Gun Safes 101

Most of the readers of Guns.com own a firearm or two.  Or 200.  As responsible firearm owners, we all have to decide how best to store our guns when they’re not on our hips, or slung over our shoulders.  Do you tuck them away in a closet and hope for the best?  Hide them under the bed?  Or are you one of the more logical minority that actually owns (and uses) a gun safe?

Guns.com will look at some of the basics.

What is a gun safe?

That seems like ridiculous question, and I’m not trying to insult your intelligence.  But this term is open to some interpretation.

Browning Gold Series safe.On the cheap side, some companies market glorified metal boxes—more like lockers—as safes.  They will keep guns safe, but from who?  Kids, mostly.  And sometimes that’s enough.   

Others have investment grade firearms that they choose to store in safe deposit boxes in bank vaults.  While this is a logical option, it isn’t very convenient. 

In the middle is a pretty standard type of container with a wide variety of options.  These heavy, steel bodied, lockable boxes are what most of think of when they say “gun safe.”

Is there a more exacting definition?

Of course.  In order to make it into this discussion, I will only include safes that have Underwriters Laboratories’ certification as “Residential Security Containers” (RSC). 

I had the opportunity to talk to Michael Sweeten, the Product Manager for Browning Safes.  Sweeten’s opinion is one I trust.  He knows his safes, and he knows the competition’s, too. 

As Sweeten was quick to point out—“anyone can call something a safe.”  But if it hasn’t met the standards of Underwriters Laboratories (an independent testing agency), it isn’t a residential security container.  It is the industry’s standard—not just Browning’s.  So for this discussion, if a container isn’t UL rated as an RSC, than it isn’t a safe.

The Residential Security Container

To keep this article from getting way out of hand, I’m going to limit the discussion to the old fashioned gun safe.  Big, boxy, steel bodied gun safes.  Browning offers a complete line of safes that demonstrate almost all of what we’ll be focusing on. 

There are several things to consider when buying a safe.  I’ll group them into four groups.

1.  Security – Seems like a logical place to start.  And, right or wrong, it is often the first thing we think about. 
Assuming that a box is rated as an RSC, we can begin to break down other considerations. 

Will you be locking up guns to keep them away from kids, or other curious people?  Are you worried about theft?  Do you live in an isolated location where thieves can attempt a break in undetected, or would the whole safe have to be removed from the premises?

A heavy safe that can be bolted down will be harder to remove.  And ask how long it takes to break into it.  There are some amusing videos on Youtube of people testing the claims of various manufacturers. 

2.  Fire resistance – Because of the conflagrations out west this summer, more people are thinking about fire.  House fires are common enough, and hell on guns (and everything else).  Some safe companies offer really solid protection against fires.  Others don’t offer anything at all.  How important is this to you?  How long would it take for emergency services to arrive and contain, or exinguish a fire?  Different safes offer protections for different lengths of exposure (and different temperatures).

Browning Gold Series safe with the door open.Ask what types of materials are used inside a safe.  Find out how fire ratings are established, as there is no standard for how these tests are conducted.

3.  Cost – This is relative.  How big does the safe need to be?  How safe from fire?  How safe from attack?  How pretty?  Can safes be pretty?  You smell what I’m stepping in—the more you want, the more you’ll pay.

Browning Safes begin at the $1,000 mark, or a bit higher, and run up from there.  Their options for customization mean that the high end is hard to estimate.

If you’re concerned about price, you should ask about the fancy features inside the safe.  And shipping on these beasts can get expensive, too.  Shipping a safe is a conundrum, and some shippers will deliver only as far as the curb, leaving you to figure out how to get the safe inside.  How will you get it inside, and in place without tearing up your floors?  You could hire additional movers.  Maybe you have some really ripped friends.  Or you can buy from a retailer that includes this service.

Browning has recently launched a new site that will allow shoppers to customize a safe and connect with a Pro Series dealer that will handle full service delivery.  Check out the details at the Browning site.

4.  The Company – This consideration is less important to some than it is for me.  But I deal with a lot of industry insiders.  I get to see some behind the scenes aspects of gun companies.  I’ve enjoyed all of my dealings with Browning, so I knew they’d make my short list.
One of the big independent safe manufacturers, Sportsman Steel, has great safes–but they have had several complaints with the Better Business Bureau (some concerning sales, some the product itself).  So I nixed them.  Nothing personal.  I even invited them to participate in this article and they politely declined.

Some companies just rebrand other safes.  Some safes come in from overseas.

Do you want it made stateside?  Can you trust the manufacturer to back their product after the sale?  Are you buying a brand name, or a safe?

Some preliminary conclusions

There is a long list of questions you should ask—but it comes down to what you want to protect. 

Sweeten broke down the basic consideration like this, “What are you trying to protect, and from what?”  It seems like a good place to start.

For example—if you are trying to keep a curious five year old from fiddling with a Ruger 10/22, there is no need to buy a Deluxe Pro Series Browning Gun Safe.  I love my 10/22, but if it were to be stolen, or destroyed in a fire, the world would continue to turn.

On the other end, you may be a collector.  If you have inherited weapons that are not replaceable, at any cost, Browning can help protect them.  

Over the next week or so, we’ll be breaking down the specifics of these considerations, and looking at how some of Browning’s safes meet the needs.