-250 Smart Vault Biometric Safe
12.5” x 11.25” x 7”
5 Year Replacement Warranty
Firearms are dangerous weapons that can lead to fatal injuries. In the hands of an unauthorized, inexperienced or malicious individual, they can cause irreparable damage, which is why it is the responsibility of every gun owner to ensure that only they are able to access their collection.
Besides being a moral dilemma, you may even suffer legal consequences if an irresponsible or mentally challenged individual was to gain access to your firearms and damage themselves or others due to negligent handling.
An unreported firearm theft could also be traced back to you and result in you being flagged by the government, if it was used to commit a crime and the criminal was apprehended thereafter.
Even if you’re able to secure your weapons from unauthorized access without using a safe, you definitely won’t be able to keep it safe from the elements of nature. Hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes are but a few of the calamities that could leave your weapons crushed, dented and useless.
A sturdily constructed weapons safe will take the brunt of the damage from such a disaster, ensuring that your prized collection remains intact.
Having a large number of weapons spread out randomly all over your house for purposes other than décor may be inefficient in a self-defense scenario. In a contingency, this would leave you searching for the right weapon as the clock is ticking, not to mention the fact that your assailant may even use your weapons against you!
Modern gun safes have fully customizable interiors and door panel organizers that let you set up your collection in an intuitive and tactical manner, so you (and only you) will be able to quickly access the exact weapon or ammo pouch you require without having to sift through a jumble of guns.
These are the options available to you if you own a limited number of firearms (i.e. a couple of handguns, or 2-3 full sized rifles). These gun safes are made of thinner metal sheets (14GA or more).
These safes will hold one or two handguns at most, and are the least expensive type of gun safe around, everything considered. Obviously, they aren’t the hardiest of the lot, by virtue of their compaction: even their strongest offerings won’t stand for long against a sledgehammer bearing assailant.
These are a subcategory of pistol safes; the manufacturer has designed them in a manner such that they are able to be mounted in the trunk, under the seat or on the console of your vehicle.
These are another subcategory of pistol safes; they pack all of their features, with the added benefit of quick biometric access (at least in theory). I’ll advise you to choose a biometric product very carefully, since they have a quirky performance record at present.
If you want to keep a shotgun or an AR close to your person while you sleep – these safes are an ideal option. They are compact, and you can find them in both thickly built and light varieties to match your budget. Generally, these safes are more durable in comparison with other small gun safes.
These are what most people regard as gun safes. They are built like cabinets, but using thick steel layers (12+ GA), and most (excluding the lower priced ones) come with dedicated fire protection and highly customizable interiors.
The most differentiating characteristic of these products is their long gun capacity – depending on your existing or projected requirements, you should choose a safe that offers a correspondingly larger long gun storage space.
For larger collections (e.g. 10+), I’ll recommend that you pick a product which can store at least 10 more guns than the size of your collection, since manufacturers are known to exaggerate their safes’ storage capacities.
Mechanical locks are normally the best bet when it comes to reliability of operation. Their simple mechanisms are not prone to fai: Electronic locks are preferred for their ease of operation, however, several of the cheaper safes utilizing these are notorious for failing at critical times due to buggy electronics or battery drainage. When choosing a product with an electronically activated lock, always ensure that a mechanical override option is present.
There are three main flavors in which these locks are available:
This is the most basic variety – giving you access to the safe by means of a keycode entered through a digital keypad. The advantage of this system is that you can share it with anyone you want to give access to, without having to actually give up a physical token.
These locks operate on a finger-print actuated mechanism to grant you access to your firearms. They offer a greater degree of theft protection by using a unique trait of the owner as the medium for verification as opposed to a physical or logical token that is much easier to steal.
This relatively novel access mechanism utilizes special electronic tags that activate / deactivate the lock when waved in the sensor’s proximity. This is a lot more intuitive than entering it in a keypad, and also more reliable than biometric scanning. The main disadvantage is that the safe can easily be accessed by anyone who has access to the RFID token.
Whether it’s a mechanical or an electronic lock you choose, I’ll advise you to get one that has a UL RSC rating, since this ensures that it will perform at an acceptable threshold. Obviously, if you do not require such strict protection, or your budget does not allow it, you can go for cheaper options, but don’t expect the same kind of reliability in operation.
There are a number of attributes that will determine how well a safe will be able to withstand burglary attempts:
As a rule, the thicker the steel used for the construction of the safe, the better it will be at resisting hand and power tool based breaching attempts. If you’re serious about protecting your weapons from theft, go for at least a 12 GA thickness. This is what is required by most third party certifications as well.
You’ll find that better quality weapons safes will have doors made of thicker and/or multiple layers of steel. This is because of the fact that the locking mechanism is present behind the door and most crooks concentrate their efforts on breaching it.
Concealed hinges are present on the inside of the safe to eliminate the risk of a burglar simply breaking them off and removing the door wholesale. Some safes also come with external hinges – if you pick such a product, make sure that it has a failsafe door jamming mechanism that kicks into place if the hinges are sawn off.
This will determine how well the door can resist pry attempts made using crowbars, one of the favorite safe breaking methods of criminals. If you want optimal pry resistance, go for a safe that has dedicated anti-pry tabs, 6+ steel live action locking bolts, 3+ dead bolts, and 2 way locking point configuration.
A safe with seam welding, as opposed to point welding, will have better resistance against brute-force sledgehammer attacks because the metal sheets have been continually bound together by a seam.
Shielding your weapon collection from blazes is another key feature of a quality gun safe. Smaller pistol safes will rarely have it, because the manufacturer tends to cut their costs with these products. However, in the case of long gun safes, I’ll strongly advise you to seek a product that offers a decent amount of fire safety.
This means a safe that is rated to withstand 1200F infernos for at least an hour – ensuring that your precious guns will remain intact as you wait for the fire trucks to arrive. As a bare minimum, you may go for cheaper products that can withstand this temperature for half an hour – but only if you can’t afford it or are reasonably sure that your belongings are safe from a fire hazard.
If you’ve gone through as many fireproof gun safe reviews as I have, you’ll also discover that the best fireproof gun safes will incorporate heat expanding door seals that prevent smoke from getting inside the safe. Smoke that has entered the interior of the safe will react with the fireboard’s gypsum water (released as the temperature increases), which in turn will create an acidic mist that will seriously damage the safe’s contents. An intumescent heat seal is the only way to prevent this.
At present, this seems to be a practice utilized by relatively fewer manufacturers, but is absolutely necessary for those who are placing the safe in an environment that is prone to flooding.
Note that this is water resistance i.e. the gun safe will be able to protect its contents in standing water for a certain number of hours. Do not confuse this with actual waterproofing, which is advertised by the majority of manufacturers.
The degree of protection a safe offers is indicated by the ratings it carries. There are two primary classifications pertaining to gun safes: Test Performance Ratings and Construction Ratings.
The latter is concerned with theft protection and is gauged by the material specs of the product. In the case of the former, the safe has to be designed as per a specification and then tested by a third party via a simulated fire or break-in attempt to verify that it adheres to said specification.
One of the most basic classifications you should look for is the one issued by the California Department of Justice. This rating indicates that the safe performs beyond a minimum threshold of theft protection with features such as a 12 gauge steel construction, 3 or more steel locking bolts that 0.5+’’ thick, an RC60 hardened steel plate, protected door hinges and so on.
A more coveted rating is the one offered by United Laboratories, a not-for-profit firm that has been providing standards for third party product testing for over a century. Their RSC rating is an indication that the safe is both theft- and fire-proof as per an established standard. Higher security ratings for gun safes include TL-15, TL-30 and TL30x6.
Intertek is another organization offering well established safety testing for gun safes. Their ETL Mark rating is on par with UL’s RSC certifications, and indicates a high standard of fire safety, according to North American safety standards.
One of the biggest predicaments a gun owner faces when purchasing a safe for storing their weapons is deciding how much money to spend. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from products in the following major price brackets:
These are the cheapest products you can buy, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a full sized long gun safe in this price point (the products which are available aren’t built to withstand sledgehammer attacks).
On the other hand, you can easily find a quality pistol safe in this price range. In fact, for around $250, you can find a good handgun safe with 12GA thickness, gas assisted hinges and reliable locking mechanism.
This cost segment has products most suited to the average gun owner: they pack the right amount of fire and theft protection features to withstand most situations that could threaten your weapons, and come with decent warranties covering manufacturing defects, as well as damage due to fire or theft.
The upper limit for gun safe prices is several thousands of dollars, but as you move up this ladder, you’ll see that you’re getting lesser for what you spend. Products which are well above the $1000 mark will have sophisticated interior customization features, greater aesthetic appeal and advanced lock protection mechanisms. While these features are definitely good to have, they aren’t normally worth breaking your wallet for.
Of course, another factor that can escalate a weapon safe’s price beyond $1000 is its gun capacity – if you’re planning to store munitions fit for a small militia (e.g. 50+ long guns, several pistols and ammo pouches), you’ll find that even those product which provide little more than typical features become quite expensive. This is because of the increased cost incurred by the manufacturer for sourcing raw materials.
Warranties for gun safes follow a simple rule: the more you spend, the better you get – in terms of both duration and conditions of coverage. For instance, inexpensive products will come with no more than 1 year of warranty coverage, and that too will be severely conditional (e.g. the warranty may be non-transferrable). On the other hand, more expensive safes will come with limited (even non-limited) lifetime warranties that cover all sorts of damages, and the manufacturer might even offer to foot the shipping bill in case a flaw was found in their product.
I’ll advise you to look for a warranty period of at least 1 year, since this is enough time for most design flaws (e.g. hinge failures, weak welding, defective lock mechanism) to manifest themselves.
Featuring a robust 12 gauge body thickness and a heavily reinforced 4.75” steel door, this safe is one of the best value gun safes in the market right now as far as critical protection is concerned.
The safe’s strong construction (which exceeds California DoJ requirements) enables it to hold out against hand and power tool attacks for a considerable amount of time, and its pre-drilled mounting holes are reinforced by 0.25’’ thick steel plates to make it impossible for burglars to drag the safe off.
The locking system is especially noteworthy: for starters, it uses a steel hard plate that is 8 times larger than conventional safes – it provides protection to the gear drive, linkages and re-locker, besides the lock itself. 6 live locking bolts and 3 dead locking bolts on the hinge side provide effective protection against crowbar based breaching attempts.
The gear mechanism for driving the lock yields enhanced resistance to pry, drill and punch attacks. An auxiliary relocker serves as backup in case the primary lock is breached. To top it all off, the manufacturer has designed the lock to be EMP resistant, which means it’s secure from electro-magnetic pulse threats as well.
Fire protection features for this safe are also quite impressive: managing to incorporate a 1550F / 45 minute rating and an intumescent heat seal is an indication that Steelwater genuinely wanted to create a product that will give you the best bang for your buck.
This safe has a quoted long gun capacity of 20, but the manufacturer is honest enough to point out that realistically, you’ll be able to store 12 – 16 full sized firearms in it – as such it is best large gun safe for the money for the average gun owner. 4 adjustable shelves will let you organize the interior according to your requirements. The interior also has a pre-drilled hole for installing a complimentary dehumidifying unit inside the safe.
Although the 1 year warranty against defects is a bit short, you probably won’t have to use it, given the products existing track record with consumers.
Sporting an exceptionally strong 10 GA steel construction alongside a trusty Simplex mechanical lock, this is one of the best gun safes in the market if you need a highly reliable and secure solution for storing smaller weaponry.
As if the thick construction wasn’t enough, the door is even thicker at 3/16’’, and is opened by means of a mechanical code (1081 different possibilities are available) – and to make it even more resistant to theft attempts, the hinge is made to be tamper resistant. The safe comes with pre-built holes that let you mount it to a permanent surface for even more security e.g. under your car seat or in the back of your trunk.
A gas strut mechanism is in place to let you open the heavy door at a moment’s notice – you should thoroughly test it once you get your safe delivered though, since a few users have had problems with it. In case there is an issue, you can avail the lifetime warranty with which this product comes.
The safe lacks a hole for looping a security cord into it, so you’ll have to make one yourself – it’s only possible with a power drill though, given the thickness of the build – and you’ll definitely be damaging the foam lining of the interior that way.
If you want a secure place to store a dozen or less weapons in your house, the Titan Modular Vault is one of the most secure and dependable products you’ll come across.
With its 9 gauge walls, 7 gauge door and 8x 0.75’’ thick steel locking bolts, this product will be able hold out against breaching attempts made by even a trained burglar. In spite of its bulkiness which could easily prevent it from being carried off, the manufacturer has provided 2 mounting holes with which you can bolt it down for additional security.
You can purchase this safe in two lock variations: a UL Listed SecuRam digital lock as well as a LaGuard mechanical lock – regardless of the option you go for, the lock will be augmented by a spring loaded relocker that kicks into action whenever the primary locking mechanism is breached.
Equally impressive is the safe’s 2300F / 1 hour fire rating, which is achieved by the incorporation of ceramic fiber blankets into the build, as opposed to traditional fireboard panels. A heat expandable door seal ensures that your possessions will not be harmed by smoke entering into the safe, in the event of a fire.
While the quoted long gun capacity is 12, you should realistically expect room for 8 weapons in the safe’s lined interior. Adjustable shelving will allow you to set it up as per your needs. This is a modular safe, which means you’ll have to assemble it at home, but the Kwik-Lock Modular Assembly System ensures that this won’t be a hassle.
There haven’t been any noteworthy complaints about this product from consumers – this, coupled with its commendable feature set, makes it a strong candidate for the best gun safe for home defense in the current market. That being said, given its $1000+ tag, the 1 year warranty offered by the manufacturer comes off as a little meagre.
While it isn’t be the most robustly constructed storage solution, if you’re short on cash, the Stack-On SS-22-MB-E is one the best cheap gun safe options at present:
Sporting a reasonably strong steel build, and a lock secured by a reinforced hard plate, this CA DoJ rated safe will yield ample protection against small-time crooks and overly curious adolescents. The lock is operated via digital keypad, but you also get two override keys as a backup in case the electronics cease to function; given the low cost, there is a distinct possibility of this happening.
The safe has a reduced number of locking points as compared to mainstream long gun safes: 3 are live action bolts while the rest are hinge-side deadbolts. The hinges are concealed to make it impossible for burglars to cut away the door.
A praiseworthy feature of this product is its considerably roomy, carpeted interior, which can hold as many as 22 full sized rifles. It also has molded barrel rests to enable better organization. There are four adjustable shelves too, that let you configure the storage to suit your needs.
It was also surprising to find that the safe comes with a 3 year warranty: this is more than what is offered with products priced higher than this one – in my opinion, this merits the title of the best inexpensive gun safe.
At present, the majority of biometric pistol safes can’t be relied on to work flawlessly in the event of an emergency; but thanks to its 5th gen fingerprint scanner, the Liberty 9G HDX-250 Smart vault is a highly reliable biometric storage solution that is a rare exception to this trend.
It has the smallest rate of failure among all such products in the market, and takes no more than a couple of seconds to grant you access, whether it is operating on DC battery or on an AC-to-DC wall adapter. It can also store up to 15 unique fingerprints simultaneously, which means you can authorize a good many individuals if so required (especially useful for offices and stores). A mechanical backup key is also provided, to be used if the electronics malfunction.
The door is made to open automatically after recognizing your print, so you can have access to your weapon with minimal effort. Because the safe can run on both on DC battery and on a wall adapter, it will serve you equally well as a portable secure storage solution and a bedroom gun safe.
The 14 gauge steel construction is more than sufficient protection for securing small weapons, and will deter all but the most determined burglary attempts. Reinforced latching and dedicated anti-pry tabs further add to its theft protection.
No major complaints pertaining to performance and design flaws have been reported for this product, but in case you run into one, there’s a 5 year replacement warranty that you can utilize.
Now that you’ve reached the end of this guide you will hopefully have learned a thing or two about choosing the best gun safe for the money you spend. More than this, the point I wanted to get across is that it is impossible to say what the best gun safe brand is: you’ll need to consider your personal requirements - weapon size and quantity, potential threats, portability / permanence, budget and so on, before committing to a particular product.
With that said, my personal favorite is the Steelwater Heavy Duty 20 Long Gun Safe: it is modestly priced and packs a ton of features: 12 GA body with a 4.75’’ thick reinforced steel door, a substantial 1500F/45 min fire rating and expanding heat seal, strong EMP resistant lock with a gear driven operational mechanism for maximum protection against theft, and a 1 year warranty repair warranty to boot.
Combine that with some seriously positive user feedback and you’ve got one of the best gun safes on the market. Again, this is just me though: depending on your specific requirements, you may find an even more suitable candidate.
Guns and Security provides reviews, guides, news and entertainment for gun and survival enthusiasts.
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