A reader asked, “What are your suggestions on this front?” in reference to a post on Twitter where I mentioned my wife’s funny misinterpretation of me assisting a friend with selecting a gun safe. My knee jerk answer to that question is, “Get the biggest safe you can afford.” That reaction, however, contains a lot of personal bias and an assumption that we are talking about a gun safe for a residence. As such, I figured this topic might make for a good post and here we are.
There are quite a few things to consider when picking a safe and it’s a topic I’ve only dedicated a brief post to once before. Additionally, safes aren’t the only secure storage mechanism for firearms and I will mention a few others in this post where they are appropriate.
In my opinion, the first thing I think should be considered is location. Am I looking for a safe to secure a firearm in a vehicle, in an office space, a residence, or some place else? The intended location will likely dictate several other factors that we want to consider such as portability, permanence, accessibility, size, and features. Let’s explore a couple of examples.
Consider secure storage for a vehicle. A vehicle provides us with limited space and will expose the storage mechanism to extreme environmental temperatures. This means one would most likely be looking for something relatively compact. Additionally, I would prefer for mechanical locks without electronic features which may fail under those conditions. The next thing I would consider is what the primary role of this storage would serve. In my case, I would look for something that would serve as a theft deterrent in the event a firearm has to be secured in an unattended vehicle. As such, I want something that is more or less permanent, difficult to open, and near impossible to remove from the vehicle quickly. One option that might fit the bill are a lock box, like the Liberty HD-90 Safe, which can be secured with a cable lock to the frame of the vehicle or the frame of a seat that is bolted into the frame. Other options might include a center console safe or a portable safe bag. Granted these options aren’t suited to larger firearms. For those, we may want to consider a sturdy case combined with locks to prevent opening and a cable lock to secure the case to a permanent fixture.
In some cases, one might be looking for something to comply with jurisdictional transport requirements. For these cases, something more portable may make more sense. Once again, sturdy gun cases and ammo cans combined with locks to prevent opening should be sufficient. They can also be combined with a cable lock to secure them against a permanent fixture in the vehicle to prevent theft.
In my mind, office spaces and residences share very similar considerations and, as such, I will combine them. The most obvious difference between these spaces and a vehicle is the amount of space that is available. Even in a small living or work space, most folks have sufficient space available to go significantly bigger than a compact single gun safe that would fit under a car seat. In many cases, folks can also get creative with furniture layout to go even bigger for a large safe that can secure many guns. This is the situation where my default “go as big as you can afford” suggestion applies. I still stand by it for several reasons even when one may not have enough guns to fill it. Actually, that might be better phrased as, “especially when one doesn’t have enough guns to fill it”. This is because chances are folks will acquire more guns over time and there are many more valuables that end up going into this secure storage space beyond firearms that will “fill it”. However, storing many valuables is only one consideration and may not be the most important consideration. Let’s take a step back and look at considerations.
In my opinion, the most important thing to consider is what the most important risk the safe needs to protect against. Theft is only one of the risks and it may be more important in some spaces than others. For example, a gun in a safe in a home in a remote location surrounded by acres of wilderness and space is much less prone to theft than a gun in a safe in the small office space of a convenience store in the middle of a high crime area of an urban setting. However, protection against fire might be more important in the remote rural home than the urban convenience store when we consider fire suppression systems and fire department response times. There is no hard and fast rule here. It depends entirely on the location, the contents of the safe, and the level of protection desired against prioritized risks. Finding a large safe that is good at protecting against all risks gets expensive quickly. Additionally, folks who move frequently or are renting may want to consider a lighter weight lockable gun cabinet instead of a heavy safe that is difficult to relocate.
In terms of firearms as contents for safe storage, we have to consider the role of the firearm as that will also indirectly inform the role of the storage mechanism. In my opinion, firearms that will be stored securely fall into one of two categories. The first is firearms that are intended, perhaps not exclusively, for defense and the other is firearms that are not intended for defense whatsoever. Generally speaking, it is preferable to secure firearms that are intended for use in a justified defense scenario in such a way that they remain easily and quickly accessible only to authorized individuals. For this use case, fast access lock design is an indispensable feature. However, a single large safe with a fast access lock may not be quickly accessible from various locations in the home. Small single gun quick access safes, like the Liberty Safe HD-200 or HD-300, in multiple strategic locations might make sense.
One thing that I often overlooked is that a secure storage solution doesn’t have to be singular. Depending on individual circumstances, a combination of a lighter weight less expensive gun cabinet can be used to secure less valuable firearms, a medium sized fireproof safe box for a few highly valued items, and a couple of strategically placed quick access safes for defensive tools might be a suitable solution.
The most important takeaway, if there is one, in this post is to start by looking at where one wants or needs to secure one or more firearms and then consider the surrounding circumstances and goals to come up with a secure storage plan that fits the budget. Other than that remember: when in doubt, go bigger.