Best Gun Safe | Gun Safe Reviews

Best Gun Safe | Gun Safe Reviews

If you own a handgun, or any firearm for that matter, having a secure storage area is absolutely imperative. It’s the duty and responsibility of every gun owner to ensure your weapon is safe and secure at all times, away from children and unauthorized hands. The easiest and most effective way to ensure your weapon is always secure is to purchase a small gun safe.

Finding the right safe for your handguns can be an almost overwhelming task. There are literally thousands of choices for handgun safe ranging from the cheap and questionable all the way up to ornate bomb-proof models costing thousands of dollars. Finding the model that’s right for you comes down to a few specific factors.

Reading these gun safe reviews can help you make one of the most important decisions for a gun owner, how to secure your weapon from children and thieves. We review multiple models and brands of the best gun safes, from small drawer size units up to the multiple rifle/shotgun safes, with price points ranging from less than $200 up to $700 plus.  Some of our gun safe reviews deal with smaller units that can hold a couple of handguns and clips and can be mounted in a drawer etc. If safety along with fast access to your handgun is required, read our  reviews on biometric or fingerprint models. If you are a sportsman or gun collector, read our gun safe reviews on the larger long gun safes.

What size gun are you storing?

If you rely on a sub-compact or similar size model for home defense, your size requirements are vastly different from someone with a Desert Eagle. You want something that comfortably houses your gun and possibly a spare magazine or two. If you’re more comfortable having a backup weapon as well, figure twice the size of a single capacity plus a little more to prevent scratching and damage. Handgun safes are available in every conceivable size, so finding one that fits your needs may require some shopping around, but it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Where is safe going to be mounted?

Mounting a safe in the bedroom closet is usually significantly easier than mounting one under a desk or in a car. There are however several models that offer near limitless mounting options. If you’re looking to make the safe a permanent fixture in a discreet location, one with bottom or back surface mounting is likely the best option. If the safe is going to be in a more conspicuous location like a vehicle, finding one with all surface mounting options will make instillation significantly easier. Regardless of mounting location, finding a model with pre-drilled holes is the easiest route.

How quickly will you need to access your gun?

In an emergency situation every second matters. If you’re safe is going to be used exclusively for home defense emergencies you need to seriously consider a model with a spring loaded quick access entry system. There are several models on the market that can be opened with only your fingerprint or a few quick taps on a keypad. These models are designed specifically for an emergency. If your safe is going to serve exclusively as storage you can allow for a more time consuming locking mechanism. This route affords you the option of an older dial style lock or key entry method.

Review of the Top 4 Best Gun Safes

These are my top 4 picks of what I consider the best quick access gun safes.

Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 Gun Safe

Long considered one of the easier and unique gun safes on the market, the Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe was designed to securely store most standard makes and models of handguns. Small in size, but study in it’s construction, the safe can be mounted in three different positions including: the left side of the gun safe, the right side of the gun safe, or against the back side of the gun safe.

Easy to use rubber combination buttons make for extremely quick and easy access to the firearm, especially if the user of the safe is in a hurry or the home is being invaded. There are only four combination buttons on the gun safe, and they are large and easy to use, so there is no need to fumble around for keys, and the gun safe can be placed anywhere the owner chooses to keep their firearm. The gun safe is great for small or limited spaces but provides the necessary security that comes with having to store one’s firearm.

Another of the great features of this gun safe, is that is contains a backup override key in the event that the owner forgets the combination or the batteries wear out. When the batteries begin to lose their strength, the safe will notify the owner by an audible sound that it is time to replace the batteries as well as by displaying an LED warning signal.

The 18-gauge steel constructed gun safe also includes cut to fit mounting foam to protect the owner’s weapon from getting banged around or getting scratched. One unique feather of the Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe is that it has a tamper indicator to let the owner know if anyone that is unauthorized to access the gun safe attempted to open the gun safe, and after so many unauthorized attempts, the system will automatically lock down, requiring the aforementioned override key to reset the gun safe.

The actual lock that secures the gun safe is made of heavy duty steel, so even a would be burglar will find it difficult to simply pry the safe open. Mounting is easy, and the gun safe includes a steel mounting plate, with pre-drilled holes for easy placement once the safe is brought home. The Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe is perfect for single weapon and limited space storage.

BARSKA Biometric Safe

In a more generalized sense, the BARSKA Biometric Safe provides enough storage space for several valuable items including firearms, important documents, jewelry and the like. What makes this safe appealing is the fact that keys and combinations are out the window, only requiring the use of a designated fingerprint for immediate and quick access to the contents of the safe.

The owner of this safe can program in up to 30 different sets of fingerprints for safe access. The safe is just over 30 pounds, and is compact enough to be able to move as desired, while keeping clearly out of the reach of inquiring little hands. One quick application of the finger, and the safe opens, making access to a firearm in case of a home or business disturbance even more appealing to buyers.

The safe uses common, AA batteries so as to not require a strange or difficult make of battery for power usage. It also comes with a mounting hardware for specific location desires. The safe is secured by two solid steel locking bolts, making prying or a break-in to the safe virtually impossible. Just in case the batteries cease to work, included with the safe are two spare keys for override access.

A benefit of the BARSKA Biometric Safe is that the beeping sound that occurs when the safe is accessed can be turned off, which is valuable during the progress of a home invasion. This safe is also easy on those budget-conscience owners who don’t or can’t afford to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a bulky, foot thick steel door gun safe that would take up a tremendous amount of room. If the safe isn’t mounted, it is easy to move from place to place to keep wandering eyes from getting familiar with the safe’s location.

The advantage of purchasing and owning a biometric safe such as this one from BARSKA, is that it is virtually impossible for anyone other than pre-programmed users to gain access into it’s contents. The fingerprint reader is specifically designed for known users, and prevents small children from simply trying to use every key they can find to attempt to gain access into the safe. The biometric set up is the most secure way of keeping firearms and valuables out of the reach of anyone whom the owner doesn’t want having access to those items.

Gunvault GV2000S Multi Vault Standard Gun Safe

Moving up the ladder of the Gunvault family of firearms safes, the GV2000S Multi Vault Standard Gun Safe provides many of the same features as the aforementioned product from Gunvault. Easy to use, large rubber buttons allow for no look access into the gun safe, while providing maximum security features for safe and sound storage of multiple firearms or other valuables.

This safe is constructed of study 16-gauge steel for durable use, and the inside of the gun safe has soft foam throughout the shelving areas to prevent damages such as scratching to the owner’s weapons. There is also plenty of room to store clips, boxes of ammunition, a small weapons cleaning kit and safety glasses.

One of the nice features of the Gunvault GV2000S Multi Vault Standard Gun Safe is the option to have it operate in stealth mode. The last thing a home owner wants in an emergency where a weapon is needed, is to let a home invader know their location by the beeping of a gun safe. This option allows for silent access into the safe to secure one’s weapon.

Along with the stealth feature, a tamper-proof indicator records all invalid attempts by users attempting to gain access into the safe. After so many failed attempts to gain access into the gun safe, the built in computer will lock down the safe, making it impossible for anyone but the designated user to override the system and gain access to inside of the safe.

Since the GV2000S is larger than the aforementioned Gunvault product, it also requires more juice to operate, by using eight AA batteries. As with all gun safe models from Gunvault, the high strength locking mechanisms installed into each safe prevent burglars or intruders from being able to use common hand tools to break into the safe. Without the combination, the safe is performing up to standard, which is keeping unwanted hands off of the firearms or other valuables inside.

Finally, as is the case with Gunvault products, the GV2000S won’t break the bank. It is more expensive than the SV500, but it also provides more in terms of strength and storage areas for weapons. The GV2000S is still in the couple of hundred dollar range, rather than being several hundred or thousands of dollars, while still providing top notch quality and security for firearms and other valuables.

BARSKA Top Opening Biometric Fingerprint Safe

BARSKA continues to be one of the leaders in biometric gun safe technology and design, and the Top Opening Biometric Fingerprint Safe is everything it claims to be. Highlighted by a newly designed dual hydraulic pressurized hinge, the top opening gun safe allows for owners to mount it virtually anywhere such as a desk drawer, cabinet, or into a floor.

As with their other biometric products, this gun safe allows for up to 30 different sets of fingerprints to be pre-programmed in by the owner for limited access and top safety measures. The Top Opening Biometric Fingerprint Safe from BARSKA also possesses a motorized, reinforced deadbolt lock that is easy to open. The shape and size of the gun safe make it appealing for mounting to anywhere that has a flat surface.

The pressurized hydraulic system prevents the door from slamming on the owner’s hands or fingers while accessing items from within the safe. As with all BARSKA gun safe products, the Top Opening Biometric Fingerprint Safe comes with two keys in case the batteries power has failed.

The gun safe requires the use of four AA batteries, which with standard use, can last up to two years at a time before requiring a change. A protective floor mat prevents the items that are placed inside of the gun safe from being scratched or harmed during their storage within.

What makes biometric technology easy to use and has become popular, is the idea that keys (which always seem to get misplaced or lost when needed the most) and combinations can be difficult to locate or remember at a moment’s notice. The quick use of a single finger grants access to the authorized user of the safe. During a home invasion or robbery, the last thing an owner wants to have to do is stop and think.

Quick, precise reaction and access to the firearm is of the highest importance, along with maintaining the highest standards of safety and access to unwanted users. Another key selling point of the safe, is that it is not difficult to move if the owner chooses to relocate the safe, coming in right at 21 pounds. Known for their quality products at an affordable price, the biometric top opening gun safe is available for a couple hundred dollars.

Fire ratings

Fire rating is something that will be mentioned in every gun safe review. Fire ratings are set by heating the safe in a furnace that heats all exposed surfaces to the temperature conditions specified in the test standard.

The temperature listed on the label of a UL rated safe specifies the maximum temperature for the interior of the safe under this testing. So a safe rated at 350 for fire means an interior temperature was maintained no greater than 350°F.

The second number listed on the UL label indicates how long the safe was tested in the furnace in increments of one hour.

Upon the completion of testing, the safe is opened and the contents are examined to see if they are still usable. In cases of extreme heat with firearms, the temper of the metal can be affected and the gun is no longer safe to fire. However the serial numbers can still be read for insurance and documentation purposes.

After the safe has been tested in this manner, it is tested for impact by raising it 30 feet off the ground. The safe is then dropped onto a concrete base with a pile of broken cinderblocks and bricks to simulate a fall from a third story building. The safe will fail the testing if this fall causes the door to open. After the fall, the safe is examined again to check for deformation, damage to hardware or exposure.

After these ratings are met, UL will pull a random model from a production line on an annual basis to repeat the testing for consistency to ensure the manufacturer is adhering to the standard.

Mercury Fire Testing

Underwriters Laboratory is not the only company that tests and rates safes for gun safe reviews. Another is Mercury Labs which is used by American Security Products and others. The testing is similar to that of Underwriters Laboratory and the internal temperature must be maintained at less than 350°F in each level of testing.

The ratings are as follows:

  • Mercury Class I: The safe is exposed to 1200°F for 30 minutes.
  • Mercury Class II: The safe is exposed to 1200°F for 60 minutes.
  • Mercury Class III: The safe is exposed to 1275°F for 90 minutes.
  • Mercury Class IV: The safe is exposed to 1850°F for 2 hours.

Burglary ratings

As devastating and traumatic as a house fire may be, the primary reason most people purchase safes is to protect their firearms from theft. The UL Burglary rating refers to the time it took for their experts to break into the safe. While the numbers may not be very high, keep in mind that UL employs highly skilled locksmiths, reformed professional burglars and safe crackers that have years of experience on both sides of the law. These testers have blueprints of the bolts inside the door and the construction of the locking mechanism. They use the best tools available to complete the job, have no fear of getting caught and they are neither trying to be quiet nor have an alarm going off while they work.

The goal is not so much to defeat the locks and locking bolts, but to create a 6” square hole that allows the thief to remove the contents of the safe.

The lowest rating that UL gives for burglary during gun safe reviews is Residential Security Container (RSC). This reflects a working time of five minutes using commonly available tools such as screwdrivers, pry bars, angle grinders and sledge hammers.

The next level is TL-15 and reflects a penetration time of 15 minutes. Additionally this requirement means that the safe must have a specially rated lock, a minimum weight of 750 lbs, walls constructed of a comparable material equivalent to at least 1” steel with a minimum tensile strength of 50,000 P.S.I.  TL-30 is the same testing method but lasts 30 minutes and the tools used include power saws and drills.

UL’s highest rating is TXTL60 and reflects 60 minutes worth of working on the safe, including the use of nitroglycerin to make the breach. This is also known as a “G-rated” safe.

A B-Rating basically means your safe has a lock on it. These are also known as RSC safes (Residential Security Containers). These safes are not tested for this rating. The industry standard for a gun safe is a minimum of a ¼ inch steel body and ½ inch steel door. Many RSC’s use 1/8” steel in their construction because of the cost of steel. If your only option is an RSC or B-rated safe, other factors must come into play such as the locking mechanism, hardened plates and relocking mechanisms.

A C-Rating specifies that the steel door is a minimum of 1 inch in thickness with ½ inch thick walls. An E-Rating specifies that the steel door is a minimum of 1½ inches in thickness with 1inch thick walls. An ER-rating is identical to the UL rating of TL-15. An F-Rating represents the TL-30 rating.

Lockboxes

The most basic firearm safe is the lockbox. These metal cabinets are designed primarily to limit unauthorized access by children, repairmen or burglars looking for a quick and easy target. Some offer a small level of fire protection but all can be equipped with an internal device to protect against the ravages of corrosion.

These represent the lowest level of security as a determined thief can gain access to them rather quickly. These are the aforementioned B-rated safes or Residential Security Containers.

A lockbox can range in size from small personal handgun boxes to cabinets that will store up to 20 long guns. Some companies build stackable and modular versions to allow additional storage should the size of the collection expand. Their smaller size than a safe makes them ideal for a storage solution before upgrading to a larger unit. Locking cabinets can be resold or used to store ammunition or other valuables after the owner transitions to a safe.

The majority of lockboxes use a keyed locking mechanism with more expensive variants having combination or biometric locks.

Lockboxes work best when they are mounted to a secure surface. For cabinet type lockboxes this is typically in the rear panel and the lockbox is bolted to a wall. Smaller pistol or single long gun type lockboxes can be wall or floor mounted, too. When used in a vehicle, the lockbox can be mounted inside the trunk if necessary.

The primary advantage to the lockbox is its price and they can range from $79 to $400 depending upon size and features.

The other advantage of lockboxes or locking cabinets is that they can be hidden due to their smaller size. Some models are designed as in-wall or in-floor. The safe can be recessed within a wall between the studs and concealed by hanging a picture in front of them. Other models can be recessed in a floor and covered with a false top and a rug to avoid detection

Cabinets for long guns can be mounted inside a closet and concealed by clothing hanging in front of them. These types of designs hidden “in plain sight” may slow down immediate access for the user, but are an incredibly effective layer of security against an opportunistic burglar or a nosy repairman.

Safes and their features

By safes, we are talking about stepping up the quality of a lockbox or cabinet to a secure container that is heavier than a cabinet, has thicker walls and usually a combination dial or digital key pad lock.

The weight of the safe prevents a thief from moving it offsite to a location where they can take their time to work on it. It is advisable to bolt the safe to the floor, preferably in the concrete foundation.

As mentioned previously, safes typically have a fire rating in addition to a burglary rating. Deciding which is more important depends on the needs of the buyer, but typically the burglary rating is paramount for most safe buyers.

The external finish of a safe varies by manufacturer. Some offer a flat matte, marbled or textured coating while others offer high gloss enamels that transform the safe into a vibrant looking piece of furniture. This is usually a matter of personal preference, but for a safe located in a garage or spare room that is not “on display”, the dressed down look will work. The non-gloss coatings are highly resistant to fingerprints and can be had for a bit less than the glossy versions.

The internal layout of many larger safes can be configured by the user to suit whatever it is they are seeking to protect. A gun collection that is mostly composed of handguns, for example, can have the long gun racks removed in order to install more shelving and vice versa.

Locking bolts

The locking bolt is the heart of a safe’s security. These hardened steel bolts go a long way to protect the contents of your safe from a determined burglar. Sometimes a safe may appear to be a bargain by coming up short in this regard, but a smart consumer will take the following advice to heart.

Each side of the safe’s door (left, right, top and bottom) should have a minimum of 2 locking bolts. If a safe only has bolts on three sides of the door, it should be avoided. The minimum number of locking bolts on a safe door is eight; two on each of the four sides.

Like the safe, itself, when it comes to locking bolts “size matters”. There are plenty of affordable safes and cabinets that utilize a 9/16″ locking bolt in their construction. This is undersized and not advisable to keep out a determined burglar. One-inch thick locking bolts are the bare minimum that should be considered with 1.5″ locking bolts as ideal.

Relocker

A relocker or Group ll lock is a hidden bolt located within the security area of the combination dial or digital key pad that provides another level of security when the safe is being compromised by a burglar using a torch, drill, pry bar, hammer, saw, angle grinder or other tools. The impact triggers a spring loaded relocker that prevents the safe from being breached.

Most relockers fire behind the lock and prevent the dial or tumblers from being turned or the locking bolts from retracting. The relocker adds more time for a thief to overcome while he is trying to attack the safe and if anything, safes buy time for the owners.

Some relocker housings are made of metal, but a glass relocker is more sensitive to impact. Once fired, a relocked safe can only be opened by a professional locksmith who specializes in safe construction. After installing a safe equipped with a relocker, the cotter pin holding the relocker in place must be removed. Should you ever decide to move the safe, it must be reinserted to prevent the movement from activating it again.

All Underwriters Laboratory TL rated safes utilize multiple relockers in their construction within the fire retardant material. If your primary concern is burglary protection, a relocker is a “must have” feature.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your specific needs, having a safe is essential for responsible and safe handgun ownership. You need to ensure the safe you purchase provides adequate protection from unauthorized entry and allows you access in a timely fashion. Rather than wade through the massive number of choices, determine your specific needs before shopping. Not only will this expedite the process, but you’ll likely save a significant amount of money in the process.