We may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you click on a link and purchase a product. How it works?
When you own one or more firearms, you need to give them reliable protection from theft and damage. A gun safe is the most effective solution. The question is how to select one which works reliably and has great durability and functionality. Use this detailed gun safe buying guide to help you out.
Begin with the Legal Requirements
Some state gun protection laws set precise or more general standards that gun safes have to meet. They should be basic guidelines for you when you make a choice. Usually, manufacturers and dealers add information on whether the respective product meets the state standards on the packing. In California, where the standards are extremely specific, there is a roster with the approved devices. To make things easier, you can use an online tool for checking if a specific model number meets the standards.
Select the Size Carefully
While the guidelines and tips on how to choose a gun safe are pretty straightforward, the choice of size is strictly individual and requires a lot of thought. The primary factor to take into account when making a decision is how many firearms you plan to store. Most manufacturers use gun capacity as an indicator. The models with 16 to 20-gun capacity are the most popular, but you should always take your current needs and future plans into account. If you intend to expand your collection, which happens with most gun owners eventually, you should go for a bigger model.
When deciding on the size and capacity of the gun safe, you also have to take into account the ammunitions and accessories which you will store inside. It is common for gun owners to use their safe for other purposes too. Indeed, if you plan to invest in a high-security fireproof and waterproof safe, it makes sense to keep other valuables such as jewelry and documents inside too. Given all this, most experts agree that you should purchase the biggest gun safe that you can afford given your security and damage protection requirements and the amount of space available in your house.
Rifle buyers and owners, in particular, should look more closely into the height of the gun safes which they consider. Measure the tallest rifle that you have with the scope off and allow at least 6 inches of extra space to determine the optimal height.
Solid Construction Is Essential
When buying a gun safe, you have to ensure that it is strong enough to resist physical attacks. While all models have steel construction, you have to focus on how thick the door and walls are. Experts recommend a minimum of 7-gauge steel construction for the door and 10-gauge for the walls. Still, a 0.25-inch steel plate door construction paired with 7-gauge steel walls will give you a considerably higher level of protection. In general, the greater the thickness of the door and walls is the better.
The welds are far more important for the integrity of the safe than most people think. The safes with continuous welding and those with full penetration body welds are more secure compared to those with the so-called seam welding. They will remain intact for longer in case heat is applied to them either during a fire or as part of an opening technique.
There is a choice between gun safes with external and internal hinges. The external hinges have been the industry standard for quite some time because they enable the door to open to 180-degrees giving you easier access to the firearms and other valuables inside. They have other benefits too including easier and quicker gun safe delivery with the door being detached from the body and more convenient servicing. While internal hinges give the safe’s exterior a refined look, they do not add to its security.
The weight of the gun safe is a factor which is often underestimated during a purchase, while it is extremely important for security. The device should be heavy enough to make it difficult for thieves to remove from the house. It is considered that a weight of around 750 pounds is sufficient for improving the security of the gun safe considerably.
The Right Type of Lock for You
There are two main types of gun safe locks to choose from: mechanical dial and an electronic keypad. It is worth looking at the pros and cons of each one to make the right decision. The electronic keypad is the more popular choice at present primarily because of its ease of use. Another major advantage is that you can change the access code easily as often as you want. This can help you maintain a high level of security all the time. How about downsides? You need to keep spare batteries on hand for replacement when the indicator light comes on. If you change the access code often, you must ensure that you will remember it to avoid a lockout. Just like all other electronic devices, electronic keypads sometimes fail.
The major advantage of mechanical dials over electronic keypads is their strength and durability. They can remain intact and work smoothly for decades. The major downside of the dials is that you have to spin them manually after closing the door and pushing the handle. Without this, the lock won’t be engaged. Additionally, changing the combination requires more time and effort.
It is up to you to decide which lock will be better for you. If you opt for an electronic keypad, make sure that it has a UL 768 Group I rating for maximum security. This is the best rating for mechanical dials, even though those with UL 768 Group II rating offer sufficiently protection from thieves.
Key Security Features and Ratings
It’s easier to go straight to the security ratings which are based on both the construction and features of gun safes. However, since you will be making a major investment, it pays off to look at the details more closely. The bolt system is the main security feature to consider. The more and thicker bolts there are the better. The most basic option is to have two bolts on each side of the door. Among the most advanced solutions are the diagonal bolts at the corners of the door.
A lock with added protection will also improve the security of the gun safe. The anti-drilling features are now becoming more commonplace. These are hardened pins which pop up when a power tool is used to drill the lock. It’s practically impossible to retract them unless the thief has hours to spend on the task.
There is a complete system of security ratings in place, but which to go for when buying a gun safe? You should make a choice based on the value of the firearms and other items which you will keep inside. For example, the models meeting the UL RSC standard, formally known as Underwriters Laboratories Residential Security Container standard, are suitable for home use when the value of the items doesn’t exceed several thousand dollars. The system makes it really easy to pinpoint the ideal security device for you.
Fire and Water Protection
When buyers ask what to look for in a gun safe, many specialists say that fire protection is even more important than thief protection. This is because fire can destroy the contents of the safe completely in a very short time without special protection in place. That is why it makes sense to invest in a fireproof safe. Even though the level of protection which you will get is difficult to determine with complete accuracy, there are some basic things which you should look for.
Insulation is used to make steel gun safes resistant to fire. There are various materials used for the purpose. The most commonly applied material is gypsum board, which offers the most basic protection, followed by fiberglass-reinforced gypsum fireboard, ceramic wool blankets and poured concrete amalgamate, which is used in high-end safes. The thickness of the insulating material and the size of the area covered by it are also major factors for the protection from fire. The door seal is another feature to look at when you are evaluating the fire resistance of a gun safe. It should be as tightly fitting as possible and provide protection against smoke and heat. In general, it should also protect the contents of the safe from moisture.
When it comes to fire ratings, things could be a bit tricky because not all manufacturers use the same independent laboratories for testing their products. If you want to be on the safe side, you may want to consider models with UL ratings. In general, ratings reveal how long the safe can provide protection for at a specific temperature. For example, the UL 350 Class – 1 HR rating means that the device can keep the items placed inside intact for 1 hour below a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In this gun safe buying guide, it is worth pointing out that there are not many models offering water protection. Still, you should look at them more closely, if you live in an area prone to floods. The most important thing is for the gun safe to have a rating from an independent lab. The rating reveals how long the contents will be protected for when the device is sprayed or submerged in water of a specific amount. It’s essential that you look into the details more closely.
Outline Your Design Preferences
Many buyers believe that once they’ve found a gun safe which is big enough and offers effective protection from theft and fire, they’ve done their job. The thing they forget about is the internal design of the safe. There are numerous configurations to choose from and different kinds of stands and racks to add. To make the best choice, take into account the types of firearms which you will store and their number followed by the ammunitions, accessories and other items that you want to put in.
If you own a considerable number of rifles, get an appropriate rack. Currently, some of the trendiest and most functional options include free-standing rotating rucks and door-mounted ones. If you have primarily smaller guns, you may want to add drawers to your safe, as they provide additional protection. There are three popular shelf configurations. You can choose between a layout with top shelves, side shelves or a combination of both. While the interior design can be configured in the future, if necessary, it is more cost-efficient and safer to come up with the most practical layout in the very beginning.
How Much to Spend?
Gun safe prices range from around $200 to $1,500 for customized models. While it is normal for every buyer to set a budget, it’s crucial that you don’t compromise with the minimum thief and fire protection requirements. With the help of this gun safe buying guide, you should find it easy to tell genuinely high quality from marketing hype. In general, it pays off to focus on models from the top industry brands when you go shopping to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Don’t Forget Installation
With proper installation, the gun safe can receive great additional protection. The location of the device is extremely important. Ideally, it should not be in plain sight, but this does not necessarily mean that you have to place it under the bed or in the attic. Another key thing is for it to be away from power tools which could potentially be used for its opening.
The foundation which the device stands on must be very strong, preferably concrete. With heavy-duty fasteners, it will stay firmly in place. It is best if the safe’s sides are surrounded by other structures, preferably walls, as this will make drilling through them much more difficult. Given all these requirements, it makes sense to hire a gun safe installation service instead of going for DIY. This will help you get the highest level of protection and ensure that there is practically no risk of breaching the warranty.
You now know how to choose a gun safe. Follow all recommendations and tips shared here and evaluate each model carefully to make the right decision.