Buying A Gun Safe

Dear Technoid,

Thanks for your recent response to my question (question from a novice-about purchasing a new gun) I’ve decided to take your advice and put off buying that new gun. But, it sure is hard.

Do you have any opinions on gun safes? Browning vs. Winchester vs. Liberty vs. Am Sec. etc. ?



Dear Thomas,

I don’t have a very strong opinion as to a particular brand of gun safe and do not have a lot of experience with a broad range of them. On the chance that I haven’t covered the “safe” issue before, I’ll tell you what I know now. If it is at odds with something I said before, pick the opinion you like.

If you just want to keep young kids out, one of those thin steel cabinets that lock will be fine. If you want to keep an intruder out, then any one of the “vault” type safes will do it. Nothing is doing to keep out a determined burglar who is willing to spend some time, but that type of robbery is rare.

A friend of mine was a New York State Trooper (before he got into politics) and one of his jobs was lecturing groups on “burglar-proofing” the home. He said that the vast majority of burglars took less than ten minutes to go through the house. If an item wasn’t readily accessible, it wasn’t taken. Anything that was in a safe is going to be pretty safe, unless the burglar knows what he wants, has the tools required and is in a position to take the time.

I have a Browning brand safe and it seems just fine. The dial-set combination lock has worked reliably for a number of years. Nothing has broken. I guess that a safe is something like an anvil in that you don’t expect anything to actually break. I am certain that a thief could get in there if they were really determined, but it would take a long time and some experience.

In buying a safe, I would look first to size, then to features. Trust me on this one- you want the biggest safe you can afford. You will never have a gun safe that is too large. Never. I can’t tell you how many of my friends bought a safe just the right size to suit the firearms and other stuff that they had and then proceeded to outgrow its capacity. They were forced to buy a second safe at a far higher combined price than they would have paid for one really large one in the first place. Make sure that you get the capacity you will need down the road, not just for now. Junior Technoids- where safes are concerned, BUY BIG! You can always fill it up later.

My particular safe did not come with peg board on the inside of the door. I removed the solid metal sheet and installed peg board. The peg board is a great place to hang pistols. If the safe came with a peg board on the inside of the front door, that would be nice and save you the effort of the installation.

All sorts of interior arrangements are offered. I use my guns frequently, so I opted for the “Easy Out” setup. It is sort of a “U” shaped gun rack. It isn’t quite as space efficient as a storing the guns in rows, but you don’t have to remove a whole bunch of guns in front to get to one in the back. My safe also has some shelves on the side, but I would have been better skipping the side shelves and using that area for long guns. A single shelf located above the guns would have been enough for me. Get the interior tailored to your needs.

By the way, I store my guns MUZZLE DOWN in the safe. This does a couple of things:

1) any errant oil (I try not to every use too much) drips forward, not into the head of the stock; and

2) resting muzzle down takes pressure off of the wrist of the stock. On my slim wristed hunting guns this helps to avoid having them take a set.

Combination lock: I have a standard S&G dial safe lock. I have to put my glasses on to operate it. A combination dial lock is also somewhat confusing to operate and it is harder to remember the combination if you don’t use it all the time. Some of the new safes have pushbutton locks and I would have found those more convenient. It all depends on how often you are in and out of the safe.

Rust guard: Gunsafes are a great place to grow rust. If you live in a humid area, you are going to have to do something about rust prevention inside the safe. I use a “Golden Rod” heating element. I raises the temperature inside the safe very slightly. This effectively changes the dew point and lowers the chances of condensation. The Golden Rod combined with a wipe-down with Birchwood Casey’s “Sheath” rust preventative each time I put a gun away has worked for me. Some people like to use a desiccant cannister- the kind that are full of special pebbles that you dry out in the oven. I have one, but it fills up so quickly that I don’t bother with it any more. Use what works for you, but make sure that every now and then you pull all the guns out and wipe everything down inside and out just to be sure. Once rust has started, the gun will tend to re-rust in the same place very easily.

Another feature of the safe that you have to consider is how you are going to get it in and out of the house. This is a real concern. Make sure that you can get your measuring done ahead of time so that it will fit through the doors and hallways. Running a 36″ safe through a 35″ doorway means some carpentry.

Another important aspect of buying a safe is the transportation and installation. Make sure that you know what the cost of delivery is and exactly what that delivery entails. Many safe companies will deliver from the factory to your drive way. It is a LOOONG way from your driveway across the lawn down the cellar steps and into the corner of your basement reloading room. Make SURE that you have made arrangements to get that safe to its final resting place before you sign on the dotted line. This is not a detail you want to forget unless you want a permanent monolithic lawn ornament.

One final thought- spending a bunch of money on a safe may seem to be an extravagance at first, but once you get one you will wonder how you lived without it. Not only is it virtually mandatory to keep your guns in a safe if you have children, but it is also a nice place to put the other valuable stuff that you don’t use daily in addition to your guns.

Just remember what I said above, buy a BIG safe. Give your self room to grow.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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