So you’ve acquired your first gun and you’ve heard everyone say, “When you’re not holding or wearing it, you need to lock it up.”

Well, if you’re new to this, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

Until you can buy a simple lock box like those available from companies such as Bulldog, VaultPro and GunVault, here are a few ways you can render a gun temporarily inaccessible to or inoperable by children or other unauthorized persons.

Check the Box

All new guns ship with some kind of gun lock. If you bought your gun new, the lock may be buried under the instruction manual, tucked behind the foam padding of the case or otherwise not immediately visible. If you received your gun in a hard-sided plastic case, there will almost certainly be a hole or holes for locking it closed. A few padlocks from the dollar store will help it serve as an emergency lock box until you can get set up with a more ideal solution.

Ask Your Friends

If you got your gun used and have friends who shoot, they likely have a drawer filled with gun locks they don’t even want since most avid shooters secure their guns in other ways. If you’re caught short, ask around and see if any of your fellow gun owners have any spare gun locks they’d be willing to spot you. I bet they’d be happy to oblige.

Ask a Hero

Many police and fire stations offer free gun locks, no questions asked. If your buddies don’t have any spares, this would be the phone call I’d recommended you make next.

See What You Have on Hand

Revolvers and pump- and auto-loading shotguns can be rendered inert with a simple padlock. Just by passing the shackle through the open action, you prevent the action from closing, which means the gun can’t shoot. Similarly, a cable bike lock or a thin enough piece of chain can be passed through any gun’s action and, if secured with a lock, will render the gun unfireable. Be careful not to damage the finish on the firearm. But for a quick-and-dirty solution, this is as good as you can do.

Do You Already Have a Lock Box?

Fireproof document boxes and locking desk drawers can be found in millions of homes. If, like me, it never occurred to you to lock anything in your desk, you may have forgotten that the top drawer even locks. But if you’ve recently purchased a handgun for home defense or self-defense and you have no other way to secure it, a locking box or drawer can be a decent stopgap until better arrangements can be found.

Key or Combo?

If you already have a combination lock that you use for other purposes, it might be best to stick with that if possible. If it’s a combination you’ve had memorized for years, you are unlikely to forget it under stress. Otherwise, a thumb-scanner lock or keyed lock will be a good bet. You can wear the key around your neck or on your regular keychain. But only carry your “gun key” with your regular keys if you always have your regular keys within your reach. If you elect to wear the key around your neck, wear it on a ball chain or something else you will be able to tear off during an emergency.

Lock It to … What?

If you are worried about theft as well as unauthorized access, you will have to find a way to secure the gun or the box in which it is locked to something that a thief won’t want to run down the street carrying. Bed frames excel at this. Be certain that you aren’t just locking a chain or cable around a leg or something else that can be simply lifted off of the floor. Do not lock a gun to anything by its trigger guard. Not only is it a bad idea to get anything involved inside a gun’s trigger guard, the trigger guard is one of the gun’s weakest parts and is not essential to the gun functioning. A criminal will not bother trying to cut through a hardened steel chain when he can just cut through your pistol’s polymer trigger guard.

Store It Safely

Never load a gun, put it down and walk away from it. Doing so sets up a disastrous situation, as this is exactly how children (and adults) find guns, pick them up and then negligently shoot themselves or someone else. If you’re locking a gun in a lock box, whether to load it is up to you, but never, EVER load a gun and then apply a trigger lock or lock it TO something else. Fiddling around trying to get the lock off of a loaded gun is a good way to get the wrong people shot.

Keep It Out of Your Pants

Do not stick firearms into your waistband. It was one thing to do that back in the days of single-action revolvers, but to do so with modern pistols — especially Glock-type pistols — is a catastrophe waiting to happen. If you’ve acquired your first gun and you intend to carry it, you need to get a holster that covers the gun’s trigger guard and carry the gun with all of its safeties engaged. I’m afraid there just isn’t another way around this one.

Stay Smart and Stay Safe

We here at the United States Concealed Carry Association want nothing more than to help you stay safe. If you are a new gun owner, please reach out to us at 800-674-9779 so we can line you up with the best training and information in the business, free of charge. There is no purchase necessary for the lifesaving information we want to send your way. We just want to help you be the best protector you can be.