A friend of mine from a long time ago asked me recently about gun safes. She wants a handgun for home defense, and wanted to make sure that she was responsible about the firearm around her children. This is absolutely commendable. So I thought about it quite a bit, and gave her my opinion. I’m going to share that opinion here for you all.
I’m going to break down my recommendations into a “good,” “better", ”best” from my own point of view. There are several things I should note for this also. This is not meant to be a theft deterrent, but rather a way to keep your children safe with a handgun in the home. This is not about safes for rifles, or for a large collection, but for one, maybe two handguns, that you will want quick access to in case of an emergency. There are many features that safe manufacturers tout, that add convenience of access, and I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of many of those features. First, the features that we are going to avoid altogether, and why.
Keyed safes – In a time of dire emergency, when you need to quickly access your firearm to defend your home and your family, the last thing you want to do is be fumbling for the keys to a lock box that has your pistol inside. During a time of duress, your adrenaline will basically remove your fine motor skills, and the delicate aim that you need to insert a key will only prove to frustrate you more, and could cost you dearly. Keyed safes are not designed for quick access.
Spin dial combination safes – You know this type of combination lock. It was probably on your hall locker in high school. 38 right, 24 left, 34 right, and then you can operate the handle. You’ll see this type of lock on bank vaults in the movies. But again, your fine motor skill will abandon you in a time of need, and the precision needed to effectively open this kind of lock in an emergency will be absent. So we are going to ignore safes with these locking features (unless as a backup) because they are not “quick access.”
- Good The Gun Box
The Gun Box is a relatively new safe on the market, and claims many features. You can access it with a fingerprint scan, or a RFID bracelet. It has some features that make it theft deterrent also, such as GPS tracking, and the ability to tether it using a cable lock like what you would use for certain laptops. It also opens very quietly, which is nice. The downsides are the means of accessing this safe. Fingerprint scanners can be finicky. The ones that aren’t also tend to be less secure, and if you are wearing gloves, or your fingerprints are otherwise obstructed, you aren’t going to use this as a means of access. The other way to access this safe, is via a wristband. Simply wave your hand with the wrist band over the safe and it will open. You must always have your wrist band on, at all times, or this method renders itself useless. You also need to ensure that your children don’t get a hold of your wrist band. This safe plugs in which is a good thing, for a safe that has electronic methods of access. It also runs on batteries if the power supply is interrupted.
- Better Gun Vault
Gun Vault safes have been around for a while, and are one of the industry standards. You can pick up a Gun Vault safe from any sporting goods store that carries firearms, as well as many gun stores. This one also allows you to attach a security cable similar to the previous safe. They have two different models of safe, one that uses a fingerprint scan, and one that uses a push button combination. I’ve discussed the downside of the fingerprint scanner in the previous safe, so we’ll focus on the push button combination. I like the push button combination because of the ease of access. You can be wearing gloves, have your hands bloodied or muddied, or even be visually impaired (night time, dark room) and still be able to gain access to this safe. The downside to this is that it is an electronic lock, so there is really no tactile feedback that a button was successfully pushed. Because of this, each button press is signified by an audible beep. The door on this safe is also spring loaded, so when the safe opens it is not the quietest. Although they do have a version that can be plugged in, most of the ones offered are battery only. If that battery goes dead in a time of need, instead of having a pistol to defend yourself, you will have a rather unwieldy box. You might be able to bludgeon your intruder, but it is not the recommended course of action. (I should note, that although it is not the “best” safe on my list, it is the one that my wife and I use.)
- Best Titan Gun Safe
Although it is a bit pricey, this is what I would view as the best option for a quick access gun safe. It does not need power so no batteries or power outlet are required. It also provides a myriad of mounting options for additional security. There is tactile feedback on the push buttons on this safe, since the entire locking mechanism is mechanical, and not electronic. The buttons are large enough that you can operate them in the dark, and instead of being spring loaded, the door opens by turning the latch once once you enter the appropriate security code. It is probably one of the most versatile safes in this list also, with the ability to mount it in a myriad of places. Other than needing one additional action to open this safe (turning the latch), I can’t really think of any downsides to this safe. It allows quick access, it keeps your firearm secure. It is quiet, and you can manipulate with impaired vision. It doesn’t require any additional jewelry or gadgetry, and you never have to replace the batteries in it, or worry about plugging it in. It can be secured with various mounting options, and many are more secure than just an anti theft cable, although the cable option is available.
In any case, if you have children in your home, and you are worried about them getting access to your firearms, but still want quick access for yourself in an emergency, any of these safes will work. What it really comes down to, is which features you want, and how much you are willing to spend.