While a large sized, expensive safe can be an attractive commodity for nearly all gun owners, it isn’t needed by every one of them. Gun collections can be of any size: a few dozen, half a dozen or just a couple of expensive pistols – and regardless of their size, the owner will want to protect his weapons from any foreseeable threats.
Unfortunately, the majority of gun manufacturers tend prioritize the creation of solutions focused on bigger sized collections (15+ weapons), relegating the smaller ones to thinner building materials, reduced fire protection and cheaper locks. As a result, it can be difficult for owners of lighter collections to find some quality storage.
Gunvault GV1000S Mini Vault Standard
13’’ x 8.5’’ x 5.5’’
Sentry Safe Biometric
3.2’’ x 12’’ x 9.9’’
Fort Knox FTK-PB Pistol Box Handgun Safe
4.25’’ x 12.5’’ x 10.375
SnapSafe Trunk Safe
10’’ x 48’’ x 16’’
14 GA w/ 7 GA door
SnapSafe Titan Modular Vault 12 Gun Safe
59’’ x 22’’ x 17.5’’
7 GA w/ 9 GA door
Nevertheless, it is possible to find the best small gun safe for yourself if you are stoic enough to filter through the market. But I’ve created this guide to make that job much easier for you: you’ll learn about the factors you need to consider and flaws you need to avoid, and I’ve also included several choice small gun safe reviews to give you a place to start from.
Handgun / Pistol Safe
This is the smallest (and cheapest) kind of safe you can find, and tends to have the least security. The reason being that it will normally hold a weapon that is inexpensive and/or easily replaceable, and that it will be inconspicuous due to its small size.
Its primary purpose is to provide protection from minor theft attempts and to keep the weapon away from the reach of children.
Under the Bed / Car Trunk Safe
This type of safe is larger than a handgun safe – sufficient to hold a single long gun / shotgun and/or 2-3 handguns at the same time. Because these safes hold a greater number of firearms, they are bigger targets for burglars, and hence are manufactured with thicker steel and stronger locks.
Small Long Gun Safe
This isn’t a small gun safe per se: it’s basically the smallest size in which a typical long gun safe is available, fit to hold around 10 fully sized rifles. Such a safe will have a very strong construction, a reinforced lock, fireproofing and a heftier price tag.
As mentioned before, most manufacturers tend to offer relatively weak offerings in terms of core construction strength when it comes to smaller sized safes. This is why you need to be extra careful about the gauge number / mm thickness mentioned in the specs.
In general, if you’re looking for decent theft protection in a smaller handgun safe, go for at least a 16 GA thickness. This relatively thin construction is acceptable for this form factor since you’ll likely be keeping the safe close to your person and/or concealed (e.g. in your bedroom or car) where a hand tool / power tool based attack is unlikely.
In case of an under-the-bed-safe or full length safe, look for a minimum of 14 GA in thickness, since its size will make it a target of opportunity for any burglar who enters your home, so a tool-based attack will be more likely.
In both cases, make sure the product you choose comes with dedicated anti-pry protection to impede attempts made using crowbars, levers etc.
Because smaller safes are less costly, they are more accessible to the average consumer, and thus they have a greater number of user reviews that provide valuable insight into their performance and reliability. Make sure you scour these reviews for critical feedback such as hidden flaws and pitfalls in warranty claims which may not be evident otherwise.
It is rare to find a mini weapon storage solution that offers fire safety, unless you go for a smaller full length safe. This type of safe is overkill for a pistol owner, but those with a frugal collection of expensive rifles will definitely find it useful.
Lock Type and Rating
You can find both mechanical and electronic locks on small gun safes. For the best reliability, go for a mechanical key or combination lock, since it doesn’t rely on any battery to operate. Electronic locks offer faster access, but are notorious for failing, especially in smaller products where the manufacturer goes light on their quality to cut costs.
To be absolutely sure that a lock will perform satisfactorily, choose a product with a UL Rated lock, which guarantees an agreeable degree of reliability of the mechanism, and is also required by most insurance companies for coverage.
Small gun safes, especially those with electronics involved in their locking mechanism, are prone to developing faults after a few months of usage. Even if you’ve got a product that has a wholly mechanical operating system, it’s better not to leave things to chance: I’ve personally experienced a hinge failure in a mechanical pistol safe I had a few years back, and I couldn’t get my money back because I’d gone for a cheap product with a 30 day warranty!
Bottom line, the lower cost of these products means there’s a greater overall risk of some fault surfacing, so I’d advise you to look for at least a 1 year warranty.
No Secondary/Backup Unlock Mechanism
For those who want to get an electronically activated weapons safe, it is vital to look for an option that comes with a mechanical override key. Electronic elements can fail at random, and unless you’ve got an alternate way of accessing your safe, you’ll be locked out of its contents.
Again, this is a concern for those who wish to get an electronic safe: there are a few safes which are great in all aspects, but they go through 4-6 batteries during one month. Even if you can put up with this nuisance, I’d advise you to thoroughly ensure that the safe can be operated by a mechanical backup, that isn’t tied to the battery level.
If you don’t want to be replacing your safe’s batteries periodically, it’s better to go for a mechanical option, or seek a product which comes with an AC adapter to provide continuous electrical power to it.
Made out of 16 gauge steel and an appreciably strong locking mechanism, this safe is more than sufficient to keep children from accessing your firearm (and the rare non-professional burglar as well).
You can get the safe in both electronic code and biometric lock varieties, but I’ll advise you to stick with the former since it is far more reliable and will drain the 9V battery less quickly. The product incorporates a very intuitive No-Eyes® Keypad for entering the code, with buttons arranged in a manner that perfectly fits the user's fingers, so you’ll be able to rapidly access your weapon – even in the dark.
There’s a low battery indicator to cue you when it’s time to replace it (both audio and LED) – it is a useful feature for the GV1000S, since one of the more frequently occurring complaints about it is the rate at which it consumes its battery.
Some users have also experienced trouble with its build quality, which indicates a poor quality assurance process – but at such a low price-point, this is a risk you’ll have to take. The safe comes with a 5 year warranty for burglary and fire, as well as a couple of backup override keys for use when the battery runs out or the electronics fails.
While not the best pistol gun safe by a long shot, this product will definitely serve those who are looking for a cheap secure storage solution.
If you’re in the market for a reasonably reliable biometrically operated pistol safe that doesn’t break the bank, the Sentry Safe is one of the best mini gun safes you’ll come across.
The safe is constructed from heavy duty 12 gauge steel and packs a pry-resistant door, which is a huge plus for me personally – since this is the type of strength you’d expected from a fully sized safe. Furthermore, the door is augmented with a gas strut which lets you open it silently in the blink of an eye – perfect for emergency scenarios.
The biometric scanner is designed for recognizing up to two unique fingerprints, in a reliable and quick manner. While there are a few users who have had trouble getting it to work, most have been fully satisfied with the performance of the scanner – which is saying alot considering the low overall cost of the product.
Besides the biometric scanner, the safe can also be accessed by means of a code entered into its silent electronic keypad. An override key is provided for emergency access in case the electronics ceases to function.
The safe requires 4x AA batteries to operate, and as with most other electronic safes, it goes through several during the course of a month. The safe has accrued some complaints pertaining to its build quality (mainly its weak keypad buttons), but the 1 year warranty it ships with gives you ample time to give it a thorough trial.
Packing a rock solid 10 gauge steel construction and an old-school Simplex mechanical lock, the Fort Knox FTK-PB Pistol Box is one of the best handgun safe choices for those who prioritize serious theft protection and reliability of operation.
The door of the safe is even thicker than the rest of its body at 3/16’’, and is unlocked by means of a mechanical combination code (you can choose one from a total of 1081 different combinations). The door hinge has been built to withstand tampering attempts, and the safe also comes with pre-drilled holes to secure it to a more permanent surface for home users.
There isn’t any place for hooking up a security cord by default, which might be a slight turn off for those who wanted to use this safe as portable secure storage. Still, you can create your own, provided you have a power drill on hand. The interior has a thick foam lining to prevent scratching of your weapon.
This product also has a gas strut mechanism to allow for quick opening of the lid, but it has given trouble to some users, which is why you’ll want to test it properly for any issues. The safe comes with a lifetime warranty, which should cover any problems you may come across.
The Trunk Safe, made from 14 gauge steel and featuring an even thicker 7 gauge steel door, is a highly secure and spacious option for people who want storage for more than a single pistol: Its 10’’ x 48’’ x 16’’ size is more than enough to stash away 2-3 rifles alongside a pistol or two.
The strong build is made to withstand attacks from both manual and power tools. For added security, it can be bolted to the floor, or fastened by means of the 4’ long and 10mm thick security cord which it comes with.
The safe has internal hinges supplemented with gas shocks so you’ll be able to lift its door with relative ease. The lock is operated by means of a digital keypad powered by AA batteries; in case of an electronic failure, you can use the mechanical backup keys that are supplied with it.
While not a very aesthetically appealing solution, it will nevertheless fit well in the back of a car or under your bed. It comes with a lifetime warranty, which is an indicator of the manufacturer’s confidence in the quality of their product.
This closet safe from SnapSafe is a readily to assemble, modular storage solution that provides serious protection against theft and fire, for a small number of full sized weapons.
With its 7 gauge door, 9 gauge walls and eight 0.75’’ steel locking bolts, this safe can satisfactorily resist brute force attacks using pry-tool and sledgehammers. It is available in both LaGuard Mechanical lock and UL Listed SecuRam digital lock variations; both are backed up by a spring loaded relocker.
While the safe is massive enough to prevent a thief from carrying it off, you can still bolt it down using the 2 mounting holes which come pre-drilled with it.
It also features a hefty 2300F / 1 hour fire safety rating (made possible through the use of ceramic fiber blankets in the walls, as opposed to wallboard), as well as expandable heat seals along the door to protect your precious collection from an inferno, even if you live well away from a fire station.
The lined interior can hold 12 long guns, and has adjustable shelves to fit your exact requirements. Assembling the safe in your home is a breeze thanks to its Kwik-Lock Modular Assembly System, which doesn’t require any tools to set up.
While almost users have been happy with the safe’s quality and performance, I found the 1 year warranty to be a bit stingy for $1000+ the price the manufacturer asks.
Now that you’ve gone through the guide, as well as various long gun and handgun safe reviews I’ve included, you’ll see that there are plenty of options at your disposal:
Whether you’re on a tight budget and want a cheap, low-investment pistol safe, or a fully-fledged anti-theft and fire-proof long gun safe, you’re bound to find the right match if you know what to look for. The diversity of this market is also the reason why I can’t recommend a single product as the best small gun safe.
If your requirement is to store a couple of handguns, then you may want to consider the Fort Knox FTK-PB Pistol Box Handgun Safe or something similar. If you want to store a small number of long guns, then I’d suggest getting the SnapSafe Titan Modular Vault 12 Gun Safe, or if that’s too expensive, a product with a lesser degree of theft and fire proofing – the reason I advise you to stick with a 10+ capacity safe is that this way you’ll have future proofing in case your collection grows in size over the years!
Guns and Security provides reviews, guides, news and entertainment for gun and survival enthusiasts.
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