Let’s dispel one myth immediately: Gun safes are for everyone, not just people with children. A safe keeps your guns secure from thieves, protects them from fire and keeps them out of unauthorized hands. While some safes are strictly for storage purposes, others are meant to keep guns secure but ready to go in a location convenient for self-defense. When it comes to selecting a gun safe for home-defense use, it’s all about accessibility and staging.
Knowing where you will stage your guns is vital. This might mean utilizing various safes in different areas of your house. If your gun is being kept in a location not in your immediate vicinity, ask yourself, “Can I reach my locked-up handgun before a potential assailant blocks my route?”
Obviously, a dozen full-sized safes staged around your home would be inconvenient, but you might consider choosing a few smaller models. Consider putting one in your bedroom, one in the living room and one in the kitchen. Where and how you stage your safes will depend on your house’s layout and your budget. Smaller safes are just as secure but not necessarily as tough as the big ones you use for long-term storage.
Try not to cut corners, even with smaller, temporary safes. A good safe is rugged enough to withstand being bludgeoned and hopefully insulated for fire protection. It can be difficult to find a small safe with a good fire rating — a good reason not to use one for long-term storage. Since fire is the most likely threat to your firearms, save your pennies and buy a large, secure safe with a good fire-protection rating for storage. There is currently no standardized fire-rating system specific to firearms, but experts recommend a safe with (minimum) 10-gauge steel and a fire rating of 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 60 minutes.
Your safe must have a rigid door that doesn’t flex or give when pressure is applied. A cheap lockbox won’t cut it. Multiple locking mechanisms are also wise. For example, instead of a keyed safe — which only gives you one method for opening and requires you to locate and use the key in record time — consider a model like the Hornady RAPiD Safe. The RAPid Safe takes a circular barrel key, a button-activated security code or RFID entry via wristbands, stickers or key fobs. SnapSafe makes a 2-Gun Keypad Vault made for keyed or keypad security code entry. The locking mechanisms of your safe must facilitate rapid entry, even if your fingers are coated in sweat or blood. Don’t rely on a single method of entry.
Biometric scanners are also gaining ground in the gun industry. You simply scan your fingerprint and the safe opens. The higher-quality biometric locks are made to function even when your fingers are covered in water, dirt or blood, but there is no guarantee. Have a backup to your biometric lock (like with the Hornady Biometric Safe, which also has a keyed lock and keypad security code).
As mentioned above, staged safes should be kept in your bedroom, living room and kitchen. I have a SnapSafe XXL Under Bed Safe containing my preferred long guns. It weights 148 pounds and is 4 feet long, so it’s not going anywhere. It has a digital keypad lock and a keyed lock as backup. I also keep a smaller SnapSafe 2-Gun Keypad Vault. With room for two handguns and spare mags, it is a great option for a living or rec room. And the Vault is pre-drilled, so it can — and should — be bolted down.
In my kitchen, bolted beneath the counter, is a SnapSafe Drop Box Keypad Vault. It is made from 16-gauge steel and has both a keypad and keyed locks. This single-handgun vault can also be bolted to your nightstand or desk. Due to its design, which makes it possible to pry it off of wherever it is attached, it is not recommended for long-term storage. This safe is best for staging your home-defense gun while you are home.
And don’t neglect your vehicle. I keep the Hornady RAPiD Vehicle Safe in my car.
Selecting a home-defense safe may take more time and consideration than selecting a typical storage safe. They should be smaller to fit your specific spaces, stay out of sight and make home-defense easy. I do not recommend cheaply made lockboxes or small keyed safes that can only be attached using a cable, but if your small safe can be bolted down and is made from a minimum of 10-gauge steel, you can certainly use it for storage as well.
Why not just carry your handgun at home? You can and should. The reality is, a handgun holstered at your hip is faster and easier to access than one locked in a safe. Choose your home-defense firearms wisely and take the time to train with them. Then take the time to plan and practice with your safe. Know your home. Know your state’s castle laws (or lack thereof). Have a plan. Use it.