Finding a good handgun safe buying guide is not all that easy. There are plenty of gun safe buying guides but very few commentators give more than passing lip to how to choose a handgun safe.
It really appears that most people simply “wing it” when making their choice.
Hopefully, we can provide some intellectual structure to the process so that you can make an informed choice. Like my other buying guides, I will set out a few basic features that you should look for in a handgun or pistol safe.
Next, as you read the reviews of any given handgun safe, you can compare them all, so that you can, hopefully, make the best choice for you.
I have come up with 9 Key Factors in this HandGun Safe Buying Guide. They are as follows:
Use – What Will Be the Use of the HandGun Safe
Before we get to the various criteria for choosing a pistol safe, I need to make a few comments on the various uses for pistol or hand gun safes. Thus, when you begin to evaluate your choices, you can easily see how any given safe measures up to the use you want it to perform.
Safety is the clear winner regarding why people choose to purchase a handgun safe. Otherwise, you could save a lot of money and simply buy a trigger guard.
However, beyond wanting to be “safe,” people tend to choose a handgun safe for a wide variety of reasons. When making your decision, deciding what functionality you want the safe to provide will be critical to choosing the right one.
Storage – What Will be Stored in the Handgun Safe?
This handgun safe buying guide is not a “personal storage buying guide.” Nonetheless, some people want to store a little jewelry, a few important documents and other valuable items in addition to their handgun. This is just fine. Other people are purists and only want to store a weapon in the safe, but they want to store two or three handguns in it.
Still others want to store other home defense items in the safe such as a flashlight, maybe even a flashlight attached to the handgun itself.
I am not here to tell you what you should or should not use the safe for. Instead, I would only caution you to make sure you look at the internal dimensions of the safe to make sure whatever it is you want to store in the safe, it will fit.
I would make one final comment about what will be stored in the safe. If you plan on using the safe to keep your handgun readily accessible to thwart a home invasion, make sure you haven’t crammed too much stuff into it. The last thing you need is to be fumbling around in the dark looking for your gun when time is of the essence.
If you find you have too much stuff in it, consider getting a larger full size gun safe or even a bank safety deposit box for your non weapons related valuables.
Location – Where will you keep the HandGun Safe?
Do you plan on always having the handgun safe on your nightstand? Do you anticipate moving it around the house, such as to your den or home office? How about traveling? Do you anticipate using the safe on trips? In the car? In a motel room? Going to the range?
See what I mean? Depending on the person, a handgun safe can wear many hats and provide many different uses.
Personally, I like having several different safes based on the use I am doing. For example, I like having one dedicated just for my weapon only to be used at the nightstand. If I am going to the range, I have a different safe or container.
I would encourage you to think about whether you want one safe to “do it all” or are you open to multiple storage options.
Ratings – Is the Handgun Safe Rated?
Unlike full size gun safes, handgun safes do not have any formalized rating systems, such as the RSC rating from Underwriters Laboratories. The closest you can get to any outside testing certification is if the safe is approved by the California Department of Justice.
California requires that any gun sold, transferred or manufactured in California must be sold with an approved California DOJ firearms safety device. While the device does not have to be a safe, the California DOJ does list the requirements for obtaining approval for a gun safe.
I will save you some suspense. Most handgun safes do not meet these requirements or at least the manufacturers do not take the time to get approved. Does that make non-California DOJ safes bad? No, it only means to be careful if you move to California.
So, how do you make your own assessment of a hand gun safe? Let’s take a look at some criteria.
Size – What Size Do you Need?
As touched on above, make sure you know the size of the items you want to place in the safe. Also, make sure the exterior dimensions will work with the location the handgun safe will be located.
For example, if you are placing it on a shelf, you may want to determine if it will be sticking out. Also, if you are buying one of the smaller safes or containers, for transportation, think about the bag you will be placing it in or other location, such as behind or under the seat of your vehicle.
Steel – How Thick is the Steel?
This is where you really see the difference between a handgun safe and a full size gun safe. Steel is denoted by a term called gauge. The higher the gauge steel number, the thinner the steel.
While full size safes optimally use 8 or 10 gauge (although 12 gauge steel often used) steel, handgun safes are typically much thinner at around 16 or even 20 gauge.
What does that mean for you? A determined and knowledgeable burglar probably isn’t going to have too much difficulty breaking into your handgun safe. However, the average burglar who is in a hurry may have more difficulty and even pass it by if it is properly secured.
The true value of the safe is that it protects the gun from getting into the hands of unauthorized people, such as children. The thinner steel works just fine for this purpose.
Lock – What Type of Lock Do You Want?
This feature is arguably the most important in the HandGun Safe Buying Guide. The different locking mechanisms for a handgun safe are quite varied. Again, like described in the overall rating section above, there is no clear lock rating system as is found in the larger gun safes.
Nonetheless, there are some issues and considerations you need to take into account before you buy.
- Mechanical Combination Locks. Mechanical Combination locks are popular in some models. I am referring to the
push button type of combination lock, not the dial type. Personnaly, this is my favorite type. No batteries to go dead, no electronicics to malfunction. The odds of this
type of lock malfunctioning is much less than the other electronic or biometric options. However, you will tend to sacrifice some access speed. I
do recommend some electronic and biometric options, but I prefer the mechanical lock.
- Key Lock. Key locks are great, until they are not. I like key locks, with the caveat that you must be very careful with the
key. I recommend wearing it like a set of dog tags. Never take it off and keep the spare key far away and completely hidden from curious children. Believe
me, kids can find anything, so hiding the key anywhere near the safe is a recipe for disaster.
- Digital/Electronic Lock. This type of lock is a good choice, but not as popular as the biometric locks in handgun
safes. Again, this lock is a little slower than some other choices, but there is no chance of a “false acceptance” and you do not have to worry about
keeping track of a key.
- Biometric Lock. Biometric or fingerprint locks have become very popular. These locks read typically 1 to 4 fingerprints to
automatically open the safe. The key aspect of these locks is to make sure you change the batteries often so the lock works when you want it too.
Beyond that, you also want to focus on two other aspects of biometric safe locks: False Accept Rate and False Reject Rate.
The False Accept Rate is the rate which the safe will accept an unauthorized finger print to open the safe. Obviously, the lower the rate is the better. A typical range is 0.0001% to 0.1%.
The False Reject Rate is the rate which the safe will not open when an authorized fingerprint is given. This rate varies quite a bit from 0.00066% to 1.0%. You better hope that you don’t have that 1 out of a 100 moment when it counts. Biometric locks are great because they are fast and easy for authorized users.
Fire Proof – Any Fire Protection?
Generally, people don’t buy a handgun safe to protect their guns and other valuables from fire. This is good because handgun safes don’t typically protect from fire. A hand gun safe is almost exclusively a protection device from unauthorized thieves or children (or both!) from getting easy access to your weapon.
Attachment – How Do You Want to Attach the Safe
Generally, you should attach your safe to prevent it from being stolen. Remember, not even the big expensive full size gun safes are immune from being compromised. If a safe can be taken to a thief’s lair, no safe can withstand that assault. The key is to delay the thief so that he moves on to easier loot.
Some handgun safes are super small, usually one gun at the most. This can be okay if they can be easily hidden and are typically used for transporting the weapon to the range, etc. As such, no attachment device is really necessary.
The larger handgun safes typically bolt to a piece of furniture, shelf or even a wall. Alternatively, some safes have a steel cable that you can loop around something solid.
Obviously, steel cables can be cut. However, a lot of furniture can be broken to remove the safe. Bottom line is that there is no clear winner.
If the thief is inexperienced and did not bring bolt cutters, then the cable is a decent option, provided it is looped around something very solid.
Bolting the safe to a wall or other strong location will longer to prior it away, thus increasing the chance of the thief moving on if he is under a time crunch. Personally, I like the cable, but both options have their place.
There you go. Hopefully, you have enjoyed this Handgun Safe Buying Guide. Have some suggestions about how to improve this Handgun Safe Buying Guide? I would welcome any additional insights and positive additions to make the guide better.