A gun safe in your living room? Pros and cons
If you spend most of your time at home in your living room, and you access your safe a lot, it can be appropriate for you to keep your gun safe there. Ideally, it will be hidden behind a wall panel or another concealment method (see below), rather than right out in the open, but this is up to you. Just be aware that if you have lots of visitors and you entertain them in your living room, more people will know you have a safe (if it’s visible). And of course, the more people that know you have a safe, the more word can spread to the bad guys.
The living room isn’t the first place most burglars will check, other than for things like TVs and electronics, but many baddies don’t bother and will head straight to the bedrooms. However, if your living room has large windows, and your gun safe is in plain sight from outside, that’s probably not the best idea for obvious reasons.
A basement can be a great place for a gun safe
The basement, even a cluttered, disorganized basement, is among the best places to put your gun safe. The floor is probably concrete, which means you can bolt your safe down securely (after placing down a rubber moisture-barrier mat first). It’s out of the way of casual observers and visitors. It’s usually cool and temperature-stable. And for once, your messy, cluttered basement is actually an advantage here, because a burglar probably isn’t going to take the time to rifle through your boxes of high-school memorabilia or old VHS tapes, which you can use to hide your gun safe.
The disadvantages of this location are that it’s not a particularly convenient place for you to access your guns regularly if that’s something you prioritize. This is even less convenient if you choose to conceal a basement safe behind a bunch of clutter or boxes, which you’ll have to move every time you access your safe, and replace after each use.
Also, if you live in a humid area like most of the US, the basement can be pretty moisture-heavy unless you have a room dehumidifier or safe dehumidifier running (which you should). Furthermore, if there are any flooding or water-line breaks near or in your home, you know that water always finds the lowest point, so prepare your basement with suitable drainage, flooding alarms, and automatic sump pumps if you don’t want all your stuff ruined.
Lastly, many homes simply don’t have basements, so if you live in an area where the water table is too high or basements aren’t possible for some other reason, you’ll need to figure out somewhere else to put your gun safe.
Should I keep my gun safe in an upstairs/master bedroom?
Most experts will tell you that an upstairs bedroom or master bedroom is among the worst places to put a safe because criminals often search these areas first for easy pickings on jewelry, electronics, watches, and other valuables (even bedside-table handguns if not properly locked in a safe) that people typically have close at hand and unsecured in their bedrooms. However, if you choose to keep your gun safe in your bedroom, it can still be somewhat advantageous due to the fact that most guests won’t see it. Fewer eyes mean fewer people know about it, remember? It also is a location where you will be able to have ready access to your safe’s contents if you prioritize that.
It’s a good idea to keep a bedroom-located gun safe in an alcove, walk-in closet, false mirror, or hidden in some other way (see some good methods below), however, rather than out in plain sight. If you can convince any burglars to go after the “easy” stuff like daily-wear jewelry or electronics and keep their eyes off a safe, you can minimize your losses.
If you decide to keep your safe upstairs, be sure your floors and joists are rated for the load. Larger gun safes can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds, and that's before you load them full of steel and lead.
Is a closet a good place to hide a safe?
Installing an in-wall home safe in a standard closet is usually not recommended, as it’s one of the first places thieves often look. However, there are some advantages to keeping your gun safe behind a door, particularly a locked door, so a closet can be an appropriate location for a gun safe for some people. As we discussed above, anything that keeps your gun safe out of the view of visitors or casual observers is usually better than keeping your safe in the open. Visitors to your home will potentially try the handle of a closet door when looking for a bathroom or maybe just checking out your home, but if the door is locked, they typically won’t think twice about it, reasoning that it’s probably a furnace room or other utility type room.
If you keep your gun safe inside a closet or behind another door-type opening, make sure there’s enough room around the doorframe to open the safe enough to access its contents.
Let’s talk about a few other ways you might hide a home safe or gun safe.
Ways to hide your gun safe
We’ve mentioned keeping your safe in a basement, hidden behind clutter or boxes, and in a closet with a locking door, but let’s look at some other methods for concealing a gun safe.
Hidden wall panels
This is probably the best overall way to conceal a gun safe, but if you’re not handy with tools and construction, you’ll have to ask for help. Many local builders and contractors can modify walls or install hidden roll-away panels between rooms, “concealment mirrors,” or “false walls” that are deep enough to conceal your gun safe. If you go this route, remember to avoid the tell-tale signs of hidden wall panels such as fingerprints on the paint, worn shelving “handles,” roller tracks on the floor, compressed carpet, and that type of thing. This strategy is better for people who don’t access their gun safes regularly.
Also, be sure to keep your secret panel actually secret and don’t blab about it to your friends or even your kids unless they’re authorized for your gun safe access. Cool stuff like secret panels and hidden compartments get talked about and remembered, and word gets around quickly. Not good.
Gun safe covers
Several places make or sell fabric, zipper-paneled gun safe covers that can help conceal a safe as well as protect it against dust and scratches. Obviously, a big square “something” covered with fabric is less conspicuous than a big shiny safe with “FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS” and Smith & Wesson stickers all over it, but it’s still not as effective as fully concealing your safe behind a hidden panel or even a closet. But if you want to keep your safe free of debris and dust as well as provide some useful concealment, a gun safe cover can be a good option. If you have other large, rectangular objects nearby such as refrigerators, free-standing bookcases, coat storage racks, or vintage video games, and one or two of these are also covered with fabric covers, it can accentuate the overall concealment effect, as burglars may reason that your safe might just be another bookcase.
Disguise your gun safe as something else
Several companies offer custom furniture designed to conceal your entire gun safe inside, such as in a large armoire, bookcase, or even inside a refrigerator or freezer’s outer shell. This type of thing has its place, as it definitely keeps your safe out of the eyes of the casual observer, which is a good thing.
However, it’s also the type of thing that homeowners are typically proud of and may want to show off to their friends, and it’s “cool” enough that people will remember it and want to talk about it… which, as we mentioned above, is a bad thing. So if you decide to go this route, keep your mouth shut just like you keep the “refrigerator” door shut.
Gun safes or gun storage built into everyday items
As we discussed in our article on the different types of gun safes, several companies offer integrated gun storage methods that conceal firearms in electronically or magnetically accessed panels in furniture, below shelving, behind picture frames or mirrors, in roll-out “tactical wall” panels, in coffee tables (sometimes called “concealment tables”), or similar. The concept here is for your firearm to be “hidden in plain sight,” while allowing somewhat rapid access when desired.
It should be noted that with rare exceptions, this type of storage is not as secure nor is it as fire-resistant as a dedicated gun safe. But when keeping a firearm hidden is more important than keeping it safe from damage from fire or humidity (or in preventing access by a knowledgeable thief), this type of firearm storage may be appropriate for you.
You may also consider installing a smaller safe or handgun vault into a piece of furniture like an end table, dresser, bookshelf, drawer, or similar location. This can help keep it hidden while still allowing fairly ready access to your firearm when you need it.
So, to sum up, the best overall location for a gun safe for most people is the basement… assuming you have a basement. Otherwise, you can appropriately locate your gun safe anywhere inside your home (other than in the garage) where you can do as Gandalf said and “Keep it secret… keep it safe.” If you’re lucky enough to own two gun safes, you might consider building a secret panel or other “hidden” location for one safe containing your most valuable, least-accessed items, and keep your other safe in a more open, accessible location for your convenience, while accepting that greater access and visibility necessarily means a reduction in security.