In all of my classes the question of gun safes comes up, as well it should. What is the best way to store your guns and ammunition? This is not a one-answer question. Before you decide on the best way to store your guns you need to answer a few “pre-questions” first.
- How are you intending to use the gun?
- Who will have access to your gun?
- Is this for long-term or short-term storage?
Let’s look at the long-term storage question first. We have all seen the substantial floor safe with the secure dial combination lock on the door. These are outstanding for keeping your guns and other valuables safe. However, there are some drawbacks to this type of safe. First, they are heavy, depending on which you choose. Safes with a high fire rating are going to weigh much more than one built out of 8 or 10 gauge steel. Safes will typically have a rating for fire protection and drill resistance. Obviously, the higher these two ratings are, the more expensive the safe.
There are two types of combinations available for the floor and shelf models. The old, standard dial combination typically takes a three number combination to open. If you are the only one who ever gets into your safe you never need to change the combination. However, if you have employees or visitors, even family, who will have to have periodic access to the safe, you need to learn how to change the combination (will require a special key) or find a trustworthy locksmith who will do the job. In an emergency situation, you will not be able to get into your safe, secure floor safe with the dial combination. Manipulating the dial requires fine motor skills. Once your adrenaline kicks in, your fine motor skills go out the window.
The next type of combination lock is the electronic lock. These are much faster to access than the dial combination lock. The electronic lock will have a key-pad where you will input three or four numbers to open the safe. The drawback of this kind of lock is that it takes batteries. If this is the safe you want to use, look for the kind with the batteries on the outside of the door. If it doesn’t have the batteries on the outside it should have a backup key to open the safe in case the batteries are dead. However, if it has an backup key, this key needs to be safeguarded in a separate secure location.
One mechanism that has received a lot of attention in the past few years is the bio-metric activated lock. This one is pretty slick; all you have to do is let the lock “learn” your finger print and then use that finger to access the safe. The concern I have with this type of lock is what happens if you cut your finger or have some other injury that changes your finger print. In my case, I have been doing wood-work for over 55 years and my finger prints have been pretty well sanded out. The bio-metrics don’t work for me.
For temporary or quick, ready access storage of you gun and ammo the industry has developed a number of styles that enable you to open them without using your fine motor skills. These are the safes in which you want to keep your personal home defense gun. I’ve already mentioned the bio metrics so I won’t go back there. The best method of access (in my opinion) is the three or four button lock. You can program the buttons to operate in the sequence you want. With practice, this becomes a gross motor skill. When the adrenaline starts flowing, you will only have access to your gross motor skills, making this type of safe access ideal. These small lock boxes are small enough to put on a shelf and normally come with a provision to screw or bolt them down to the shelf. There are even boxes with a strong cable with which you can lock them to a permanent fixture in your car or truck. These small safes require batteries and normally come with a backup key in case the batteries die before you change them. Once again, the backup key needs to be put away so that unauthorized persons won’t have access to it.
There are a number of outstanding companies that sell high quality safes. Here are a few links you may want to try:
This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination but a place to get you started. Remember one of the most important responsibilities that a gun owner must exercise is to make sure unauthorized people do not have access to your guns.