We’re pretty clear on this: If you own a gun, you need a gun safe of some type. The advantages of a secure, fire-resistant free-standing or in-wall gun safe in your home are numerous and varied and are not limited to just firearms.
But what about in your car? How about in your bedroom or nightstand? Should you use a hidden gun vault? Let’s go over some primary considerations and features of different types of gun safes to be aware of when determining the best gun safe for you.
In-wall gun safes
When discussing in-wall gun safes, there are basically two main categories. First, a wall-mounted gun safe, which is basically a small free-standing safe that has been installed into a wall within your home. This can be in a cupboard, bookshelf, wall, or even in the floor. Have a look at some of Liberty’s options for wall-mounted gun safes.
Second, when you say “in-wall gun safe” you may be thinking of a vault, which is basically a separate room dedicated to secure storage, secured with a vault door. Read our article to learn more about the advantages, and disadvantages differences between gun safes and gun vaults.
The proper installation of an in-wall safe will generally require a knowledgeable carpenter who can secure the safe, ensure there’s sufficient support for the weight, and also provide any desired concealment such as faux panels, cupboard doors, etc.
Ideally, a vault will be part of the plan when you design your home, so you can allow for hardened concrete walls/floor/ceiling as well as any dehumidifiers, lighting, drainage, and other needs for a secure vault room. However, you can also install a vault door pretty much wherever you want in an existing structure to secure a room. Just be aware that the walls may be the weak point in that case if they haven’t been taken into consideration beforehand.
Gun safes & handgun vaults for cars
There are several considerations when looking for the right gun safe or handgun vault for use in a vehicle. If you want the ultimate in security and theft prevention and don’t mind a few extra steps for gaining access to your gun, a hardened steel lockbox or handgun vault mounted in the trunk is often the best choice, depending on your situation.
For security in the passenger cabin, a handgun key vault can be a good choice, since it provides an extra measure of security and can be securely mounted to the floor, console, or under the dashboard, depending on your individual needs and preference.
Many experts recommend against “off the body carry” for self-defense. That is, if you carry a gun for self-protection, they would recommend you always keep it on your person in a suitable holster, rather than in a glove box, door pocket, or another container within the vehicle.
However, if you are licensed to carry a firearm but need to leave your weapon in your car to enter a secure location where firearms are not permitted, a lockable container or handgun vault in your vehicle can make sense. Always familiarize yourself with your local laws and regulations regarding storing a firearm in a vehicle.
A handgun vault, key vault, or similar small, quick-access safe can be a good choice for secure firearm storage on or near your bed, for emergency access. In some cases, this may be your only firearm safe, or you may utilize a smaller handgun vault to supplement your primary home safe.
Obviously, a more portable handgun vault doesn’t provide the same level of theft prevention as a full-size gun safe, and in many cases, you lose fire protection as well. But for people who want secure handgun storage with ready access near the bed, these smaller handgun vaults can be a solid choice.
For additional security, ideally, you should bolt your bedside handgun vault or key handgun vault to something heavy, like a large dresser, the wall (through the studs), the floor, or even use a cable lock to secure it to your bed frame. This won’t prevent a determined thief who has a lot of time and the right tools from walking off with your vault, but it may deter a prowler of opportunity while you’re away.
Depending on your bedroom’s layout, an in-wall gun safe can serve double-duty as a bedside safe. You can set it for rapid access during the night, and revert to the fully secured condition during the day, if you store guns or valuables in it long-term.
The best hidden gun safes
There are dozens of ways to effectively hide your gun safe. Obviously, the size and configuration of your safe will determine the potential methods of concealment, along with your budget and your desired level of security and fire protection.
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 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.
Another important thing to remember is your hidden firearm storage strategy is only as good as your ability to keep it secret. If you spend 10 grand on a James-Bond-esque, custom-built burled walnut shelving unit with 12 hidden access panels and robotic movement, with electronic access all integrated into your phone, wedding ring, or watch, you may be sorely tempted to show your closest friends how cool it is. But word inevitably gets around, and the cooler it is, the more people will want to talk about it. And there goes your secure storage.
This concept applies regardless of whether we’re talking about an unconventional, hidden firearm storage method or a traditional gun safe kept in an interior room or behind a locked door. The fewer people that know about it, the better.
How to choose the RIGHT GUN safe for you
Hopefully, the information above has helped you understand some factors to consider when choosing the right safe for you. However, there are some additional topics of discussion to understand. We’ll cover some of them below, but you might also like our how to choose a safe quiz.
Mechanical vs. electronic locks for gun safes
We’ve covered alot conserning gun safes, but there’s another thing to consider when choosing the best type of safe for you: Whether you want to go full-mechanical or electro-mechanical for your safe’s locking mechanism.
For ultimate reliability and longevity, it’s hard to beat a quality mechanical lock. There are no batteries to replace, there’s no danger of failure due to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and the dial can often be secured from tampering with a separate key for even more peace of mind. The main downside to a mechanical dial lock is the relatively slow speed of unlocking. Turning the dial X turns left and X turns right and X turns back again, plus remembering the correct sequence and numbers can take time. If you open your safe frequently throughout the day, such as in a business, a digital keypad lock may be preferred.
A digital “dial” lock, often called a keypad lock, relies on battery power and a computer chip to function. For convenience and speed of opening, a keypad-type lock is the king, since you just punch in 7 or so numbers and the safe unlocks. There are no spinning dials or remembering numbers of turns with a digital lock. Plus you can program temporary access codes for any users you wish. However, depending on the quality of your digital lock, you may be more susceptible to electronic interference or an EMP if that’s a concern.
Size, mobility, and cost considerations for a gun safe
Obviously, if you have a lot of guns to keep secure, you’ll want a large-capacity gun safe, or even more than one safe. However, if you only have one or a few firearms, buying a larger safe might still be the right choice for you. Why? A couple of reasons.
First, you might acquire more firearms in the future. It’s always a good idea to buy a safe that has space for more guns than you currently own.
Second, even if you don’t plan to own any more firearms, a quality, fire-resistant gun safe is great for storing any type of valuable or important item… not just guns. Electronics, digital backup hard drives, family albums, legal documents, and much more. See our series on things you wouldn’t think to put in a gun safe (but you should).
However, if you are living in an apartment, move around a lot, are on a super-tight budget, or simply want something small and portable, a large gun safe might not be the best choice. Look into Liberty’s handgun vaults or a small home safe and see what feels right for your situation. If you want to check out Liberty’s line of home/gun safes and handgun vaults in person, visit a dealer near you.