Use gun safes for firearm security

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 09:56 PM

Firearms ownership in the United States is more than a tradition. It is a Supreme Court affirmed right. Firearms sales have doubled in the last ten years as more and more Americans have made the decision to become gun owners. It is amazing just how many new gun owners I train these days. Some, at some point in their lives, have had experience with guns but many are firing the first shots of their lives.

This newfound interest has different sources. Some are discovering recreational shooting due to the new TV shows about shooting. Some are taking up hunting in the interest of getting closer to their source of nutrition. In a world where stories about demented publicity seekers committing evil for the sake of becoming famous, some are deciding to take some responsibility for their own safety. Based on FBI statistics, these new gun owners are making the right decision. With firearms sales doubling in the last ten years, violent crime has decreased over the same period.
With rights, come responsibilities. While legally owned firearms can save lives, stolen guns can be used in crime. It is the individual responsibility of every gun owner to ascertain their firearms never fall into the wrong hands. There are methods of securing single firearms like lockboxes, cables, and trigger locks but for maximum security, there’s no substitute for a purpose built locking gun safe.
Gun safes come in two major categories, security and fire protection and security only. Security only safes can be just as secure as safes that cost twice as much. They have hardened steel walls but there is nothing to keep the guns stored inside within survivable temperatures in the event of a fire. Generally, they are smaller and they tend to be much less expensive.
Safes like this work well for the casual gun owner. Since they are smaller, and considerably lighter, it’s easier to find space and get them where they need to be. The downside, besides the lack of fire protection, is the light weight. A thief could conceivably carry off the safe and guns. This can be remedied by bolting the safe to a wall or the floor with the bolt heads inside the safe.
Fireproof safes are generally much more expensive and heavier. Most have the ability to keep guns at a reasonable temperature for twenty or thirty minutes. This ability comes from thick walls with insulating material inside. They normally have much more plush interiors and provisions for storage with adjustable shelving and racks for the guns. The fire resistant safes also come in larger sizes, normally holding 24, 36 or 45 guns.
There are limits to the effectiveness of fire resistant safes. In a fire, the safe heats up and the air inside expands. When the fire is put out, the safe cools and pulls moisture into the hot safe. Unless the guns are rescued immediately after the fire, the guns are trapped in a steam closet that will ruin wood and turn them into rust, and locks are not likely to yield to simply dialing in the combination. Your best guarantee that a fire won’t cost you a lot of money on lost guns would be a good insurance rider from a company that specializes in insuring guns or collectables.
There are different ways to access your safe, some safes use keys, but most are combination operated safes. There are two types of combinations, mechanical and electronic. I prefer electronic combination safes. Most use a four or six digit combination with pushbuttons. They are easy to operate, fast, and reliable. The ease of operation is why I prefer electronic locks.
Mechanical locks are much slower and require much more attention to make them work the first time. I have noticed over the years that these safes are often left unlocked because of the effort required to open them and this is why I don’t own one. I know how lazy I am and I know I’d do the same and defeat the purpose of having a safe.
Remember when you make the choice of a safe, consider your individual needs. Fire protection is good, but you’d be remiss to think the fire protection aspect is certain to protect your guns. For casual firearms owners, a small six or twelve gun basic safe will suffice. For those with collections of valuable guns, a better safe will allow more sound sleep. No matter which type of safe or lock system you choose, you should always buy twice as much safe as you need. It is a universal regret I hear when talking to folks about their gun safes.
So how effectively do gun safes protect your valuables? Even the most rudimentary safe is better than hiding the guns under the bed but no method is 100 percent effective. I know of one situation where a 600 pound safe full of 36 guns was dragged through a house and carried off. The owner had another safe that was dragged to the door but left there for some unknown reason.
For certain, gun safes are an asset to the gun owner or anyone who owns valuable items they wish to protect. Choose well and you’ll sleep better when you’re out of town.
Dick Jones is a freelance writer living in High Point. He is a retired competitive shooter, and NRA Certified Instructor. He captained numerous National Championship Teams. He is a Distinguished Rifleman and an NRA Certified Rifle, Shotgun, and Pistol Instructor. He teaches NC Concealed Carry Classes and does public speaking for clubs and organizations. You can visit his website at and contact him at