When considering the purchase of a gun safe or handgun vault, the first factor you should consider carefully is what size of safe you need. Obviously, you want a safe or vault that meets your individual preferences, size constraints, apartment/home floor strength and door width, mobility/moving cadence, and current or projected gun collection size. There are other considerations as well, depending on your situation.
In this article, we will cover some of the main factors that can enter into the decision to purchase a particular size of gun safe or vault.
Gun safe sizes
exterior and internal dimensions
One of the primary considerations is the exterior size of a safe; after all, you’ll need to find room for it. So let’s go over some standard gun safe sizes. There’s no actual "industry standard" across all manufacturers unless you consider the top-selling RSC-type gun safe manufacturer to be “the standard,” in which case Liberty Safe’s offerings could be said to be either the gold standard or the most common sizes, depending on how you look at it. Liberty offers several main sizes of exterior dimensions. Note that dimensions are given in Height x Width x Depth (front to back) and rounded to the nearest quarter inch. To be sure the safe will fit in your space, add ¼" to the depth for the outlet kit, 1.5" for a plug, and 1.75"-3" for the handle, depending on the model.
Small Gun Safe
Medium Gun Safe
Large Gun Safe
- The Centurion line is offered in three sizes : 59.5" x 18.25" x 16"; 59.5" x 24.25" x 20"; and 59.5" x 28.25" x 20". Regarding exterior cubic feet dimensions, they are 10.1, 16.7, and 19.4 for the three sizes of Centurion safes.
- The Freedom line is a tad taller and comes in three wider sizes, all with a 22" depth: 60.5" x 30" x 22", 60.5" x 36" x 22", and 60.5" x 42" x 22". Exterior cubic feet equivalents are 23.1, 27.7, and 32.4.
- The USA line has the same exterior dimensions as the Freedom line above, but with the addition of the taller, larger USA 50 model at 72.5" x 42" x 27.5" and 48.1 exterior cubic feet.
- The Colonial comes in 4 sizes; the smaller two are the same external dimensions as the smaller two Freedom safes above, while the Colonial 50 and 50 Extreme share the external measurements with the USA 50 above.
- The Franklin line introduces an intermediate-height size. The three Franklins’ external dimensions are 60.5" x 30" x 22"; 66.5" x 36" x 27.5"; and 72.5" x 42" x 27.5", with exterior cubic feet sizes of 25.7, 38.1, and 48.1.
- Liberty’s Lincoln models come in the same external sizes as the Franklin line above.
- The Presidential safes are offered in the same external sizes as the Franklin line above.
- Liberty’s National Security safes are offered in the same sizes as above, except for the Classic Extreme 60, which is the largest safe Liberty makes. We start with the 6-foot-plus height of our 50-gun safes above but add an additional 8” of front-to-back depth for an external size of 72.5" x 50" x 27.5" or 57.7 cubic feet.
- If you want a gun safe with more width and depth but not more height, Liberty’s Fatboy safes measure 60.5" x 42" x 22" and 60.5" x 42" x 27.5", with external cubic feet equivalents of 32.4 and 40.4 respectively.
Please note: Internal dimensions, available long gun capacity, minimum required building doorway widths (for moving/installation), and weights of Liberty’s safes are available by clicking on the "Models and Sizing" tab below each safe in our online catalog.
Other quality gun safe manufacturers generally offer safes in similar sizes to Liberty’s offerings, with some exceptions. AMSEC’s largest gun safe has external dimensions identical to Liberty’s Classic Extreme 60 (see above). Fort Knox offers an extra-wide large-format behemoth of a safe that measures 10 inches wider at 72" x 61" x 27", and Browning’s largest “Pinnacle” safe is essentially this same size.
Cheaper safes are available in smaller sizes down to around 55" x 10" x 10", and sheet-metal gun cabinets or lockers down to 43" x 8" x 6". These often limit the length of the rifles or shotguns they will accept and don’t provide any fire protection or meaningful security against break-ins or theft, but they can be better than nothing in some cases.
Large Gun Safe Pros and Cons
We recommend that first-time (or second, or third) gun safe buyers select the largest safe they can afford. This isn’t some clever ploy to sell more expensive safes; far from it. Some of our large-capacity, “entry-level” safes are usually among our best sellers. The reason we recommend people buy the largest safe they can afford is that once you have a gun safe, which is a secure, fire-resistant, ideally humidity controlled place to store your firearms, valuables, records, and more, the interior room tends to fill up more quickly than you might expect.
Moreover, if you’re an avid sportsman/woman, hunter, shooter, or firearms enthusiast/collector, even a modest gun collection can quickly swell to overflowing in just a few years. We know from experience! Let’s review some of the advantages of “going big” when buying a gun safe.
Pros of a large gun safe
As we just mentioned, the main advantage of a large gun safe is the internal capacity for all your guns and valuables. Keeping heirloom firearms, valuable collectibles, competition guns, hunting guns, and self-defense guns securely locked in a gun safe brings amazing peace of mind. There’s a downside to being a firearms enthusiast who likes to collect lots of interesting guns: Where to store them all securely? Well, you might even outgrow the largest-capacity gun safe, but starting with a larger safe is undoubtedly better than a smaller safe in this case.
Another advantage of selecting a larger gun safe than you might think you need is you can secure more than just firearms in a gun safe. Family photo albums and home movies, prescription medications, computer hard drive backups, vital records and legal documents, genealogical records, and more can be stored in a gun safe… and depending on how many of these precious items you have, your gun safe can quickly run out of space if you start with a smaller safe.
Another real but not often mentioned pro of purchasing a large gun safe is the pride of ownership. Some people enjoy seeing a large, beautiful gun safe in their home or den, which is why we offer many premium finishes and color options. A big, beautiful safe can be an attractive, functional part of your decor.
Cons of a large gun safe
Depending on your situation, buying a large safe might not be the right choice for you. If you are "transient," such as a student who needs to move frequently, live in shared apartments, and doesn’t necessarily have a lot of help to move your stuff, a large gun safe is probably not right for you until you settle down at a more semi-permanent location.
Additionally, a younger hunter or recreational shooter who only has maybe one or two long guns and a handgun, with lots of years of further education or career training ahead of him before any foreseeable increase in “gun budget,” would probably be better served by a smaller gun safe or cabinet rather than a giant, heavy, (relatively) expensive gun safe.
The cost of a large gun safe can be lower than you might think, mainly if you shop direct through Liberty or one of our licensed dealers. Still, the larger, higher-security, high-fire-rated safes are quite a bit more expensive than some of the smaller-capacity “budget” safes we offer. Going with a less expensive, smaller gun safe might make the most sense for a person trying to make ends meet in a struggling economy.
The size and weight of a large gun safe can be a significant factor to deal with, depending on your situation. As we discussed in our overview of the top 4 gun safe manufacturers, depending on the type of fire-retardant material used, it can add significantly to the overall weight of a safe. Liberty’s largest, heaviest safe weighs 1,585 pounds, and that’s before you put all your heavy steel guns and your bars of gold (right?) in it. Different manufacturers may use different construction methods and/or heavy concrete amalgam fire-retardant, and a gun safe with heavy double-steel walls and concrete amalgam filler might weigh up to 4,000 lbs! Installing or moving a large, heavy safe is best left to the professionals, and purchasers of heavier safes must ensure their floors and joists are rated to handle the load.
Finally, keeping a large gun safe out of sight in your home can be significantly more complex than hiding a smaller safe, depending on your chosen security strategy. The bigger the safe, the more effort it takes to keep it secret. Casual observers who see a gigantic safe might mention it to their buddies or acquaintances, and word can get around. So be sure you have a good strategy for keeping your gun safely hidden.
Small Gun Safe Pros and Cons
In some cases, buying a smaller gun safe makes the most sense. Let’s review some of the advantages and disadvantages of keeping it small.
Pros of a small gun safe
If you move a lot, are a student in a rental apartment, live alone and don’t have access to help, have a small gun collection, or just want to keep things private and install/move your gun safe by yourself, a smaller safe can make a lot of sense. With the proper equipment and techniques, one person can often install and/or move a smaller safe, while a large one might require 2 or more strong people and specialized tools.
Also, as mentioned above, a smaller safe will usually be less expensive than a larger safe, all else equal. If you’re on a budget but still want to keep your firearms and a few valuables secure, a smaller safe might be all you need.
Finally, a smaller safe is easier to hide within your home than a large safe. Keeping your gun safe out of sight is an excellent first step to keeping it secure from the bad guys.
Cons of a small gun safe
The obvious downside of a small gun safe, which we’ve covered in detail above, is that you can quickly outgrow it. Gun collections tend to grow quickly, and you can store many other things in your gun safe to keep them secure from fire, theft, or unauthorized access.
Another factor that some potential safe owners don’t often consider is that smaller safes are easier to move for not just you but for potential thieves. The weight of a large gun safe and its contents can actually be a benefit in cases where burglars try to remove the entire safe from your premises. Small safes can be carried by two or three people, even when fully loaded, and they can spend all the time they want to break into it later. Properly bolting down your safe and keeping your safe in a secure location in your home can help.
Another potential factor is that smaller, lighter safes often have a lower security or fire rating than large safes. Not always, but people buying smaller safes generally prioritize size, mobility, and cost over absolute security and fire protection. It’s a tradeoff that sometimes makes practical and economic sense, but just be aware when you make your purchase.
Handgun Vault Pros and Cons
As the name implies, a handgun vault is designed to secure handguns and smaller items and cannot store “long guns” (rifles and shotguns). The advantages of handgun vaults are that they are inexpensive, portable, and provide reasonable security for one or two handguns and some small valuables. They can also provide faster access to a defensive handgun than some safes if you need your home-defense gun in a hurry.
However, there are some downsides to a handgun vault. First, the portability that makes a handgun vault convenient to own and use also makes it easier (than a safe) for thieves to steal. If it’s not secured correctly or chained/cable-tied to something bulky or heavy, a determined thief who finds a handgun vault might just stroll off with the whole thing and break into it later.
Speaking of breaking into things, a handgun vault doesn’t provide the same security features as a quality gun safe. The steel can be thinner, locks can be cheaper or less durable, and combinations might be easier to break. Furthermore, handgun vaults usually don’t provide any serious protection against fire, so take that into consideration. A handgun vault is much better than nothing, but it’s not as secure as a quality gun safe.
Factors that can help you determine how large a safe you need
Next, let’s review some questions you should ask yourself when considering what size gun safe or handgun vault you should buy.
Do you need to store one or more "long guns"?
First, if you have any long guns to secure, you can eliminate a handgun vault from your options. It doesn’t make sense to buy a secure storage device just for your handguns and leave your long guns unsecured. In our view, a smaller gun safe that’s tall enough to house your longest rifle or shotgun is usually the better choice if it’s economically feasible.
How many firearms do you currently need to store in your safe?
It may seem obvious but you need to determine how many guns you need to store in your safe to ensure the model you buy is the right size. Check the internal capacity and layout of any safe you’re considering. If you have 10 rifles, 2 shotguns, and a bunch of handguns, a safe designed to store a maximum of 8 long guns isn’t going to cut it.
Do you plan to buy or inherit more guns?
Sometimes people come into a significant amount of money, or inherit a lot of firearms, necessitating the purchase of a larger safe. Sometimes they’re just starting out as gun owners, hunters, collectors, or competitors, but they’re confident they’ll acquire more guns along the way. If you think there’s a chance of this happening, you might want to err on the side of "bigger is better" when selecting your gun safe if your budget allows it.
Do you own primarily long guns, handguns, or a combination?
Many gun safes can be internally configured differently depending on your preference. You might want your gun safe set up exclusively to house long guns if you are an avid shotgunner and don’t have any handguns or other valuables that might require shelving. On the other hand, if you have a few long guns but also several handguns as well as lots of documents, backup electronics, or other small valuables to secure, you might want a larger safe, or at least a safe that’s configured in a “half and half” arrangement with provision for long guns on one side and shelving on the other. In any case, the more guns and other items you need to store, the larger your gun safe needs to be.
Is moving your safe a factor?
If you move frequently for school, work, or other reasons, you may want to select a smaller, lighter gun safe that you can easily move alone or with the help of a buddy. If your home has non-standard or narrow doorways or halls, steep stairs, or low ceilings on the way to your selected safe storage location, a large, wide safe might not physically fit, so be sure to measure carefully. Getting a 1,200-pound safe jammed in a stairwell is no fun and can be dangerous.
Can your floor support the weight of a large safe?
As we mentioned above, one factor you need to consider, regardless of how large your gun collection is, is whether your floors and joists are rated for the potentially significant weight of a loaded gun safe. Check your home’s specifications and your safe manufacturer’s recommendations so you don’t cause damage.
Need help choosing? Find your ideal safe today!
Buying a safe gun can be a pretty significant decision, so it’s essential to weigh all the contributing factors we’ve discussed carefully. If you need some advice, feel free to contact our friendly, US-based customer service department at 1-800-247-5625, email email@example.com, or visit a Liberty Safe showroom near you and speak to a knowledgeable, safe expert.