Best Gun Safe Reviews 2016 – (Comprehensive Guide)
If you own a gun, you need to secure the gun against unauthorized access. In many places like California, it is mandatory to have a gun safe if you own a gun. A gun is also necessary to prevent children from accidentally getting hold of your gun. However, with the plethora of gun safes available in the market, it is difficult to choose one for your home. This gun safe guide is aimed at helping you to narrow down the choices and buying the best gun safes for you and your money.
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Popular Gun Safe Manufacturers
These brands grow in popularity due to their ability to deliver a quality service. Often times, trusting in one can be the short cut to getting exactly what you’re looking for with none of the hassle. Here are some of the most popular and reliable brands available in the market.
Winchester – Winchester is a very popular brand when it comes to firearms. In fact, it is known as the “gun which won the west”. After more than a century of working with firearms, they entered the gun safe market in 1991 with an attempt to fulfill the needs of its customers and have succeeded very well. Big Daddy is its most popular gun safe model, followed by Legacy 53 and Ranger 19.
Browning – Browning is another well known brands in the firearms market. They have many innovative design features in their safes, like the ThermaBlock and DPX storage system which sets them apart from their competitors. Their Medallion series is popular because it is more practical and affordable. Browning also produces vault doors which are very reliable.
BARSKA – BARSKA is a new player in the market compared to Browning and Winchester. They came into play only from 1994, but they have made quite a name for themselves in the Biometric gun safe segment. The AX11224 Biometric safe with fingerprint lock is their most popular model.
GunVault – GunVault has been in the market since 1991 and have become one of the leading manufacturers of electronic safes. Their patented No-Eyes keypad provides quick access even in the dark. Their lower end portable safes like MICROVAULT XL are very popular.
Things to Consider Before Buying A Gun safe
- Legal Requirements: Every country has its own legal requirements. For example, in Ireland a gun safe should meet the British Standard BS7558. In USA, California Department of Justice has laid down strict guidelines for gun safes. Depending on your place of residence, make sure that the gun safe that you buy meets the local legal requirements. If not, you would be held responsible for any accident or theft involving your firearm.
- Weight – The thumb rule is “Heavier the safe, more difficult it is to break into”. However, heavier safes are also difficult to move. If you are in a transferrable job and need to move around a lot, go in for a lighter safe. If you want an in wall safe, the wall might need to be reinforced to support the weight of the safe.
- Dimensions (Internal and External) – Depending on where you intend to place the safe, determine the rough external dimensions of the safe. The internal dimensions of the safe must be big enough to hold all your firearms, ammunition and any other valuable you want to store. Safe manufacturers usually mention the number of guns that the safe can hold. But users have often found that the safe holds just half as many guns as specified by the manufacturer.
- Protection – There are many security standards and ratings given by certifying bodies such as the Underwriter’s Laboratory, depending on the level of security the safe provides.
- Burglary Protection / security rating – security ratings are given based on the duration for which the safe can withstand an assault. For example, UL TL-15 rating specifies that the safe can withstand a continuous assault of 15 minutes. To determine what rating you should have, you could discuss with your insurance provider or with the gun manufacturer.
- Fire rating – Fire ratings specify the temperature that the safe can withstand for a specified duration of time. For example, 1400 F for 75 minutes means that the safe can withstand a fire of 1400 F for 75 minutes, after which the interiors of the safe begin to fail. It is highly recommended that you buy a safe which provide protection for at least one hour.
- Water protection – In case you are living in an area that frequently floods during the monsoon, consider a safe which provides water resistance
- Type of lock – The type of lock that you opt for your safe plays a very important role in the overall security of the safe. There are many locks which can be opened by an average 3 year old kid. You do not want to place the safety of your family in line by opting for cheap locks. Though many users today are opting for Electronic locks due to the convenience they provide, most locks smiths recommend the conventional dial locks since they are more durable and have lesser problems. Also, an electronic lock needs the safe to be near a power source, if it does not have batteries. The backup locking systems are also something to consider. More on this has been discussed under types of safes.
- Warranty – Ideally a Warranty must cover repairs and replacement of safe in the event of a break in or a fire, including delivery and labor charges. Study the warranty details carefully. Most warranties do not provide lifetime coverage for locks and accessories. In case you plan to buy a second hand safe, make sure that the warranties are transferrable to the new owner.
- Price – It is needless to say that the price of the safe must be within your budget. Prices may vary depending on the manufacturer, type of lock, customization options. You might find that gun safes are expensive. Go for a safe whose value is 10-30% of the total value of the contents you intend to store in it.
- Other features: Once you have narrowed down the safes based on the pointers given above, you can concentrate on the finer technicalities to finalize your choice.
- Hinges – Manufacturers who produce safes with internal hinges claim that they are safer because it would be difficult for a thief to cut off the hinges and open the safe. However, even if the hinges are cut off, it would still take a lot of work to pry open the door. Moreover, with external hinges, the safe can be made resistant to higher temperatures of fire. Additionally, with external hinges, the door can be opened 180 degrees.
- Thickness of metal – Lower end safes are made of 20 gauge steel which are not very safe. They can be pried open using a screw driver. Best quality safes are made of 10 to 7 gauge steel, but would be costly. Look for at least 11 gauge steel. Door thickness is also equally important. More secure gun safes have 3/8” to ½” steel plate. Look for at least ¼” steel plate for the door.
- Type of weld – safes with continuous welds limit the damage done during fire when compared to safes with spot welding.
- Customization – Adjustable shelves, door organizers and rifle racks help you to customize the safe to your need. Some of these come as part of the entire safe and for others you need to pay extra and buy them as addons.
- Light – On one hand, having a light inside a safe helps you to access the contents when its dark, many claim that this feature often defies the stealth effect
- Audio indicators – This is a common feature in electronic safes. The audio indicators give a beep when the door is opened or when the batteries are running low on power.
- Ease of installation – If you are looking to cut costs you can opt for safes which come with DIY manuals, thus saving a few bucks on the installation costs.
Gun Safe Types
Now that you know the key points to consider while looking at buying a gun safe, take a look at the types of gun safes available in the market.
- Classification Based on Type of Lock
Depending on the kind of lock that the safe uses, the safes can be broadly classified into Electronic and Conventional safes. Each category has its own advantages and disadvantages which are discussed below.
- Electronic – Electronic safes have electronic locks which need a power source to operate. They can either be plugged into a power source on the wall or use batteries which need to be replaced periodically. These safes are popular choice among most consumers because of their ease of access and convenience. A major disadvantage however is that the key pads and the sensors are not durable and need to be replaced frequently. Electronic safes can be further classified into the following:
- Digital – These safes have keypads which can be used to set a combination to lock or unlock the safe. Hotels use these safes abundantly because their customers can set unique combinations for themselves and once they check out, the combination can be reset for a new customer. Digital keypads however tend to wear out quickly. Anyone can gain access to the safe just by trying various combinations of the worn out numbers. To avoid this, make sure you change the combination often and use all the numbers.
- Biometric – Fingerprint scanners are the most commonly used biometric scanners. They scan the fingerprints of individuals and store them in their memory bank. For subsequent uses, the fingerprints are scanned again and access is given only if there is a match with the prints in the memory. Higher end military grade scanners use iris or retina scan, facial geometry or even check for the blood vessels under your skin. Biometric scanners are costlier compared to digital pads. Hence the cost of a biometric safe might be higher than a digital safe with the same configurations. Biometric technology is still in its infancy and may produce a false negative ( denying access to a registered user) or a false positive ( giving access to an unauthorized person). Also the scanner glass needs to be wiped clean after every use to avoid unauthorized access. These safes however make good portable safes.
- RFID – This is the latest addition to the electronic lock category. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. It consists of an RFID tag which needs to be swiped against a scanner to gain access. This type of lock is also called as “card lock”.
- Conventional – Conventional locks are traditional old fashioned locks. They can broadly be classified into the following.
- Lock and Key – This is the oldest form of security that can be found. Most electronic safes provide a lock and key as a back up locking system, should the electronic version fail. Locks fell out of favor because they are easy to duplicate.
- Combination dial locks – Most locksmiths find combination dial locks to be the most reliable locks and claim they have the highest endurance. These locks are made up of a series of locks and dials which need to get aligned in order gain access. These locks are not favored by consumers because it is difficult to reset the dial to a new combination.
- Classification based on placement – safes can also be classified depending upon where you decide place the safe.
- Wall or floor mounted – The safe can be mounted on to the wall using pre drilled holes provided at the back of the safe. Even if you decided to just place the safe on the floor, it is a good idea to securely fasten it to the floor. The door of the safe accounts for 30% to 50% of its weight. It might just topple over if it is not secured to the floor or wall. These safes are however placed in plain sight and might stand out if their exterior does not match the furniture.
- Concealed – Concealed safes are hidden from view and usually camouflaged so well that an outsider would find it difficult to locate it. These safes can be floor safes which are concealed under a floor board or cabinet safes. They can be hidden behind a painting, under the sofa or bed, under a false bottom in a drawer. The options available are many. If you are looking at cheaper safes, diversion safes are your best choice with some safes costing just $10. These safes rely upon their ability to camouflage themselves as a book or a can of soda to avoid being spotted by intruders.
- Safe room with Vault doors – If you have a huge collection of guns and do not find a safe big enough to store them all, you could convert an entire room into a safe room and use a strong vault door.
Gun Safe Accessories
Once you have bought a gun safe, you can consider accessorizing it by adding some of the following add-ons to it.
- Notion Sensor / Safe alerts – Once you bought a safe if you think your job is done, think again. What if there was a fire or a break in during your absence. You would at least want to be notified immediately instead of a week later once you get back from your vacation. This is where the notion sensors or safe alerts come into picture. They detect any changes in temperature, humidity and notify you on your mobile.
- Security cable – In case you have a portable safe, it is better buy a security cable to help secure it to a fixed object.
- Dehumidifier – Dehumidifiers help to remove moisture from your safes and prevent the growth of mold.
- Racks for pistols and guns – If you have more than one gun or pistol, you could go in for these racks to stack them neatly.
- Hanging organizers – These can be hung on the door to store extra ammunition, documents, spare batteries or whatever you need to store away in a safe. Some safes come along with these extra storage options. But with most others these are given a paid add on.
- Guns safe lights – Some safes have built in safe lights which turn on as soon as the door is opened. But they defy the purpose of stealth. You can go in for a safe with no internal lights or install a new gun safe light which you can turn on when required.
You might have bought a gun to protect your loved ones or might be a sports enthusiast with a large collection of guns. Whatever be the case, remember that it is your responsibility as a gun owner to prevent unauthorized access to the gun. This is in the interest of yours and others safety. Choose wisely while selecting a gun safe to prevent accidents and intruder access.