gun safe buying guide

Handguns, rifles, pistols, and other firearms are highly lethal, more so if it landed in the hands of burglars and children. Regardless if you own a single handgun or multiple long firearms, it’s important that you have a gun safe to secure it to. This gun safe buying guide will help you find the one that suits your weapons and the place where you’re going to place it.


Security issues with guns

The number one concern about gun safety is that children are curious. According to a CNN report, about 1,300 innocent children die in the U.S. every year due to accidental shootings and other gun-related injuries. There are at least 5,700 average gun injury cases in the stretch of 2012 to 2014 alone where 21% is unintentional.

Reported cases noted that there are children bringing their parents’ guns to school out of curiosity. One time in 2011, a third-grader in Seattle packed a gun on his schoolbag, dropped it accidentally inside the classroom, and sent a bullet straight to his classmate’s abdomen. The child survived, but this case spoke a lot about parents’ and guardians’ inability to secure such a powerful weapon.

gun safe buying guide

Burglary is another thing. Instead of using it as protection for your family, your own gun becomes the enemy when the burglar takes hold of it. About two to four million burglary incidents happen in the country every year. Without a gun safe, firearms can easily be stolen and even used against the owner. This is exactly the reason why I came up with this gun safe buying guide.

What should you look for in a gun safe?

Gun safes aren’t made equal. It’s important that you get one that suits your type of firearm and the environment where you’ll be placing it. The manner of using it, including how many times you’re going to open the safe, is also an important consideration. For starters, the following aspects are crucial when buying their first safe.

gun safe buying guide

Size and capacity

If you have rifles and multiple firearms, getting a small safe is a big mistake. You might squeeze in the firearms altogether and even leave some outside once the collection grows bigger. Such a thing will defeat the purpose of having a gun safe. Invest in a safe bigger than what you actually need. This will give enough breathing space for the guns and you can store other valuables you want to keep away from the hands of children or burglars.

The rule of thumb is a safe at least six inches taller than your longest firearm. Of course, the overall external size of the safe depends on how much space you can sacrifice on your home. A 30-gun safe isn’t a practical choice for all gun owners since it will be bulky and can spark the curiosity of the people who will see it.

If you have a single handgun, you might want to purchase a safe that can fit three. In case you need more room for a pistol, you won’t need to buy another gun safe. It’s the best advice this gun safe buying guide will probably give you.

Fire safety and security level

The UL recommends a rating of 350F for an hour of fire cladding as the best bet for a gun safe. Fire accidents can happen in any home or vehicle so it’s important that you get a safe that passed UL tests. Most gun safes in the market use ceramic wool blanketing or sheet-rock to insulate the safe under extended exposure to fire and intense heat. Remember that shells and cartridges will fire when burned.

Take note that the UL only rates how fireproof the material used in the safe and not the entire safe itself.

You should also factor in the risk of burglary posed to your property. According to the National Council for Home Safety and Security, homes with no security systems are 300% more likely to be broken in. Also, there’s burglary happening every 13 seconds. If burglary cases in your locality are rampant, you should consider a safe that’s harder to crack open.

gun safe buying guide

If your address is published and you’re a known gun owner in your community, you badly need a gun safe with the most intricate locking mechanism. Following this gun safe buying guide will give you added protection.

Locking mechanism

The problem with gun safes is that they’ve been digitalized. The safe can be opened using a password, fingerprint detection, and voice activation. Older children can easily figure this out, much more an experienced burglar. This is the reason why mechanical locking mechanisms never get old. They are more detailed and unlikely to encounter electronic problems. Mechanical locks also last for years without too much maintenance or fixing.

Choose a locking mechanism that’s been certified by the UL. Most of the time, it would be the slow, mechanical locks you hate. About 90% of safes nowadays are secured by electronic locks and it makes more problems more than it solves them.

Don’t get me wrong, digital locks can also work but choose one of the UL Type I models. These high-quality digital locks can last a decade or so if well-maintained. It may cost more but it saves you from the dangers of cheap locks that will fail in just a few months. Make sure to change the passkey to your digital locks since the finger imprints will start to show on the pad in a few weeks.


When it comes to the steel material, the lowest security you can get against brute force is a B-rate safe that uses 1/2” plate steel doors as well as ¼” steel plate walls. This seems enough to house your firearms if you have a lower risk of burglary. However, B-rate safes can easily be damaged using basic power tools. It’s a fact you should know on this gun safe buying guide.

Aside from steel, gun safes also use concrete amalgamates to reinforce the walls of the gun cabinet. It will be difficult to measure every gun safe in terms of steel thickness and durability. So the rule of thumb here is that the heavier the safe is, the harder it will be to break in and cut open. Paying for more steel is a good thing if you want more security.

The common mistake of gun owners is buying a safe based on how glossy it looks from the outside. This is a marketing trick manufacturers tend to exploit. But no matter how chromatic and fancy the safe looks, without a strong material, it won’t serve its purpose.

Door design

More often than not, gun safe doors are the giveaway for burglars. If you don’t have the budget to splurge on expensive safes, your best bet is a steel plate door with an external outdoor steel sheet. Of course, I would tell you that the best gun safe doors are those that passed UL testing. However, this could be expensive and hard to find.

A gun safe with one-inch thick plate door with bolt carriages and gussets is a good option. Patchwork steel is a no-no in gun safe doors. Get one with a solid steel construction that’s welded solidly to the wall of the safe.

gun safe buying guide

Another aspect you should look into this gun safe buying guide is the door gap. No matter how thick the gun safe is, a clever burglar can crack it open with the right tools given a substantial gap. Try inserting a credit card on the safe door when it’s closed. If it slid with no effort, that means the burglar can easily anchor a pry bar or screwdriver through it. Your children also stand the chance of cracking it open with kitchen tools.

Wall thickness

The same with doors, the thickness of gun safe walls also varies. If you invest in very thin walls, your guns can easily be accessed for a few minutes of drilling into it. Thieves are getting smarter and smarter and they would know that the door is usually thicker. They would likely bet their luck on the walls, and if it happens to be too flimsy for security, your guns will fall on the wrong hands.

The best thickness for a gun safe is a 10-gauge sheet or as thick as a 16-gauge if you’re really into security. Aside from steel itself, it’s excellent if you’ll find a safe that has an armor shield or an added layer of concrete as reinforcement.  This will ensure that the safe can endure impact from falling objects or brute force brought by calamities and burglary.

Take note that as the steel thickens on the gun safe, the price will also be higher. Aside from having thick walls, make sure that it’s made of solid steel and not patchwork that can easily be cracked by a crowbar. It’s one important note on this gun safe buying guide.


Having a source of light inside the gun safe is necessary to avoid accidental firing and dropping of firearms. You can place an overhead light or a LED lamp inside that you can access through a switch. Rope lighting will also do the job. Keep in mind that feeling the firearms in the dark isn’t the best idea.

There are commercial options that you can find for gun safes. These are made for a specific use and not prone to starting a fire. Some safe may already come with this in place.


Getting a gun safe with hinges won’t have an effect on how easy it is to break it in. It can either be an external or internal hinge, but most of the time, the external type is the most preferred among gun owners. It allows you to fully remove the door of the safe so you can transport it when it needs fixing.

You don’t have to worry about the security of your guns if you have a hinged safe. It’s the job of the locking mechanism to ensure that the safe won’t be opened forcefully. Anyway, this is just a matter of choice on this gun safe buying guide.

Racks and Drawers

Of course, you simply don’t buy an empty box. There should be racks and drawers to hold a variety of firearms and accessories including bullets and cartridges. If you have long firearms like rifles, you should get a safe with rotary racks. This is the safest way of storing your rifles without banging them with each other.

gun safe buying guide

Handgun drawers are another thing. Pull-out drawers that are at least three inches high are good choices. Make sure that it’s lined with a carpet material or you use a gun sock to reduce friction. Usually, large gun safes would also have dividers inside so you can put other valuables in it.


Dehumidifiers prevent moisture from creeping into your guns and the internal parts of the safe. It also stops corrosion and growth of molds and mildew. Although some safe already comes with a sealing material, you can also purchase a commercial solution that you can put on by yourself.

On this gun safe buying guide, door sealing is important so the built-in desiccant or dehumidifier inside the safe won’t wear off easily. This seal also prevents smoke, water, and gasses from entering the safe in case of a fire. Door seals usually have the expanding characteristic when heated in order to secure the safe from damages.


Of course, in every purchase, you would want to have that ‘security’ for your money. Many gun safe manufacturers and sellers offer varying warranty terms that can span for years. Some offer a limited one-year guarantee while some sellers give the option of extending the coverage for a certain fee.

If you stumble upon a lifetime warranty, read the fine print very well and put it on your list of models to consider. It will help to look for reviews so you’ll know if a model is worth your money or if the lifetime warranty is just a compensation for the constant headache of servicing and fixing the safe will need.

What do you think of this gun safe buying guide? Let us know!