The Best Gun Safes

Gear We Use
The Best Gun Safes

Responsible gun owners secure their firearms from unauthorized users. There’s really no two ways about it. Between kids and criminals, no household can escape the possibility of a break in, and gun owners owe it to their communities to do what they can to keep their firearms locked up.

But the sheer variety of gun safes and cabinets can be overwhelming. Safes feature a range of sizes, materials, and locking mechanisms, and can be had from $50 to $5,000. To help cut through all that noise, I asked the MeatEater crew about how they secure their rifles, shotguns, and handguns—and why they made the selections they did.

What We Look for in a Gun Safe

Different safes are made for different purposes. Some are meant to be accessed quickly and can be secured under a bed or in a dresser drawer. Others are more properly called gun “cabinets” and feature thin metal walls and a key lock. Others are designed to house a person’s entire gun collection and can withstand fires, floods, and acts of God. Whatever safe you choose, there are several factors you should keep in mind:

  1. Security Features
  2. Locking Mechanism
  3. Price
  4. Size

The Gun Safes We Use

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does represent a broad swath of gun safes and cabinets available. If you’re looking for something between Kevin’s Champion and Spencer’s Stack-On, check out this Cannon 12-Gun safe, this Pro-Vault 18-Gun Safe from Liberty Safes, or these Agile Ultralight gun safes.

What Makes a Good Gun Safe

1. Security Features

This is the biggie, obviously. A gun safe that isn’t safe won’t do you much good. First, consider the thickness of the steel used in the safe’s construction. High-quality units use 10- to 12-gauge steel in the walls and a quarter-inch thick plate in the door. Also consider the type and configuration of the bolts used in the door. Even in gun cabinets that don’t use heavy-gauge metals, some units feature better security than others. This Stack-On gun cabinet, for example, uses welded z-tabs on the door to protect against pry attacks.

Second, be sure you can attach the safe to your floor. A well-prepared burglar will be more than happy to cart away your safe on a dolly and worry about breaking into it in the comfort of his home. This is especially important for quick-access handgun safes that can be picked up by hand.

Finally, try to find a safe that comes with at least a one-hour fire rating. Fire ratings for safes aren’t standardized, so look for a safe made in the U.S. from a reputable manufacturer.

2. Locking Mechanism

Different locking mechanisms come with inherent advantages and disadvantages. Electronic and biometric locks are more reliable than they were in previous decades, but there are still reasons you might want to go analogue.

Combination locks don’t need batteries or any other maintenance. It’s more difficult to observe the combination, and even if a sneaky kid figures it out, they still have to master the sequence (turn left, skip three times, turn right, skip twice, etc.).

However, combination locks are slow and inconvenient if you access them frequently, which is why electronic and biometric locks have become so popular. These locks require batteries, but they can be accessed almost instantaneously. It’s also easier to change the combination.

Older biometric locks faced reliability issues, but the one I own has never failed to open immediately (check out my “Field Notes” below for details).

3. Price

Dropping $800 or $1600 or $3,000 on a safe just to keep your guns secure can feel like a cruel joke, but if you want a heavy-duty safe that can withstand a house fire, there’s no way around it.

There are a few caveats to that generalization. First, if you only need to store four or six long guns, you can find a quality, fire-resistant safe for less. This Cannon 12-gun safe, for example, is a very reasonable $350.

Second, if you’re strapped for cash, remember that anything is better than nothing. If all you can afford is a gun cabinet with a key lock, that will often be enough to dissuade curious kids and opportunistic burglars. MeatEater’s Janis Putelis and Spencer Neuharth told me that they’ve always used gun cabinets to secure their firearms.

"They're in my price range and do what I need them to do: keep them locked away from my kids," Putelis told me. "If they burn up, I'll have to buy new guns. I'm not a collector of things, just experiences and memories."

4. Size

Because high-quality safes are so expensive, you don’t want to run out of room. It’s nearly impossible to fit as many rifles in a safe as most companies advertise because those estimates are for guns without scopes attached. You also may want to store other items (ammo, jewelry, important documents), so pick a safe that can accommodate your needs.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

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