Gun Safe Buyers Guide (Updated October 2023)

by Bryan Henry | Last Updated: October 1, 2023

Gun safes are investment pieces in every sense of the term.  This means that it’s best to think through every aspect of your purchase.  This starts with choosing the right gun safe for your needs, wants, and budget.  You then need to think about where to put your gun safe and how you’ll move it if you ever need to.  Here’s a quick guide to help.

What to know when buying a gun safe

Before you make any major purchase, it’s important to think carefully about how you’re really going to use it.  This is particularly true when you’re buying a gun safe.  Here are some points to consider.

What type of gun(s) do you have?

The type(s) of gun(s) you have will play a huge role in determining the type of gun safe you need.  If you only have handguns, you can generally work on the basis that one gun slot equals one gun space. 

If, however, you have shotguns and/or rifles, then you need to think, honestly, about what type of person you are.  Basically, are you really going to “unload” your gun after each use (e.g. remove all scopes)?  If you are, then you can still work on the basis of one slot equals one gun.  If, not, however, then be honest and allocate at least 1.5 slots per gun.

Also think about whether or not your gun collection is likely to expand in the future, even if only temporarily.  For example, if you like to have guests will you want to buy extra guns for them to use or have space to store any guns they bring?

What features do you need?

Obviously, every safe needs to have robust build quality.  These days, electronic looks are also generally viewed as standard.  They’re now every bit as reliable as traditional locks but a lot easier to replace if necessary. 

It’s advisable to look at gun safes with some kind of protection against fire and ideally against flood as well.  The main reason you want both is that if there is a fire, there’s a good chance that firefighters will use water as part of the operation to put it out.  This can actually cause more damage than the fire itself.

Speaking of water, if you’re in a humid climate then you’ll need some way of keeping that humidity out of your gun safe.  This means that you either get a gun safe with an integrated dehumidifier or you get a gun safe with space for a dehumidifier.

How will you organize your guns?

Organizing your gun storage is every bit as important as organizing the storage elsewhere in your home.  Consider looking for gun safes with modular storage systems.  These are particularly useful if you anticipate your gun collection changing and/or if you want to use your gun safe for more than just your guns.

It’s a definite bonus if you can get a gun safe with a raised floor, especially if you have rifles and/or shotguns.  This makes it a whole lot easier to get the gun(s) in and out without the toe of the stock hitting the base of your gun safe.

Interior lighting can be a nice touch.  This is now very easy to DIY with battery-operated LED lights.  Of course, this does depend on you having space for the lights.

Where is the best place to store a gun safe?

Siting a gun safe basically means balancing ease of access with safety and protection.  If you have to choose between them then safety and protection should always come first.  In particular, you need your gun safe to be out of sight of anyone looking through windows (including windows in doors).

This means you have two options.  Option one is to site your gun safe in a place where there aren’t any windows such as a basement or garage.  Option two is to protect your windows without drawing attention to the fact.  In principle, some kind of privacy glass would be the best option here.  In practice, privacy-film can achieve the same result at a much lower cost.

It’s risky to rely on window coverings.  This is partly because people can forget to close them.  It’s also partly because windows being covered when you’d think they shouldn’t be can attract unwelcome attention.

Apart from that, you want your gun safe to be protected from fire and flood, even if it has some level of fire- and flood-proofing.  One way to achieve this is to put your gun safe in a part of your home which is well protected from either of these threats.  This is partly why basements and garages are popular locations for gun safes.

Securing a gun safe

Basically, the more layers of security you can pile on, the more of a deterrent you have.  If at all possible, gun safes should be bolted to the floor.  It’s even better if they can be fitted with an alarm and monitored with a camera.  Modern technology has made this increasingly straightforward.

If you can’t put an alarm and/or camera on the gun safe itself, then try to put one or both in the area where it’s located.  Make sure that any cameras have enough light to work effectively.  Motion-sensitive lights can be useful here.  You can get battery-operated ones.

How to move a gun safe

The safest way to move a gun safe is to hire professionals to do it for you.  If, however, you must do it yourself, then it’s generally advisable to get moving equipment (such as an appliance dolly).  Having two or three extra pairs of adult (or at least older teenage) hands is also a definite plus.

Moving a gun safe is basically an exercise in weight management.  You need to check that every bit of flooring every step of the way can handle the weight of your gun safe (plus your appliance dolly plus you and your helpers).  Then you need to check the dimensions along the route because there’s no way you’ll be lifting a gun safe to maneuver it around awkward points.