Keep your guns safe, in a safe

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An elderly man down the street from me had his firearms stolen a few days ago. He had them in a locked box and hidden away but the thieves knew exactly where to find them, which makes me think it was an inside job (it is a bit awkward to ask someone if they have any nephews on drugs, so I did not ask). He was very upset about the sentimental loss of antique guns, which he had inherited, and the guns he competed with in his younger days. He was not concerned about the monetary value since he would never have sold them. Like him, I would never even consider selling any of my guns and the loss of them would be absolutely heart-wrenching. The moral of this story is that you should invest in a safe or other security system that can’t be accessed or removed by even a junkie-relative who knows where you keep them. A quick Googling of safe prices showed a 24 gun SentrySafe safe for $800 delivered and a Stack-On 48 gun safe for $1200 delivered. You can probably find them for cheaper if you do some dedicated Googling.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • John

    I always went by the rule your “safe should cost twice as much as your most expensive gun” but now my safe is worth 1200 and my most expensive gun is 3.5K so now my measure is weight and can Cleve and his lackey carry it out over a weekend and my answer is no Sr. they can’t. They’d have to take the door off just to get it out of the room its in widthwise.

    • Matt

      A gun safe is better then no gun safe, but a determined thug is going to show up with a heavy duty hand truck and wheel one of these out of the house in under 15 minutes. That is how long it took the delivery guy to get a 600 lb safe into my house and down a flight of stairs. The safe is now welded to anchors set into the concrete floor and wall.

      • Draxanoth

        A 600lb safe is pretty light so it’s not too surprising. I think mine was a thousand+ empty. A light safe is better than none though. The sight of it alone might be enough to make them look for something easier to steal.

      • Alex-mac

        If you can’t afford a proper safe, probably better to buy a dodgy one and use it as a distraction safe. Put a couple of ‘antiques’ in it, dud credit cards and cheap faulty guns. Hide your real guns and valuables somewhere else.

      • http://www.weapon-blog.com Aaron Spuler

        That’s why you bolt the safe to the floor.

  • Kevin

    That is a real shame, but it does happen.

    A safe is always a good idea, but for those with larger collections, or those that like to store their firearms on the wall for private display, a gun room is a more suitable option, and can usually be built for under $2,000.

    Double layer of 3/4″ plywood on the outside of the walls with a layer of either expanded diamond plate, chicken mesh, or rebar mesh sheets sandwiched in between.

    Add either a metal exterior door (no window) or a lightweight vault door, which can be had for under $500 new if you look around

    Bar and add a translusent coating over any windows in the room.

    Voila, instant gun room for relatively little money, time, and if you are handy and do it yourself, just a few days of work, and it should satisfy any requirements regarding gun rooms, as this usually exceeds what qualifies as an armory room for the military.

    Just my .02

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      I would love a gun room, the problem is you need a unused room.

    • Jim

      I agree. When I built my house 7 years ago, I had the builders make me a small room in the basement under our front porch mainly for a tornado vault. The entire room is poured concrete with rebar in between. The only part lacking was the door and to frame it out like a room with wood and electricty. I found a local safe company who dealt with making gun rooms and had him fabricate and install a metal door for me. Now, that room is my gun room and tornado vault in one. I took my old gun safe and put it in there as well. Much better peace of mind for my family and my guns.

  • Draxanoth

    Even though any secured enclosure is a good idea for weapons, a cheap safe likely has 12+ gauge steel walls and few door bolts on it. They’re pretty easy to get into with a pry bar or a wood splitting axe. Make sure you read the stats before you buy and understand how secure the safe you’re getting is designed to be.

    I would expect to spend at least double what this article suggests if you want to have something a bad guy can wail on with a pickaxe for a half hour and get nowhere.

    Also as an FYI, I believe the fire department instructs not to store ammo in your safe. Ammo needs to be in a solid but breathable container so it can vent pressure, and most safes seal themselves airtight to provide their fire protection rating.

  • lex

    you seems to have jumped straight to “relative on drugs” for some reason. A greedy bastard seems just as likely.

    • JM

      Most of the time a relative on drugs IS a greedy bastard.

      • Nater

        Nah, they’re just sick. Drug addiction is a disease, it’s not any different than Type 2 Diabetes. You may be genetically predisposed to it, but you give it to yourself. Most people have a hard time accepting this because they equate “disease” with “excuse”, but that’s not really accurate.

        That said, half of my old friends from high school are the ones I most worry about stealing my stuff. I have pity on them for their wretched lives, but I’d never trust one of them alone in my house not to steal anything. They don’t know where I live and I intend to keep it that way.

  • Armed Partisan

    Just make sure you buy a good safe. Ask a locksmith, they’ll usually have very good insights on the subject.

    Here’s a good 40 minute video from Defcon hacker convention on the kinds of safes and lock boxes that most of us consider, and showing how easy it is to break into them with basic, easily acquired tools. Harsh language.

    • James

      That is a great video – a little long but a good way to spend a lunch break

  • Lance

    So buy me and Jdun a safe please Steve ;)… LOL

  • Nater

    Just like everything else I buy, I invaribly want the best safe. Good safes that are very thief and fire resistant are not cheap. I’m mainly looking at a particular model from Canon (CA33). Not only would it keep my guns safe, it would keep my data safe. It has electrical and ethernet connectivity, so I could also put the NAS in there.

    The other big problem is moving the goddamn things. I don’t own a home and I move every three years or so. I wouldn’t look forward to having to move 700 odd pounds of safe, even if I’d be hiring other people to do it for me.

  • Axel Nordberg

    In Sweden we’re required by law to have a gun safe that holds a certain standard. I got a small one for $500, but it’s bolted to the wall (as required by law for safes under 300lbs).

    I don’t like admitting that a law like that made me do something good, but it’s actually quite nice to know that the guns won’t be accessible to the _average_ apartment burglar.

    • Leonard

      Same here in Germany. Guns may only be kept in a safe that fulfills certain (DIN / EN) standards. While German gun legislation is far from great from a gun-owner’s point of view, this particular part of the law doesn’t really bother me: It makes sense to ensure that unauthorized persons cannot access your guns.

      It doesn’t necessarily have to be criminals, it can be as simple as keeping the guns safe from your own children. The shooting spree in Winnenden (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnenden_school_shooting )
      would never have happened had the father of the shooter kept his Pistol in a safe as required by law.

  • Kevin

    The lowest UL burglary rating is RSC, and it means that the safe will keep out one guy with minimal tools for 5 minutes. This is the absolute minimum you should buy if you want to keep out anything but a curious child. You might notice that the cited stack-on “safes” can’t pass a test that shows that they can keep out one guy for 5 minutes. If you look you’ll see that virtually all the “safes” sold at the big box and sporting goods places are not US burglary rated. They are essentially big boxes of thin sheet metal and drywall, often with cheap Chinese knock-off locks.

    They are fine for keeping curious 8 year-olds out. They are not so good for keeping out a couple of energetic tweakers looking for their next fix.

    This is what a big box “safe” gets you. Actually, it is an RSC, so it is better than most big box “safes”.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBhOjWHbD6M

    By the way, at your house, where do you keep your pry bars, circular saw, angle grinder, electric drills or other tools that would help someone open a safe?

    Most residential burglars are going to ignore a safe. They did with mine when they broke in. In that cases, assuming you locked the door, it doesn’t matter how crappy it is. I did had a friend who forgot to lock his safe one day, every few months the cops bring him another of his guns. …

    However, if you want to keep out determined people you need a better safe, which is why people who want better security should talk to someone who sells safes to commercial firms for a living instead of someone who sells guns or lumber for a living. Used commercial safes can be enormous bargains and many safe guys have a warehouse full of them.

    There is supposedly an old insurance rule of thumb that says a safe should cost about 10% of the value of contents. I can’t find a source but it seems pretty reasonable.

  • Komrad

    Does anyone know of any other solutions for securing guns besides safes? I don’t mean hiding them or anything like that, but there must be other options.
    Even if said options are not as good, it is always best to know about all possibilities before making a decision.

    • Alex-mac

      Elaborate hiding spots should keep them safe.

      But only if the person robbing you isn’t someone with inside information. Usually that’s the case, they overhear things or information is passed on in gossip and they come and rob your house, as they are certain it contains valuables.

      In the latter case I would advise a distraction safe. They’ll take it with them to open later, believing it contains what they are looking for.

    • Bob jones

      Most safes that are made in america/mexico have internal bolt holes and this is how they are attached to the palate. Bolting them to the ground is the best method you can do; If you have the opportunity to bolt a safe down you should, obviously there are times when you cant such as you are on a raised structured house or it is on the second floor etc. but the advantages of bolting a safe down far outweigh the reasons not too. When a safe is tipped over you just got 3 times the amount of pry strength because now gravity is working with you instead of against you, also with a grade 4 self tapping bolt that you can find at any hardware store a tornado wont even take the safe if you can get at least 2inches of thread on 2 bolts.

      • Bob jones

        i apologize i read the op as ” alternative was of securing safes”

    • Billca

      Do not delude yourself with cheap “safes” that are nothing more than heavy gauge stamped sheet metal. These glorified paint lockers are fine for keeping kid’s away, but offer no real protection from an adult. These are sold by Stack-on, Homak and others.

      Lower end safes, like Liberty and Canon will deter thieves best if they are bolted down and there is limited room to use a pry bar for leverage. In slab foundations, drill holes and fill 2/3rds with new concrete, position the safe and drop the lag bolts from inside the safe. When dry, the safe will be quite secure.

      Cute hiding spots will probably be known to experienced residential thieves. Your clever spot has probably been used before and they can find it if they have time to examine the house.

      Deny them that time with an alarm system. If burglaries occur in your area, ask people for references to good alarm companies. Many have promo or basic deals that cover two doors and two windows. If that’s too expensive, look to DIY kits with a loud alarm bell mounted outside.

      Have a walk-in closet? Replace the hollow-core door with a solid exterior type and a locking door knob and/or deadbolt. Keep it locked when you’re away as yet another barrier. Push for adding your bedroom closet door to the alarm system for free, at least for the first year as part of the sale.

      There are makers of custom “concealment” furniture that allow you to conceal a handgun in various types of furniture. There are also wall safes that fit between the 2×4 studs in the walls and are screwed into the studs with flush-fit locking doors. Handgun units hide behind paintings. Long gun vaults can hide behind light furniture or a hinged wall mirror.

      Hide away things that say gun owner too, like that box of shotgun shells or the Glock hats. This will keep a snoopy guest on his way to/from the bathroom from peering into your bedroom and seeing gun-related items. This also means keeping your gun books and magazines discretely stored, not on coffee tables or stacked on your desk.

    • http://goo.gl/mpM1K EntropyWorks

      Looking for an alternative to a that standard gun safe I found BedBunker on Amazon.com http://goo.gl/mpM1K

      Replace that box spring with a heavy duty locker / safe.

      http://www.bedgunsafe.com/

      They have other options too. Like in the floor safes.

      • Bryan S.

        And say goodbye to your back. Box spring is there for a reason…

    • Jaime Capra

      There are plenty of options besides gun safes. As @aeronathan mentioned it’s all about layering security measures.
      Here are over 100 tips, some of which others have mentioned. Most are cheap too, they just require your time.

      http://gunsafereviewsguy.com/articles/how-to-protect-your-guns/

  • Sian

    This is also a good reminder to have all your firearm serial numbers on file somewhere safe, so in the case that you are burgularized, you can have those serials flagged as stolen in the even they show up at pawn shops or such.

  • MarkM

    Gun thefts seem to have a high correlation to being exhibited in the prior 6 weeks, usually to someone who’s tagged along as a “friend.”

    Don’t show your guns off, no one will know they are there. Just like not asking about a relative, bringing up the issue that a gun owners ego is the #1 problem doesn’t happen much.

    “I’ve got this cool gun” = theft on their part. Oops, now you don’t have that cool gun. Too bad, got one over on you.

    Never show off guns at home – you just showed them what room they are in, how they are stored, and what you have.

    Safes are a good idea, but in another light, show that the owner knows he can’t protect his property and that others will know what he has. He’s aware he has two strikes against him, and has to use a safe to make up for an unwillingness to exercise a much tighter, self imposed security regimen.

    Get the safe – stop showing off your guns – reduce the risks. It’s still all about you. :)

  • Bob jones

    Being in the safe sales industry i can easily say the most important anything any of you guys can do is please just dont buy a chinese made safe… made in mexico arent bad and are the best alternatives to an american made safe but if you really have a decent collection you have to get an american made safe. Look into Liberty, superior and prosteel safes. A quick youtube of gunsafes chinese vs usa shows alot.

    • fw226

      I managed to find one made not too far away from me just outside Fort Worth. Now I just need to get it bolted to the ground!

  • aeronathan

    Always think in terms of layered defenses too. Make it hard to get into your house in the first place.

    IF they do get in, make sure you have a security system so they have a time limit to go after your safe.

    BGs generally don’t want to get caught in the act so if the security system is going nuts, they probably won’t attack a safe that looks even moderately tough to crack.

    Mine are in a good safe and there’s NO way to even get to my safe without tripping the motion sensor. Additionally the security system is connected via hard line AND the cell phone network so cutting phone lines is a no go.

  • http://www.billbarrphotography.com Bill

    Costco frequently has excellent monthly deals on safes, including gun safes. I saved 40% off MSRP with mine with a monthly special offer.

  • http://www.702shooter.com 702Shooter

    Great post. I was just watching a video where a guy turned his closet into a hidden room for keeping guns and such in. The thing that caught my attention was that any friend or family member would most likely be aware of this and know what you had inside as well as how to access it. It was an interesting idea but I’d still but a heavy safe in it.

  • carter

    I used to parade my guns into a locking job box when I went on vacation, and that was behind a locked closet door. I got to the point where I was afraid NOT to have a safe, not because of any real threats but because houses do get broken into and I just wanted my stuff in a safe place when I was gone.
    I also put my custom knives in there as well as important documents. There came the day when I wanted to pull a few rifles out and sure enough the wiggling and lifting saw the shelf with all my knives fall and land in a heap at the bottom of the safe. And that is, I suppose, is my biggest beef with the removable/adjustable shelves. I understand now that safes aren’t the best permanent places for knives, they also create issues with brass discoloration. I learned the hard way – lol, so you don’t have to.

  • DRod

    I’ve been mullig over this topic for a while now. I live in an apartment complex on the second floor. I have asked the landlord if I could bolt a safe down. She said no.

    I need to find something I can do till I find a house. :(
    I thought about chaining to pipes, but I don’t think a shotgun sticking out from under my sink is going to work.

  • Michael

    Do you lock them up when you leave the house for a few hours?
    A friend did not, he returned home to find a BG in his house. The BG had found his 45 and started shooting at him with it.
    I returned home with a young lady one night, left her alone in the bedroom while I visted the bathroom, my loaded glock was in the bedside table, nothing happened but made me think how easily things could have gone wrong.

  • Monkey Brains

    That safe has hinges on the outside.

    FAIL.

    • BillCa

      Actually, on a well built safe, the exterior hinges will have little effect, other than wasting the thug’s time. A good safe has locking lugs on the hinge side too. Cut the hinges off and you still won’t open the door. Nor will it “fall in” since most safes have a steel retaining seal behind the door edges.

  • http://lockinggunracks.com Don

    Keeping your guns in a secured place with the key & ammunition stored separately in a safe place will definitely deter gun theft and keep them away from small children. This will also limit personal liability from unsecured firearms. Also as an extra precaution, I suggest writing down all serial numbers, model numbers and descriptions of each gun with photos and storing this information separately. This will be very beneficial if, for some reason, they are stolen. It will also make it a lot easier for police to recover the guns and return them to the rightful owner when the thieves are caught or the guns sold to Pawn Shops, etc. This information will also be beneficial in insurance claims of stolen firearm.