• Corey Fuller

Best Gun Safes for Home Defense

Gun safes are an essential investment for any gun owner. The right safe will keep your firearms locked and secure from home invaders, fires, and children. When choosing the best gun safe for home defense, there are a few things to consider, but the first question you must ask yourself is, why do you want a gun safe? Do you need it in your bedroom to secure your bedside gun? Perhaps you want one you can also travel with, so it needs to be TSA-approved.


Answering why you need a gun safe for home defense will help shape your decision criteria regarding the size, type, and features of your desired gun safe. This article will arm you with the knowledge of how to pick the best gun safe for your unique situation. We'll discuss what makes each safe different and how one can use them to protect their family and property. So, if you're in the market for a new gun safe, read on! We'll help you find the perfect one for your needs.

Why do you want a gun safe for home defense?


In any security project, you need to define the mission and scope of the project. If your task is to buy a safe that can protect your bedside firearm, the size and features may be different than if your mission was to buy a safe to protect all your guns. There are a variety of different types of gun safes available on the market, so it is essential to choose the one that best suits your needs. If you are looking for a gun safe to store your home defense firearm, you will want to choose one that is easily accessible in case of an emergency. On the other hand, if you want to keep your guns away from criminals and children, a gun safe that is not as easily accessible may be a better option. Whichever type of gun safe you choose, ensure it fits your home security plan. Click here to learn more about how a gun safe fits into an overall home security plan. Keep your mission in mind when comparing the features below.


What to Look for When Purchasing a Gun Safe


Gun Safe Size

(Picture from browning.com)


The size of a gun safe is an important feature to consider before purchasing a gun safe. When considering the size of a gun safe, one must consider both the safe's internal dimensions and the exterior. When determining whether or not the safe is the correct size externally, one should ask where they will place the safe in the house. After choosing a location in the house, take out your tape measure and see what size safe the area will accommodate.


Choosing the right size gun safe following your internal dimension needs is more complicated. No one should believe the number of guns the safe says it can hold because it does not consider the optics, lights, lasers, etc., on your firearms. To make a realistic estimate of the size safe, you will need internally choose a safe that claims to hold twice the amount of guns you need to be stored. So if you have 21 guns, you must keep a 42-gun safe at a minimum. This rule is not perfect, as all guns are not the same size, and there is no uniform standard to determine how many firearms will fit in a safe. Still, If you pick one at least twice the size you need, it will be close.


Gun Safe Weight


Generally, the heavier a safe is, the more secure it will be. Heavier safes are harder to move, making it more difficult for thieves to steal them. The heavyweight usually coincides with thicker gauges of steel, making it harder to penetrate. Another typical feature in heavier safes is more layers of fireboard, giving you increased fire protection. One should not rely on safe weight alone as a security measure. If a 600lbs safe can use bolts to lock it down into the floor and a 1000lbs safe does not, then the 600lbs safe is likely the better option. One should look at all features of a safe before making a decision. For the same reason, heavier safes are harder to steal; heavier safes are also harder to move around for the consumer. If you are looking for a gun safe you can take on an airplane; then a lighter safe may be the best option. You must weigh the pros and cons when determining what safe weight is right for you.


Gun Safe Locking Mechanisms


Key operated latch

(Picture from browning.com)


You most often see the key-operated latch on small key-operated safes and gun cabinets. Despite the commonality of this mechanism, they are the least secure locking mechanism found on modern gun safes. These locking mechanisms only have a small metal bar to prevent access. This mechanism may prove sufficient if your only goal is to keep your firearms out of children's hands. The one pro this type of mechanism has is that they are relatively inexpensive. A key-operated latch will save money for individuals operating on a budget.



Locking Bolts

(Picture from browning.com)


Locking bolts are the most common locking mechanism on modern gun safes. These serve as the industry standard as they offer an excellent level of security, and companies can manufacture them at an affordable price for most people. The one con to locking bolts is that some possess weak points at the attachment point that holds the bolts to the angle bar. During a prying attack, thieves can bend or break it if this attachment point is weak to gain access to the safe.


Locking Bars


(Picture from libertysafe.com)


Locking bars are the most secure locking mechanism for modern gun safes. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive locking mechanism. Safe manufacturers developed these locking bars to overcome the weak points found in using locking bolts. Instead of using an attachment point, locking bars are one solid piece. If you can shell out the coin to purchase a safe using this locking method, it will serve as the most secure method of locking your safe.


Mechanical Vs. Electronic Locks on Gun Safes


When selecting a gun safe, you should seek to find gun safes that possess UL-listed locks. UL-listed locks have been verified for reliability by UL Solutions, a third-party safety science company. No matter what type of lock you choose, it will be best to choose one they tested.


Mechanical Locks


Mechanical locks are great because they do not rely on a power source to open them. The problem with mechanical locks, such as a dial lock, is that they are slow to open and less user-friendly. Suppose you are using this gun safe to store your home defense firearm. In that case, you are choosing to sacrifice speed for reliability.


Electronic Locks

(Picture from browning.com)


Electronic locks use fast keypads or biometrics to open gun safes. These locks are the most user-friendly and quickest way to access your firearms. If you decide to use an electronic lock, you are sacrificing reliability to gain more speed to access your gun. The reliability concerns stem from the need for a power source to open the safe. No one can determine how fast you need a firearm.


Still, you will likely need less time if you properly secure your home with a layered approach featuring obstacles and early warning devices. In any case, I prefer redundancy or minimum consequence of component failure when choosing security measures. Some safes feature both an electronic and mechanical lock. While they may lack in other areas, these safes may serve best as home defense gun storage options.


Gun Safe Construction


Three main types of gun safe construction are found with modern gun safes. There is a five-piece body construction, three-piece body construction, and two-piece body construction found on modern gun safes. The five-piece structure is the least secure method of constructing a gun safe. Because each piece is welded together, the larger number of welds makes more potential weak points criminals can attack using prying methods. The three-piece construction is the next strongest, and the two-piece construction is the most robust way modern gun safes are constructed.


Unfortunately, 3-piece and two-piece methods cost more due to a more expensive manufacturing process. When conducting your home risk assessment, you need to consider what type of threat you will likely encounter in your area to make an informed buying decision. After determining the danger and the likeliness of facing that threat, use that to decide how you need your safe constructed to counter the threat.


Gun Safe Fire Resistance


When developing a home security plan, families must also plan for fires. Families must learn to protect themselves and their most valuable items from fire. Gun Safes can protect your firearms and other valuables. When choosing a gun safe, check fire resistance by looking at the temperature limits and how long a gun safe can protect its contents. A house fire can reach up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.


If your fire department has a fast response time, you may choose a gun safe with less fire resistance. If you live in an area where response times are slow, you may want to choose a safe with more fire protection. The choice is yours, but once again, you can make more informed decisions on the best safe to choose by completing a home security assessment.


How to Install a Gun Safe


Simply having a well-made safe is not enough to prevent theft. Security professionals use a layered approach to securing assets, and home defenders should also utilize this principle. In a layered security approach, one places obstacles and other security measures around an asset with increasing strength levels the closer one gets to it.


For one's home, they could consider the property perimeter the first layer of defense. The property owner could utilize CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles to deter criminals in this layer. One might consider the exterior door the next layer, where they use alarms and locks to detect, deny, and delay criminals from entering. Properly installing your gun safe adds another layer of protection to your property. It may not eliminate all possible threats, but it will at least delay criminals from accessing your belongings. Employing a sound home defense plan lowers that risk even more. If you want to learn more about how to set up a home defense plan, I suggest checking out Home Security: The Secure Dad's Guide.

Large Gun Safes


When installing a large gun safe, you must first identify the type of flooring and subflooring in the area where you intend to place the safe. Softer flooring like carpet, wood, laminate, and linoleum typically has wood subflooring that requires a wooden anchoring kit to install the safe. More challenging floors like concrete lend themselves more complicated and require more research and pre-planning for installation. When installing a gun safe on concrete, you need a concrete, specific anchoring kit and to verify your floor is not a post-tension concrete floor. Post-tension flooring creates a dilemma because drilling directly into this type of flooring could cause structural damage, great bodily harm, or even death. Remember why you have guns in the first place, and that is to preserve life. Do not risk your life or another by not verifying what type of flooring you have. If you are unsure, do not rely on the stamping on the floor and have a professional or the contractor that built the house come out and assess the floor.


Once you verify the type of flooring you have and can drill through, the process for most modern safes is the same.


  1. Lift the bottom of the safe to reveal the caps covering the anchoring holes.

  2. Lift the floor caps and drill the size hole indicated by the safe's manufacturer.

  3. Clean out the drilled holes, ensuring there are no obstructions.

  4. If installing on a soft wood floor, place the kit washers on the anchoring bolts and install them with a socket wrench. If you are installing on a concrete floor, hammer the anchors in before installing the bolts with a socket set.

  5. Return the caps and safe floor as they were before installation.

All safes vary in recommended installing procedures, but this gives you the gist of how to get it done. If you are not the handiest person in the world I recommend hiring a professional or purchasing a safe with concierge installation services.


Small Gun Safes


Small gun safes like bedside pistol safes are much easier to install and much more vulnerable to theft. Still, I recommend securing them rather than simply leaving them on the nightstand. By securing them, you can add an extra layer of difficulty to a would-be thief. Some small bedside safes allow direct mounting to surfaces such as a wall, desk, or nightstand, such as the GunVault Speed Vault.


For quick access safes that do not allow direct mounting, you can use methods such as attaching them to a desk or nightstand with a cable lock. Although these types of safes do not give the user the most secure option, it still provides sufficient access prevention from children and less sophisticated criminals.


The Different Types of Gun Safes On the Market


Biometric Safe: Biometric gun safes are a type of gun safe that uses the user's unique fingerprint to open the safe.

(Picture from Vaultek)


Pros:

  • Quick Access.

  • Easy to Use.

Cons:

  • Most models only let owners program one user (Newer models allow for multiple users).

  • Electronic locks can fail; without a backup entry method, they could run out of battery when you need it most.


Rifle Gun Safes: Rifle gun safes are larger gun safes meant to hold rifles. Manufacturers group them into size categories based on the number of rifles they can store. These can be heavy-duty type gun safes or locker-style gun safes.


Pros:

  • The larger size allows them to hold different items, such as handguns and ammunition, along with rifles as intended.

  • Larger safes are usually heavier, making it more difficult for criminals to break in or steal them.

  • Typically tougher and more resistant to fire and other safety hazards.


Cons:

  • The larger size can make it challenging to find a spot to place it in your home (although they now make under-the-bed and closet rifle safes).

  • Rifle safes are typically more expensive due to their heftier structure.


Pistol Gun Safes: Pistol gun safes intend to hold smaller handguns and usually make for small safes. Most of the bedside gun safes available are pistol gun safes.

Pros:

  • Pistol safes are small and can fit in various locations at one's home.

  • Pistol safes are lighter and more portable allowing one to use them for multiple roles, such as travel and bedside gun safes.


Cons:

  • Pistol safes are easier to steal. If they cannot open the lock quickly, it is usually easy to take to the whole safe with them.

  • Most small pistol safes do not offer great fire or flood protection.


RFID / Bluetooth Gun Safes: RFID / Bluetooth gun safes use a phone application or an access key like a card to open the safe.


Pros:

  • RFID access keys can be speedy and easy to use.

  • Suppose the safe is both RFID and Bluetooth accessible. In that case, it gives you a primary and secondary access method if one fails.


Cons:

  • Electronic locks can fail if not properly maintained and charged

  • If using a Bluetooth application on your phone, you must have it charged and on your person to access


Bedside Gun Safes: Bedside gun safes come in various shapes and sizes. Some can fit rifles under the bed or with locker-type safes, while others work with pistols, often sitting on nightstands or mounted to a wall or table.


Pros:

  • Most are quick access and designed with home defense in mind.

  • They can fit in different homes, from small apartments to large dwellings.

  • Prevent children from accessing firearms while keeping home defense weapons accessible.

  • Less expensive than larger traditional gun safes.


Cons:

  • Not as secure as most traditional heavy-duty gun safes.

  • Not as fast as keeping your home defense weapon unlocked. (Not a good option if you have children to keep guns unlocked).


Travel Gun Safes: Most manufacturers design travel gun safes for either vehicles or air travel. Some travel safes are large enough to fit rifles under a seat or in a car's trunk. Other travel safes can fit handguns and work in the car or at the airport.


Pros:

  • Allow one to travel safely with firearms.

  • Many are easily accessible and used for multiple purposes, like a bedside gun at night and a car safe. If you carry a firearm, but your work does not allow firearms, you could take your gun during your commute and place it in a safe before entering work. While leaving a firearm in a car unattended is never ideal, a safe will offer more protection than your car alone.


Cons:

  • Not very secure compared to larger gun safes.

  • The best airport safe will not be the best vehicle safe, so if you want the best for both purposes, you will need to buy two different safes.


Mechanical Lock Gun Safes: As mentioned earlier, mechanical lock safes are slow but the most reliable.


Pros:

  • The most reliable lock design.

  • Less maintenance is required because no batteries or electricity is needed.


Cons:

  • Harder to open as mechanical lock opening is a dying skill and will be harder under stress than other electronic options.

  • Slower access makes it less than ideal for storing your home defense firearm.


Electronic Lock Gun Safes: Electronic lock gun safes use some form of electricity, but most often, a battery to unlock the safe.


Pros:

  • Quick access makes it ideal for storing a home defense firearm.

  • Easy controls like a keypad or a biometric unlocking feature.


Cons:

  • Less reliable than mechanical lock safes.

  • Require more maintenance than mechanical lock safes.


Dual-Lock Gun Safes: Dual lock safes use different unlocking mechanisms to offer more reliability when one method fails. An example would be a biometric safe with key access and no electricity.


(Picture from Velotrex)


Pros:

  • Very reliable because it has two methods for unlocking the safe.

  • It offers the best of both worlds with quick access capability and mechanical reliability.


Cons:

  • Most safes like this are not constructed with the most secure materials or locks.


How to Choose a Gun Safe for Your Needs


Choosing the best gun safe for your needs depends on your mission, environment, and inventory. If you only have one gun for concealed carry and home defense, then a small bedside gun safe would work well for your situation. At the same time, you may want to purchase two gun safes if you own many weapons. One quick access safe to store your home defense firearm out of reach from your children and a more robust safe to prevent criminal access. A traveling professional may need to buy a TSA-approved gun safe to store firearms while traveling. If you use a long gun for home defense, you need a large enough safe with quick access to secure your long gun. A homeowner may have more room for a larger safe than someone living in an apartment. It is impossible to guess the perfect gun safe for everyone's unique needs. Consider your mission, environment, inventory, and home defense plan when making a safe purchase. In that case, you will be on the right track. This guide above will give you the knowledge to make the best decision for your situation.


About the author: Corey Fuller is a gun writer for GunPrime, the senior security consultant for Fuller Security Solutions, and a partner at Heroes Academy. When he is not writing about firearms, he spends his time helping organizations with their security plans and training in self-defense.


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